Queenstown, Queenstown, Queenstown. What can I say about you that hasn’t already been said a million times?
I was always looking forward to this energetic and extreme-loving city, and it was the first place to go onto my itinerary, but I was also concerned that it would be a letdown – touristy, expensive and overhyped.
It’s touristy but for a very good reason (in fact, several very good reasons). It’s expensive in terms of accommodation and tourist-oriented restaurants, but drink deals are the best we found in New Zealand ($4 rum & coke, anyone?) and smaller, local places provided cheap eats. And I’m not sure it’s possible for it to overhyped.
Because even though you are bombarbed in all directions by advertising – activity promotions, tour bookings, ski sales, more tourist centres, buses from tours for bungee jumps or sky dives – it’s a small but great city with an incredible backdrop.
Being compact gives it a certain charm because everything is shoved into a few streets, and all of those streets have a great feel to them.
We were greeted by not-so-great weather, but after a wander around the lakeside harbour, we took cover in a coffee shop, and when we emerged the sun was finally coming out. We quickly realised that this meant one thing.
I wanted to make the most of the good weather because it was due to go downhill again imminently, so we took a walk around the botanic gardens for some brilliant views of The Remarkables – the snow-capped mountain range that makes Queenstown’s scenery so recognisable.
We also made a beeline that evening to the world-famous Fergburger, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that it’s not actually that expensive considering its reputation. A basic burger starts at $11 – I opted for the “cockadoodle oink” for under $15, partly because the name is just awesome and mostly because it’s chicken, bacon and avocado! And it didn’t disappoint. In fact, it was so good that we went back on our last night and Ash had that one.
The following day, we had booked a Milford Sound cruise – and unfortunately the bad weather had moved from the weekend to the day of our tour. In fact, I reckon that we couldn’t have had worse weather if we tried!
The usually scenic journey from Te Anau to Milford was overcast and rainy, and on the cruise itself it only got worse. On arrival at Milford, when we couldn’t even see the iconic Mitre Peak overlooking the sound, I was disappointed but as the cruise went on, I kept laughing at just how bad it was.
We literally couldn’t see anything, yet it was still beautiful! (this is what it normally looks like, however)
And one of the plus points of torrential rain all day? There are usually a couple of waterfalls on the journey through the sound. We saw hundreds. Well, at least not many people can say that!
We also saw several being BLOWN AWAY. Have you ever seen a whole waterfall being blown away?!?
And then we went under one waterfall and everybody got absolutely soaked – a lot more fun than it probably sounds!! (and they did warn, or rather encourage us, so you could stay inside if you wanted!)
But one of the highlights was going up to the top of the boat and trying to take pictures. My scarf kept flying into my mouth and I actually fell over at one point!
So it was probably one of the worst Milford Sound cruises of all time. Of course I’d like to go back in friendlier weather, but it was quite an entertaining day in the end. (thank God or I might have cried)
We awoke the next morning to clear skies and glorious weather (of course) and immediately decided to make the most of it with a trip up to possibly the most famous view in New Zealand.
The gondola ride up to Bob’s Peak is THE must-do in Queenstown, and you can probably see why from this view.
Not only that, but at the top there is plenty to keep you occupied from restaurants to paragliding to everyone’s favourite: luging. I’d never really heard of luges before, and decided we had to give it a go. And it was so much fun!! Hurtling down a track on a mountainside in what can only be described as a tiny go-kart, we had a great time! I loved the ride up, too – from the main area of the mountain, you take a free ski lift up to the start of the track.
It’s one of the few tourist photos we’ve bought on this trip!
I also got a picture with a Jelly Belly.
It’s touristy up there, that’s for sure. But it doesn’t have to be expensive, and going in the morning meant it was super quiet even though it was a weekend – as we were leaving around midday, the luge queue was increasing by the minute and the viewpoints were getting packed. We got the return gondola ride and two luge rides for $47 each and although it’s not exactly cheap, that’s all we spent.
While the weather was still good, I had a “screw it” moment and decided to splash out on a jetboat ride. I wasn’t hugely excited for it, but it’s one of the few big ticket activities that Ash would actually be interested in so we did some shopping around. While the Shotover jet boat looks pretty awesome, we opted for one of the harbour ones: Thunderjet.
There are two tour companies on the harbour, and we found out that they both run the same tour and are owned by brothers – except we could get Thunderjet for $10 cheaper. So Thunderjet it was, and actually I had a ton of fun!
The driver would constantly aim the boat for trees and obstacles in the river as we whizzed past, and we skimmed over shallow waters just centimetres deep. We went through a small canyon (which in itself made me kind of wish we’d gone for the Shotover tour because that bit was really pretty!) and did a ton of 360 degree spins.
It was also bloody freezing.
This was even worse on the way back when the clouds started rolling in, and amazingly the heavens waited until minutes after we’d arrived safely back at the harbour before they dramatically opened.
And that was the good weather over for the day, but that’s okay because we’d done everything we wanted to do and now we could relax and explore the town at our leisure. My only regret perhaps is not doing the canyon swing – something I’ve talked about doing for years! But sky diving in Wanaka was kind of a replacement and I couldn’t justify splashing out on both.
But, I suppose, there’s always next time! After this amazing trip in New Zealand, we are definitely both eager to go back. And while we watch the chaos in the UK (and Europe in general) unfold from the other side of the world, going back is definitely a serious consideration.
And next time? We’ll make sure to go with a lot more money.