If you have been following this blog you will have seen an earlier post explaining that I have some good friends in New Zealand that I met in London on my solo trip in 1994! They told me you can’t be in Wanaka and not go to Queenstown.
You can also read about our road trip from Christchurch to Wanaka. While I was staying in Wanaka with friends, they organised to take us to Queenstown for a visit. Its a little over an hours drive depending on conditions and traffic! Its a pretty drive with a few significant places to stop and take in views along the way. Of course its New Zealand, there’s a view around every corner!
First pit stop is at the Cardrona Hotel, Cardrona had a much larger population back in the 1860’s due to gold being found there which brought a few thousand fossickers to try their luck. Its population is much less now a days but does swell during the winter months for skiing with people visiting the Cardrona Alpine Resort. Apart from skiing, Cardrona is famous for its pub and a beautiful pub with lovely grounds it is. We stopped there for a hot cappacino and the kids all had a hot chocolate by the open fire.
I had a little wander round the beautiful grounds and Chris and I discussed how she would love to get married there. Funnily enough Craig and I attended her wedding in October last year which was a 4 day event in the New Zealand Alps but towards Greymouth and it was certainly the best wedding I have ever been too, apart from my own of course.
From there we travelled on through the Crown Ranges and stopped at the Crown Saddle to take in the lovely views and have a photo at the monument that signifies that is the highest sealed road at 1076m in all of New Zealand. Also a good place for the kids to stretch their legs and the view is very pretty. Its a quick pit stop though and back in the car.
Next stop the very picturesque town of Arrowtown. Now I have to add that I have been to Arrowtown in both spring and autumn and autumn is by far the best time to visit. The reason being that all the autumn leaves change colour and there’s a mixture of beautiful hues of red, orange and yellow, its really is a beautiful sight. If you are not there during autumn its still a lovely stop with lots of cafes and quaint little novelty touristy shops.
The buildings fall under strict covenant due to the town having historically significance dating back to the gold rush times and the buildings were mostly built by European and Chinese immigrants. It actually reminded me of some of the small towns I visited in England. Its great that the town is ensuring that the history of the region is preserved for generations to come.
Queenstown is located a short drive from Arrowtown so our final destination was not far at all. Queenstown is popular for or is possibly the home of extreme sports. There are so many things to do in Queenstown. It is definitely where bungy jumping first took off. The home of AJ Hackett and the famous bungy jump off the bridge over the Kawarau River. Craig did it years ago on a trip to New Zealand before we met. Queenstown is located on Lake Wakatipu and is surrounded by mountains including the Remarkables, Cecil Peak and Walter Peak. These mountains are popular with skiers during the winter months. Queenstown is New Zealand’s major centre for winter sports.
Queenstown boasts The Skyline Gondola which ascends to Bob’s Peak on Ben Lomond Hill and after taking the gondola up to the peak you can then toboggan back down to the bottom. There is a restaurant at the top of the gondola and a viewing platform were you can take in the amazing view over all of Queenstown with the beautiful snow capped mountain surrounding the town. It is worth the ride just to take in the view.
The kids were still young when we visited therefore unable to participate in any extreme sports, we did however take Alannah on the Shotover Jet with the adults. Chris had a cousin working in Queenstown at the time and he came down and looked after the 4 little ones for us (my 2 little ones and Chris’s 2 little ones, all under 4 years at the time). This enabled Chris and her husband and Craig and I and Alannah to go on the Shotover Jetboat. We also got a very good price as Chris’ cousin was working in the adventure travel industry. Alannah thought that was great as she was only 7 years at the time and thought it was very grown up of her to be on with the adults!
I’m not into extreme activities and on this occasion Craig didn’t bungy as he had done it before. Even with the Aussie dollar being stronger than the New Zealand dollar, I still found the extreme activities to be really expensive. If you were looking to do it all you would have to part with some pretty serious cash. For example for all 3 of us to go on the Shotover Jet it cost us $210NZD and that wasn’t even adults at full price.
I did however manage to do some shopping in Queenstown and bought myself a very beautiful Tahitian black pearl pendant which I absolutely loved. Unfortunately I lost it about a year ago when running for the train here in Melbourne. A real shame considering it was worth a $1000! Gutted, only myself to blame though. Maybe one day I will return and get another one, bet Craig wont be too keen on that one!
We left our friends in Queenstown and headed off to Milford Sound for the night. My friends said we were crazy and the road will be dangerous at night but Craig was determined to take me to Milford Sound so that is what we did. The drive was slow at times and we got in late but got up next morning and did the cruise and headed straight back to Wanaka to catch up with the rest of the crew. There are some great horse trekking activities in Queenstown, Keira my animal loving soul would love to do that if when we return to Queenstown and the views would be breathtaking.
I would be happy to return to Queenstown anytime. Even though I have been twice I have only stayed for the day on both occasions. I could easily spend a week here checking out the area and taking in the beautiful views. I have only skied once but if I was in Queenstown during ski season I would be happy to give it another crack. It’s often cheaper for Australian’s to fly to Queenstown to ski than it is for us to ski here in Australia. Our ski fields are ridiculously expensive and its a good excuse to visit the neighbours.
There are so many amazing things to do on New Zealand’s South Island, I’ve visited a few times now and still have a few experiences on my bucket list that will ensure I return one day soon. Have you been to New Zealand, any hot tips for the first time visitor? Leave them in comments below.