Ul­ti­mate Touris­ter R

Go Travel New Zealand - - Northland - By Linda Ste­abben

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.

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