Queenstown is New Zealand’s adventure playground
Majestic mountains … A crystal-clear lake … Pure alpine air … stunning surroundings …
Queenstown has it all. And it’s a pretty lively resort town to boot. Situated neatly in a bay on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, with the appropriately-named Remarkables mountain range towering nearby, it serves as ski centre in winter and hotspot for the great outdoors in summer. The list of adrenalin enhancing activities is endless, with sky diving, bungy jumping and white water rafting just the beginning …
The countryside surrounding Queenstown has long lured people to the region. From the early Maori tribes who came searching for the highly prized greenstone (a hard nephrite jade found in New Zealand and parts of Australia) to the European settlers who were drawn here first by the fertile soils, then by the discovery of gold, the attraction is historic.
These days it’s more about the après ski and outdoor action than treasure and riches, but a visit here is sure to provide you with a wealth of good times.
Visually arresting natural features share centre stage with vibrant resort towns, rich cultural diversity, primordial heritage areas, striking mountain ranges and sophisticated hospitality. The Southern Lakes scenery and culture has inspired poets, artists, authors, musicians, and every sort of adventurer as well as everyday people. A rich tapestry of shimmering lakes, rugged mountains and a strong southern culture combine to offer a unique four season destination.
And it’s not just the 1.4 million tourists who visit each year that realise the magical value of the area. Hollywood has gotten in on the action too, turning the region into Middle Earth. The Lord of the Rings movies were filmed here. The scenery was made for Tolkien’s fantastical tales – and perhaps for you, a holiday you’ll never forget.
Did You Know?
- Kiwi is the nickname given to people from New Zealand.
- The oldest person to bungy jump in Queenstown was 94 years old.
- Around 500 people a day lined up outside the casting office during filming of The Lord of the Rings.
- The area is said to be the southernmost wine producing region in the world – its pinot noir is considered an exceptional drop.
How to Get Here
Queenstown Airport (ZQN) is located just 9 km from the centre of the city.
Connectabus offers service to and from all major hotels in the Queenstown region, Sunshine Bay, Fernhill, Frankton and Arrowtown. Kiwi Shuttles and Super Shuttle Queenstown offer shuttle services from the airport to Queenstown.
Taxis are readily available outside the Arrivals level.
Several national and local car rental companies have counters at the airport.
New Zealand Dollar
The most convenient way to access cash in local currency is to use a debit or credit card in an ATM in New Zealand. All banks have ATMs accessible 24-hours a day, generally outside the branch or in the foyer.You might be charged a fee by your bank, and you may need a new PIN number, so contact your bank or credit card company before you travel to make sure you’ll be able to access your account.
For locations of ATMs you can visit these VISA and MasterCard Web sites.
Travellers cheques are becoming less popular in New Zealand. If you do use travellers cheques, take cheques in NZ$ not Canadian or US funds. Travellers cheques can be exchanged for cash at banks, exchange houses and large hotels, or used to settle accounts in some, but by no means all, retail or dining establishments.
Credit cards are accepted in most establishments in New Zealand. Be aware you may be charged a fee to use credit cards abroad, and you should let your issuing company know what countries you are travelling to, as their fraud departments can sometimes freeze cards used in foreign countries.
What will the seasonal weather be like?
New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere so summer is from December to February, while winter falls in June, July and August.
The South Island is generally cooler than the North Island, although Summer temperatures in Queenstown often hit the high 20s and even 30s Celsius. Winters are fresh and crisp, with clear skies, plenty of sunshine and temperatures around -2 to 10 degrees Celsius. Regular snowfall in the region creates vast winter playgrounds.
Rainfall is common throughout the country and provides New Zealand its lush, green countryside.
Be aware that the weather can change unexpectedly, even in summer, so be prepared if you’re heading off on an outdoor adventure.
Relatively small and compact, Queenstown is easy enough to get around on foot. If you do require transport, Connectabus operates three lines, one of which goes to the airport and another that travels to historic Arrowtown, a popular stop with visitors. All routes start from O’Connell’s Shopping Centre on Camp Street, and they service most hotels and motels. Multi-ride day passes are available and you can hop on and off any time you like. Buy your ticket on the bus.
If you plan to travel further afield, the InterCity Bus can get you there. The booking office is in the Queenstown Travel & Visitor Centre in the Clocktower building on the corner of Shotover and Camp Streets.
Taxis are readily available in Queenstown. Only ever get into a licensed taxi, which should have a meter running. You can flag a taxi in the street, or call private hire car companies to arrange a pick-up time and location.
If you want to rent a car, free city maps are available from car rental companies or the Queenstown Travel & Visitor Centre, but, investing in a handheld GPS system featuring turn-by-turn voice directions could be invaluable. GPS systems today also feature points of interest that are nearby your location, and many other features that will provide a level of confidence while navigating in a foreign country.
Note You can purchase a New Zealand Travelpass, which provides several options to travel by coach, ferry and rail nationwide. Passes are valid for 12 months.
What not to miss …
World Heritage Site(s)
Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritages are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world. There are currently three World Heritage Sites in New Zealand
Queenstown is located (A day trip) near Te Wahipounamu, which is one of three World Heritage Sites in New Zealand. The landscape in this park, has been shaped by successive glaciations into fjords, rocky coasts, towering cliffs, lakes and waterfalls.
Two-thirds of the park is covered with southern beech and podocarps, some of which are over 800 years old. The kea, the only alpine parrot in the world, lives in the park, as does the rare and endangered takahe, a large flightless bird. The Westland and Mount Cook National Park and the Fiordland National Park, which were previously inscribed on the World Heritage List, are part of Te Wahipounamu – South West New Zealand.
