Queenstown?! What a little beauty! Such a little touristy town full of people from all walks of life – English, Japanese, Chinese, Europeans. Think bespoke clothes shops, artisan chocolate, cute pubs in the sunshine and the most stunning harbour view you have probably ever seen!
After an incredibly turbulent flight from rainy Aukland, I arrived in QT airport slightly shaken and bracing myself for the expected cold climate, only to happily find glorious sunshine and be blown away by the best airport views, which were merely a TASTER of what was to come.
I think Queenstown is not thought of as an authentic experience of New Zealand, and the people that say that would be right, however it’s still a great place and shouldn’t be over-looked as a destination to visit. It was by far my favourite spot in New Zealand!
This post might persuade you to visit anyway 😉
I completely landed on my feet when I arrived in Queenstown – my friend from home, Livi was there after her stint in Australia and had a whole group of friends that she introduced me to and I felt warmly welcomed into her close-knit circle. Liv also worked in Queenstown’s famous Fergburger joint (which is a must-do in QT) so I got treated to a Fergburg which I have to say lived up to its reputation.
Whilst I was there I stayed at a nice hostel on the hill. The view over-looked the town and the mountain ranges behind.
You could say it was the most amazing view from a hostel EVER!
The town has a ‘villagey’ atmosphere and the scene from my hostel of the town below reminded me a lot of a cute ski resort. Above all though, Queenstown is a party town, and it’s what you first notice when you take yourself out in the evening (or if you didn’t realise before from the amount of backpackers working in every shop). Obviously there are places where you can avoid the youngsters but for the most part, you’re looking at joining lairy twenty-somethings for a pint! Not that that’s a bad thing – backpackers are some of the most friendliest people in the world, but if you’re looking for a quiet sit down on a Saturday I’m afraid you’ll be hard pushed to find it.
Queenstown held a lot of charm for me and I felt more at home here than I had anywhere else in New Zealand. Buskers play on most sunny afternoons on the village green and whole crowds join to watch. I found people to be incredibly friendly and there were ample veggie and hippy shops that constantly took my fancy.
Queenstown also holds some beautiful memories for me because I visited at a time when my travels were coming to a (temporary) end. I had to fly back home for a while so I really only had two weeks here to conclude the most amazing 18 months of total travel time.
I made sure I really made the most out of my remaining time away and treated myself to a few home comforts such as Horse Riding in Glenorchy, having a posh manicure, eating out instead of cooking in, going to the cinema and buying clothes that I didn’t need but which made me happy.
I guess I spent quite a lot of time alone in Queenstown. But that’s the way I liked it. I think this place holds a lot of value for me because I was really here at a time when I was trying to manage my emotions about leaving.
Between the nights out with Livi, the solo hikes up Queenstown hill, the afternoon strolls around the lake, the meditation sessions and the coffee and croissants eaten for breakfast whilst reading a book and watching the world go by, I was able to positively reflect on my time away and realise just how much I had accomplished in terms of learning, growing as a person, pushing my comfort-zones and measuring my own worth and happiness.
And they say travel will change you!
The walk up Queenstown Hill is a fairly easy one and can be climbed in less than 2 hours from the town centre. I was hiking solo but actually met someone half way up so we continued on together. I enjoyed finding out about his life and his travel plans, and it was a bonus to have someone with me at the top to take photos!
Ben Lomond Hill is more of a demanding climb but can still be accessed easily from the town centre. You can take the gondola up to Ben Lomond Saddle, where the skyline restaurant is and then continue to the summit, saving yourself a 450 metre climb in the pine tree forest and then continue on from there, although it’s easily a 3 -4 hour return hike back to the gondola even from here. I only made it up to the saddle as I didn’t have enough time to reach the summit, but that hike through the pines, with mountain bikes whizzing by and clear air in my lungs was one of the best days in Queenstown for me.
It was summer season in Queenstown when I visited and whilst it was sunny and warm some days, I have to say we got an awful lot of cold, dreary weather. The locals were most apologetic about this and insisted that it was a one-off cold spell. Coming from the heat of Australia, I definitely froze my butt off most days but then I would walk into town all wrapped up and see snow on The Remarkables mountain range and magically the cold didn’t seem to matter!
I met up with a proper Kiwi and his lovely family whilst here. He recently had a baby daughter and so I got the pleasure of meeting the cutest little baby girl, Maisie-Jean.
Jana and his partner Polly invited me out for the day and we went to an agricultural show with MJ as well as stopping for lunch at Arrowtown – probably the quaintest little village I have seen since arriving in NZ.
I can’t tell you how nice it was to be taken out by some true locals. I got to experience this place from their perspective and got a taster of what it might feel like to actually live here. I’ve always enjoyed this aspect of travel most – finding out how other people live and what their values are in life. I am repeatedly thrilled by the capacity of people to be kind and generous to someone they have never met and I got totally treated by Jana and his family.
I actually met another couple, Dario and Martina, whilst in Queenstown. Friend’s of Fabio’s, they are both Italian, getting sponsored out here in NZ with the aim of earning citizenship so that they can live both here or in Australia permanently.
Dario and Martina picked me up and took me out for dinner at a lovely Italian pizza place by the river in Cromwell. They also drove me all the way to Wanaka – a cute little (windy!!!!!) town a couple of hours outside of Queenstown, made famous by its Wanaka tree growing actually IN the lake. It’s important to emphasise how much these adventures added to my whole experience of Queenstown and how lucky I was to be connected to these wonderful, generous people who I’d only just met but who were more than happy to ferry me around.
The days passed quickly during my stay as I started fitting more and more in. I spent a day helping out at a local horse riding stables for a free ride (in the pouring rain!!), I got the bus to Milford Sound to see my friends from Broome and I caught up with some old friends from Mission Beach who had also wound up here.
Queenstown reminded me a lot of Melbourne in that it was a buzzing, happening place with no shortage of people to see or things to do. I would definitely recommend visiting here if you get the chance – be blown away by the amazing scenery and use it as an access point for many tours in the South Island.