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Heather Schiller
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An Untraditional Trip to Queenstown.

A weekend in Queenstown without the thrill seeking agenda

 

Words by Emma Fenton-Wells

Blog #12 of her solo trip in NZ

 

 

 

Aerial view of Queenstown Photo credit: Michael Amadeus

 

I did Queenstown in a bit of an unexpected way. I didn’t ski or bungee, in fact, the most extreme activity I did on my weekend there was a community yoga class. What brought me there was not only the bucket list of places to visit but my first post-COVID world gig: Crowded House.

After a night in Dunedin, I took the long drive into Queenstown via a town I had in my head I absolutely needed to visit: Gore. Gore describes itself as the home of country music in NZ, and honestly that’s pretty apt. It’s all line dancing and fly fishing. I grabbed a pretty good lunch at The Green Room, a cafe attached to the local cinema, and hit the road again. Apparently, I had seen most of Gore in those few hours.

 

Gore, New Zealand

 

Having now driven State Highway 6 into Queenstown FIVE TIMES, I can confirm that it’s a beauty. If the weather is good, be prepared to stop for a piccy at Devil’s Staircase on the way in. The great Lake Wakatipu winds itself from Glenorchy (which is worth a day trip) down to Kingston. You’ll drive a considerable length of it to get into town. Just ensure you’ve budgeted more than enough time to do so as it definitely meets Emma’s Criteria for a Classic NZ Road. The criteria being:

  • It hugs the side of a mountain or cliff
  • It winds so much, motion sickness is guaranteed for passengers
  • The views are so beautiful you would happily be the passenger even with the motion sickness
  • The pull over bays are necessities for both the scenery and said motion sickness.

It’s a trip.

 

Aerial view of Queenstown and surrounding mountains Credit: Stuart Davies

 

So what does a weekend in Queenstown without the thrill seeking agenda look like? Let me tell you, it’s mostly food. I ate like a king as there’s no shortage of excellent places to go.

In terms of accommodation, I stayed at Queenstown Holiday Park & Motels Creeksyde. Although it was one of the pricer spots I stayed on my trip ($40 a night), it was a five minute walk into town. It was ridiculously well positioned and had excellent amenities.

On Friday night, I met up with some friends and hit the Queenstown classic of Fergburger. Given international borders were shut, there was no queue for our burgers. We even managed to grab some seats outside. I finally *get* the hype. The burgers are excellent, and I can say that many a visit was also paid to their bakery over the weekend.

 

Fergburger, Queenstown Photo Credit: Destination Queenstown

 

For a bite on the water, with a locally sourced menu, I recommend Botswana Butchery. I had the monk fish tacos and they were pretty good. Not quite the cuisine I expected given the title, but still fresh. What you’ll quickly notice is many of the big restaurants in Queenstown have counterparts in Auckland. For instance, another winner for a group meal was White + Wongs. In a group of eight, we ordered the banquet and feasted to the point of needing to roll out of the restaurant. The leftovers weighed more than a newborn.

 

White + Wongs, Queenstown NZ Photo Credit: White + Wongs

 

After spending Saturday morning exploring the markets along the water, I met up with some friends who had also come to town for the show and we caught a shuttle out to Gibbston Valley Wines, a natural amphitheatre where 6000 fans gathered to groove out to the Kiwi icons.

If you’re making the pilgrimage to Queenstown for a show, it is an epic way to do it in a camper. I stayed both nights in town, but Freedom Camping spots are available close to Gibbston Valley Wines - making for an easy commute. Not only that, but Queenstown is the most picturesque drive from the Apollo branch in Christchurch via the great lakes of Tekapo and Pukaki, as well as Mount Cook - talk about a South Island adventure.

From Queenstown, I drove to the Catlins, looping back a week later where I explored Wanaka, Cardrona and Lake Hawea… this time to chase the Southern Lights. As it turns out, the night of the Crowded House gig, the Southern Lights could be seen with the naked eye in Queenstown. But we were in a pub. Classic.

Basically, there’s so much more to Queenstown than skiing.

 

Dunedin Railways

 

Hot tips:

  • Although I spent only a hot second in Dunedin, it’s worth mentioning that it’s one of the few cities in NZ where you can Freedom Camp in the city centre!
  • Along with Glenorchy, be sure to visit Arrowtown. A picturesque town 20 minutes from Queenstown, it’s a hub for shopping and eating.
  • If you’re looking to get those muscles moving, the walk along the waterfront to the tip of Queenstown Gardens is beautiful. I took a coffee and some baked goods from FergBakery for a stroll down there.
  • Within the Remarkables, there are a multitude of pristine lakes and peaks to explore - including Lake Alta and Double Cone.
     
Lake Alta is worth the climb. Photo Credit: Will Turner
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