Visiting Queenstown New Zealand . Although I have been to New Zealand many times, I’ve never been to Queenstown.
So what’s it like?
Visiting Queenstown, New Zealand is a surprise. I’ve heard it is beautiful but the first view when driving into Queenstown itself doesn’t convince. It’s a town set on one of the worlds most breathtaking Lakes with astonishing mountain peaks touching the clouds in all directions. Then there is Queenstown a town of low rise buildings built in different styles, over a history of boom town mining, followed by abandonment then adventure travel- it’s had quite a story. It doesn’t have a lot going for it architecturally speaking but it’s easy to navigate, (except for those steep slopes) and offers all kinds of experiences.
During the 1800’s it boomed with the gold rush but by the early 1900’s it was almost abandoned again before people realised what a great place it was for a holiday in the late ’80’s.
Lets face it though most people aren’t here to look at the buildings in town. They are here to experience adventure, snow, speed, food and a good time. No matter what kind of good time you are looking for I bet you’ll find it here in Queenstown. There’s so many crazy adventure sports and activities on offer with a myriad of ways to throw yourself off anything you can imagine. Believe it or not though you can also take in the views at a more sedate pace. If you want to walk, talk sight-see and eat your way around Queenstown, well that is on offer too!
All activities mentioned here are easy to find. Just ask a local or the friendly folks at the ï-Site”information booth on Camp Street.
Here’s some standouts when Visiting Queenstown Skyline Gondola
Yes, you should definitely take a trip up the Skyline Gondola for a look at that majestic lake. It opened in 1987 with the top station at 790 metres above sea level. Watch the little cars climbing the mountain from almost any vantage point in Queenstown. In the winter the outdoor viewing platform is one very cold and drafty place to be, but the reward is being up there in the clouds. Here you will be surrounded by snow capped peaks and still feel like they tower over you. Try to time your trip up the mountain for around 5.30 to 6 pm so you get the afternoon light and then get to see darkness fall and the lights come on. There is a buffet restaurant up here and a luge ride (to throw yourself at speed down a track- of course). There are lots of packages but I went for the stand alone trip up the 450 m vertical rise for $35.00. ( yes the price is steep too). Or if you are energetic you can you can walk the Tiki Trail right to the top.
Walk or Bike around the Lake
I dare you to walk or ride around that Lake and not take 10 photos! Walk along a wide and well kept track starting at the Botanical Gardens. The track leads to Frankton (where the airport is) and takes about 2-3 hours round trip. You can catch a bus back if that’s too much. Or hire a bike in Queenstown and cycle there and back. The best way to walk around Lake Wakatipu in my opinion, is on a full stomach. There are plenty of places to sit and have a picnic or maybe find a hidden cafe like The Boat Shed cafe and Bistro (3/4 of the way to Frankton). Begin your walk here. Have lunch or breakfast and set off on your walk back to Queenstown it should take 1- 2 hours depending how many times you stop.
This is how you get there: Get the local number 11 bus from the bus stop outside McDonalds | OConnells Shopping Centre on Camp Street. $6.50 . Ask them to let you off at the Frankton Marina right outside the petrol station on Frankton Road. Once across the road you’ll find a small sign to the Boastshed then walk down the road beside the water to find this cafe. It’s an old building that used to be The Railways shipping office. There are no windows at the front. If the door is closed against the cold wind it doesn’t seem like there will be a cafe behind that door, but it opens onto a cosy cafe with incredible water views. There are bean bags in the front yard before an outdoor fireplace. New Zealanders are built tough. The food and coffee is really good and will definitely fuel your walk back to Queenstown
A Trip to Lake Hayes, Arrowtown and Amisfield Winery Bistro and Cellar Door are a must.
Drive or catch the local bus (Connectabus) for the 25 minute trip out to Arrowtown, and then onwards for a lunch or wine tasting at Amisfield winery and see beautiful Lake Hayes along the way. You can get around the countryside without having to hire a car by catching the local bus. Timetables and tickets are available from the office on Camp Street right at the bus stop. A day ticket is $33. Arrowtown holds all kinds of stories of the New Zealand gold rush and early immigration. Walk the small streets and visit cafes or museums or set off on longer adventures for biking and cycling with a stunning mountain backdrop.
Hop back on the bus for a trip to Amisfield Winery, Bistro and Cellar door for wine tastings or a delicious meal. Bus drivers in this area will go out of their way to help you so don’t hesitate to ask for assistance. Wine tastings at the cellar door are a great way to sample to local wines too. Pinot Noir is a speciality here. A tasting is $10 for 5 wines. Try to book if going for lunch here as there is a set 3 or 5 course menu with matching wines if you like.
