Queenstown. Queenstown. Queenstown! Are you not the prettiest, most delightful and exciting spots in my Southern Hemisphere neck of the woods. Kia Ora to you, my new destination love.
New Zealand had always been on my list of places to visit, but with it only being a 3-hour flight from Melbourne, I’d always pushed going there far down the travel destination bucket list. I mean I have had quite the ongoing love affair with Europe that has been ticking along quite nicely for the last 15 years and considering I still have so much more to explore in Europe, New Zealand would have to wait.
Anyway, New Zealand is just like Australia isn’t it? (If you’re a Kiwi and reading this, don’t shoot me, please do read on!).
It was after solid advice from friends and a fellow traveller on my trip to Norway in October 2017 that totally changed my perspective of New Zealand, especially the South Island. So, it soon became my new must-go-to destination. That, and New Zealand was a special place for me to visit, as it was on my darling Mum’s travel bucket list – for more on my Mum’s story and why this trip was important, you can read here
My travel partner for this trip was a good friend of mine, Hannah. Work takes Hannah to New Zealand’s North Island quite often however she was yet to explore the South. Hannah is quite like me, not into the crazy adventure sports that Queenstown is famous for, more of the seek some stuff, visit a few sights, eat, drink, people watch and chill, so she was a perfect partner in crime for this trip.
Like Norway, the South Island is majestically beautiful. You get your first glimpse of exactly how stunning the area is from the air and let me tell you the view is eye popping spectacular. From the air the landscape is an extreme contrast of the lush coast line and fjords, never-ending snow-capped peaks, barren brown mountains, turquoise rivers, deep blue lakes, stunning green farming land and the cutest of little towns spattered here and there. If this was what the Queenstown area looked like from the air, I couldn’t wait to touch down and start exploring on land.
Famous for good views, great food, excellent wine, adventure sports, abundant ski fields, and good old Kiwi hospitality, Queenstown was sure to be a sensory delight for us both. Each day brought us a new adventure, a new place to eat, people to meet, and new scenery to take in. Food was a major highlight for the both of us so before we left home we did plenty of research and asking friends of their favourite places to eat while in Queenstown, and every single one of them gave a hyped up notable mention to the Queenstown institution, Fergburger. As we managed to fit in quite a lot of eating, including two fine dining experiences, I’ve written a separate blog post just on the food and wine experience alone. So, if that’s your thing, click here and I promise you that you’ll be booking a flight to Queenstown before the end of reading the post.
Before leaving Australia, we also did our research into where we wanted to go and what tours we wanted to do, and with only one cancellation, we were able to get around and experience quite a lot in our week break. We managed to fit in trips to Arrowtown, Wanaka, Gibbston Valley, Coronet Peak Ski Field and the majestic Milford Sound which was all sort of amazing. We even took a helicopter ride back from Milford Sound which was a last minute-crazy adventure. To find out about the tours we did click here
Our trip was towards the end of July so the weather at that time is cold, but it is winter, so we expected it. And while it was cold they certainly turn on the warmth indoors. It didn’t snow in Queenstown while we were there, but there was plenty of the white stuff in the surrounding mountains to see. We were told that the snow really hits a bit later so if that’s your thing I’d suggest mid-August. We were also told that the autumn months are particularly beautiful, so March, April and May are your best bets for that. I can only imagine how beautiful it will be to go back to the area at that time of the year and sipping wine in the sunshine.
Queenstown is a hot mix of culture, where the Kiwis seem to be outnumbered by international workers and tourists all of whom seem really happy to be there. I don’t blame them really. Although they were few and far between, every Kiwi we did happen to meet was super friendly and quite endearing, even if there was a bit of Aussie bashing going on, ah there’s nothing like Aussie v Kiwi rivalry to keep you entertained.
The town is small enough to not need to hire a car, taxi or Uber. There is a shuttle bus to and from the airport which is $15 NZD each way or you can catch a taxi which can cost approximately $40NZD. This would be the only real time that you would ever need to catch a taxi in Queenstown though. We spent most of our time walking around the town getting to and from places, bars, restaurants and shops, nothing being more than a 10-minute walk from our hotel.
What did surprise me was the shopping. Slightly cheaper than Melbourne, but some real unique pieces of clothing, jewellery and natural beauty products. I shopped up a storm, yes, my credit card took a hiding, but when on holidays, enjoy right? I especially loved the Manuka honey hand creams (feel so good on the skin) and the merino wool everything.
The more I explored Queenstown and it’s surrounds the more it reminded me of different pockets of Europe. The west coast fiords are very similar to Norway’s famous fjords, flying over the southern alps reminded me of my flight from Oslo to a Tromso in Norway. The snow-capped mountains reminded me of Switzerland and on the ground, the buildings and the whole vibe of Queenstown reminded me of many European towns. Basically, Europe on my doorstep. But its New Zealand, and it IS different to Europe and is nothing like Australia thank goodness!
With Queenstown being only a 3-hour flight from Melbourne I can’t help but think that for too long I have had my head in the sand to have left it until now to make my first trip. There is so much to love about the place, so much that I contemplated the thought that I could be very happy living there. Yep! It really is that good! Queenstown has such a relaxed vibe about it, it is pretty, friendly, happy, engaging, charming and draws your heart into falling in love with it. But it is the views that really leave you spellbound. Everywhere you turn there is something so spectacular off into the distance it is hard to know where to turn next, and it is for this reason that I felt at such peace and so still, patient, happy and relaxed. I guess this is why I feel that a week wasn’t long enough. Queenstown is not only a delight to your taste buds as much as it is to your eyes! I honestly can’t wait to go back to the place that has kind of stole my little Aussie heart.
- From Australia Air New Zealand, Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar all fly Queenstown direct. Often there are some decent specials at different times of the year. Peak season is the winter months for the ski season, so prices are generally higher then.
- We stayed at the Novotel Queenstown, you can read my review here.