Let me start by saying that 8 days in Queenstown, NZ is absolutely NOT long enough. 8 days in Queenstown is simply a tease, a taster. It’s the ultimate triple choc brownie that your friend lets you have a tiny bite of and then takes it off you. One bite is just never enough! But… I’ll take a tiny bite over having none at all any day, and I will enjoy every last bit of it. So with that said… Helloooo Queenstown!!
You’ve probably heard about Queenstown right? Even if you haven’t been there yourself, chances are you know someone or they know someone who has been. “Ohh mate, Queenstown is AWESOME! You gotta go to Fergburger…” is generally how a description of the place starts… (but more on Ferg a bit later). To me it seemed like every man and his dog had been to Queenstown so I pictured this big city full of tourists and super ‘laxed locals. I couldn’t have been more wrong, about the size of the place that is, not the locals. Queenstown is TINY. After enjoying endless views of snow capped mountains popping up through the clouds during our arrival flight and making our way down to land, the entire place looked like a suburb. A gorgeous little lake side suburb that screams ‘POSTCARD SHOT’. Seriously, wherever you stand in that place, by the side of the lake, on top of the Skyline Gondola, from your hotel room, from the summit at Coronet Peak Ski Hill… you feel like you’re looking at a perfectly edited photo from a National Geographic photo book. Pure Bliss!
As recently as yesterday, a friend of mine; a wanderlust chasing traveller from the UK who I was lucky enough to work with for a few brief weeks has just landed in New Zealand, eager as ever to explore both the North and South Islands in search of new adventures and ready to add more hilarious stories to her travel blog. Unfortunately, I can’t give any awesome recommendations on the North Island… just yet. I can however share my stories, experiences and recommendations of Queenstown and surrounds. If you have read any previous blogs, you will know that I am a big believer in creating a sharing community. The best pieces of travel advice come from those who have DONE IT, and with the beauty of technology these days, we have the ability to instantly share our stories and inspire anyone and everyone to go, explore and live a life full of adventure and purpose. So without any further adue… to my friend Jade, to you, the legend reading this post and to the rest of the world, here’s my take on why you should add QUEENSTOWN to your must visit list now!
On top of the world! Ok not really, but the view of Queenstown from the Skyline Gondola is pretty special.
You will have an epic trip no matter what time of year you go! Prefer summer fun and t-shirt weather? No worries! Are you more of a winter baby, chasing those powder days? No worries! Are you an adventure junkie? A foodie? A budding amateur landscape photographer? No worries. Queenstown without a doubt has something to suit everyone! 365 days of ‘HELL YEAH!’. Me personally, I consider myself a deluxe combo of all the above but on this particular trip, Jarryd and I were en route to get our snowboarding fix. Even in the winter months, there are enough adrenaline activities to sooth the adventurer’s soul – jet boating, bungy jumping, canyon swinging and so much more…just don’t forget your beanie and your mittens! Not quite an adrenaline activity, but I did thoroughly enjoy taking the Skyline Gondola to the top viewing platform in Queenstown. The luge course was also a tonne of fun and Jarryd and I both felt like big kids.
[Trip Hack: The luge is located at the top of the Skyline Gondola just down from the Stratosfare restaurant (pretty expensive) and the cafe. Catch the gondola up and take in the awesome views as you make your way to the top. Then make your way to the luge park for some fun before returning back down on the gondola. Or if you head up in the afternoon, you can hang about up top for a buffet lunch or dinner at the Stratosphere Restaurant & Bar. You can buy a return gondola ticket and 5+ luge rides in the one combo. I highly recommend doing this because just one or even two luge rides are definitely not enough.]
Now the main focus for our New Zealand getaway was to chase that winter weather and get our snowboarding fix. We had a 5 day ski pass to use at both Coronet Peak and The Remarkables and as any snowboarder or skiier would know, trying to pre plan a holiday to the snow with the hope of scoring a few powder days while you’re there is near impossible. Predicting the forecast is like a game of roulette. Lucky for us, Jarryd somehow timed it just perfectly and we got to ride the best days of the season! We thoroughly enjoyed both mountains, although I have a real soft spot for Coronet Peak as we happened to be there the day after a huge dump of snow and the runs are so wide and all intertwined that it felt like you never rode the same track twice (not including the groomers of course). If you’re into hitting the park and brushing up on your 360 skills, The Remarkables is the way to go. They have an awesome park area with plenty of room to get air. One of the coolest things we did while we were there was hike up past the top of the summit chair into some of the back country. We eventually made it to the absolute top of the mountain and were spoilt with the most stunning views that went for miles and miles. And on a blue bird day, what more could one ask for. Hellooooo awesome GoPro footage! So if you’re into your winter sports, I would highly recommend a dual ski pass so you can enjoy the best of both mountains.
The top of the summit chair at The Remarkables Ski Hill
After a tough trek up to the back country, this view made it all worth it – The Remarkables, Queenstown
Now onto the important stuff. No matter where you eat, it will be an excellent choice and your tastebuds will be so grateful! For it’s small size, Queenstown has an astonishing array of good quality, diverse and reasonably priced food and you don’t have to go far to get it! Above all that, customer service is often top knotch and if there’s a wait or a line up to order, you’re probably in the right place. Take Fergburger for example. I would even say Fergburger has helped put Q’town on the map in terms of must-do attractions. Can you believe that one of the TOP things to do in this town is to line up for half an hour to buy a burger?! Sounds insane right?! Well I thought so too. But when you’re on holidays like we were, you’re not really in a hurry and free to do whatever you want, so we decided to get on board the Ferg train and see for ourselves what all the fuss it about.
