QUEENSTOWN is known as the ‘adventure capital of the world’, a place where thrill-seekers and outdoor sports aficionados of all ages are thoroughly spoilt for choice – it’s New Zealand’s premier all-seasons’ tourist resort, an area of breath-taking natural beauty . . . and my holiday home for over 50 years.
Staying at the Jagged Edge 10 minutes from Queenstown, you have peace and seclusion away from the bustling crowds and coach tours, but you also have the opportunity to try a dazzling array of activities and excursions to suit all tastes.
Lake Wakatipu on a Revolution Tours' cycle trip. Picture by Laurence Belcher, Revolution Tours.
Your Luxe Houses concierge can arrange an adrenaline-pumping trip up the spectacular Shotover Canyon in the world-famous Shotover River Jets, a favourite of Prince William and Kate when they visited Queenstown in 2014; or a more leisurely jet-boat expedition up the braided Dart River, deep in the Mt Aspiring National Park, combined with a dreamy drift downstream in inflatable kayaks known as Funyaks amid scenery made famous by Sir Peter Jackson in the Lord of the Rings trilogy . . . a trip I’ve done twice, I loved it so much.
If you have a day to spare and enjoy cycling, the delightful Kate and Matt Belcher from Revolution Tours will guide you on an unforgettable experience starting with a cruise across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak Station on the ‘Lady of the Lake’, the 104-year old steamer TSS Earnslaw, cycling along the lake edge to Mt Nicholas Station or up the pristine Rees and Dart Rivers to a place aptly named Paradise where you are encircled by a necklace of towering mountains named after Greek gods. A cruisy ride made even easier by electric bikes (by arrangement) if your fitness, like mine, is not up to hills. Return to Queenstown by road, boat or helicopter.
Also on your doorstep are my favourite ski fields, Coronet Peak, the Remarkables, Cardrona and Treble Cone, and the best heli-skiing and snowshoeing in the country.
Queenstown is the base for three of New Zealand’s Great Walks: the Routeburn, Hollyford and Milford Tracks (I’ve hiked them all and so should you), and scenic flights to Milford Sound and other Fiordland wonders. An overnight cruise on Milford Sound, passing close by iconic Mitre Peak, Stirling and Bowen Falls and seal and penguin colonies en route to the Tasman Sea is an absolute must. It’s magic.
For those who like to hurtle from high places (count me out!), there’s bungy jumping at AJ Hackett’s original 43m Kawarau River bridge site and others, tandem hang gliding, sky diving and canyon swinging.
Dart River Jetboat performing a 360 spin. Picture by Ngai Tahu Tourism.
Quieter pastimes include wine tours to the Gibbston Valley, Wanaka and Bannockburn, famous for their pinot noir and mind-boggling scenery. Stop off at Hollywood actor Sam Neill’s Two Paddock’s Winery and Amisfield’s gorgeous cellar door at Lake Hayes too.
Arrowtown, the boom town of the 1860s gold rush, is now a quaint but stylish holiday destination where you can meander up the Arrow River, pan for gold during the day, dine at the renowned Saffron restaurant in the evening and then visit the subterranean wine bar, the Blue Door, for a nightcap by a roaring open fire.
If golfing is your passion, Michael Hill’s golf course, the Hills, is a PGA-rated course where many celebrities and VIPs have played. Former US President Bill Clinton played at Millbrook near Arrowtown when he visited New Zealand in 1999 and described the region as: “Breath-taking ... I wish I had weeks to spend here… everyone was just gasping when we saw the landscape. It’s so beautiful.”
Wanaka and Kelvin Heights also have picturesque golf courses.
If time permits, a day trip to Wanaka up the zig-zag road and over the Crown Range stopping at the historic Cardrona Hotel for a pint of Speights, ‘Southern Man’ beer, followed by wine-tasting at the extraordinarily-scenic Rippon Vineyard overlooking Lake Wanaka is the stuff of dreams . . . a recurrent one of mine.
Depending on the season, a whiz around the award-winning international winter car testing track on the Mt Pisa range might be possible.
The round trip takes you home via the stunning Kawerau Gorge, the celebrated vineyards and wineries of the Gibbston Valley and AJ Hackett’s bungy jump.
The Skippers Canyon road is not for the faint-hearted but the history and scenery are mind-boggling.
Queenstown has a myriad of excellent fine dining restaurants and is also home to the famous gourmet burger joint, Fergburger. There are plenty of up-market boutiques, a casino or two and a quirky wine-tasting bar, The Winery, that serves 80 of New Zealand’s best wines . . . and a few great whiskies too, my husband tells me.
The fly fishing is fabulous too . . . and white water rafting . . . and the luge . . . and the panorama from the Skyline Gondola on Bob’s Peak . . . but one of my favourite ‘activities’ is relaxing in the sun, drinking in the mountains and the lake, and a glass of chilled Terra Sancta Rosé from Bannockburn.
Justine Tyerman 8/3/16