4 DAYS IN // Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown is New Zealand’s buzzing adventure capital. This alpine resort town on the South Island is an absolute gem. Queenstown is not only a young town, it attracts a huge number of young backpackers who have a wide choice of activities to choose from to get an adrenalin buzz. Set on the Wakatipu Lake, with the Remarkables mountain chain in the distance, Queenstown is simply gorgeous.

We went in March and the temperature was around 18-20 degrees Celsius, however it was cold in the mornings and evenings.  And it rains quite a lot. There is a local saying, “Rain by 7, clear by 11”. Here are my top things to do with 4 days to explore.

Queenstown


Magnificent 7 // Queenstown, New Zealand

 

1. Day (or two) trip to Milford/Doubtful Sound

2. Take a walking tour

3. Have fun on Wakatipu Lake

4. Take a hike/cycle

5. Ride the Skyline Gondola

6. Try an adventure sport

7. Relax by the lake/botanical gardens


Getting there –

New Zealand is a long way from anywhere else. We got on a ‘plane at Heathrow on Monday evening at 2030 and arrived in Queenstown on the Wednesday mid-afternoon. We had an hour stop in Dubai and a few hours in Sydney, Australia. We sort of lost Tuesday.

Where we stayed –

As there were four of us we stayed in a two-bedroomed apartment (Glebe apartments). Centrally located and an easy walk to pretty much everything. Quiet and well appointed with a car park underneath if you need to rent a car. Recommended.

To Eat and Drink –

1.) Fergburger is a Queenstown institution. According to our walking tour guide, it started off as a hole in the wall, serving burgers to late night revelers. It is now an iconic restaurant on Shotover Street, open 21 hours a day and serving 1,000 plus burgers every day. With names such as Little Lamby, Sweet Bambi, Cockadoodle Oink and The Codfather there is a sense of fun about Fergburger. We had to queue for 20 minutes to get into the restaurant and then wait another 15 minutes for the burgers to be cooked. There is very limited seating – we were lucky and got a table – and the burgers were excellent. Those in our group who have sampled both rated Fergburger above Five Guys burgers in London, although the fries were declared as not as good as those at Five Guys. How can you resist a falafel burger called Bun Laden?

A few locals say that Devil’s Burgers are better as they do not use aioli, an ingredient used in a Fergburger.

2.) Cookie Time. If you like cookies you will love this shop. Two for one cookies from 6-7pm and $1 coffees from 8-9 am. They also offer a service where you can buy a cookie for someone back home, fill out a postcard and they will post the cookie to them. These cookies are best eaten warm and there is a wide selection to choose from.

3.) 1876. This pub is always busy. The building used to be the old courthouse and is one of the oldest buildings remaining in Queenstown. The old judge’s bench doubles as a DJ’s booth and there is live (loud) music. We all were pleasantly surprised at how nice the food was. Loved my steak.

4.) Taco Medic. This is a hole in the wall-type establishment. I did not like the containers the tacos came in (somewhat McDonalds-like), however the tacos themselves were very good. We had a selection for lunch and took them down to the grass near the lake and ate them in the sunshine.

To note –

  • Milford/Doubtful Sound – we were lucky and experienced Doubtful Sound in glorious sunshine. However, the wind is cold. The water is cold. You will get cold. Take enough layers to wear, otherwise you are likely to catch a cold. I did.
  •  Sandflies –everyone remembers sunscreen. As important is insect repellent. The sandflies will love you and leave a mark of their love that will leave you scratching for days.
  • Fergburger – rather than queue up, you can look up the menu online and call. If they answer the ‘phone you have saved yourself a lot of time!
  • Insurance – if you are planning to participate in an adventure sport, make sure your insurance covers you.

    Magnificent 7

1. Day (or two) trip to Milford/Doubtful Sound, Fiordland

You have probably travelled a long way to get to New Zealand, so this is something not to be missed. I have written more about this trip on my South Island blog, however I would implore you to visit one of these two Sounds. Technically they are Fiords rather than Sounds, however they are very impressive and you will have an experience you will remember for a long time. We went with a company called Real Journeys and we all were impressed with their conservation focus. We saw dolphins on the first day and learned about how the Sounds were formed. Local flora and fauna were pointed out and the effect of the European settlers’ introduction of mammals from home (rabbits/stoats etc.) and the devastating effect that this had on the environment was highlighted. The scenery was awe-inspiring. The food was plentiful and good quality and the cabins clean and comfortable. All connections (buses and boats) went like clockwork.

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2. Take a walking tour

Walking tours by locals are a must in any town or city. This was a free tour and our guide, Justin, was very good. He is very proud of Queenstown and spent a lot of time talking about the history of the region and the indigenous tribes and how they interacted with the first Europeans. Understanding that Queenstown was built on a gold rush and at its height had 20,000 prospectors, about the same number as there are residents now, was interesting. It was also poignant to note the number of Queenstown residents who served, and those who fell in the First World War. The percentage of the local population (and NZ overall) was staggering.

This tour gave us lots of local knowledge, helping to colour between the lines of this charming town.

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3. Have fun on the Wakatipu Lake

This lake is massive and is Queenstown’s beating heart. There are so many activities you can choose from. We took a Jet boat trip and it was brilliant fun. Lots of speed and 360 spins sending water everywhere. All four of us loved this activity.

4. Take a hike/cycle

There are lots of hiking and cycle tracks. If you have the time and energy, you will be in good company, as this is a national pastime. Many day walks leave from the centre of town. The Tiki Trail from the base of the Skyline gondola to the summit of Bob’s Peak offers fabulous views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables mountain range.

5. Ride the Skyline Gondola

As you would expect, this offers the best views in town. There is a separate queue for cyclists as there are attachments on the gondolas for bikes. This line was longer than for those without two wheels. There are many types of tickets, some just for the gondola, some include the restaurant, some a stargazing tour and some for the luges. The luge track is near the top of the gondola. The luges are part go-Kart and part toboggan and are fun to watch.

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6. Try an adventure sport

There are so many to choose from. In the air there is tandem paragliding, bungy jumping, canyon swinging, zip wires. On the water are Jetboat rides, river surfing, whitewater rafting to name but a few.

7. Relax by the lake/botanical gardens

When the sun shines there is nothing better than relaxing by the lake. There are street performers who add to the atmosphere. We noticed how clean Queenstown was: hardly any graffiti or litter and unlike a lot of European cities, there were plenty of free, clean toilets.

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Lessons Learnt!

1.) Allocate enough time.

We simply did not spend enough time in Queenstown. Four nights was not enough. I would recommend at least five nights.

Fun fact: During the filming of ‘The Lord of the Rings’, more than 500 people a day lined up at the casting rooms in Queenstown hoping for a part.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


3 thoughts on “4 DAYS IN // Queenstown, New Zealand

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