(A continuation of the Christchurch to Queenstown Winter road trip)
We arrived in Queenstown around 8 pm and immediately checked in at the Copthorne Hotel and Resort, our room was overlooking Lake Wakatipu and we couldn’t wait to see the views the following morning.
The long drive from Geraldine to Queenstown was exhausting but we were ecstatic enough that we arrived safe and sound at our final destination and it definitely called for a round of beers.
From our hotel it was an easy walk down to the buzzing city centre. We were feeling quite peckish so we hurried ourselves downtown for some grub before the shops closed. Since it was Friday night, most restaurants and bars were packed out, and walking along the strip we started to wonder where we would eat? Eventually we found a Thai restaurant which was warm and cosy, the spring rolls and good old red curry filled us up helping combat the dropping temperature outside.
Ta-da! The morning came, and the views from our room were sublime, the lake was peaceful and tranquil with dramatic snow caped mountains providing the backdrop, it was surreal indeed.
After brekkie, it was time to hit the road again, first on our itinerary was a visit to the Arrowtown Chinese Settlement, a former gold mining town. Surrounded by Mother Nature, the village has been rebuilt and restored so you can get a real sense of how the Chinese miners lived there during the gold rush era, their harsh life especially during winter time.
Our next stop for morning tea was the Old Cromwell Town located on the shores of Lake Dunstan in Central Otago. You’ll find here a lot of history stretching back to the gold rush days, a visit to the museum is must do, and what better way to enjoy a cuppa with the splendid views of the lake at the Green and Seed Cafe.
After morning tea, we headed back on the Gibbston Highway towards the Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge, which is mainly used for bungy jumping by AJ Hackett Bungy. It’s a drop alright, and if you’re seeking a thrill, this spot is not to be missed!
For lunch, we endeavoured to arrive at Amisfield Bistro but we missed the last order, never mind, the wine tasting made up for the loss. The rest of the afternoon, we drove and visited the following wineries, Gibbston Valley Winery, Waitiri Creek Wines and Peregrine Wines which were all top notch.
Our last day was fully packed, first on our agenda was the lake cruise by Southern Discoveries departing by 10:00am for one hour & 15 minutes – $29NZD. This cruise will take you around Lake Wakatipu, with shorts stops at Frankton Arm, Cecil Peak and the Hidden Island, also giving everyone the chance to drink the water straight from the lake, it’s that pure. Apart from the stunning 360 degrees views, you’ll learn a lot of history from the skipper’s commentaries. Lord of The Ring fans take note, be sure to wear thick layered jackets, hat/cap, scarf and gloves if you join this tour during winter, it’s freezing out there on the lake, and when the boat powers up, you’ll be glad you rugged-up! The tour includes complimentary coffee and tea to keep the fingers warm.
For historians, the TSS Earnslaw, built on the 4th July 1911 and launched in 1912 still provides leisure cruises on the lake and is a grand old lady not to be missed.
Our last stop was to see Queenstown from high above, the gondola ride by Skyline Queenstown Gondola – $35NZD per person adult. The panoramic view of Queenstown from the top was breathtaking, picture perfect. The previous night as we walked into town, we noticed a strange presence, shrouded in mist and producing a ghostly light from very high above, in daylight we could see the building and the cable car connecting it, it looked high and steep, and as we got closer, the shear scale of it certainly didn’t disappoint! It was around 4:00pm when we got there and the winter sun was slowly disappearing beneath the horizon, the cable car took us high and steep up the side to the top, providing incredible views as it climbed. We walked along the high trail but the snow was very thick so we decided to go back inside and have a coffee while we enjoyed the incredible vista. There are packages available, gondola ride and luge, gondola ride with lunch or dinner and other packages, please visit their website, www.skyline.co.nz for details.
We departed Queenstown with Air New Zealand and the views were incredible over the Canterbury region in the South Island heading to Christchurch for our connecting flight for Sydney.
We might have missed other interesting places in Queenstown, but surely those places will give us the reason to go back again, next time we will hit the snowfields.
New Zealand really is a slice of heaven!