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Queenstown New Zealand: Mountain vistas that would rival the Swiss or French Alps; azure blue mountain lakes that would rival Lake Louise in Canada; rippling river rapids that would rival the Colorado River in the USA; gushing waterfalls that would rival Yosemite Falls in the USA; lush green pastures that would rival the English countryside; ski resorts that would rival some of the best in the world; and adventure tourism that would have to be the best on offer in the world! This is what a week in Queenstown had in store.
There are direct flights into Queenstown from Australia. However I would recommend hiring a car or a motorhome to get around this beautiful place. Check out Motorhome Republic for competitive prices for MOTORHOME RENTAL
I had come to New Zealand’s South Island and the adventure playground town of Queenstown on my third visit. Unlike previous visits, I wanted to experience adventure, rather than skiing at one of the four ski resorts within driving distance to the town. Late May is a little early for the onset of the ski season in Queenstown but that did not matter because there were many other activities to keep me busy.
Queenstown’s picture-postcard location on Lake Wakatipu, surrounded by high snow-capped mountains on all four sides, is a blissful setting for a peaceful holiday, or alternatively high adrenalin adventure. It offers numerous activities from bungy jumping to jet boating.
On arrival to Queenstown for our week of adventure, we checked into our accommodation at the Novotel Lakeside. We love the lakeside position of this hotel and access to the shops, restaurants and walkways around the town. Once settled in we immediately set off for a walk around the lake taking in the beautiful scenery of this impressive mass of water.
We awoke the following morning to light drizzling rain, but that did not discourage us from hiring a couple of mountain bikes and heading off on the lakeside trail that follows Lake Wakatipu around the Frankton Arm to the Kawarua River inlet and bridge.
On the bridge we experienced a short snow flurry and then we set off down the trail that runs alongside the Kawarua River. We rode for a total of 25 kilometres return trip and although a little wet, and feet like ice blocks, we felt invigorated by our bike ride. Did I mention that the scenery was amazing?
That evening we experienced what it is like to be fully enclosed within an ice cave at a bar aptly called Below 5 Zero. Everything within the bar was made of ice, including the bar, seats, ice carvings and our drinking glasses. About half an hour of sub zero temperatures was all that we could endure, so it was off to dinner at a local pub in town to warm up.
One of the things I wanted to do in Queenstown was a lake cruise, so the following day we got aboard the Million Dollar boat cruise that took us around the massive lake. Our commentator/boat captain told us a lot about the history of Queenstown and the lake. He highlighted all the points of interest along the way, including the million dollar real estate on the shores of the lake.
We got our hearts pumping in an adrenaline charged jet boat experience down the Shotover River. Jetboating companies in Queenstown are many and they all operate in different locations, however the Shotover Canyon would have to one of the most spectacular.
For hiking enthusiasts you can undertake a 2.5 hour round trip up the steep slopes of Queenstown Hill. The path zig zags up the hill through heavily forested terrain which in parts looks like a “magic forest”, with heaps of bright orange toadstools contrasting against the thick undergrowth.
At about three quarters of the way you reach a clearing where there is a lookout and a steel work structure titled “Dream Basket”.
The path forms a loop here and you can return downhill or you can take the path further up the hill to the apex where you are rewarded with magnificent 360 degrees views of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountain ranges.
My husband suggested we do another mountain bike ride, this time from Arrowtown that is about 20 kilometres out of Queenstown, tracking along the Arrow River and the Shotover River, back to Queenstown. I asked him whether there were very many hills involved to which he replied: “Only a couple. I think you will manage just fine”.
Pfft! There were many steep hills to negotiate and my poor legs ended up like jelly afterwards, but nothing a nice soak in a hot bath couldn’t fix. However it was fully worth the pain as the scenery along this bike trail was jaw-droppingly gorgeous and we had the most beautiful blue sky day to complete the ride. We apparently rode for 35 kilometres over different terrain, ranging from leafy covered trails along the riverside, to steep gravelled ascents uphill, with rewarding views from the top.
The main reason for our trip to Queenstown and the South Island was to visit Milford Sound. So we booked a full day bus trip to Milford Sound. The bus trip took over four hours, with a short stop at Te Anau, and a couple of other points of interest, like Mirror Lakes, Eglington Valley, Monkey Creek, Homer Tunnel and The Chasm. When we finally arrived at Milford Sound we got aboard a two hour boat cruise through the sound. It was both an exhausting and incredible day that deserves an entire post of its own.
Queenstown packs a punch for such a small town. Its vibrant upbeat atmosphere and mixture of backpackers and seasonal workers blend to make it an exciting place. There are plenty of restaurants, cafes and pubs that offer good eating and drinking. Plus there are plenty of things to do and see around the town and within driving distance.
Where we ate: Chocolate treats and hot chocolate to die for at Patagonia on the lakefront; Best coffee and cafe food at Vudu Larder; Great wood-fired pizzas at Vinnies; Fresh and tasty pasta at Bella Cuccina; Pub food at Pig & Whistle; A refreshing ale at Speight’s Alehouse; Most delicious Asian food ever at Madam Woo’s.
For a great one week road trip itinerary for the South Island of New Zealand click here.
Queenstown thoroughly earns its title as the adventure town of New Zealand. It is such a buzzing lively place with a pandora’s box of fun things to experience. So that is why I will be returning here again and again. But maybe next time to ski!
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Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
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