So, let’s get this out of the way first; Queenstown is a gorgeous place. On the shore of Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by hills and mountains, these sights aren’t going to get old any time soon. There’s something refreshing to waking up to these views every day, but I’m not here to just admire the area – I want to get right into the place.
The first couple of days let me get a sense of the place, and it’s a lot of fun. I almost convinced myself that I could settle here for a few months but the more I thought about it, the more I realised it’s not the place for me.
That’s simple because I need to push myself to achieve things, and the things I want to achieve compared to what I could do in Queenstown don’t match up. I could live the life here, but I’d leave it wondering I’ve gotten from it.
As a holiday or short break, the place is great and there are a few reasons why so many people enjoy their time here, including me!
One of the things Queenstown is known for are its adventuring activities – and there are SO MANY to choose from. You could easily spend a small fortune here trying to do so much of it. I’m on a budget, so I can’t do everything, but there are a few things I managed to do, and you never know, maybe I’ll return to do more another time.
The Skyline Luge
Now, this was fun.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, really. For those unfamiliar with the luge, you’re in a kart on a downhill track. Gravity does the work. You can steer and brake. That’s it. Simple, right?
The Skyline Luge in Queenstown combines the adrenaline with the beautiful views, although while it adds to the photos, I didn’t pay much attention to them while I was on the track. There are two tracks; an easier one which is your first ride and an advanced option for any subsequent rides.
The easiest option to get there is with the gondola – although there is a trail if you wish – and you can package the luge rides with the gondola ticket to save yourself some cash. You can purchase more rides at the top but it’s more expensive. Buy a Gondola and Luge ticket and choose five or six rides. You’ll save the most money this way and get the most out of it.
Skippers Canyon Jet
Not content with the Luge, I sought out something more and found it in Skippers Canyon Jet boat rides. A stretch of the Shotover river, this adventure included the ride from Queenstown and back, and there were plenty of photo stops to take in the history of the place, a lot of it centering around the goldrush that brought people to the area.
A big bonus for me was the inclusion of Lord of the Rings sights, with my favourite being the river where Arwen escaped the Nazgûl. That was towards the top end of the boat trip.
Having never been on a jetboat before, I didn’t know what to expect, but it was a great ride, with spins and tight corners galore – and a speedy ride back! You can choose a jetboat ride on Lake Wakatipu but it’s a wide open space, and while it’d be fun – and a bit cheaper – this had a bit more of an edge to it, and I fully recommend!
Shotover Canyon Swing
What is it with me and heights?
I hate heights. I don’t like them. At all.
As has been well-documented (by me) I can’t seem to get away from them, though. Whether it’s climbing tall buildings and hills for the views or jumping out of a plane, I keep coming back to them.
When I started this trip, I said I’d do a bungy OR a skydive. I chose the latter, and it was amazing. I’d even consider doing it again. A bungy, though, was out. I didn’t like the idea of having to jump compared to being pushed.
Enter the Canyon Swing in Queenstown.
While not the highest drop, they have a huge number of ways to make the fall before smoothly transitioning into a swing – and I can say it is smooth. Not once did I feel a jerk or pull.
I went twice, as the price for a second go was really good.
The first, I went for a cutaway – but I didn’t want a countdown or to know when it would happen. That built the nerves a bit and, actually, stopped them mounting as the countdown ended. There was a dummy to get me (and it did) but this swing position was great fun. I couldn’t hide the yell from that freefall.
The second was meant to be more adventurous. I opted for the Spartan – where you’re kicked off the platform. I made a fatal mistake, however, and looked down.
Cue the freak-out (not seen on this video, but you can still see the fear on my face).
We switched to a falling backwards, which I also messed up by bending my legs and flailing away looking up. The video makes it look worse. Immediately into the swing, I berated myself for giving into the fear.
That said, the freefall feeling is breath-taking and exciting. The swing is a great alternative to the bounce of the bungy, which I’m not keen on! There was no way to hide the scream or yell that escaped me on either attempt, and while I kind of bottled the second go, I’m still glad I did them both!
I’ll also point out I’m being hard on myself, but it makes me keep doing these things getting awesome experiences, so I’ll keep at it!
As I said above, Queenstown and the surrounding area are gorgeous and there are plenty of ways and places to get the best views. Queenstown Hill is an obvious choice, with a trail from the city leading to the summit.
You’ll get some sweeping views of the city and Lake Wakatipu as well as the countryside all around it. You can also see some jaw dropping scenes from the Queenstown Gardens, the Skyline Luge and other areas around.
The area is full of walking and biking trails. You can drive to where you want to go but if you have some time and it’s a nice day, I’d encourage you to try a few. Whether you walk to Frankton, or start from there, or even choose to head out to Arrowtown (which you should definitely do for a history lesson of the area, too), there’s plenty to choose from.
Kiwi Birdlife Park
Next to the gondola that takes you to the Skyline is the entrance to the Kiwi Birdlife Park. Of all the places I’ve been to so far – and from speaking to others who have been to places I haven’t – this is the best place to see a Kiwi.
This family-owned sanctuary takes in a large number of birds and plays a big part in breeding and releasing them back into the wild, while educating people about the inhabitants and their lifestyles. It comes with a free audio tour that tells you more than the information boards and there are wildlife shows and Kiwi talks, too.
Its definitely worth a visit, even if you just want to see a Kiwi clearly. The newest and largest enclosure is the best for this, and after 5-10 minutes, when your eyes have fully adjusted, you can get an idea of the size of these animals. The staff are always happy to answer questions and tell you more about them, too.
The cost of entry supports the running of the sanctuary and the breeding and releasing programmes they’re a part of, as well!
A thriving nightlife
I’d be remiss not to mention the nightlife. There’s a huge number of restaurants, bars and nightclubs for a place of its size, and especially during the peak seasons and holidays, these are going to be busy.
There’s a temptation to dive right in but beware, the late night nature of the nightlife scene could eat into your adventuring time. Make sure you know what you plan to do with your days before you lose them completely.
That said, if you’re after a good party and that’s how you unwind, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better place than Queenstown.
Battle of the burgers
Before coming to Queenstown, I was told of Fergburger. It holds a reputation of being the best burger in Queenstown, and plenty of people impressed this upon me – but as many people said it was overrated. I felt like I had to give it a try, and while I did enjoy it, it didn’t live up to the standards the first group of people had tried to convey.
The other option I was given was Devil Burger, and while I won’t say it was the best burger ever, I did prefer it to Fergburger. There was nothing wrong with either, but Ferg seemed a little rushed and sloppy, and given how busy it was, I can understand why that might happen. Still, as an outside, it didn’t make me want to go back for another one if I’d get the same – and it’s usually a very busy place! The Devil Burger had more care in it, and there was no rush to get things done.
This is one you might have to check out for yourselves when you visit.
I feel this is still just scratching the surface of what Queenstown has to offer, but it’s time to pack up and move on again. Next up is Wanaka.