Queenstown is a picturesque town on the shores of Lake Wakatipu on New Zealand’s South Island. Boasting a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere, it attracts visitors year-round, but is especially popular in winter, as it is home to some of the country’s best ski slopes. Travel Associates advisor, Rachael Heelan visited Queenstown to sample some of its varied delights.
Queenstown offers easy access to both The Remarkables and Coronet Peak, with Cardrona and Treble Cone also within driving distance. Rachael chose Coronet Peak for her day on the slopes. “It’s a great mountain for beginner to intermediate skiers”, she says. “It has lots of different runs, and with three chair lifts, a T-bar and a magic carpet you never have to wait long to get up the mountain”. Next season there are plans to upgrade the main chairlift to a high-speed Telemix, a combination of chairs and gondolas that will get you up the mountain even quicker. Rachael also discovered a great spot for lunch here. “I loved Heidi’s Hut at Rocky Gully. It’s got a lovely European feel to it, is much quieter than the main area and you can relax by the fire”, she says.
Relaxed night life
Any good ski resort offers a wide range of apres ski options and Queenstown is no exception, offering a range of casual and fine dining restaurants, cafes, pubs and clubs. There are even a couple of ice bars. If you like sitting outside in the crisp night air, Rachael recommends 1876. “The alfresco area is bedecked with fairy lights and there are heaters to keep you warm”. If you prefer being indoors, the Speights Ale House just across the street has an amazing fireplace, the perfect spot to enjoy a glass of NZ pinot.
Activities to suit all tastes
You’ll find there is so much more to Queenstown than skiing, even in winter. So, if you feel like taking a break from the slopes, why not try one of the many day tours on offer. Rachael did just this, and found herself flying through muddy puddles on a buggy and quad bike safari tour. This took her up Queenstown Hill, where she was rewarded with 360-degree views of Queenstown, The Remarkables, Coronet Peak and the Shotover River.
For her next activity, Rachael took a short walk from the city centre and hopped onto the scenic Skyline Gondola. After being whisked up the mountain, you can enjoy a buffet lunch or early dinner as you soak up the panoramic views, or there are a number of hikes and walking trails you can explore. Rachael, however, opted to try the popular luge ride. “It’s great fun and the controls are easy to master (simply pull back to slow down), so you’ll find yourself racing down the mountain in no time”, she says.
One must-do on everyone’s South Island itinerary is Milford Sound, renowned for its dramatic scenery, with towering rock walls and gushing waterfalls. You’ll find a variety of tour options, with most offering a return bus journey and a cruise, but Rachael recommends travelling there by bus and flying back by helicopter to get the most value out of your excursion as this allows you to see it all at ground level as well as enjoying stunning views of Milford Sound and Queenstown’s mountains from above.
Another great experience that Rachael uncovered was a sunset cruise on the TSS Earnslaw. Believed to be the only working coal-fired steamship in the southern hemisphere, it departs from the jetty in town and cruises on spectacular Lake Wakatipu. “You can explore the engine room and have a chat with the guys shovelling coal or simply sit back and enjoy watching the sun sink behind the mountains”, Rachael explains.
Whatever you choose to do in an around Queenstown, you won’t be disappointed.