After a day of great hiking in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, we got up early today to continue our trek South on New Zealand’s South Island. Little did I know that our next destination would capture my heart like few other locations I’ve traveled ever have.
Widely recognized as the adventure capital of the world, the city of Queenstown has everything that a travel fanatic and outdoor adventure enthusiast would ever want in a destination. From beautiful mountain vistas, to amazing restaurants, to a seemingly never ending array of adventure activities, Queenstown has it all.
However, first we had to get there. The trip South from Aoraki/Mount Cook took us roughly four hours. It’s a three hour drive, but we stopped a number of times. The first stop we made was at Lindis Pass (pictured above), which was the first large mountain pass that we would travel thru. Even the less heralded vitas on the South Island are incredible.
The next stop that we made was in the town of Cromwell, which my wife absolutely fell in love with. She likens the area to New Zealand’s Napa Valley and I totally agree with her. The number and quality of vineyards in the area is staggering.
We tried to stop at Cloudy Bay, which is one of the more well known vineyards in the area, but they weren’t open yet. We are planning on hopefully stopping back in Cromwell on our way back North to Wanaka later next week.
Continuing South, the next location that caught our eye was the Goldfields Mining Centre (pictured above), which was a historic gold mining site in a steep river canyon that still produces gold daily to this very day. It’s also home to a river jet boat company for those looking for a little adventure. We just stopped for some photos of this beautiful place.
Just down the river from the mining centre is another beautiful spot that we just had to stop at to explore. The Roaring Meg Kawarau Gorge (pictured above), is a stunning set of waterfalls and rapids that have been harnessed as a hydro-electric site.
On a sad note, the area is facing an invasive plant species called wildings that is devastating the trees and other plant life in the area, which is why the area around the river looks so dead.
Four hours and some beautiful side-stops later and we were in breathtaking Queenstown. We dropped our bags off at our hotel, which is on the opposite side of Lake Wakatipu than downtown Queenstown, and then caught the water ferry across the lake to the downtown region.
At first it is a little overwhelming seeing all of the restaurants, shops, and outdoor adventure guide shops in the city to explore. We had a little bit of trouble deciding where to begin. Because neither of had eaten breakfast and it was well into lunch time, we decided to take the Skyline Gondola up to the Stratosfare Restaurant to have lunch and take some rides on the Queenstown Skyline Luge.
The restaurant is buffet style and while the food isn’t bad, it isn’t amazing, authentic to the area, or in other ways worth the cost. I would recommend passing on the restaurant and trying some of the other restaurants downtown instead.
The Skyline Luge, on the other hand, was absolutely amazing and something I definitely recommend. You can purchase anywhere from 2-6 rides with your gondola pass, depending on how many rides you want to take.
When we finished with our luge rides we headed back down the mountain and started to explore the city. Street-by-street, we explored the shops, restaurants, and adventure tour outfitters.
One place I really wanted to stop at because it is so infamous is the legendary Fergburger Restaurant in downtown Queenstown. World renown for its hamburgers, there is usually a line of people hungry for a burger that stretches out the door and down the block.
After having one of the burgers, I will say that the experience of eating there was far better than the food. The food wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t worthy of the hype either. What was worthy of the hype is the atmosphere at the restaurant. It is easy to see why that atmosphere attracts so many people, including celebrities.
That’s it for today’s update. Tomorrow, we have a wine tour scheduled and then plan on exploring Queenstown some more. I hope to have some great vineyards and wines to recommend to you all. Until then!