The first thing to strike you when arriving in Queenstown, New Zealand is probably the scenery. The mountains iced with snow and the shimmering lakes are hard to tear your eyes away from. However when you do, and you get to know the town centre of Queenstown, you’ll quickly realize how friendly and open locals are here.
There is an unhurried pace of life that affects every part of Queenstown, and you’ll be caught up in this way of life. There is more to see and do (and eat and drink) in Queenstown than you could ever imagine, and the people who live here will make you feel so at home you won’t want the holiday to end.
You could try to capture the beauty of the Central Otago landscape on your smartphone, but more rewarding and enduring will be your own sketches and paintings of the region's valleys, mountains and lakes. Experiences with Art Adventures (www.artadventures.co.nz) cater to artists of all levels—even complete beginners—and tours can also be tailored to reflect the individual interests of participants. That could include visiting the galleries and studios of local artists, or getting expert tuition in different media like watercolours and oils. Whatever the approach, inspiration from the region's spectacular scenery is always close at hand.
The Original Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump is pretty self-explanatory as to what you’ll be doing on this trip. If you are up for the ultimate Queenstown challenge you’ll get strapped in to the Bungy and go from nervous to completely elated in five seconds. In fact, if you’ve ever heard of Bungy Jumping then you’ve likely heard of Kawarau since they are the world’s first and most infamous Bungy jumping company. They’ve notched up over a million jumps and are still going strong, with tens of thousands Bungying each year. As an added bonus at Kawarau you choose from a number of options of how to jump; topple over backwards, forwards, with another person, spin or somersault.
If you’re a massive fan of Lord of the Rings, then chances are you already know that Queenstown was one of the set locations for the filming of the trilogy and the Hobbit. One of the best ways to take advantage of this fact is to take a guided tour through the region. Tours tend to be small groups of people in off-road vehicles who are led by knowledgeable staff who’ll impart geographical and historical information about the area in addition to facts about the movie and filming. Tours tend to stop frequently to expand on commentary about the area as well as allow tour participants to look around, explore, pretend to be a part of the movie and, of course, take photos.
Arrowtown is located a mere 20 km outside of Queenstown and it is well worth the short trip. It is a small historically important mining town where gold was discovered in 1861. The discovery kicked off a gold rush and more than 1,500 men headed to Arrowtown and worked along the Arrow River searching for their way to “get rich quick.” Today, the town still operates normally and the community has kept many of the buildings that date back to the mining times. Beyond the mining history, the town’s main street is chock-full of interesting little shops and cafes.
One of the largest draws for visitors coming to Queenstown are the skiing slopes. Between May and October, Queenstown is overrun by tourists and travellers looking to strap into skis or a snowboard and conquer the snowy hills. Some may even say it turns into a ski resort town for those six months out of the year since the ski fields are located very close to the town. The snow here is considered to be some of the best in New Zealand, and the views from the top of the slopes rank up there too. If you are visiting Queenstown in winter, skiing or snowboarding is something you shouldn’t miss.
Queenstown is at altitude and experiences warm summers and freezing winters. Being a ski town, winter is also high season and goes from May through August, while summers (December through February) are generally peak season with backpackers and thrill seekers. January is the wettest month, and March and October are quieter, transitional months.
Queenstown has an excellent tourist infrastructure and hospitality; good transport options and some of the most accessible, high quality shopping and dining in the country. It is also a safe town, aside from theextreme sports, yet reading up on the place for tips on etiquette and transport will make your stay more rewarding:
Image courtesy of Flickr user Graeme Churchard