When you take the panorama of Lake Wakatipu, and contrast it with the towering peaks of the Remarkables mountain range, you are provided with an amazing backdrop to this thriving hub of business, retail and tourism.
Anne and I have just spent a relaxing five days in and around Queenstown with three members of Anne’s family. They are not cyclists and one has a mobility challenge, requiring a walking stick, struggling to cover 100m before needing to rest, so our plans slowed down drastically following the Otago Rail Trail adventure.
With five of us spending this time together, our choice of an accommodation base was important, and Queenstown’s beautiful Historic Stone House served us perfectly. The house, built for Queenstown’s Mayor in 1874, has been gracefully maintained, and provided 3 large bedrooms, 2 with ensuite and the other with its own bathroom across the hallway, a charming oak beamed lounge with a cosy open log fire, a full country style kitchen with adjoining dining area, laundry facilities and an outdoor spa. Whilst located very close to the centre of Queenstown (only a 5 minute walk in to town), the property is situated at the top of a very steep street, so walking home is a challenge if you aren’t fit, and it will take you more than 5 minutes.
Understanding our limited mobility situation, we rented a seven seater van for the week, giving us all the transport convenience we needed. Having the car allowed us to plan our itinerary to include a number of “must see” sites within a 100km radius.
Our five day itinerary for the not so active started with a day trip to Arrowtown, a quaint little village with a long history steeped in New Zealand’s early gold rush days and showcases the importance of its Chinese miners.
Day two was a beautiful crisp sunny summer morning, and we headed out late to catch the TSS Earnslaw on its trip across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak. We picked a perfect day. The sun shone bright and the lake was as calm as a mill pond. The TSS Earnslaw is a 51m vintage steamship, built in 1912. It continues to be driven by twin 250hp coal fired steam engines, consuming one tonne of coal per hour. I was amazed at the job the four “stokers” performed in the engine room, which was visible to the passengers.
I wonder how many jobs there are for stokers these days?
We chose to stay on board, rather than disembark at Walter Peak Farm, arriving back in Queenstown at 2pm. We strolled around the waterfront, choosing a small waterside cafe for a late lunch. After a quick hug of the oversize Kiwi, it was back to the car, and home via the supermarket, where we grabbed supplies (including a bottle of local pinot noir) for a light dinner at home………….but not before a dip in the spa.
Lake Wanaka was our destination on day three. We departed Queenstown mid-morning, with a brief stop at AJ Hackett Bungy jump, to see those a little more adventurous than us, throwing themselves off the historic 43m high Kawaraua bridge – great fun to watch. Continuing on via Cromwell, passing numerous road side fruit stalls and wineries, we finally pulled in for a stop at Warbirds & Wheels at Wanaka airport, a world class collection of classic cars and a display tracing the evolution of fighter aircraft, ranging from the WW1 SE5A, through to the impressive Skyhawk jet fighter. I was gobsmacked at the classic car collection, featuring some of the greatest cars ever built including Duesenberg, Packard and Lincoln. I found it hard to pick my favourite, but for now I’ll settle on this Packard.
We enjoyed a simple lunch by the Lake, and before our return to Queenstown via Cardrona and the Crown Range Road (well worth the drive), we stopped in to Stuart Landsborough’s famous Puzzling World. Puzzling World comprises a maze, a puzzle centre and the Illusion Rooms. We visited the Illusion Rooms and were fascinated with the hologram hall, the tilted house (where water appears to run uphill), the hall of following faces, the Ames illusion room and the sculptillusion gallery. Kids and adults alike will enjoy Puzzling world.
We chose to spend the day close to home in Queenstown on day four, starting out with a trip up the Skyline Gondola for a fabulous vista. It was another glorious day, with full sun and very little wind. The paragliders were so majestic as they lifted off from just behind the summit restaurant area. If I was tempted with one adventure tourism experience, paragliding from Skyline would have to be it. Our next stop was a leisurely drive out past the airport to Kelvin Heights where sits the Queenstown Golf Club and some lovely and contemporary lake front residences. We found a sunny sheltered beach area, and a forest walk with a surprise sculpture hidden amongst the pines.
On returning to town, we took a wander through Queenstown Gardens, then headed out to the Shotover River for a late lunch whilst watching the Shotover Jet boats do their thing. I was surprised to learn that this year, Shotover Jet celebrate their 50th year of operation.
Friday was our final day in Queenstown, and we chose to take the 48km drive around the shores of Lake Wakatipu to Glenorchy, reportedly one of the most scenic drives in New Zealand, if not the world. I have to agree – it is very picturesque. It was lovely to take a wander through the streets of Glenorchy (there aren’t very many), and just admire the scenery. It was on our way back to Queenstown when we discovered another hidden gem in this part of the world – Little Paradise Lodge. Whimsical and quirky are both terms which could be used to describe this lake side accommodation lodge and tea garden.
If you are passing, make sure you stop in, pay the $14 entry fee and take a walk through the secret garden with flowers, trees, water features, sculptures and wildlife – You will be surprised! Make sure you rub some insect repellent on first – the sand-flies are a little hungry out that way.
A visit to Queenstown is not complete without a walk along the waterfront, enjoying the street performers, the many nationalities who visit, and observing the large cue of people waiting patiently to order a Ferg Burger, which has become a Queenstown institution. We will have to join the cue next time and see what the fuss is all about. We did manage to grab some of Mrs Ferg’s gelato though….we didn’t have to cue for that.