Adrenalin junkies rub shoulders with foodies on the streets of Queenstown. With a setting that begs every superlative you can think of, it’s almost impossible to decide what to do first.
Overlooking Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by the dramatic peaks of The Remarkables and the Southern Alps, Queenstown is a ski resort – but so much more. Self-proclaimed as New Zealand’s ‘adventure capital’ this South Island town is a year-round tourist destination favoured by the rich and famous as much as by backpackers, who flock here during the winter festival season.
The great outdoors beckon in Queenstown, mostly because everywhere you look the scenery is so enthralling. The 100 km Queenstown cycling and walking trail is one way of getting into the landscape, taking you along the shores of two lakes and three great rivers, as well as to historic Arrowtown, where gold miners once panned, and through the vineyards of Gibbston. Consider doing at least a small part of it.
If you’ve worked up an appetite with all that fresh air and exercise, the place for cheap eats is the Steamer Wharf on the lakefront. For the best view in town, take the gondola to Bob’s Peak (and ride the luge just for fun).
As the birthplace of both commercial bungy jumping and jet boating, Queenstown is home to plenty of action-packed activities designed to get your blood pumping. Catch the narrow canyons of the Shotover or the wide open reaches of the Dart River on a jet boat or get closer to the water on a rafting trip on the white waters of the Shotover or Kawarau rivers.
Less adventurous visitors opt for a smoother ride on Lake Wakatipu aboard the TSS Earnslaw, a gentle old steamship that cruises while you have high tea. The Earnslaw stops off at Walter Peak High Country Farm, where you can take a horse ride or join a farm tour.
Lodges don’t come much more ‘luxe’ than Blanket Bay, which sits at the northern end of Lake Wakatipu. There are others too – Matakauri Lodge and Azur Lodge – but for those who want to be in the heart of the action, five-star hotels and smart boutiques abound in the town centre.
Queenstown’s great restaurants aren’t confined to the town; spend a day in the nearby old gold mining town of Arrowtown and finish up at Saffron, which has an international reputation for its fine food.