Top 10 Things To Do In Queenstown

Queenstown Skyline Buy or view the Ōtepoti | Dunedin gallery

Everyone should have a semi-irrational list of suggested places to visit without having to provide a lengthy and detailed explanation of why. This is what I like to call the ‘just because list.’ That way, if you’re ever asked for advice or suggestions by a stranger, you have a ready made answer all set to go. I’d imagine the conversation would go something like this…..

“Excuse me, do you happen to know good places to visit in …. [insert destination here]?”
“Why yes I do, you should definitely checkout … [insert ‘just because list’]”
“Why should I go there?”
“Well, just because?”

Here’s mine for Queenstown:
– Drive to the end of Lake Wakatipu through the Devil’s Staircase and visit the town of Kingston.
– Drive to the end of Lake Wakatipu, spending time in Glenorchy.
– Travel past Glenorchy and visit Paradise (yes it really is called that!) as well the Routeburn Track.
– Head up to the top of Coronet Peak or the Remarkables.
– Adventure into Skippers Canyon. 
– Spend time in Arrowtown.
– Spend time in the Queenstown Gardens both during the day and in the evening. 
– Walk the tracks at Lake Hayes.
– Head up to the top of the Queenstown Skyline in the Gondolas. 
– Sit in the summer sun and have a beer on the lakefront.

A Walk In Queenstown

TSS EarnslawBuy or view the Ōtepoti | Dunedin gallery

I arrived in Queenstown and immediately began the battle to find a parking space. It wasn’t long before I realised this was a futile exercise I was never going to win. Reluctantly, I opted for a parking building. This in itself was a curious adventure as mathematically it wasn’t possible for the people at Wilsons to fit so many parking spaces into such a small area, but somehow they managed it. To make the problem more complex, all the spaces seemed to be occupied by large 4 wheel drives, making it almost impossible to manoeuvre between them, an achievement I was quietly proud of. 

I spent some time wandering the various streets that make up the town’s centre, I walked along the lakefront and took in the splendid scenery that surrounds the town. When I was younger, I remember Queenstown being a place with spectacular scenery, full of wonder and excitement. As you approached there was always an air of eagerness in the backseat of the vehicle my Dad was driving. Firstly you’d drive through Frankton, then the housing developments would become less frequent and almost non-existent until we passed the bottle house which was a marvel in itself. The famed Bottle House was always a clear sign that the magical place of Queenstown wasn’t too far away, until we rounded a bend and caught sight of the gondolas making their way up through the trees to the Skyline Restaurant. This was always the cue to look in amazement out the car window at the most mysterious of towns. Although it always did seem to be packed with people, rather expensive (so my parents told me) and full of construction everywhere we went. 

Nowadays, while the scenery remains undoubtedly spectacular and completely breathtaking, the town has long since reached capacity. The Bottle House (which was actually a lodge) was demolished in 2005 and every conceivable space is now filled with shops, bars, restaurants, souvenir shops and places to book activities like skydiving and bungy jumping.

So, here’s the thing about Queenstown: it has long been looked at as the goose that laid the golden egg in the tourism industry. However thanks to Covid-19 and the country’s international borders being shut, the goose has stopped laying. It’s a perfect example of what happens to a tourist destination when you take away all the tourists, it just feels a little bit ho hum, like something is missing. The streets felt a wee bit unkempt and a general malaise hung in the air. It’s almost as if without a heaving mass of tourists to keep the party going, everyone suddenly noticed that the balloon had burst, and when that happens the only thing left to say is ‘oh poop!’.

I can’t say I wasn’t pleased to leave Queenstown because I was, but I knew I’d be back. I’m just not sure why.

Skyline Bungy In Queenstown

Skyline Bungy In QueenstownBuy

Bungy jumping is so much fun, I’ve done it twice. Once in Skippers Canyon and once off the Kawarau Bridge. When I jumped off the Kawarau bridge I went backwards which involved leaning back and being suspended there until they they let you go. It was actually rather comfortable until they said “bye” and let me go.  I knew it was coming yet it was still a surprise! This photo was taken from the Skyline Bungy or Ledge Bungy located in Queenstown at the top of the Gondola at Bob’s Peak. Queenstown, the perfect place to fling yourself off perfectly good platforms. It sounds slightly crazy, but then AJ Hackett does crazy very well.

#dailypic

#moteloncarroll

Bush Creek In Queenstown

Bush Creek, Queenstown – Buy

There are all sorts of small bays and inlets that come off Lake Wakatipu and around Queenstown that are great for wandering around. This is Bush Creek, which is at the end of Queenstown Bay Beach back in Autumn and full of colour.


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Storm Clouds Over Lake Wakatipu

Lake Wakatipu

I love the colours in this image. A lot of people ask if the Lake really is that blue and the answer is yes due to it being formed and fed from glaciers and the presences of fine dust in the water from the Dart Valley that refracts light. It can also be extremely moody like here as a storm front bring wind and rain passes over the head of Lake Wakatipu, Pigeon and Pig Island in the Queenstown Lakes District, Otago.


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The Socially Distant Shopper

It’s not often I’m allowed to go grocery shopping for our household these days, you see, I have history with Supermarkets. It’s not that I’ve been completely banned by my family from stepping foot on the premises, it’s just that it’s better for all concerned if I don’t go. To be clear, I am entrusted to pick-up small amounts of items that are essential to the evening’s meal, and beer. But nothing more beyond that. 

