Queenstown is marketed as the adventure capital of New Zealand and quite rightly as it is a great place for adventure. However – you don’t have to be a ‘hard out adventurer’ to enjoy Queenstown, we just love the scenery and there are so many options for just exploring and enjoying the area. With this is mind we have come up with “Visiting Queenstown – our five “must do’s” for those of you who, like us, want a more leisurely experience.
1. Queenstown Wineries and Restaurants
Queenstown restaurants are ‘second to none’ – when I visit and need to choose which one to eat at I am spoiled for choice. You can dine on gourmet burgers at Ferg Burgers; Asian Cuisine at the famous Madam Woos; and a great carnivore experience at the Botswanna Butchery, or the locals favourite called Yknow. Vudu café is excellent for a casual lunch and great coffee. The Bunker is a very upmarket option.
You can self-drive the Queenstown area wineries (known in particular for Central Otago Pinot Noir) they are all within easy reach and many offer a café or restaurant for a winery lunch experience. If you want to enjoy imbibing and don’t want to drive (New Zealand drink drive rules are very strict) have a look for a tour. You will have less flexibility in where you go and how long you stay, however, on the positive side you can enjoy as many samples of the local vintage as you can manage.
Choose from biking tours, individual guided tours, small coach tours (we recommend Appellation Central Wine Tours) – even Funny French Car tours (Citroens).
Jeanette’s favourite is Chard Farm Winery, the drive into it is really spectacular.
2. Dart River Funyak Trip – Mt Aspring National Park – Middle Earth territory
Jeanette and her husband Ken had an amazing experience earlier in the year on the Dart River Funyak trip. For those who are slightly more adventurous this is an amazing journey involving a coach trip on the road to Glenorchy (stunning scenery), a spectacular jetboat ride, and kayaking deep into the heart of the world-renowned Mt Aspiring National Park.
Although Jeanette and Ken are not experienced kayakers, the guides experience and knowledge ensured a safe and fairly leisurely trip. They had loads of fun and explored the Dart River as well as hidden side streams, rock pools and dramatic chasms. A highlight was enjoying the peace and tranquility of the area at their own pace, floating downstream on sparkling water, then enjoying a wilderness picnic lunch before heading past ‘Paradise’ and back to Glenorchy. Along the way they passed locations used in movies to illustrate Middle Earth.
3. Arrowtown – my favourite town in the Queenstown area
Arrowtown is ‘just special’. Surrounded by hills (famous for their autumn colours) the town sits beside the Arrow River. Steeped in New Zealand gold-mining history the town reflects the past and embraces the contemporary.
Arrowtown has one of the best-preserved collections of goldfields heritage buildings in New Zealand. As you wander by it is easy to imagine the lifestyle of the mining families in the 1800’s. In the surrounding area there is still evidence of a large population of Chinese Immigrants who came to the area to mine gold.
Dorothy Brown’s Cinema, Bar and bookstore is well worth a visit, not to mention the local galleries.
I love the hiking options in the area – they range from short (30 – 40 minutes) to treks of several days in Lord of the Rings country. You can pick up a map from the Museum, decide which one to do, then go shopping for a lovely picnic (try the well-known Arrowtown Bakery) to enjoy along the way. Of course in my case a coffee at one of the excellent café’s is always a great way to start the hike. Provisions serves great coffee – it’s always good!
For those of you who are golfers – choose between local 18 hole Arrowtown Golf Course with superb views from every fairway or choose the 5* Millbrook Golf Resort course – also picturesque.
4. Cruise on the Earnslaw to Walter Peak Station
While it is some time since I have done this trip I have great memories of it and the trip features on my ‘must do again’ list. Cruising to the station on the steamboat, which is 100+ years old, offers a slow paced view of Lake Wakatipu and is very relaxing. The view from the lake gives a really different perspective of the Queenstown Area. There was snow on the mountains when I was there and they looked breathtakingly beautiful.
Arriving at Walter Peak is like coming home to the farm. There is a warm welcome and lots to see and do as it is a working sheep station. For our overseas visitors the gift shop located in the Woolshed is a real delight to visit. We highly recommended this trip as a relaxing day out while visiting Queenstown.
5. Art Galleries Galore
Although I have very little knowledge of Art, (apart from liking what I like!) I decided to try an Art tour of the Queenstown region while visiting. I was blown away by the talent and the number of artists in the area – the scenery and the pace of life is obviously conducive to creativity. You can drive the Queenstown Lakes Art Trails and spend as much or as little time as you wish at each of the artists galleries.
Jeanette tells me she has a landscape painting bought whilst on holiday in Queenstown more than 30 years ago which she still enjoys. It is by the late Douglas Badcock Queenstown’s first full-time artist.