It’s crazy to think that it’s faster to get to another country than between some of the states within Australia. It’s crazy but it’s true. You don’t even get TVs on the plane going to New Zealand. By the time you’ve gone up, you’re preparing for landing. Landing in the country of jaw-dropping scenery, jandals and Jacinda.
While it’s quick to get to the playground of the Pacific, we knew spending just seven days in Queenstown was only ever going to be the icing on top of the cake (or mountain if you’re lucky).
So if you’re planning a holiday more jam-packed than a chilly-bin on New Years Eve, here’s what to do.
Onsen Hotpools //
For someone who is allergic to water (yes, you read that right) I could have stayed here until my fingers were pruney and I turned into a mermaid. I would have preferred the second, but unfortunately had to make do with the first. At least when I couldn’t stand the sight of my fingers anymore, I had the Shotover to look at. Because I mean, come on. Look at it. Add a couple of chips to crunch and champagne to cheers and we’re talking.
Backcountry Horse Riding //
I’ll preface this now: I’m one of those ‘horse girls’. Anytime we drive past a paddock, I make him pull over so I can pat the horse. I wish I was exaggerating. I rode lots when I was little, and was happy to discover it’s like riding a bike. Or a horse.
A slight complication meant we got our own VIP ride, cantering across the backcountry of Cardrona. In winter the hills are smothered in snow, but for now they’re sprinkled with wild flowers and long grass. And yes, we rode off into the sunset as you’d imagine.
But if you’re not sure if off into the sunset is the best place to head on a holiday, I’d recommend the Cardrona Hotel as a strong second. No doubt you’ve seen a photo or two of this highway pub, one of the oldest in New Zealand. Rumour has it she’s haunted, but I’d still love to stay there for the night and enjoy dinner in the massive beer garden out the back. Just don’t stay in room eight. You’ve been warned.
Shotover Jet //
Are you even in Queenstown if you don’t add a bit of adrenaline to your itinerary? Forget going for rides on big jet planes, opt for a jet boat instead. This thing gets up to 90kmph and glides over just three inches of water, and instead of steering away from hazards, heads straight for them. Hot tip, book through Klook.com for a discount, which you’ll need to buy yourself new clothes after yours get drenched.
Amisfield Winery //
Now with all that adrenaline, you need something to settle your stomach and I can recommend a three course meal and wine tasting at Amisfield Bistro to do just that. Not only is it awarded with hats, but they even offer you stylish straw ones while you dine in the courtyard.
Working alongside a dedicated forager and experienced charcutier, executive chef Vaughan Mabee delivers the goods. Over and over again. Add a splash (or two or three) of Amisfield wines, plus a bag of bottles to take home, and you’re set. While he’s always been better at making sense of the science behind wine, I remember enough to know my new wine of choice is a Fumé Sauv Blanc.
I won’t lie, when it comes to holidays I’m a massive researcher. I like to know everything there is to do, eat, and see in a place before I get there so I don’t miss out. But I’m fully prepared to admit that some of my favourite moments from any of my trips are the ones that happen unexpectedly.
We headed about an hour down the coast to Glenorchy and you bet it was beautiful at every turn. The magic of the mountains doesn’t seem to rub off easily, and the further down we went, the more we understood why this was the location for the Lord of the Rings films. It was movie-set material.
The town itself was quaint and there are plenty of hiking trails to head off on, or a jet boat to ride down the Dart River, but what we didn’t expect to find was the Annual Glenorchy Races. Remember I said I was a horse girl? Well arriving to a street full of horses, I wasn’t going to be able to stay away for long. And neither could most of the town by the looks of it. Characters from all over the region had come to watch races like the Double Banking Race (two riders on one horse), or compete in a a tug-of-war over a case of beer. It was Kiwi charm at its best. And way better than I could have planned.
Kamana Lakehouse //
Instagram can be a horrible thing. But then one day you scroll past a post and stumble upon something like this. Queenstown’s highest altitude boutique hotel opened at the end of last year, and I’m not sure whether it was the drinks menu dedicated to gin and tonics, or the altitude, but my head was floating in the clouds. Maybe it was the view. Or the chairs. Or the view. Or the gin. Ahh, either way, pop it on your list.
Frisbee Golf in the Gardens //
Now who’d have thunk that the best things in life could be free. Or close to. Without a doubt, one of the best activities we did was throwing frisbees into chain baskets dotted all over the Queenstown Gardens. Rent the discs for $5 each from the cafe by the lake and wander the 18 holes that sprawl the gorgeous gardens. None of us were good, and you’ll never laugh so hard.
The Skyline Gondola & Luge //
Their tagline is ‘once is never enough’ and you guessed it, once is never enough. It’s a scenic ride up the mountain in the Gondola, and a speedy way down in go-karts. The only benefit of being fishtailed into the side of the track by him was that it gave me a chance to look up and take in the exceptional view. One that I did not photograph, but I was too busy with a need for speed. Oops. Guess you’ll have to go see that one for yourself.
You’ll thank me.
For the rest, you’ll have to thank me later, as that’s all we had time for.
’til next time, New Zealand.