Lake Hayes and Amisfield Winery below. Take one of the many walks around Lake Hayes
The Botanical Gardens and ” The Beach”
Fancy a picnic on the grass. A stroll in the peaceful surrounds of a garden with a view or perhaps a game of tennis, ice skating or a run around the walking track. Whatever you do here on this peninsular jutting out from downtown Queenstown there will be a view.
While the summer (or winter) hours away on “the Beachfront” or in the Bathhouse cafe. This cafe on the waterfront is open from breakfast till late and is licenced (like most of the sensible cafes here). There weren’t any flowers in the gardens as it was winter but there’s plenty of ducks and those views.
Botanic Gardens bridge.
The Beach Front Queenstown and The Bathhouse Cafe
Stroll the waterfront Beach Street
Buskers and people watching go hand in hand with a stroll along the lakefront on Beach Street Queenstown. Keep walking down Lake Esplanade for a flat easy walk beside nature . The Lake front hotels disappear and following the Queenstown Glenorchy Road will have you paddle in the clear lake. All the life of course is back in town where the jettys funnel hundreds of thrill seekers onto Jet boats, Shark boats, Steam boats and parasailing boats just to name a few. There are bars and restaurants and cheeky Ducks everywhere. Take a break anytime you like for fine dining or delicious cafe food, chocolates, ice cream, Japanese, Tapas, Chinese, Thai, BBQ or Pub food on the waterfront or head down to Searle Lane just off Beach Street for bars and cafes of all kinds.
A quiet corner of the jetty and the walk around the Lake Esplanade, outdoor cafes and Ice Cream from Patagonia
Onsen Hot Pools
There are countries in the world where hot pools are a regular holiday feature, places like Taiwan & Japan do it so well, so why not try it here in New Zealand. Onsen hot pools are a 10 minute drive from Queenstown and open from 10 am to 11 pm each day. The Cedar Hot Tubs can accommodate up to four adults. (if you want). And of course there is a view. I am not sure there is anywhere in Queenstown without a view of those mountains.
The best thing is the free shuttle from town when you make a booking. Bus Stop D, corner of Camp St and Shotover St. How’s that? You can also book a massage!
Favourite places to eat in Queenstown
Give some of these a try:
- Fergburger : There maybe no one in the world who hasn’t heard of Fergburger, well that’s what it looks like anyway. There are lines down the street breakfast lunch and dinner. Fergburger now has three shops in a row. There’s the Burgers, then the next sells Pies and pastry (Fergbaker) and coffee and then there is the dessert and gelato bar.
- Vudu cafe : There’s coffee, smoothies and a counter full of cakes. Start with a bowl of roasted kumera & pumpkin with pickles and crispy leaves or go for that Angus Burger- daytime opening only.
- Bespoke Cafe: Sister cafe to Vudu with the same tempting Cake and pastry counter and wonderful meals and friendly staff- daytime only
- Madam Woo: Is Malaysian style food. It is a dark room with twinkling candles and a bussling atmosphere. Cocktails local and international winelist and medium priced food
- Eriks Fish and Chips: Cheap. great cold weather food and doughnuts to boot.
- World Bar: Easy Pub food, music and drinks. a bit of a local hangout
Rata Dining: Josh Emett a well respected New Zealand chef owns Rata as well as Madam Woo. This fine dining restaurant has respectful efficient service. The food is sourced locally and cooked well. There is no molecular gastronomy here and it’s quite refreshing. This was a highlight of Queenstown. $$
Patagonia Chocolates: The name doesn’t cover all the food that happens here. Go for breakfast and sit upstairs for a view over the Lake. Stay for the ice cream and chocolate demonstrations that happen up there in the kitchen. Then head downstairs to eat ice cream and dessert and leave with chocolate. This is a one stop shop. There is another Patagonia just up the mall a little but this one has it all. PS the ice creams are huge (and delicious).
For more cheap eats head to Taco Medic (Searle Lane), Slice Pizza (Shotover street- there’s woodfired pizza but be prepared to pay up to $38 in this town), Queenies Dumplings (Camp Street) or Flame on Beach Street. There’s fresh cookies to be devoured at Cookie Time Cookie bar on Camp Street and Doughnuts at Balls and Bangles ( Church Street) and tiny hand decorated cakes and biscuits at Cup and Cake (Church Street)
If you are looking for something a little more award winning go for No 5 Church lane (Tapas), Grill (Eichardt Hotel), Botswanna Butchery (Marine Parade) or Tanoshi Japanese (Cow Lane)
Ask the locals where you can head to for a drink. Or head straight to Searel Lane. This is a party town full of travelling workers.