For the entirety of our trip we’d heard lots about Queenstown – how it was the place to be and that you could never spend enough time there. I was half expecting it to be overrated and come away disappointed but I was very wrong. I’ve become yet another Queenstown convert as I loved it and thought it lived up to the hype.
Queenstown is somewhere that I would love to be with unlimited funds as there are lots of great restaurants, exciting activities and fancy shops that you can enjoy. Whether or not you plan on indulging I’d recommend budgeting to spend a little bit more whilst in Queenstown just because it is a bit more expensive than elsewhere in New Zealand and it’s nice to treat yourself now and again.
The first thing we did when we arrived in Queenstown was head for the Skyline and Luge, having thoroughly enjoyed both previously in Rotorua. Unlike in Rotorua there is only the option of two tracks but it’s still good fun. The views over Queenstown and The Remarkables mountain range from the top of the Skyline are beautiful and I would love to return one day and indulge in a meal at the restaurant looking out over the view.
The whole time that we were in Queenstown the weather was really hot and sunny so it was nice to sit on the beach in the evening and watch the sun set. We also had a really nice walk around the Queenstown gardens and around the shops looking for souvenirs.
Whilst most people heading to Queenstown are set to do a skydive or bungy jump (Queenstown is the home of the first commercial bungy and is widely regarded as the adventure capital of the world) I was happy to do something a little less intense, which is how we ended up on the Funyak trip.
You start the day with a scenic drive through to nearby Glenorchy before getting into a jet boat to travel up the Dart River. This is the adrenaline fueled part of the day and I actually enjoyed it an awful lot more than I expected. It was really fun travelling so fast and doing 360° spins in the boat. When you stop you’re all ready to get into your Funyak!
A Funyak is basically an inflatable canoe which you then paddle back down the river. It’s quite a chilled activity as the river is only classed as a Grade 1 on the rafting scale but it’s still good fun and you are treated to some beautiful scenery. The Dart River seems to be a favourite in the film industry and has appeared in the Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia as well as multiple other films and adverts.
Before lunch we paddled through a chasm where the water gets a lot deeper (to about 15m) and was a really turquoise colour. This was my favourite part of the trip as paddling through the chasm felt really magical. I actually jumped in the water here, the only place I’ve been brave enough to, and it was freezing cold! However as it was such a hot day I warmed up instantly.
When we got to the end of our trip I was quite disappointed as I just wanted to continue paddling through the mountainous scenery. The trip was expensive but good value for money as it really was a full day trip. All transfers, equipment and a lovely buffet lunch are included too so if you’re looking for something a bit different then I’d recommend the Funyak trip.
Ben Lomond Track
The Ben Lomond track is a full day hike that takes you up to the summit with incredible views over Queenstown and the snow capped peaks of the Mount Aspiring National Park. There’s not much coverage and it was incredibly hot when we did the walk so I really struggled and almost gave up as we were in the full sun but we eventually made it and the views more than made up for it.
You can shave some time and walking off by taking the Skyline up the first section and walking from there but we decided to walk all the way from our hostel in Queenstown, starting up to the gondola through the woods on the One Mile Powerhouse track. We stopped briefly at the Skyline station for a toilet break and water bottle refill before continuing uphill to the Ben Lomond Saddle.
Just the view from the Saddle (about an hour before the summit) is beautiful and is still a decent walk if you don’t want to go all the way to the top. Whilst we were having a break here we witnessed a marriage proposal which was really romantic and a stunning location to choose!
The walk from the Saddle to the summit is the hardest part and it was reassuring that other people were also finding it hard. A number of people gave up (which made me feel a lot better about finding it so difficult) and everyone who was coming down gave you lots of encouragement to keep going so it felt like a really friendly walk. The trick is just to keep going at your own pace and take it steady with regular breaks.
The view from the top is my favourite view from our whole trip and we’ve been lucky enough to see some pretty spectacular views! It really felt like I was on top of the world and every direction was beautiful. Keep an eye on your lunch though… There are some mischievous Keas at the top who are on the lookout for food. One tried to steal James’s entire rucksack!
We managed to get down from the top a lot quicker than it took us to get up and for a bit of variety we headed down the Tiki Trail back into Queenstown once we had reached the Skyline station again.
Food and drink
Whilst we didn’t eat out at any of the lovely looking restaurants in Queenstown we did still treat ourselves to a few things…
Patagonia Ice Cream deserves a special mention as I think I had some almost every evening that we were there. It was absolutely delicious and it’s really close to the beach so you can buy an ice cream and then sit and watch the sunset. Whilst lots of the flavours looked great I particularly enjoyed the banana split flavour with an added drizzle of dark chocolate sauce. If you get just one scoop, which is still pretty large, and pay for a chocolate drizzle then the chocolate forms a hard shell over the ice cream. We did try it with two scoops but it didn’t quite work as well.
A lot of people head to Queenstown to party but if you’re not interested in going wild it’s pretty easy to avoid. We decided to head to the ice bar one evening which was quite pricey but fun for the novelty value. Particularly when it was so hot outside it was quite fun getting wrapped up in a thick coat and gloves to head into sub zero temperatures for a drink. We really enjoyed it but had never been in one before. I maybe wouldn’t have bothered if I had.
The other foodie thing we treated ourselves to was a famous Fergburger. People literally queue all along the street for one of these so we were keen to see what all the fuss was about. By our final evening we’d worked out when the queue was shortest so timed it perfectly to get our burgers. I had a Sweet Bambi which was a venison burger with brie, boysonberry and onion chutney, lettuce and tomato. It was a really good burger but I don’t think any burger is worth waiting in such a long queue for so I’d recommend trying to get your timing right.
I really enjoyed Queenstown and would happily return again. It is very popular with tourists so it’s best to book accommodation in advance as it gets booked fast. Queenstown is also a good base from which to visit Milford Sound.