How To Spend A Week In Queenstown, NZ
To think that this lively lakeside town had been just a 3 hour flight away all my life sort of blew my mind. Whether you're an adrenalin junkie, a nature enthusiast, or just looking to relax, Queenstown has something for you.
Let’s start with the adrenalin, shall we?
Queenstown is home to many extreme activities including Bungy jumping, sky diving, jet boating and the Nevis swing, to name a few. Due to a personal condition; Fraidycatitis, I can only speak to one of these.
Skipper’s Canyon Jet
There are a few different jet boating experiences in Queenstown and we were advised by a charming foreign travel agent to try the Skipper’s Canyon Jet. It entailed a windy shuttle bus ride along a one way road with a fatal drop should a wheel stray off the path and lead to the shallow river where a young driver took us drifting around bends and coming a hair’s breath from sharp rock. As we shot through the canyon, many-a 360 degree turn ensued. Overlooking our group of 4 (my 60 year old parents plus Paul and I being in our twenties) you’d think we’d have some fairly different stances on the entire ordeal but it was unanimous - best time ever!
Snow Landing Heli Experience
Being early autumn and peak season we couldn’t resist the price of a helicopter experience - under $200pp. Be sure to ask your Queenstown travel agent about the best price they can do as it’s usually lower than what’s offered in brochures. Unfortunately due to the time of year there was only a minute section of snow but being my first time in a helicopter, the experience as a whole was still unreal.
Mt. Cook National Park
Moving right along to the nature enthusiasts; who I secretly think we all are in some way, you can’t go wrong with a road trip to Mt. Cook. We hired a car and it took approximately 3.5 hours from where we were staying. We stopped just before the entrance to the national park at the Old Mountaineers' Cafe, Bar and Restaurant. The food was decent, service was ok but check out the view!
From there it was only a very short drive into the park which has various hiking trails. Being a day trip (and having not left as early as we could have) we only had time for 2; the Tasman Glacier View Track (which if you’re fit only takes around 45 mins return) and the Hooker Valley Track which we didn’t finish but walked along until it was time to turn back.As you can see the views were beyond incredible.
I’ll spare you more imagery as there’s just nothing like the real thing.
Ben Lomond Hike
If you don’t want to spend your time road tripping there are a multitude of spectacular views right around Queenstown. A quick google search will bring up a list of great hikes. We chose the Ben Lomond trail. As I came down with a perfectly timed dose of the flu, we didn’t complete the entire trail but it was amazing nonetheless with views of Lake Wakatipu and wandering mountain goats.
Onsen Hot Pools
When it comes to relaxation, you can’t do better than this. Hands down one of the best hours of our trip was the Queenstown Onsen, an enclosed hot pool with a shutter door that opens via your control to reveal a breathtaking mountain view. The hot water keeps you comfortable in the freezing air and takes relaxing in nature to a new level. I’d suggest booking as early as possible for this experience as spots fill out fairly quickly. We purchased The Tandeki package which meant our booking was equipped with local snacks and drinks of our choice. There are also more luxurious options like adding massages and facials.
Milford Sound Cruise
The Milford Sound Cruise was probably our most anticipated and therefore most disappointing experience of the trip, (an unpopular opinion among most) mainly due to weather. When booked with Real Journeys who offer two experiences - the scenic cruise and the nature cruise. Being low season both cruises were on sale however the nature cruise was supposed to include sights of wildlife like seals, turtles and penguins of which we barely saw 1, far off in the distance and camouflaged against rocks. This was the main disappointment as we were really looking forward to seeing the wildlife and chose this cruise accordingly but were not told until onboard the cruise, that they don’t really show themselves this time of year (March). The experience included coach transfers from Queenstown, a light lunch and was overall a great experience, it just didn’t live up to our wildlife expectations.
Explore The Town
There are so many activities to do around the town centre of Queenstown itself. You can take the Skyline Gondola up the mountain to find an extraordinary view of the town & lake. You can then take the snow lift up to the luge and have a go or just walk back down. The luge is surprisingly fun, no matter what your age.
If you’re planning a trip to Queenstown I assume you’ve already heard of Ferg Burger which was great. I suggest going mid afternoon to avoid the long lunchtime lines, though there will be some form of line no matter what time you go. Other notable affordable food options are: Atlas Beer Cafe, Fishbone & Hell Pizza. At Atlas (pictured below), not only is the food delicious and affordable but you can sit outside with a view of the lake as well!
Visit The Vinyards
Rent a car, use google maps and visit some vineyards! Whether cheese and wine is your thing or not, it’s a great way to spend an afternoon; on the road and with magnificent scenery. Having only a week we chose to make the most of our day and fit this in after our helicopter snow landing.
I’ve only touched on a few of the many ways you can spend your time in Queenstown but this is where I leave you. To those of you who are planning a trip, I hope it’s helpful and to those who haven’t, I hope it has inspired you to add this amazing destination to your travel bucket list.
Signing off - Shann