To see and do …
An icon of the lake since she first began carrying passengers and cargo in 1912, the TSS Earnslaw has earned her place in the history books. This vintage steamship – the last one of her kind on the lake – still delights visitors with cruises that transport you to a bygone era when roads were few, and people, cattle and goods had to be ferried around by boat.
For one of the best views in Queenstown, take a ride on the Skyline Gondola. It carries you 790m to the top of Bob’s Peak for spectacular views. It’s a great way to relax and watch the country unfold beneath you. At the top you’ll find The Luge, a winding track that you can speed down in a cart for some fast-paced fun. Choose the scenic route for the chance to admire the view.
For a taste of history, visit Arrowtown. This former gold-mining spot is 21km from Queenstown and quite different with its wooden buildings, 19th century shops and original miners’ cottages. Once one of the largest gold mining towns in the country, it’s now a charming place that even caught the eye of The Lord of the Rings producers.
The Southern Lakes Region This stunning region really is like no other. Visually arresting natural features share centre stage with vibrant resort towns, rich cultural diversity, heritage areas, striking mountain ranges and sophisticated hospitality. The Southern Lakes scenery and culture has inspired Hollywood movie makers, poets, artists, authors, musicians, and every sort of adventurer as well as more usual everyday people. A rich tapestry of shimmering lakes, rugged mountains and a strong southern culture combines to offer a unique four season destination.
Queenstown, Lake Wanaka and Te Anau These lake-side resorts share an adventurous spirit and natural splendour. Queenstown and Wanaka are separated by just one hour’s drive over the Crown Range. The resort town of Te Anau is an ideal base for exploring the Fiordland National Park – New Zealand’s largest National Park and a World Heritage area.
Backcountry Adventures Much of the region’s territory is alpine. Make sure you’re well equipped for sudden changes in conditions. If unsure of what you should take, please consult with the Department of Conservation and remember to fill in the Intentions Book where appropriate. There are several excellent sports and alpine shops which hire all equipment required for backcountry exploration.
For the kids …
A Double Decker Bus Tour offers sightseeing with a difference – you peer down on the town from the top of a genuine, bright red, British double decker bus. It passes many points of interest and the driver keeps up a lively commentary on the way.
The Kiwi & Birdlife Park showcases all that’s fascinating about New Zealand’s unique flora and fauna. A hidden sanctuary in the middle of town, highlights include live conservation shows, where you get to meet some of the creatures, and a replica Maori hunting village, where a resident Maori brings to life the history of his ancestors.
Lord of the Rings Tours are likely to be a hit with adults and children alike. Even if you’re not a fan of the lengthy tomes, the tours offer a chance to see some of the jaw-dropping scenery captured on film in the movie versions. Many scenes were filmed around Queenstown, including the Warg battle, Gandalf’s ride to Minas Tirith and the Rohan refugees trek to Helm’s Deep.
Getting around the downtown area is best by foot – many shops are in pedestrian areas or hidden down narrow lanes.
To browse through unique arts and crafts head to the Saturday market at Earnslaw Park, near Steamer Wharf. Imported goods are banned, so you can be sure anything you purchase is genuinely handmade by artisans from around the South Island.
Queenstown is arguably the best place in the world to buy traditional wool and sheepskin clothing and indigenous Pounamu (Greenstone). Specialist adventure outfitting stores are a real treat – buying recreational equipment such as skis, snowboards, kayaks, mountaineering gear and associated clothing is an adventure in itself.
In Arrowtown you’ll find a unique shopping atmosphere along historic Buckingham Street – boutique and speciality stores offering exquisite hand-made chocolates, premier clothing, local wines, fine arts and local crafts including jade, crystal and gold.
And if you are looking for genuine possum skin clothing, Glenorchy is the spot.
Queenstown after dark …
Queenstown is sprinkled with drinking establishments, from lively, backpacker-crowded clubs to low-key lounges with open fires in winter. For its size, Queenstown has an abundant variety of dining spots – there are more than 150 – and you can try almost any cuisine in the world.
For a meal to remember and a taste of all that’s local, take the gondola to the top of Bob’s Peak and dine at the Skyline Restaurant. Recently refurbished, this swanky eatery serves up a scrumptious feast of New Zealand delights every night, with views to match. If dinner’s not on your menu, head to the adjoining Skyline Bar and swoon over the scenery and the cocktails.
Sports / Outdoor Adventure
Queenstown’s reputation as one of the world’s favourite adrenaline-pumping destinations of choice is well deserved. From the mild to the wild you’ll find your adventure threshold here. The expansive natural physical environment offers superb air, water and land based activities.
Skydiving, bungy jumping, jetboating, canyon swinging, whitewater rafting, parapenting, skiing, heli-skiing, sailing, hiking, fishing, cycling, golfing, off-roading, mountain biking … and the list goes on …
Local Customs and Etiquette
Most Kiwi etiquette rules relate to issues of equality. There is little class structure and not much racial tension between the many different ethnic groups. New Zealanders tend to be outgoing and often express an interest in overseas visitors.
A fairly liberal, forward-thinking country – New Zealand gave women the right to vote back in 1893
As a rule, Kiwis are a laid-back, friendly bunch. You’ll probably hear the phrase “How’s it going bro?” between friends and strangers alike, and if something’s good it’s often described as “sweet as”.
Most Kiwis are very environmentally conscious and treat their land with a sense of respect that stems from the traditional Maori view that everything in nature has a life force. Damaging that life force hurts both the object and the offender. Actions that flaunt this belief are frowned upon.
Tipping is not expected in New Zealand. If you have received good service at a restaurant and want to show appreciation, five to 10 per cent of the bill is fine. If you don’t tip, it doesn’t usually affect how quickly you get served.
Don’t be surprised if you see two people pressing noses in the street – it’s a traditional Maori greeting.
Above all, New Zealanders are honest and open, and appreciate the same from you.
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