Everybody visits Queenstown. It’s often voted the top tourist destination in New Zealand and every backpacker and traveler includes it in their NZ itinerary. For good reason. Imagine every adrenaline adventure type activity that you can and Queenstown has got it, and more!
To get to Queenstown from Wanaka we decided to take the famous Crown Range Road. It’s not a good idea to drive it in the winter as it’s incredibly steep and winding but it’s mid-summer now so wasn’t a problem. Out little car Notey took it in his stride as we got up to the Crown Range Saddle at over 1000 metres after a brief coffee stop at the historic Cardrona Hotel. Amazing views of both mountains, valleys and incredibly bad driving entertained us for a while before the hair-raising descent down into Queenstown.
New Airbnb and Lake Wakatipu
Our new home was in a fabulous house overlooking Lake Wakatipu with the equally fabulous Sheena and Malc (also known as Shrek for reasons I won’t mention here). Malc works for Real Journeys, one of the premier tourism companies in Queenstown, and had helped us book our big Christmas Day trip. More of that later.
Walking into town along the banks of the Wakatipu in the sunshine was something special gazing at the huge Remarkables mountain range beside us. The scale of everything here is almost beyond belief and really makes you appreciate just how big the world is. Sounds a bit deep and meaningful but we found the scenery awe inspiring and thought-provoking. Big too!
The best part of the walk for me was watching a few tourists playing a new, apparently serious, sport called Frisbee Golf. Yes, that’s right it’s a cross between frisbee and ………. golf. Pretty simple rules too. Throw the frisbee from the tee towards the metal basket in as few throws as possible. The groups we watched play all had a lot of fun and laughs and seriously enjoyed themselves until they realised that there were another 17 baskets to play! Most seemed to want to quit but they soldiered on getting less and less enthusiastic with each throw. In the end just picking up the frisbee and just lashing it anywhere. Much more entertaining to watch for us.
Those of you that have been on this little trip with us for a while will remember that back in Brisbane I pronounced quite dramatically that I would be starting to juggle. Well that turned out to be a hopeless non-event. It’s taken until now to actually buy some balls of the juggling variety. Two sets purchased in Queenstown and the training has begun. It’s going to take a while although I think Sheena was impressed with my handling skills, or she may have just felt a little scared and uncomfortable. Not sure.
Queenstown: Adventure and Adrenalin Centre of the Universe.
It really is. Every other shop is selling an adventure of some sort. How about these (with detailed explanations);
- White Water Rafting – flying down a river very fast
- Bungee Jumping – flying through the air very fast
- Jetboating – flying across the water very fast
- River Surfing – flying down the river very fast
- Canyon Swinging – flying across the canyon very fast
- Nomad Safaris – flying along in a 4WD very fast
- Quad Biking – flying along on a quad bike very fast
- Paragliding and Skydiving – flying through the air very fast
- Parasailing – flying across the water very fast
- Frisbee Golf – lazily lobbing a flat disc at a tree, over and over again
Well maybe not Frisbee Golf, but there is just shop after shop selling the above activities and more. We had to think very carefully if we wanted to do any of these ‘flying very fast’ activities but came to the conclusion that if we were thinking very carefully then that probably meant we weren’t bothered. I think a lot of people feel they have to do high-octane trips just because they’re here and to fill their time. We were saving ourselves for Christmas.
Tuesday was a bit of a special day for us as we had arranged to meet up with some hairy bikers from Melbourne, well not that hairy but definitely from Melbourne. They actually hosted us when we stayed in Seaford and we got on so very well that we arranged to meet up. They’re on a biking tour of NZ and our paths crossed in Queenstown so a date was made. Before the big reunion however we spent a lovely morning in Arrowtown. Another mining town created by a gold rush with a host of history and a fabulously quaint shopping street. Slightly touristy but fascinating to explore with so many plaques and signs for Jo to read that she was in heaven. It’s a must see visit and the Chinese settlement is just so interesting, as are some of the bars!
Best Thing about Travelling
Lots of people ask us what the best things about our little trip are. Exploring new places or seeing amazing new sights. For both of us it’s neither, it is meeting new people. We love getting to know each and every new Airbnb host, in fact it’s the main reason we chose Airbnb. Hotels are soulless and lonely but staying with local people in their home is the complete opposite. We love it. Occasionally you get on so well with your ‘hosts’ that you become friends. This is what happened when we stayed with Carolyn and David back in November. We hit it off from the beginning. I think making new friends like this is what life is all about.
Although Jo is used to sitting in bars drinking heavily I’m not. We met our friends in a lakeside bar for a few drinks and hugs and travelling stories before moving onto the Pub on the Wharf for some delicious food and more drinks. It was such a fantastic evening that flew by much too quickly. All too soon we were saying goodbyes and just hoping that we could do it again soon. Who knows, we might just be back for some housesitting.
So that was the end of a marvellous day, or was it? Not a chance. When we got home, by home I mean our new Airbnb home, we were invited for a Christmas drink by the lovely Sheena. Her and Malc and some friends kindly offered us some bubbly to celebrate Christmas. A fabulous end to a fabulous day and a feeling that Christmas had really arrived.
We really didn’t want to leave Queenstown, and especially felt that we would have loved another couple of days getting to know Sheena and Malc. Awesome people. But we had a date with a ship in Milford and there was no way we’d miss that.
Another fabulous drive awaited us as we left Queenstown to head down to Te Anau. We’d booked our Christmas Day trip down in Milford Sound which is a 4 to 5 hour drive from Queenstown so we’d decided to split the journey and stay halfway. That’s the town of Te Anau. It’s actually the most southern place either of us has ever visited in the world and perched on the edge of the lake in the middle of the Fjordland area. Incredible scenery like the rest of the south island but completely isolated. We hadn’t been able to find an Airbnb so booked a couple of nights in the Fjordland Motel. Nice and simple, just what we needed.
Te Anau is a tiny little place but still has a raft of adventure activities going on. Helicopter flights, sea planes, hiking trips, all sorts. Lots of backpackers and tourits passing through in the way to Milford Sound too so pretty busy after 5pm every day.
We hadn’t planned to do too much but still walked a few miles along Lake Te Anau, second biggest in NZ, and had a wander around the few touristy shops. Dinner at The Moose bar was the highlight of the day before a few games of pool and table tennis before bed. Big day next day.
Christmas Day Adventure
One of the things we’ve been quite careful about on our little trip is to make sure we do exactly what we want to do and not be drawn in by any super offers of ‘The Greatest Experience Ever’ type of thing. We think that a few big events such as our Great Barrier Reef dive are far more special than several smaller things that we could potentially do anywhere. That’s why we booked our trip on Christmas Day. There were a few reasons for it but initially we wanted something completely different from previous Christmas’s so that we wouldn’t miss our boys back home, and also an event that we would never ever forget. So we booked an overnight trip on a ship on Milford Sound for Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
We weren’t disappointed.
20.12 – 24.12.2015