Kiwi chef Simon Gault often speaks about adding 5% magic to dishes to really elevate it and give it WOW factor. My banishment from the weekly shop started with this very premise, adding 5% magic. Originally, some years back during the regular weekly shop I added a few extra, carefully chosen items to the trolley to add that 5% magic to one of the weekly meals. I then repeated this the next time I went grocery shopping, once again adding a few extra, carefully chosen items to the trundler to elevate one of the nightly dishes. This process then continued for some time, with me adjusting the list accordingly as I went and occasionally coming home with more items that weren’t on the list than were. 

The second to last straw came one day when I arrived home and started unpacking the grocery bags out of the car.
“Where are the rest?” my wife said.
To which I responded “what do you mean? This is it”. 

The next short while was spent with myself having to explain how in fact it is humanly possible to spend such a large amount on so few items and still manage to forget essentials like toilet paper, bread, milk or 95% of the other items I went out to get.

The final straw in my banishment from the weekly shop came after my invention of the sport ‘grocery item tower-building’. After a lengthy absence from the shop floor, I was once again entrusted with the food gathering task. Off I went, list in hand, my wife accompanying me and acting as chaperone to ensure I brought something that was edible for all and stuck somewhat closely to a budget. Having successfully negotiated all the aisles, I added a few last minute items (that would definitely add 5% magic) before proceeding to the checkout. Upon arrival at the checkout, I then proceeded to build a tower with our grocery items on the conveyor belt. The object here being to build the highest possible tower without it falling over when the conveyor belt is moved.  My tower, having reached ten items high, unfortunately proceeded to crash to the ground and all over the counter when forward movement was applied. The imploding tower resulted in two things. Firstly, my grocery item tower-building personal best of nine items still stood, and my banishment from the weekly grocery shop. 

Here, many years later on a windy Saturday morning, my first trip anywhere in a week, I found myself standing in line outside Countdown. List in hand, once again being entrusted with the weekly shop. I can thank PM Jacinda Ardern for this turn of events. “Shop normally,” she said.” I was also told that it would do my mental health the world of good to venture out. So off I was sent with the mission of doing the weekly shop. 

The line to gain access to Countdown stretched all the way through the carpark and almost out to the footpath. Maybe it was it an early morning for us all, maybe it was the cold wind, maybe there was a sign saying ‘no talking or smiling while in line’ that I had missed or maybe everyone else wasn’t as excited as me. Upon joining the end of the queue, I copied what was clearly the expected protocol and stood in silence. The hushed stillness was deafening. Once and a while we’d all take two steps forward, inching closer to the main door yet keeping a good 2 metre gap. The somber and bleak line continued to inch forward at regular 2 metre intervals with the occasional break in silence coming from the sound of a car heading past or someone questioning if we were allowed to bring our own bags, if we had to wear face masks or if they were handling cash? For the greatest time, I couldn’t put my finger on what the mournful feeling reminded me of when the answer suddenly appeared in the wind. It was like being back at school. Everyone lined up waiting to be told off by the principal. I found myself imagining an irate Cabinet Minister stomping up and down the line, telling everyone off for not shopping properly and stating that this is what it’s going to be like until we prove we could shop properly. Again we stepped forward, one person entering as one person exited, eagerly waiting our turn, list tightly gripped. 

The next 40 minutes was one of the most unique shopping experiences I will encounter. Everyone walked around in silence, some with gloves and mask, some taking their time soaking up every ounce of time allowed out, others racing around the aisles like Lewis Hamilton through the chicanes at Monte Carlo. My second stop, after the beer, was the fruit and vegetable section. It seems that the 2 metre rule doesn’t apply when you’re choosing your capsicums, lettuce, cauliflower or beans! My first listed item was cauliflower. Having scanned the surrounding area and establishing a healthy 2 metre gap between myself and one other person, I went for it. With only four left I was quite delighted to be able to add one to my trolley when suddenly a hand appeared. Out of nowhere my trolley collected a heavy bump, shifting me sideways a bit and a wrinkled old hand, covered in rings and bracelets suddenly grabbed two of the four and disappeared. Before I could gather my senses, another one disappeared, from my left hand side this time. I quickly grabbed the single remaining cauliflower and retreated. What I proceeded to watch was people applying the ‘dive in out out quickly’ method to grab their chilled vegetables. No patience, no 2 metre gap, similar to a six kid lolly scramble that had got slightly out of control.

Fortunately, the rest of the shop was calmer. Casually being able to amble through the isles adjusting the list accordingly as I went. The empty shelves meaning my family didn’t have to worry about extra items being added for that 5% magic. The biscuit aisle seemed to be another hotspot where large groups of people had obviously decided to risk it and break the 2 metre rule. Fortunately my list didn’t have them on it and on I went to the baking aisle where a barren shelf greeted me, only an empty space left where the High Grade Flour used to be. With that being the only item on my list not to be crossed off, I paid and headed out the door. 
Feeling very impressed with my ability to stick to a list and stick to a budget without adding extra items, my mind turned towards packing. I was suddenly drawn to a halt by the lady in front. In one motion she had instantly frozen and clicked her fingers.
“Oh shoot” she said, the jingling sound of her bracelets catching my ear and eye as her wrinkled old hand covered in rings clicked her fingers.
“I forgot high grade flour” she added to no-one in particular. I smiled to myself, recognising her from the Cauliflower invasion. I paused, thought for a second, looked at my Cauliflower then watched her join the end of the queue via a detour to her car. It seems being kind and patient has its rewards I thought, my shopping trip having been made a little better.

Song of the Autumn LightQueens Drive, The Town Belt, Dunedin (2013).

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