New Zealand – Queenstown and OtagoBack to Story

Adrenaline junkies need apply

New Zealand has so much more to offer a traveller than the spectacular scenery that was made famous in the recent Lord of the Rings movies. In a country that once served cheese rolls and milkshakes as standard fare in most cafes, there has been a huge food movement in New Zealand. High quality restaurants are found in most areas as are boutique hotels that provide more options for travellers than ever before.

Queenstown

Queenstown has long been on the tourist map in New Zealand. In fact the town relies heavily on the tourist dollar. Similar to destinations such as Whistler in Canada, many of the people working in this town are visitors themselves. This adds to the holiday and international vibe to this small town.

Picturesquely situated on the shores of Lake Wakitipu much of the town also enjoys spectacular views of  nearby mountain ranges. Flying into Queenstown airport is a real experience as you drop down between the peaks. Travel to Queenstown from Australia has never been easier with direct flights from Sydney.

Adrenaline junkies look no further!

Queenstown is the adrenaline capital of the world. Arguably, bungy jumping with AJ Hackett is the best known of these activities. Even if dangling off a bridge with a rubber band is not your thing, it is mesmerising to watch. It does feel a little like witnessing a train wreck as you can’t seem to be able to look away.

If you want to take a closer look at some of the amazing rivers in the area, why not try white-water rafting? Queenstown Rafting can take you on a number or rivers including the Shotover or Kawarau Rivers. If something a little less energetic is more your thing, jet boating is a must do activity. Sir William Hamilton is credited with inventing the shallow water jet boat which is perfect for navigating New Zealand’s shallow fast running rivers. To see some of the Lord of the Rings try Dart River Safaris where you can combine a 4WD tour or walk through the bush. If you have a few people it might be worth discussing a private trip. For less focus on the scenery and more on speed try the Shotover Jet which will see you speeding down a tight canyon, and leave you seemingly inches away from the sheer rock faces.

Speaking of which, the adrenalin junkies combination into Skippers Canyon is also an ideal place to combine a hair raising 4WD ride with a canyon jet boat ride. The scenery is more dramatic canyon on this trip with sheer cliffs than the sweeping mountain vistas of the Dart River. Never mind you will just have to stay longer and enjoy both.

Don’t let winter scare you away because Queenstown is also one of New Zealand’s premier destinations for skiing. Coronet Peak and Remarkables Park are an easy drive from Queenstown and offer a good selection of slopes to try your luck on. International visitors beware the roads are a little more treacherous than many of the access roads in Europe or North America. There are no hotels on the resorts so that means you have to make the trek from Queenstown. The upside is there are plenty of bars and restaurants with open fires to make sure you head up the slopes with a furry head.

Where to stay and eat

In a similar vein the multitude of culinary options, there are many places stay. If luxury lodge is your thing then Blancket Bay is well worth considering. If you start having heart palpitations at the thought of not being walking distance from at least two options for your cafe latte then perhaps try Eichardt’s Hotel. Even if the room rate is above your budget at least drop in for a drink to recover from your day of adrenaline-filled outdoor activites. If you need a kitchen try the newly opened Rees Apartments which have an excellent view over Lake Wakitipu.

Wineries

If the weather packs in (oh let’s face it who needs an excuse) then head out for a day visiting the local wineries. You can take a tour, charter a taxi for the day or appoint a sober driver and start exploring. Wineries are relatively new to the region with the first plantings beginning approximately 15 years ago. Central Otago was considered a marginal climate for growing grapes because of the frosts. The frosts remain the grape growers enemy despite global warming. You can see modern windmills in some vineyards which are used to break up the cold air and prevent the worst of the frost damage.

Don’t let the worry of frost damage spoil your day or tasting though. There are so many to choose from but your day would be incomplete if you didn’t stop by Amisfield Winery, Chard Farm, Peregrine Wines, Mount Difficulty, and Felton Road. Both Mount Difficulty and Amisfield have excellent restaurants to help soak up that wine.

Arrowtown

Arrowtown is a historic mining town that is only 20 minutes drive from Queenstown. The historic houses and old trees make this town one of the prettiest small towns in New Zealand. The main street contains a collection of shops providing a lot of products made from wool. Handy if you live somewhere cool or in fact forgot to pack anything to keep you warm while traveling in New Zealand. The food options are excellent in this small town. You cannot go past a dinner at Saffron Restaurant which is one of best in the region. Pop next door for a drink at the Blue Door Bar which is a cosy spot with an open fire and traditional stonework. If you want to do something sedate and indoors head to the gorgeous Dorothy Brown’s cinema. This boutique theatre comes with large comfy chairs, cheese boards and a glass of wine if thats what your heart desires.

Wanaka

Traditionally a place New Zealanders kept for themselves, Wanaka is now a destination in its own right. There are none of the flashy bars and hotels that typify Queenstown but that is itself the charm of Wanaka. Lake Wanaka looks out on some equally spectacular scenery but there is not quite the choice of activities spread out before you. However there are plenty of great walks to keep you busy.

Make sure you drive over the Crown Range to get to Wanaka from Queenstown. This drive takes you winding over some spectacular ranges and past the old Cardrona Hotel. This is truely one of the great quintessential kiwi pubs and its a crying shame if you don’t pop in at least for a scone and coffee. Its not a bad spot on your way back from a day skiing up at the Cardrona Alpine Resort. This ski resort is a great family field. However if you are adventurous skiers don’t forget to also try Treble Cone.

Mount Cook and around

Not exactly in Otago, but would be remiss not to mention New Zealand’s tallest mountain. The drive down the central South Island is one of the world’s most beautiful. The glacial lakes of Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki provide aqua backdrops to Mount Cook. If you have time stop in for a coffee in Tarras and later take a flight up to Mount Cook Glacier.

Ahuriri Valley, Lindis Pass, Queenstown

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