Queenstown… Wow, where do I start.
I love to travel and I get restless if I don’t have an impending trip to look forward to. Those that know me will also know how much I love America and I must admit, Queenstown almost topped it. Ya… That’s big. And we didn’t even hit the slopes!
This trip was actually meant to be to Uluru as Alastair’s 30th birthday present – something he was incredibly excited about – but due to a number of factors, it was proving too hard for the only long weekend we both had free.
I had always wanted to go to Queenstown, saw cheap flights on Jetstar and told Alastair that we weren’t doing to Uluru anymore; that we were going somewhere else, that it was international and that it was a surprise.
He cottoned on that it wasn’t going to be the warm weather he was hoping for when I was searching our walk-in robe for his only winter jacket and couldn’t locate it, so had to ask. He was a little disappointed.
We flew into the middle of a bunch of snow-capped mountains and even disembarking from the plane, it was incredible. Everywhere you looked was the most beautiful scenery, it just didn’t look real. It was seriously breathtaking.
Anyway, here are my thoughts on the trip and my picks for stay, eat, play. Enjoy!
I figured that, since it was for Alastair’s 30th birthday AND we were only staying three nights that we’d ball out and stay at the Hilton Queenstown. Absolutely STUNNING hotel… But it’s located in Kawarau Village ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE LAKE. I’m not sure if I missed that or they conveniently omitted it so as not to discourage people to stay there but it ended up being a monumental pain in the ass. The hotel had a number of ‘free’ shuttles into town daily but they were always booked out. Uber was only recently introduced to Queenstown so there were never any available. It was a $45-flat fee cab ride into town. EEEK. The option that we mostly went with was the water taxi, on the hour and $10 per head each way. Lovely and scenic but such an effort. I much prefer being able to duck in and out of a hotel at leisure, or take a nap if required. It really made it hard as we felt we had to stick around all day. Looking around there are plenty of places to stay but one of our cabbies said that it’s quite exxy. I did some quick research while sipping a mulled wine one afternoon and it looked like the Novotel was a reasonable option in a good location, so we might try that when we come back next year with the kids.
I wasn’t sure if we’d manage to get up to the slopes because a) we hadn’t brought any of our gear (like goggles) with us and b) it’s a massive effort when you’ve only got three days and a list of other things you want to do. Also the weather looked pretty crappy. So we put that on the list for next time. I also really wanted to do Over The Top Golf where you are flown by helicopter to the top of a mountain to whack some biodegradable balls. Unfortunately we didn’t get to do it as the weather wouldn’t cooperate, but I checked in every morning to see if there was any possibility. This meant that we didn’t book a whole lot of other stuff in case the weather cleared up. We did take the Skyline Gondola up to the top of Bob’s Peak which was cool. You get a panoramic view of Queenstown from the top and they also have an all-you-can-eat buffet with pretty decent food. You can usually take a luge back down but unfortunately it was closed while we were there. We also took a ride on the Thunderjet; the boat does 360s and swerves around, also very scenic and be prepared to get wet! Our favourite was the Onsen Hot Pools, which is literally the first thing I booked after our flights. Apparently it books out quickly! Quite a few people had told me they had waited until they had arrived in Queenstown and missed out. It was heaven. We got shuttled up to Arthur’s Point to our own private pool which overlooks the valley and Shotover River. With a champers of course! Next we had an hour couples massage and left feeling so incredibly relaxed. We got dumplings from Queenies Dumplings and went straight to bed. We also did a last minute twilight winery tour with Altitude which was fantastic. Our tour guide Eric did the haka for us and after visiting three wineries he took us to his favourite pub in Arrowtown (he said not to mention that in any reviews as he doesn’t do that for everyone – oops). I had planned to go to Amisfield Winery which is meant to be incredible – we drove past and it looked every bit amazing – for their 8-course degustation. But as we were hoping to get the golf in, we left it too late and it was booked. Next time!
Botswana Butchery is the only restaurant I booked prior to arriving as I had heard such great things. It didn’t disappoint! Located in an old cottage on the waterfront, the décor is incredible and we were seated in these royal-looking armchairs amid gorgeous dim lighting. We shared a 12-hour (I think) slow roasted lamb shoulder which was INCREDIBLE with duck fat potatoes and greens, matched with local wines and crème brulee for dessert. It was epic! We had breakfast at Bespoke Kitchen which is located just down from the Skyline Gondola and it was the best damn eggs benny I’ve EVER had. I’m not sure what the English muffin was made from but it was amazing. We also spent an inordinate amount of time at The Pub on Wharf which had decent food and great mulled wine (my new favourite – how have I never had it before?). We spent a rainy day in the pub watching the soccer World Cup. There were so many great-looking places to eat in Queenstown that it actually gave me anxiety to not get to visit them all. Some I missed out on included Kim’s Korean and Madam Woo, and there were also a couple of great-looking Japanese izakayas. Sigh! We also visited Patagonia Chocolate a couple of times. I had their stick ice cream that you could have dipped in white, milk or dark chocolate and a topping of your choice – like caramel popcorn or Oreo! I almost needed two plane seats to come home.