I can’t believe it’s here. The last stop in our trip before heading back to the US. We chose Queenstown in South Island New Zealand for no specific reason. We’ve heard from people we should visit Queenstown, so we did. If you would have asked me a few weeks ago, “why are you going to Queenstown?” I would have answered: “Why not?”. There is no specific reason why this is our last stop either, not that it’s a bad one, we LOVE it here!
We bought our flights via Jetstar, a low-budget airline here in Oceania and South East Asia for $120 round trip from Auckland to Queenstown (and that’s NZD!). Once on the flight, we get the airline magazine and start reading the things to do in South Island New Zealand. There are hot springs, glacier hikes, boat cruises in the fiordland Milford Sound, lakes and lots of hikes. Fiordland you ask, yea, I had no idea what that was either. After visiting Milford Sound, now I can tell you that a fjord (where the name Fiordland comes from) a is a long, narrow inlets with steep sides or cliffs, created in a valley carved by glacial activity. It was amazing. Anyway, I digressed. As you know, we rented a car and decided to drive around 1,000+ km to visit the beauties of South Island in 7 days, ending in Queenstown for 3 days to chill before heading back to the US.
It has been 3 great days.
After a very scenic drive with rainbows, lake and snow covered mountain views, we arrive to Queenstown from Te Anue. We chose to stay in a private double room (no shared bathroom!) at Pinewood Lodge. This place has a shared kitchen, living room, and dining room, hot tub, and free parking. It also has Free Wifi!! In case you did not know, free wifi is difficult to come by here in New Zealand. At most places, you need to pay $3 for 25 MB. Unfortunately the connection is still pretty slow, but who cares!
Queenstown is known as an adventure and party city, similar to Boulder, Colorado. They have hiking, bunjee jumping, sky diving, skiing, white water rafting, and kite surfing. We’re too chicken to jump off a plane or a bridge, so we opted to be unadventurous here. We would have done the water/snow sports but unfortunately it was too cold to go into water and there was no ice to skii. =/
For our first day, even though the forecast expected rain, the sky was clear blue. We decide to take a Skyline gondola up the mountain to check out a Haka show, a native Maori cultural experience. The show is at the top of a mountain overlooking the Remarkables, the mountain range overtaking the view of Queenstown. We go up right before sunset and while going up the 700 m tall gondola ride, we see the full moon rise over the Remarkables. It was purely breathtaking.
Since it’s low season, the audience for the Haka show included only 8 guests, including us! It was a very cool, albeit short, show. The Haka is a Maori pre-war ritual used to intimidate the enemy. We were front row and def. thought they were going to destroy us to pieces!
We finished the wonderful day with a nice dinner in town.
The second day we decided to take what is known as one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the world (based on who know who), Queenstown to Glenorchy. Well, whoever said it was the best, they sure weren’t lying. The road hugs the lake for 46 kms overlooking snow capped mountains, turquoise lake, and beautiful greenery. We stopped along the way for a nature hike along the lake, even though it was close to 4 degree celcius, we could not resist. At night, we decided to go to the largest Ice bar in the Southern Hemisphere – below zero ice bar. When you get there, they give you a nice big jacket and some wool gloves. The bar is kept at -8 degree Celcius and everything is made out of ice, including the cups you drink from. There were only around 10 people when we were there which was nice because it allowed us to take lots of photos! I couldn’t stop thinking that if I were to throw a party there, the whole bar would melt in a few minutes.
Forecast expected snow today and we already had in mind we were going to stay in and relax. We had been moving around so much that before we get back to the “real” world we would just do nothing and re-visit the concept of Bel Far Niente. However, we found a special on bookme.co.nz (similar to Groupon here in NZ) for a 2 for 1 wine tasting experience at a cool wine bar. We couldn’t say no and decided to go in the early afternoon! We had over 20 local wines and ended with eating drunk food afterwards! 😉
We finished the day with a nice hot pool session overlooking the Remarkables while it rained (no snow unfortunately).
Now is off to packing before a long journey to LA. We have to fly to Auckland tomorrow morning. We’ll be spending 18 hrs in Auckland before we take a flight to Brisbane with a layover of a few hours to finally take our flight to LA. In total, it will be a 40 hour trajectory. Luckily it will be mostly in business class, with access to their VIP lounges, so I can’t really complain, great food and good drinks.
Overall, Queenstown is an awesome city you should all visit at one point in your life. Nature lovers will fall in love, and everyone else will be mesmerized by how beautiful this place really is. For the adventure seeker, no place could be any better.