Small Town New Zealand: Queenstown

queenstownWhether you’re visiting in the depths of winter or at the height of summer, buzzing Queenstown has plenty to entertain you. Here are our top picks…

Right in town
For a bird’s eye view of Lake Wakatipu hop on the Skyline Gondola. Riding the luge is the quickest way back down – there’s an easier track for children and a faster route for those with more confidence.

In winter, the ice-skating rink at the Queenstown Gardens is a fine place to while away a few hours, or check out what’s under the lake at the Underwater Observatory on the town pier.

Thrill seeking
Queenstown’s tag of “adventure capital of the world” isn’t just for show – there really are a myriad of ways to test your mettle in this little town. Pick from bungy jumping (numerous jump spots around town including the Kawarau Bridge Bungy and the 134-metre Nevis), jet boating, white-water rafting, river surfing, canyoning, paragliding and parachuting. In the winter months, the Remarkables and Coronet Peak ski fields offer great skiing and boarding.

Escape the hustle and bustle
If you feel the need for a few hours of peace and quiet, there are plenty of tranquil spots just a short distance away. Glenorchy, at the head of the lake, is a 40km scenic drive from Queenstown and the starting point for some glorious walks through the Rees and Dart River valleys.

Head a further 15km north-west and you’ll find Paradise – literally. It’s actually just a paddock but it’s still a picturesque spot and was used in The Lord of the Rings films.

The faithfully-restored gold-mining settlement of Arrowtown is also worth a visit. It’s especially beautiful in autumn.

Cycle rides
The Lakeside Trails run from Queenstown to Frankton or Kelvin Heights or Jacks Point. They offer easy riding and are completely off the road, making them a great option for families and beginners. Another relatively flat, easy ride is the Arrowtown to Queenstown Trail.

The Gibbston River Trail is an 8.7km loop that starts at Kawarau Bridge and then heads east along the Kawarau River. Along the way you’ll pass plenty of the region’s wineries, including Gibbston Valley Winery (home to an excellent restaurant). If you overdo it in the tasting shed, burn off the excess at Rabbit Ridge Bike Resort, also in the Gibbston region. It’s home to a 40km network of trails ranging from challenging downhills to kid-friendly routes.

Mountain biking
There are heaps of opportunities for mountain biking both in and around Queenstown. The Queenstown Mountain Bike Park is right in town and features heaps of flowing singletrack. It’s accessed by either the Skyline Gondola or an uphill ride (around 45 minutes). 6km out of town towards Glenorchy is 7-Mile Mountain Bike Reserve, which offers hours of challenging terrain.

Cross-country riding is also in abundance. Shorter trips include the Seven Mile Track and Moke Lake. Longer trails include the Moonlight Track, Skippers Canyon trails and the Macetown Track.

For a fast feed head to Fergburger. What was once a tiny, hole-in-the-wall burger bar is now a world-famous joint on Shotover Street. The Cow is another long-standing Queenstown institution – great pizza, pasta and soups.

Queenstown in legendary for its nightlife and there are numerous bars and nightclubs to pick from. Located on the waterfront of Lake Wakatipu, Little Blackwood is a swish tapas bar and eatery – think roaring fires, beautiful wooden furniture and big mountain views. Or head to Rhino’s Ski Shack for hot buttered rum!

Lots of our guided cycle tours take in Queenstown. These include:

5 Day Guided MTB Tour Queenstown to Wanaka (MB021)
6 Day West Coast Queenstown to Christchurch Cycle (GR005)
6 Day Southern Lakes Christchurch to Queenstown Cycle (GR023)
7 Day Road Cycle Tour Queenstown to Christchurch (GR012)
9 Day Road Cycle Tour Christchurch to Queenstown (GR008)
10 Day Road Cycle Tour Christchurch to Queenstown T2 (GR010)
10 Day Road Cycle Tour Christchurch to Queenstown T3 (GR013)

Tour dates for summer 2015/16 are now available for most of these tours. Email us for details.

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt

Image: Tom Hall