Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown is one of those fabled cities all young travelers to NZ love to exclaim about. Located near the southern tip of the South Island, QT is a combo ski town and adventure capital, nestled right alongside a beautiful lake. After a restful two nights in Wanaka, we headed south for our last driving leg of the trip, opting to take the highest main road in NZ, the Crown Range. During the winter this road is often closed, as its that perilous, in fact a terrible accident occurred the day prior, even closing the road down overnight. However, we were in the middle of summer, and with clear road conditions and my experience driving the 20 hours so far in NZ, we felt confident we’d make it safely through the 1 hour pass and into QT.
Arriving in QT all in one piece, after stopping briefly at the incredible lookout at the peak, we drove into the center of town to locate our home for the next 3 nights, the Nomads Queenstown Backpackers. This was a real party hostel, we elected to pay for a king room, which resulted in us living it up with a king size bed, and enormous terrace overlooking the lake, all to ourselves. This came in handy later in the night, as the hostel prohibited drinking in common areas and in dorm rooms, but that didn’t apply to our sweet balcony setup, and we made great use of it. As we walked into the lobby, we saw familiar faces - Marc and John, the Aussies we met in Punakaki 4 nights earlier had just checked in, and we were pumped to have a real night of going out together (Punakaki had nothing to offer in terms of nightlife). After grabbing a snack at a bar a few hours later, Marc, John, Cathy and I, as well as a few others from the hostel, proceeded to the liquor store to grab some drinks to kick the night off. In NZ it’s perfectly legal almost all the time to drink in public, so after picking up some beers and cans of Canadian Club whisky mixed with ginger ale (our first time seeing these RTDs “Ready to Drink” being sold, we headed over to the lakeside to watch the sunset as the formerly rainy weather finally started to break. After a few drinks and exchanging traveler stories, the rain started to fall, so we made use of our king size terrace and continued drinking at the room until it got dark - in Southern NZ that doesn’t happen until 10:30 PM! Afterwards we headed to the World Bar across the street, which we discovered was home to far too much thumping bass, and we proceeded to walk around town checking out the local color. To cap off the night we hit up the famed “Fergburger”, which has lines stretching around the block during the day.
We were really looking forward to the main activity of the next day, taking a scenic flight from QT to the Milford Sound and then a boat cruise in the Sound. Unfortunately, the weather decided to take a bad turn and we got rained out. We were very frustrated as we didn’t have enough time left in QT to reschedule the flight. Sometimes you can’t win all the time. We decided to just take a chill out day and savor hanging out in the small town in them morning, before taking the gondola up the mountain and driving karts down the luge course. This was pretty sweet, although it was filled with families sometimes obstructing the road while we were driving down it.
Our last activity in QT was the “2 Rivers Shotover Jetboat” ride where you scream down two rivers in a specially outfitted jet boat, narrowly missing outcroppings of rock in 6 inch deep water. Cathy and I managed to get seats right next to the driver in the front row and loved speeding through the rivers. The skies opened up as we were on our 30 minute ride, adding another element to the experience. Our splash coats came in handy, and we continued to roar around the river. Then it was back to the town for some dinner and our last night before flying the Christchurch. We loved QT, and I’d def come back in wintertime - i’d imagine it’s a fantastic ski resort town. If you are in the thriller activities like bungee and skydiving (we aren’t), then QT is def a your kind of place.