David and I are neither athletic, twenty-something nor especially fit, but Queenstown draws us back year after year. Almost drowned out by its public face as one of the great adventure capitals of the world, this is a place of stunning scenery - nestled on the edge of Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by the magnificent Remarkables Mountain Range. Best of all we don't have to jump out of aeroplanes, climb mountains or swing from bungy ropes to appreciate it. It is possible to come here and do nothing more energetic than wander down for coffee by the shores of the lake each morning.
If you do come and you get tired of people watching there are a myriad of sedate diversions for the less actively suicidal amongst us. I have listed some of the best we have sampled over the years.
|Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables Mountain Range|
Cycle the Queenstown Trail - The Queenstown Trail, has more than 100 kilometres of easy, relatively flat mountain bike trails. Cycle from Queenstown to Kelvin Heights along the shore of Lake Wakatipu for beautiful vistas or out to Arrowtown via Lake Hayes - the track along the southern shore is easier than the northern track. For a great afternoon's entertainment hire a bike at Arrowtown, cycle to the Kawarau Bridge and watch the bungy jumpers at the world's first commercial bungy jumping site. The trail wanders down country lanes, past quaint little cottages and across vertigo inducing suspension bridges.
There is no shortage of bike hire businesses around Queenstown. You can cycle on your own, join a tour, or arrange for one of the bike shuttle services to pick you up at the end of the day.
|Great suspension bridges|
|Would you jump off this bridge?|
Visit Arrowtown - Twenty minutes by car from Queenstown, Arrowtown is a beautifully preserved gold mining town dating back to the 1860s. Shop for souvenirs, have lunch in one of the cafes, visit the Chinese Settlement or walk or cycle along the Arrow River. Head upstream and you might find yourself at the Ford of Bruinen.
|The old post office at Arrowtown now a cafe.|
Drive to Glenorchy - The road from Queenstown to Glenorchy hugs the shore of Lake Wakatipu with breathtaking views from every hill and curve. Small huddles of amateur photographers populate the roadside view points - you don't have to be an artist to take home great scenic shots. The jumping off point for the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand's great hiking trails, Glenorchy is a 'time-stopped here half a century ago' sort of place. Lord of the Rings fans will recognise much of the scenery.
If you have the time it is worth pushing on past Glenorchy to the end of the road at Kinloch Lodge. Beyond Kinloch the road deteriorates but, as I discovered this year, is still quite drive-able.
|The road to Glenorchy.|
Fly-Cruise-Fly to Milford Sound - The road to Milford Sound takes three and a half hours. You can take a day tour from Queenstown including return coach trip and cruise but with departures around 8 am and returns after 7pm it will be a very, very long day. Or you can cheat! David, as you probably know by now, hates tours and doesn't do early starts. Last year I wanted to see the Sound. We compromised on a fly-cruise-fly. It wasn't much more expensive than the bus tour option and a whole lot more fun.
With our body clocks still on Sydney time we got up late and wondered down to the Air Milford hangar at the airport at the very civilised time of two in the afternoon. We were introduced to the pilot who walked us out to the plane, ran through the safety procedures and handed us each a pair of over-large headphones. We've been on small planes before but this was surreal. It sat six people and we were the only passengers. It felt like getting a lift in someone's car.
The views were stunning. Compared to the flight there and back, Milford Sound with it's world renowned scenery, was almost a disappointment. Take my advice, if you want to see Milford, forget the bus tours and go by plane - trust me it's worth it. We went with Air Milford, which I can highly recommend.
|More stunning scenery|
|On the ground at Milford Sound|
Fly-boarding - I'm cheating a bit with this last one. It is not something we've actually tried but it looks like so much fun I had to include it. Fly-boarding seems to involve being blasted into the air by a cross between a jet-pack and a water canon. Take a look at the photos and make up your own mind but it has definitely gone to the top of my bucket list.
Questions and comments:
As usual if you have any questions or comments I'd love to hear from you. I am starting to think of myself as something of an expert on Queenstown but I'm sure there are a few Kiwis out there who know a whole lot more about the place. If you have been there tell me what your favourite activity was!
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