Ultimate Tourister R
ecently my life changed for the better when I was informed by the lovely Marli from FRANk Media that I was the winner of the American Tourister Australia and New Zealand & Go Travel New Zealand Magazine ‘Queenstown Extravaganza competition’ which included THE most wonderful American Tourister Prismo suitcase, (incidentally the new love of my life), …AND the most amazing trip to stunning Queenstown, New Zealand.
We flew with Jetstar and were impressed with the efficient service and friendly smiles of all the Jetstar personnel. The flight in to Queenstown is surprising and exhilarating. One minute you are flying within the mountains and seconds later safely on the ground. An incredible flight!
Accommodation was at Earnslaw Lodge. What can you say? Million dollar service, squillion dollar views, spotlessly clean, AMAZINGLY comfortable (with ‘wish I had’) beds. ‘Earne-ing’ a 5 star smile, … available at budget prices too. It was hard to drag ourselves from the view but we had exploring to do and the hearty breakfasts served each morning were the perfect start to each days adventures.
The zippy hire car from Omega Car rentals seemed as excited as we were to head off to explore, with lake and mountain views bombarding us at every twist and turn. Our first port of call was Glenorchy. A delightful 45 minute drive, this quaint town is easily accessible providing an array of unique galleries, cafes, picnic locations, horse riding opportunities and of course a much loved pub. We were tempted to stay for lunch but were lured back to Queenstown by our restaurant reservation at ‘Botswana Butchery’, where fantastic service, a stylish menu and quality settings made for a memorable lunch.
Botswana Butchery is conveniently (and picturesquely) located on the waterfront near the Kawarau Jet Boat ‘Two Rivers’ depot and underwater observatory. We were excited to try both and were glad we did. The jetboat provided an exhilarating mix of scenic beauty combined with adrenalin rushes from 360-degree spins, laughter and WOW moments. Everyone deserves this much fun and wind through their hair once in a while! On departing the jet boat we descended the stairs of the underwater observatory where we discovered a coin slot to release food encouraging a feeding frenzy of HUGE salmon, gleaming trout, greedy ducks and a decidedly creepy GIANT black eel all enjoying the free lunch. A unique experience well worth a visit, promising fun for all ages.
My husband doesn’t ski but he does enjoy delicious hot chocolate and where better to sip a steaming mug than on Coronet Peak whilst watching the ski and snowboarding fun. What a stunning location and SO close to town making it an easy drive and great outing whether you ski or not! How cute to watch the tiny toddlers whizzing along on their skis on the nursery slopes. Show offs!
Lunch was a world famous Fergburger. The queue proves its popularity but moves with effortless ease ensuring you’re in hamburger heaven in no time. With buns baked next door at Fergbakery you can be assured each bite is freshly delicious. You cannot go to Queenstown without trying a Fergburger.
The next morning started crisply with the beauty and novelty of snow but by afternoon the sky cleared providing us with the opportunity to experience an item from my bucket list, … do yourselves a favour, add it to yours too! A fly – cruise – fly trip into Milford Sound with Glenorchy Air who offer a unique range of affordable flights in state of the art 8 seater Gippsland GA8 Airvans. This ultimate small plane has wings above the windows ensuring uninterrupted and truly spectacular views for everyone. You may even find yourself seated up front as ‘co pilot’, … like me! Flying over Queenstown township we followed Lake Wakatipu to Glenorchy to pick up two more passengers which happily provided us with a fun bonus landing and takeoff on a grassed runway. The colours of the lake, countryside and snow capped mountains couldn’t be any more spectacular. From Glenorchy we soared over snow covered mountain outcrops that felt close enough to touch rising row after row before us. Our friendly, knowledgeable pilot pointed out landmarks including bushwalker huts, glaciers, mountain ranges and film locations from the Lord of the Rings. Suddenly the landscape changed as we descended past the Tutoko Glacier into the rain forests surrounding Milford Sound. We flew the length
of Milford Sound getting close and personal to waterfalls and cliff faces before landing and joining a relaxing but exhilarating Southern Discoveries Cruise to experience ‘the Sound’ from a different perspective. We cruised the magical waters in comfort right to the Tasman Sea to feel the power of the swell before returning to the calm and almost mythical Milford Sound waters. We were lucky to see resident seals sunning themselves on the rocks and graceful dolphins followed our boat to top off an already perfect magical day. The homeward flight was equally spectacular and our pilot took us on a different course so we experienced a number of new wondrous sights. A huge thanks to Glenorchy Air for the experience of a lifetime.
