Queenstown for the less adventurous traveller
I am the first to admit that I am a bit (well a lot) useless when it comes to heights and adventure sports. Let’s not get started on how clumsy I am either (yes, I may have snapped my ankle on both sides one while standing still and wearing thongs on my feet) so anything remotely close to the thrill seeking adventure sports that Queenstown is famous for was always going to be a definite no for me! Strangely though, I absolutely love being in a plane. And now after this trip I can actually say I absolutely love being in a helicopter (more about that in this post about my Milford Sound Experience).
So, what is a less adventurous person supposed to do in the adrenaline capital of New Zealand?
Eat? Yes, we did plenty of that (check out this post on the fabulous food we ate)
Drink? Um, does a bear shit in the woods?
Check out the fabulous scenery? It would be an absolute crime not to!!
While Queenstown may be famous for things like bungy jumping, skiing, heli-skiing, sky diving, Swing & Zip (I don’t even know what that means), and jet boating, there is so much more to the area that doesn’t require your stomach to lurch into your mouth at the mere thought. Queenstown caters for all types and can most definitely be enjoyed by those of us who like a much more chilled pace/value their life!
Upon arriving in Queenstown my friend Hannah and I discovered that one of the tours we had booked had been cancelled. At a cost of $169 NZD this half day trip to Arrowtown and Wanaka was to be our most expensive, so we were happy with getting a refund and sourcing an alternate for the trip. The local bus company Ritchies offers a much cheaper price of $4 return to Arrowtown and $65 return to Wanaka. We just split up the two towns on different days rather than doing it all in one.
The bus to Arrowtown takes about 30 minutes and leaves every hour from Camp Street in central Queenstown. Arrowtown is a cute little gold mining town which reminded me so much of my childhood school excursions exploring Sovereign Hill in Ballarat. Cute buildings, cute shops, cute cafes, cute scenery. Oh the cuteness!!! We spent a couple of hours wandering around and shopping (sorry credit card) before taking the bus back to Queenstown. Plenty of places to eat and drink if you’re looking to.
Wanaka on the other hand, is a much longer bus trip and can be done two ways, either via Cromwell which is considered the long way and the way we went to Wanaka, or the scenic route through Cardrona’s snowy mountains, which we did on the way back to Queenstown. Although we’d heard that Wanaka was like a smaller version of Queenstown, I am afraid to say that we didn’t do the place much justice. That morning we were both a little tired, and just wanted a hot coffee and to go for a decent walk around Lake Wanaka. And yes, to see that famous Wanaka Tree.
Here’s the link to Ritchies bus network
Where tours are concerned another money saving idea is to use the website Bookme. For instance, instead of paying between $130 – $600 on a full day Milford Sound tour (bus – cruise – bus or flights) we booked through bookme.nz a week before we left and managed to get our ticket for $110 per person. We could have got it cheaper by booking a day or two out from when we wanted to go, but this was a tour we were both very keen to do so didn’t want to risk not getting a spot.
And speaking of Milford Sound, let me tell you this was the highlight of my trip, for so many different reasons but mostly for how the tour ended. The day was so epic that it deserves a post of its own. It includes videos. You can read that here.
Not ever being to the snow let alone a ski field, it would have been remiss of us not to head up to one of Queenstown’s famous ski fields. After all that is entirely what some people go there for. We decided upon Coronet Peak over a The Remarkables being that it was closer to Queenstown and an easier bus ride up. For those who don’t ski, you can get a bus pass for $20 return for a day. Easy enough! We chose a day that was of course raining so conditions on the mountain weren’t so great. We literally bussed it up, stepped out onto the snow and then went and sat at the bar people watching before catching the first bus back into town.
We also took the gondola up the mountain that overlooks Queenstown and The Remarkables mountain range. It’s a steep climb, so I spent a good portion of the ride up with my eyes closed. Although I did open them in time to watch some crazy guy fly down the mountain when we passed the Queenstown bungy jump. No thanks mate, you can have that all to yourself! We were going to hike through the Ben Lomand track but could see storms brewing in the distance and having to get down from the mountain, thought it best to get back earlier than expected.
Everything runs super well and on time in Queenstown, and so it should, being a major tourist town. If tours didn’t run, you were looked after regardless. Kiwi hospitality is certainly something that some more popular tourist destinations should aspire to. While I am not an adrenalin junkie, I still do consider myself adventurous enough, and Queenstown was definitely a place where I found enough crazy to mix with my need of chill. Although I am unlikely to ever strap on a pair of ski boots, I will definitely be going back to Queenstown to do more exploring and sampling the regions finest everything!