Is there more to Queenstown than extreme sports? You bet there is!
When people used to enthuse to me about how beautiful Queenstown was I took what they were saying with a pinch of salt – nowhere warrants that much praise. However, it’s evident from the slightly hair-raising experience of coming into land at the city’s airport that Queenstown really does deserve to be revered for its splendour.
Queenstown is known as the home of the adventure holiday – people go there to throw themselves off bridges attached to a stretchy cord, for goodness sake. I can assure you, adrenalin sports are not on my radar, but neither do I enjoy doing absolutely nothing, so it’s only natural that I wonder if there will be enough to occupy my five-day getaway.
I needn’t have worried – in the very short taxi drive from the airport to our hotel, the driver is telling us about the lakeside walk that we can take to town. At two hours each way, it’s not high on my list of priorities, but I am keen to hit the town.
I’ve based myself in the Hilton Queenstown Resort and Spa, a free 15-minute shuttle ride into town, or $10 for the more picturesque trip by water taxi that runs just about every hour – I say about as you have to factor in the laid-back Kiwi attitude … timetables are for guidance only! As with most trips, day one is simply spent exploring the town, scoping out what there is to do, and of course, enjoying a drink in the sunshine.
After a peaceful and much-needed 10-hour sleep (I do love a quiet hotel room), I open the curtains to a lake view and see that the sun is again shining. I give my husband a derisive look – he told me it was going to be a maximum of nine degrees – and quickly realise that I may have over-packed on the winter woollies.
Not to worry, today we’re taking the local bus to Arrowtown – a gold-mining town about 20 minutes from Queenstown. If Queenstown is beautiful, then Arrowtown is pretty beyond belief. Although it only really comprises one street, there’s an abundance of cafes and restaurants; some easy and challenging walks for those more active visitors and even a gold mining museum. This preserved town remains firmly settled in the late 19th century and is a truly lovely place to spend the day. You can grab the local bus from town for $15 each way.
The next day we’re up and about early as I have agreed to partake in a bit of adrenalin-pumping activity. Although I don’t really fancy it, we’re off to Shotover River Canyons to ride the Shotover Jet! This basically involves hurling around a very shallow part of the Shotover River in a jet boat, being spun 360 degrees at the whim of the driver. However, if it was good enough for Kate and Wills when they visited, I’m sure I can give it a go. Honestly, it’s not that bad and as it only lasts 25 minutes, I can say I’m glad I did it! You can book the jet boat ride and coach (10-minute drive) in town and it costs about $135 per person.
It’s the penultimate day of our Queenstown adventure and after the ‘exertions’ of yesterday, I have decided that today will be what I want to do – and what I want to do is taste as much of the local wine as possible! The local wine region is Central Otago, producing some great cold climate wines such as Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. As neither of us wants to drive, we’ve booked an afternoon trip with Queenstown Wine Trail, a small-group tour company, taking no more than 15, which visits four wineries in five hours. The first stop is Gibbston Valley, where we also opt to have lunch (extra cost). The sun is shining and it’s difficult to get moving again, but the promise of more delicious Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and a cheeky rosé gets me going.
Next it's Kinross cellar door, where we taste wines from small local wineries and then it’s onto Mt Rosa, which supplies several of the Queenstown restaurants and bars with its wines, including a hot and spicy mulled wine. We finish our day at Amisfield, which also hosted Kate and Wills, and I have to say, these are my favourite wines of the day. And in even better news, they’ll post free to Australia or you can pick them up in Dan Murphy’s! The wine tour we chose was $155 plus lunch, or there’s a shorter version (two wineries) with lunch included for $165.
Thanks to an 8.35pm flight, we pretty much have a whole final day in Queenstown. As recommended by our hotel concierge, we opt to take the TSS Earnslaw steamer out to Walter Peak High Country Farm. The trip across Lake Wakatipu is just breathtaking but the fun starts when we get to the farm, which is fully operational. We opt for the BBQ lunch and short sheep-shearing and sheep dog display ($99 each with boat trip included), but you can take a tour of the farm and high tea, which, I have to say, looks a lot of fun.
And then it’s back to Queenstown to kill the last couple of hours before heading back to Melbourne. I contemplate the Gondolas that take you up to the top of the hill. The views are said to be fantastic, but not having a head for heights, I decide to give it a miss.
Debbie stayed as a guest of Hilton Queenstown Resort and Spa.
Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free
- Receive our daily enewsletter
- Enter competitions
- Comment on articles