What started as a chance invitation to be photo models for the stunning new Lake Dunstan Cycle Trail has turned into a successful hospitality business for a Central Otago tourism couple.

When last year’s initial lockdown lifted scenic helicopter flight operators Jolanda and Richard Foale had to think outside the square with their entire livelihood dependent on tourism and the borders firmly shut.

“We were asked to be models and we got to see just how spectacular the new trail was with its clip-on bridges, cantilevers and swing bridges,” says Jolanda. “People have always driven the 25kms between Cromwell and Clyde, but this new trail enables them to see areas not at all visible by car.” The 55km trail starts at Smith’s Way, north of Pisa Moorings, going all the way to Clyde, following the lake around Old Cromwell and the Bannockburn Bridge.

Tucked in a quiet, sheltered nook on Lake Dunstan about half way along the trail, bikers and hikers are pleasantly surprised to arrive around the corner and come upon great coffee, hot chocolates, cool drinks, ice creams and fresh baking.

The recipe has been so successful that they’re opening Burger Afloat this spring.

The Foale’s floating café, Coffee Afloat, seemed like the perfect post-Covid pivot with Jolanda coming from a hospitality background. Prior to marrying her helicopter pilot husband, Jolanda worked in front of house for five star accommodation properties, then worked as a hospitality tutor in New Plymouth.

Coffee Afloat has proved hugely popular with local catering business The Kitchen Garden turning out some delicious muffins, cheese scones, cinnamon scones, brownies and muesli slices. “Some families bring their kids on their bikes as far as the boat just for an ice cream if it’s hot, or for a hot chocolate if it’s cooler,” says Jolanda.

Customers come from all over, including walking groups, and Kiwis from around the country. “They’ve even heard about us in Japan as we’ve had ex-pat Kiwis stopping off for coffee.” Coffee Afloat has also starred in the travel media in Sydney.

Jolanda says they do get some stunned reactions that they’re operating a commercial coffee machine on a 6m pontoon boat. “We run our coffee machine, freezer and fridge off batteries and an inverter.”

The recipe has been so successful that they’re opening Burger Afloat this spring. As part of the launch Jolanda and Richard will be entering their venison on thyme burger, ‘Burger Afloat Thyme’, with Central Otago thyme, smoked bacon, Swiss cheese, pinot pickled onions and Central Otago apricot relish. The new burger will be a feature of their entry into Central Otago’s annual Eat Taste Central competition as the perfect Central Otago showcase.

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