This place is not a full scale restaurant. It’s essentially a take away joint with a select few tables and chairs IF you’re lucky enough to snag one. They’re open 21 HOURS a day, yes you heard right. From 8 am – 5am, with just a few short hours spared for cleaning and re-stocking, and no matter what time you stop by for a feed, chances are you will be tacking onto the back of an excited line. Aside from this, which I wouldn’t even discount as negatives, our overall Ferg experience was incredible! Yes, there was a huge line when we arrived but this place runs such a tight ship and they are so efficient that you don’t even realise you’re standing in line for that long. And if you head there around dinner time, there’s such a good atmosphere and vibe that you feel you’re right where you need to be anyway. Why not bide your time sipping on a cold brew or a home made mulled wine and strike up a chat with the person next to you. Actually now that I think about it… lining up is probably not so bad because you need that time to decide what you want to order. There are so many delicious choices and it’s so hard to pick just one! In this instance I recommend getting together with a buddy and ordering a different one each and then sharing half and half…genius!
Now if burgers aren’t you’re thing…you must be a pizza lover! Or a roast lamb fiend right? I’m sure that’s what I just heard you say. Great, because you’re in luck. Make sure you stop by Fat Badgers for a pizza bigger than your kitchen table! Best shared with friends and a cold cider or beer. Seriously, their pizzas are HUGE! 4 of us shared ONE 20 inch pizza and let’s just say the top button of my jeans was well and truly undone by the end of the night. And for the lamb lovers out there, you can’t go past Pedro’s House of Lamb. Their menu consists of the following:
Whole Baked Lamb Shoulder with Rosemary & Garlic & Scalloped Potatoes (Best shared between two)
Yep, just one item. How crazy is that?! And no tables and chairs. Pop in and pop out. With just one item on the menu, you know these guys obviously nail it! They are also ranked #1 restaurant (or pop up take away joint – whatever you want to call it) out of #177 according to TripAdvisor
(as of September 2016). So do yourself a favour dudes and treat yo’ tastebuds.
Pedro’s House of Lamb sole menu item, in all it’s glory! Best shared with a buddy.
Onto one of the greatest things Jarryd and I did while we were there. A helicopter flight up to a glacier…tick! I had been trying to google and do a bit of research prior to arriving on the best companies to go with and more importantly – where to fly to. And to be honest, I really wasn’t sure what was available and on offer. Being winter, I was already familiar with the ever popular Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers but it turned out that they were just a smidge too far from the Queenstown area. So where should we go instead?? Milford Sound with the postcard shot of Mitre Peak was another possible suggestion, however my bank account had to politely decline that one. In the end, we opted to leave Milford Sound for a summer adventure later on where we could spend some time hiking and camping throughout the region. For our heli flight, thanks to a great recommendation from the concierge at our hotel, we decided to head to Glenorchy where we would launch for our 40 minute Glacier landing scenic flight. What’s a Glenorchy you say? No no, just Glenorchy. It’s a tiny, tiny little town about an hours drive North West of Queenstown. The reason we chose this option was for two great reasons:
1. The drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy is just breathtaking. You basically follow the lake around and hug the coast line. It might actually take longer than an hour because you will want to keep stopping to take photos! Apparently, lots of of car companies use this stretch of road in their commercials, so you know it’s got to be beautiful.
2. By driving to Glenorchy, we were able to cut out the extra time needed to travel via helicopter from Q’town to the glacier which meant big savings for us. Cha Ching!
We booked our heli flight with a small, family run company that provided the most amazing customer service. From the time we booked our flight over the phone to the time we clipped our seat belts in the chopper, Heli Glenorchy
greeted us with smiles, efficiency and gave us an experience we will never forget. Jarryd and I also managed to snag the whole ride ALL to ourselves somehow – just us and our incredibly qualified and entertaining pilot Geoff. The weather was picture perfect and standing in 2 foot of snow on our own private glacier for 20 minutes was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done! So if a heli flight or heli skiing/boarding is on your bucket list, make sure you look these guys up when you’re in Queenstown, you will not be disappointed.
Our own private heli tour on top of a glacier near Queenstown
One of those pinch yourself ‘you’re on top of a Glacier with nothing but sunshine, views as far as the eye can see and your best friend’ moments.
In the spare time that we did have from snowboarding, we were also able to fit in a little tourist excursion to neighbouring Arrowtown and Wanaka. Both are great places to visit and there is also another ski mountain on the way to Wanaka called Cardrona which I’ve heard really good things about. The highlights of this little adventure was by far the time we spent lakeside at Wanaka (see video below) and the fence full of bra’s we stopped at on the way back home to our hotel.
Move over Cardrona, you’re in Bradrona country now.
All in all, Queenstown is a destination that has something to suit absolutely everyone and at any time of the year. So you really don’t have any excuse NOT to go! Even in the short time we were there, we managed to fit in 4.5 days of snowboarding along with everything else I mentioned above AND still had time for 2 recovery hot tubs and steam room sessions (how spoilt were we!). I can happily say that Queenstown now has a place in my heart and I know that our recent visit will certainly not be the last.
For any first time travellers out there, Queenstown and New Zealand as a whole is the perfect place to dip your toe in and test the waters of free travel. With some familiarities of home, but with so many new and exciting things to see and discover, I am convinced that you will catch that contagious travel bug in no time and build your confidence to jump further out of your comfort post code and experience many more wonders of the world. I promise it will change you in all the right ways…