Queenstown, home of adventure sports. Founding fathers to jumping off things with rubber bands tied to the ankles, souped up speedboats barreling down low flowing rivers with narrow stone sides, para-gliders jumping off the mountainside cruising down within a meter of the treetops. Ok, I don’t know if they fathered the jet boats and close quarters paragliding, but the bungee jumping is theirs.
Driving into this area from Fox Glacier was a fabulous experience. We came through the Haast Pass, slowly making our way and stopping every few kilometers to take pictures. We came through on a partly cloudy day, so our visibility wasn’t what it could be, but with this beauty around us we couldn’t really complain.
We stopped for some lunch and more picturesque views in Wanaka, where Mt. Aspiring is the jewel of the crown. Mihaela would definitely come back there for some skiing. After all, Wanaka has the broadest range of snow activity choices of any town in New Zealand.
Our introduction to the Queenstown area was descending from the Crown Range Road to the valley floor. The view from the Crown Terrace is a great way to see how beautiful this area is. The rugged mountains and the open valley, the winding river, all come together from this showcase vista view.
We drove down into the valley, through the serpentine descending road and were rewarded with more and more facets of the area.
We then made our way to the Kawarau Gorge, the birthplace of bungee jumping. Now, we didn’t go for the bungee. Neither Mihaela or I are much for jumping off bridges, or mountains, or out of planes. We went because Mihaela is a huge LOTR fan and this gorge is was used for the gates of the Argonath in the movie. This gave her a chance to work on a post project she’ll be putting up soon.
Queenstown is a beautiful city in the heart of Central Otago on Lake Wakatipu. It’s placement between the lake and the mountains gives great views in most every direction. The city was once deemed worthy of a queen by the European settlers, and so the Maori Tahuna became Queenstown.
We stayed at a place a little up the ridge from most of the town, a ski lodge/hostel called Reavers whose views of the Remarkables Mountain range is really spectacular. I mean, when you wake up to something like this, what else can you say?
The city is a hub for adventure sports, so think of this as a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing if you’re looking for this kinda stuff. It’s easy to find, there area a ton of options and you’ll be surrounded by many like minded people. It’s a bit of a curse because there are a lot of tourists, most in their early 20s, looking for adrenaline in any form. This isn’t a big curse of course, but be prepared for conversations to be, umm, focused.
Getting out and around the area was rewarding. On one of the LOTR adventures we had, we took a drive along Skippers Canyon. I include this jaunt because it was the most rugged I’ve ever seen a road. Quite literally it was a one lane gravel road carved in the side of a mountain. Now, this has been used to illustrate images before, but… Well, here, take a look.
Truth to be told, after 3km into the road Mihaela declared it should be marked as 4WD only, so we turned around without actually getting to the canyon. This created another opportunity though. We drove to Arrowtown and visited this little village. Lots of small shops and cafes, and beautiful views of the Arrow river. If around there, don’t miss the historic Chinese village, featuring remnants of the settlement built by the Chinese gold workers back in the 1800s.
The next day we wanted to visit the top of the Remarkables and hike to Lake Alta. The drive up was much more tame than Skippers since there was a ski lodge at the top. It was a partial hike though. They were doing work on the slopes, putting in lifts and changing their snow production facilities. We dodged a few earth movers and hiked a few kilometers in, but didn’t make it to the lake. Even with this disappointment, we can’t say we were disappointed. From the elevation we were, we could see back towards Mt Aspiring.