In the evening we boarded the Skyline Gondola to rise 450 meters above Queenstown. Skyline Gondola is a feat of engineering cut into the hill overlooking the panoramic delights of the expanses of Queenstown and on to the Remarkables, Cecil and Walter Peaks and of course Lake Wakatipu. Queenstown is the town made for superlatives but the view truly is dramatic, spectacular and truly amazing! My camera will demand a holiday after this trip as it’s working hard!
We enjoyed the Kiwi Haka showcasing the traditional song and dance of the Maori people. The fearsome Haka and the poi display were well received and were at times ‘hands on’ encouraging willing participants to join the show, which was great fun.
After the show we enjoyed a buffet to die(t) for! Quality AND quantity with every mouthful showcasing fresh produce and local products including green-lipped mussels and venison cooked to perfection.
The next day was AJ Hackett adventure day. These Bungy experts offer an array of activities and I was out to prove you don’t have to be a 20 year old adrenaline junky to experience an awesome time in Queenstown. I couldn’t quite bring myself to attempt a bungy jump but I spent an entertaining hour mesmerized by all those braver than I (of all ages) leaping headfirst off the bridge spanning the fast flowing Kawarau River. Some screamed, others leapt silently but all had my heart leaping out of my chest even from the viewing platform. I then got strapped into a harness for an exhilarating 130m; 60kph ride on the zip line. With a choice of sitting, ‘flying’, upside down or backwards this is an activity for all ages. Kitted out with my own go-pro I filmed the run as I went and it was sensational fun. A big enough rush for me!
A short drive away was the Gibbston Valley Cheesery and delicafé. Here we stopped to sample an exquisite range of award winning sheep, cow and goat milk cheeses which proved to be a party for my tastebuds. I left with a delicious take home pack along with gourmet goodies including honey, fudge and also some new ‘art-gallery’ quality cheese knives. A delightful place to visit and spend an hour or two.
Further down the road is the picturesque old gold mining town, Arrowtown. A busy hub of activity offering a day of gold mining history, shopping, dining, river walks, spectacular photography opportunities, … and my favourite. Gold panning! For just $5 we hired a pan to have a go at finding ourselves a huge nugget, … but settled on a shiny flake. Great fun for kids and adults alike.
No trip to Queenstown is complete without a ride on the TSS Earnslaw Vintage Steamship. This beautiful Steamer was built in 1912 to service the farming communities and the trip includes open licence to explore the boilers, engine room, promenade deck, wheel bridge and saloon. You can sit back and take in the views whilst enjoying a delicious hot chocolate or mulled wine or enjoy snacks from the bar, head to the back for an interactive museum experience or enjoy the pianist playing in the warmth of the indoor saloon. You have the option to disembark at the destination of Walter Peak High Country Farm to enjoy a world class BBQ lunch or dinner and a range of activities including horse riding, cycling or visiting the woolshed, red deer and working sheep dog displays.
Holiday time was running out for me, but I promise myself I’ll be back soon and there was still time for one more fun activity. Dark Ride XD Theatre offers a range of 7D and 6D movie ride simulators where you can experience a choice of a range of interactive adventures. We chose to power through space on a rollercoaster and then fought zombies using the world’s fastest targeting system.
Thanks to the team at Go Travel New Zealand Magazine, American Tourister Australia & New Zealand and FRANk Media for the holiday of a lifetime!
This is one week I’ll never forget.