New Zealand – Queenstown
WOW WOW WOW
The mountains are on steroids! They are insane!
Flying into Queenstown Airport itself is a wow factor. Regularly rated among the world's most scenic landings. You will always remember the first time you flew into Queenstown.
Queenstown sits on the shores of South Island’s Lake Wakatipu, set against the dramatic Southern Alps. It is known as the adventure capital of the world. Bungee jumping, skydiving, zip lining, canyon swinging, jet boating……all the things that are NOT for me….lol For me, New Zealand is a driving destination, a photographer’s delight and for Hubby it is a superb golfing destination (see Queenstown GOLF blog). I loved loved loved Queenstown and would return in an instant.
While Hubby was off competing in the New Zealand Golf Open, I put my little rental car through it’s paces during our short stay.
The TSS Earnslaw (also known as the Lady of the Lake) is an absolute MUST DO. It is a 107 year old steamship that was launched just months before the fateful maiden voyage of its fallen big sister the Titanic. A beautiful steamer from a bygone era with its bright red funnel, white hull and kauri timber decks is a New Zealand icon. You can walk into the hot engine room and watch the Stokers shovelling coal into the ovens. Such a grand old girl that is clean and comfortable, you can sit outside or inside and are free to walk around as much as you like. Very spacious and not crowded at all when I was on her.
There is a cafe on board where you can purchase a good selection of food & drink at your own expense.
I took the 3.5 hour round trip tour that leaves Steamer Wharf in Queenstown and takes you along the clear waters of Lake Wakatipu (3rd largest lake in New Zealand) taking in breathtaking alpine scenery before arrive at stunning Walter Peak High Country Farm where you disembark and feast on a gourmet BBQ lunch. A truly divine feast, so tasty, meat was cooked to perfection and service was wonderful, not the usual BBQ I was accustomed to back in Oz. It was like a fine dining BBQ. After lunch you are free to roam around the working farm and see sheep dogs in action and watch a sheep shearing display during the farm demonstration.
Driving along the side of Lake Wakatipu from Queenstown all the way to Glenorchy I was in awe around every corner. It is about a 45 minute drive but you need to add on at least 15 minutes for photographic stops along the way.
Now there isn’t a lot to do in Glenorchy, for me it was well worth the drive as there is a lovely picturesque walk around the lagoon which takes about an hour and you can just sit on one of the many benches and take in the views. I just loved the iconic red boat shed on Glenorchy wharf with the Humboldt Mountain Range in the background.
The local scenery was used as one of the settings in the first Lord of the Rings film - The Fellowship of the Ring. Also Vertical Limit, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008) X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) and The Water Horse were filmed in the area.
A 20 minute drive from Queenstown you will find this charming former Gold mining town. This town oozes heritage. I visited the Chinese settlement at the edge of the river. Built by Chinese miners from 1868, this area of restored shelters and buildings paints a picture of earlier times.
The tree lined streets of Arrowtown are home to many fine dining restaurants, cafes, pubs, bakeries, boutique stores and art galleries.
I thoroughly enjoyed strolling around this old worldly town. Enchanting stone buildings - the main street is one way. It’s a bit like a time warp actually. So many cute little houses to drive by and look at in and around the town.
I would so love to visit this quirky town in Autumn, it would be magical.
From Arrowtown I head to the Arrow Junction Lookout Point. There are information boards which explain the history of the area. This lookout offered scenic views of Arrowtown in the Arrow Valley and the rugged peaks of the Remarkables mountain range and small farms. I only stopped here for 5 minutes then continued meandering higher and higher, have to have your wits about you driving on this slightly scary road, it is very steep with many hairpin bends. Breathtaking is an understatement on this fairly winding road whether going uphill or downhill. Crown Range Road is the highest major road in New Zealand so trying to keep one eye on the road and the other on the fantastic scenery is very difficult. In winter it is often covered in snow and ice, making driving difficult but it was late Feb/early March when I drove it so I didn’t need snow chains. This road is the main route between Queenstown and Wanaka. The Crown Range Lookout makes you feel as if you are standing on top of the world! The views truly are like nothing else and NOT TO BE MISSED.
It is worth noting that some rental vehicles have an additional excess if you drive the Crown Range so be sure to check with your rental provider and a word of warning….New Zealand petrol prices are WELL above Australia’s average.
On spectacular Crown Range Road 40 minutes from Queenstown is the historical Cardrona Hotel, established in 1863 it's one of New Zealand’s oldest, most iconic and most photographed hotels. It is one of only two remaining buildings from the Cardrona Valley gold rush era.
It's like something out of an old cowboy film. Cosy atmosphere with the beautiful fire burning away inside and loads of old memorabilia. I would love to have stayed the night here but I already had my accommodation back in Queenstown.
One cannot say goodbye to Queenstown without taking a scenic ride on the super steep iconic Skyline Gondola - the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere!
We had glorious weather, not a breath of wind and the panoramic views are EPIC !!!!
We noticed a lot of mountain bikers were taking their bikes up on the gondola (they attach to the outside) to do the mountain bike trails at the top.
There is also a luge ride at the top and it looked like so much fun…..1600 metres of banked corners, tunnels and dippers but unfortunately with Hubby having two prosthetic legs the winding walk downhill to where you catch the chairlift to take you to the luge proved too difficult. It was disappointing that there was no other way he could get to the top.
Food wise Queenstown is an impeccable culinary delight. Our favourite place to eat was the Botswana Butchery - an absolute ecstasy on the palate. The other restaurant that we won’t forget is The Fat Lamb located in the mall. Hubby and I shared the lamb shoulder which is cooked for six hours and is served with sweet and sour sauce, it was mouth watering and reasonably priced. If you want to see what all the fuss of NZ lamb is about then the Fat Lamb is a must.
This trip was a rare time that I have written a blog that hasn’t included our kidlets. To be honest, our kids would have been a bit bored in Queenstown with the exception of the Luge. They would have LOVED that! They are not old enough to be adrenalin junkies yet (thank gawd) and would have been bored with all the time spent in the car and the many, many photographic stops but if the rest of New Zealand is anything like Queenstown then I cannot wait to return and experience and explore more.