Queenstown: An Average Town Surrounded by Remarkable Scenery
Imagine this scenario: You stumble out of a cheap hotel room with a head full of clouds and a sharp pain in your back. You realise your kidney has been stolen and you have no recollection of where you are and how you got there. You wander the streets in despair, everyone you overhear has a different accent and there is nothing that sets the town apart from anywhere else you’ve ever been. You could be anywhere in the world, but you’re actually in Queenstown, New Zealand’s tourism giant and the self proclaimed adventure capital of the world.
After reading that opening paragraph you might be thinking that I don’t like Queenstown, but that’s not the case. The city centre is pretty uninspiring, but the night life is great and there are some excellent restaurants (and shopping, if you’re into that). While the town itself is nothing to write home about, the same can’t be said for the amazing scenery that surrounds it. Lake Wakatipu has to be one of the most picturesque lakes in the world – the Remarkables mountain range towering above it is a sight to behold, despite the fact that it has to be the most arrogant mountain range in the world (calling itself “The Remarkables” is a bit much, us New Zealanders are supposed to be modest!).
I’ve been to Queenstown too many times to count over the years (I grew up in Dunedin, only a few hours’ drive away), but here’s what I got up to on my most recent trip.
A Gondola Ride
For a great view of Lake Wakitipu and the surrounding mountains, take a trip up the Skyline Gondola. The views are incredible and you can also get involved in some extreme sports while you’re up there. You can luge down the side of the hill, paraglide over the stunning scenery and even bungee jump. I’m not exactly into extreme sports (apart from extreme sightseeing, you can read about that here), so we just chose to admire the view and go for a short walk through the forest. It’s really peaceful up there when you got away from the luge track and restaurant/visitor centre.
A walk by the lake
It’s hard to beat walking around the shore of Lake Wakitpu, especially if it’s a nice day. The water is about as clear and blue as you’ll see in a lake and it’s a peaceful place to hang out for a couple of hours (we did the walk around the peninsular close to town/the botanic gardens). There’s also a nice beach pretty much right in town – if you’re on a budget, grab some sandwiches and eat them by the water.
The most expensive fast food burger I’ve ever eaten
For the last couple of years or so I’ve seen a few Facebook updates from people gushing about Fergburger, apparently one of the best burgers in the world. Fergburger is easy to spot, just look for the massive line! We got a burger for $16 which almost made for a big enough lunch for 2 people, and I’ve got to say it was definitely one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten.
A visit to historical Arrowtown
Arrowtown, just a short drive from Queenstown, is one of the nicest small historical towns in the region. Gold mining was huge in this part of New Zealand in the 1860s, and that Wild West kind of atmosphere has been well preserved in Arrowtown. Chinese miners were a huge part of the scene back then, and there is a small Chinese village in Arrowtown which is definitely worth checking out. The houses are tiny and it must have been a hard life, but they were in one of the most stunning areas in the world so I guess it wasn’t all bad (in the summer at least!).
A Day Trip to Milford Sound from Queenstown
Despite being pretty close to Queenstown, it takes around 4 hours to get to Milford Sound, due to the fact that there is no direct road there. Milford Sound is one of greatest natural wonders in New Zealand and you definitely need to go there if you’re anywhere near the area. It’s located on the west coast of the South Island, which is the rainiest part of New Zealand. It’s a long day trip from Queenstown, you’ll spend around 8 hours on a bus and an hour and half on a boat, but the scenery for most of the trip will make you forget about the hassle! Stay tuned for a full post on Milford Sound in the near future.
On the way to Milford Sound
Queenstown has to be one of the most expensive places in New Zealand. We searched for a cheap private room and had absolutely no luck, until a family friend informed us they had a time share at a 5 star hotel which we could stay at for $40 a night (which was the cleaning fee). It was pretty awesome and way better than the dorm we would have otherwise stayed in. Camping is another good option; I’ve done that a couple of times in my younger years. Getting to Queenstown is pretty simple, there’s an international airport and it has great bus connections with other towns in the area. We travelled on Nakedbus, probably the cheapest way to get around New Zealand (apart from hitchhiking). We also booked our Milford Sound trip though them, and although we got a discount, the full price was still cheaper than we saw any other company advertise. We visited Queenstown in February (the end of summer) but it’s a year-round destination, with skiing and snowboarding bringing in huge amounts of tourists in the winter.
Further reading: Looking for more things to do in Queenstown? Check out Queentown.com
Queenstown is one of the most scenic towns in New Zealand, and just because it’s full of tourists doesn’t mean you should skip it! Have you been to Queenstown? Let me know what you think!