Leaving Wanaka was a real wrench as we had enjoyed our stay with Gill and Ross so much but it was time to go and with a sad ‘au revoir’ rather than a goodbye we headed off over the Crown Ranges towards the bright lights of Queenstown.
Now the question of whether or not Queenstown is the Las Vegas of New Zealand will be addressed in a moment, be patient we will get there.
Cardrona and the Bras
Yet another fabulous drive took us into the Cardrona Valley and up to the famous Cardrona Hotel. Not much of the original goldrush town, which was named after a small village in the Scottish Borders, exists anymore but the Hotel sits proudly at the top of the Crown Ranges and attracts hoards of visitors every year. Just before you reach the hotel there is a collection of thousands of bras stretching out into farmland in aid of charity. Interesting but poses so many questions like how and when they were removed and pinned up. Jo said I was a little ‘too’ interested!
After a quick drink and a wander around we headed down the steep side of the Ranges into the historic and picturesque Arrowtown. It’s a fascinating little town that seems to be stuck in the past and every shop and cafe retains that old-world goldrush charm. The whole place was founded due to gold being discovered in 1862 and initially given the ridiculous name of Fox’s. They soon got rid of that but the town grew and the adjoining chinese mining village is a fascinating history of the oriental miners that also lived and worked here.
Old friends in Queenstown
One of the lovely things about this trip to New Zealand is that we have been able to meet up again with friends that we made on our first trip in 2015/16. We stayed with Sheena and Malc in Queenstown last time and just had to stay with them again. It was so good to see them again and we felt immediately at home in their place with Meeca the dog, Mouse the cat, two other cats whose names began with ‘M’, and a couple of chickens (whose names probably began with ‘M’).
The Peregrine Loop
We decided that we would avoid the town initially and headed over to the Kawarau River where we could walk some of the Gibbston River Trail and get to see the Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge en route. It was a stiflingly hot day so we loaded up with water, food, sunscreen, and hats as we set from the Peregrine Winery on the start of a 5 km hike up river to the gorge.
The plan was to walk up to the A J Hackett Bungee jump centre at the gorge, have a spot of lunch whilst watching the idiots jump, walk back down the valley, circle the Peregrine Loop walk and then end up at the winery. Should be around 15km in total which is 9 miles in proper distance. We were slightly concerned about the red hot sun but set off anyway as the scenery was just outstanding.
Wooden bridges, rocky steps, and dusty paths took us along the valley and we hardly saw a soul on the entire walk to the gorge which took an hour and a half. It was fabulous. Suddenly though within a couple of hundred yards we were plunged into the madness of A J Hackett! Before we knew it there were people on zipwires screaming above us and others leaping off the Kawarau Suspension bridge with string tied round their ankles also screaming. Lines of tourists taking photos of absolutely anything, some of whom appeared to be screaming. Craziness everywhere and so much money being spent to do it.
We watched for a while then found a quieter spot for lunch before escaping for the return walk. It was unbelievable how in the space of a hundred yards the world turned from crazy-nuts-carnage to relaxing-quiet-beauty. Very strange. The hike back was a bit tougher as it seemed to be getting hotter and hotter and we were beginning to get a little tired. Joining the Peregrine Loop was a relief as there was only 3km to go. It really was the best part though as the wooden steps and bridges and views were just awesome and we were disappointed as we reached the winery entrance.
So sweating profusely and covered in dust we confidently strolled into the posh Peregrine Wines tasting reception to join the sports-jacketed and cocktail-dress brigade. Heads turned as one with a general ‘who the hell are these smelly oiks’ attitude but we weren’t to be stopped. Jo marched straight over to the bar, smiled her best JWalking smile, and asked if we could have a couple of glasses of water! The only person in the place not physically repulsed by us seemed to be the girl behind the bar so she grinned the widest Kiwi grin and passed us a bottle of chilled water and two glasses. It didn’t touch the sides! Great vintage.
One of the best days out we’ve had in ages and certainly one of the best ever walks we have done. If you’re visiting Queenstown makes sure you get out of the city and get down here, it’s fantastic.
Glenorchy and Lake Sylvan
Our second day was supposed to be a quiet relaxing one but after chatting with Sheena we decided to head off up the edge of Lake Wakatipu to visit Glenorchy and do a little walk to the smaller Lake Sylvan. We raced through Queenstown, I’ll get onto the Las Vegas bit in a minute, and enjoyed the stunning scenery as we passed Mount Creighton and the brilliantly named Pig Island and Pigeon Island on the way to Glenorchy. So many of the names around here have Scottish heritage like Kinloch where we turned towards the smaller lake.
Now 70km north of Queenstown right in the heart or the Southern Alps we set off across another suspension bridge, Jo loves them. Interestingly we were only a few miles from the famous Milford Sound (as the crow flies) but the vast mountains in the way would have made it a 6 hour drive. Our walk was slightly less taking a couple of hours through the woods to the lake via the old tramway, before lunch on the waters edge and a return loop.
Is Queenstown the Las Vegas of New Zealand?
On our return we decided it was time to face Queenstown town centre so parked up, had a walk along the lakeside, enjoyed some food at the Pub on the Wharf, an ice cream from Patagonia, and headed home. Lovely. However, the town is a full-on adrenaline-filled place with crowds of people everywhere seemingly all eating, drinking, or booking up exciting bare-knuckle trips. Some of the trips look amazing but some of them, such as power-boating and frisbee-golfing have a rip-off money-making feel about them. We saw so many people desperately searching for things to do that it reminded us so much of Las Vegas. Everyone super-keen to have a great time and pay whatever it takes regardless of what ‘it’ is.
Admittedly a lot of this is related to age. The whole place is seriously geared up and aimed at 20-something backpackers who head here from all over the world and seem to have a great time. It doesn’t feel real though and in the midst of uniquely incredible mountains and lakes it seems a shame that a lot of people miss so much.
So the town isn’t really for us but the location and scenery certainly is. It’s stunningly beautiful in every direction and whether or not it is becoming LV we would definitely return if we came back to New Zealand.
Heading South to Te Anau
It seemed sad to be leaving Sheena and Malc and all of the ‘M’ named pets so soon but we were off to Te Anau which is a couple of hours drive south and where we had big plans for another special day-out which we just couldn’t wait for.
07/01 – 10/01/2018