The photos and films you've seen of New Zealand often appear photoshopped, but the truth is, they don't do the scenery justice. NZ is even more beautiful in real life and Queenstown is no exception.
It's a town known for winter pursuits and all kinds of adrenaline inducing activities. But Queenstown is truly magical all year round, even if you're not a fan of attaching yourself to a harness and flinging yourself off a bridge (the thought of this does not exactly fill me with excitement) or hurtling yourself down a mountain (I am more excited about this).
If you are spending more than a few days in NZ, driving yourself around is definitely the way to go (or if you prefer a slower pace, my workmate Hati recommends cycling… something I do not exactly excel at). I guarantee that some of the best scenery is to be found whilst on the road. There is that old adage that it’s about the journey, not the destination. Well, in this case, both are spectacular!
On this last Qtown trip, we drove from Christchurch via the stunning Lakes Tekapo and Pukaki, which is about a 6 hour non-stop drive (though I challenge you to not stop in the face of such beautiful scenery). If you do have the time, I'd suggest driving to Queenstown from Christchurch and incorporating it in a loop of the South Island. But if you're on a tight schedule, there are direct flights into Queenstown from the main NZ cities, plus Sydney and Melbourne.
I really want to make an effort to see more of New Zealand; I've seen more of Europe than I have of my homeland. So if you have any recommendations, please send them my way. L xx
From Christchurch, getting to Queenstown really is half the fun, some of my favourite stops include...
Pie pitstop (of course my first stop is food) at Lieber's in Fairlie. My pick is the Pork Belly with Apple Sauce and Crackling.
The Alpine Lakes - Tekapo and Pukaki - whose distinctive colours are due to the glacial flour suspended in the water, providing the perfect foreground to the Alps beyond.
On the shore of Lake Tekapo you'll find the Church of the Good Shepherd, one of NZ's most photographed buildings. If you time your visit right around Summer, you'll also find fields of lupines along the shore of the lakes and even on the roadside.
The Mount John Observatory Tour is highly recommended, but if you don't have the inclination for stargazing, then the hike up to the summit of Mount John is every bit as beautiful.
Lake Tekapo town and nearby Twizel make good overnight stops, with many walking and cycling tracks to keep you occupied.
Make the slight detour to see the Omarama Clay Cliffs, natural rock formations created by the flow of ancient glaciers over a million years ago. The ochre colour and jagged shapes are a stark contrast to the surrounding landscape.
Basically anywhere with a view of Lake Wakatipu!
SIGHTS & ACTIVITIES
Queenstown is the adventure capital of the world and the only difficulty thrill seekers will have is choosing which activity to try first! It's the home of Bungy (3 different locations and I don't even want to know how many options) and the Shotover Jet (much more my style).
Take the Gondola up Bob's Peak, or better yet walk/hike/run the Tiki Trail, and if you're feeling extra adventurous, you can luge or mountain bike downhill.
There are so many great walks/hikes in and around Queenstown of varying length and difficulty. The Queenstown Hill Time Walk is a particularly good one for a sweeping view over the town and Lake Wakatipu, and can be done in only a couple of hours. For more of a challenge and a full day hike, then Ben Lomond is the track.
Get out on the lake, whether in a kayak, on a paddle board, or aboard a steamboat.
Ski season runs from June to October, with a choice of 4 ski areas. It's been a long time since I've skied in Queenstown, but it's certainly one of the Southern Hemisphere's best snowsports playgrounds.
FOOD & DRINK
Fergburger. World famous burgers, despite Fergberger being a standalone store. There is pretty much a crazy queue any time close to a meal time, so if you don't like to queue for your food, go mid afternoon. Then pop next door to Mrs Ferg for some gelato (or in my case, gelati, because one scoop/flavour isn't enough).
Bespoke Kitchen. I am just quietly obsessed with this place. Breakfast, brunch, lunch, snacks, coffee (Allpress). The fresh food is simply delicious and they cater for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free diets.
I pretty much just alternate between the above two venues. Haha.