Tuesday, January 20, 2015

South Island Holiday - Queenstown

I have wanted to visit Queenstown ever since the other half had the opportunity to visit the area through work and came back with beautiful views of the lake and surrounding mountains. That was a couple of years ago and it has taken us that long to save up for the flights down from Wellington!

This year I finally got to view the Remarkables (the large mountain range behind Queenstown) and Lake Wakitipu in person. They are breathtakingly beautiful and I imagine in winter with snow on top they are even more impressive.

Queenstown itself doesn't appear to be that large, however it was incredibly busy. It is obviously a huge tourist centre and even driving out of the airport the traffic was pretty horrendous. (No, it doesn't compare with the M25 or getting in and out of Heathrow but I am comparing with NZ standards!) We had to pick up supplies in the local supermarket and I was shocked that I actually had to queue for the checkout! Something I never have to do in Porirua.

Once I had got over the intensity of Tourism in Queenstown the town itself is really pretty and full of interesting shops and activities to do with the kids. The Gondola and luge tower over the city and it is well worth travelling up to view the scene from the top of the mountain. It's also great fun coming down again on the luge.

We found the best fun was to be had playing Frisbee golf in the park by the lake. This is something we have never done before but trying to get the Frisbees to land in the baskets located between the trees was great fun. Several almost ended up in the lake and it was very entertaining watching the German couple in front of us take the whole thing incredibly seriously and get very frustrated when my two girls could do it better than them!

The ice rink is also worth a visit but I think we could have probably missed out on the ice bar. You can have a cocktail or mock cocktail served in the ice bar near the waterfront. This is essentially a large walk in freezer that has been kitted out with ice sculptures and a bar and seats. You are then given a mixture of fruit juices in an ice glass. You are also given warm coats, gloves and boots as the temperature is kept at a chilly -5 all year. The kids loved this, but as a teenager I worked in McDonalds and used to have to get chips and burgers out of freezers very similar to this. It kind of took the shine and novelty out of the experience when you just have images of boxes of chicken nuggets and chips pilled into the corners.

If you are visiting Lake Wakatipu then you really have to take a trip out onto the Lake. There are loads of different methods of doing this is Queenstown and we opted for the steam ship. It was used to transport cattle and goods to the farms around the lake but has now been refitted to carry all the tourists. I am not a huge fan of these organised tourist trips (as they have a tendency to make you feel like herded cattle yourself) however this 2 hours trip across the lake was great and allowed you to see the beautiful scenery whilst drinking coffee and allowing the kids to wander about in relative safety.

Overall I like Queenstown, it's a vibrant beautiful introduction to the Southern Alpes, however I am very glad we did not base ourselves here for the entire holiday. It was rather to busy and not remote enough for me!

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