Southern Road Trip Pt. III – Queenstown

After the low-key atmosphere of Fiordland and Te Anau, Queenstown is somewhat of a shock to the system. It’s big, it’s brash, it’s bold. By New Zealand standards, that is. If Wanaka is like Summit County (Colorado), then Queenstown is more a mixture of Aspen and Boulder. Of New Zealand.

A good variety of restaurants, lots of trendy and expensive shops (saw one place selling Bugatti plumbing fixtures). A lot of tourists, crowding the main parts of town. With the number of American accents we heard around us, at times it felt like we were back in the US. I think all the waiters we had at all the restaurants were Americans.

The natural setting is undoubtedly very pretty. And Queenstown’s reputation as an outdoor and adventure sports mecca is well known (hence the tourism). Bungy jumping was apparently “invented”/started here. The town does make good use of the waterfront, with a lot of parks, lakefront paths, and many restaurants with outdoor seating.

Queenstown wharf [35mm, f/8, 1/125sec, ISO100]
The “square” is the place to hang out on a warm day [35mm, f/10, 1/60sec, ISO100]
Many restaurants along the waterfront [35mm, f/2, 1/640sec, ISO100]
The Vudu Cafe was one of our favourites for breakfast [85mm, f/2, 1/250sec, ISO100]
Just a bit farther along from the wharf is Queenstown Gardens, a relatively tranquil piece of green that juts out onto the lake.

Queenstown Gardens trail [85mm, f/3.5, 1/200sec, ISO100]
Lake Wakatipu from Queenstown Gardens [35mm, f/14, 1/50sec, ISO100]
We had one full day for our main activity, and decided on walking up Queenstown Hill. The trailhead is just above town, and the trail starts out immediately at a startlingly steep grade. Thankfully, it flattens out considerably very shortly as it ascends through the forest.

Walking up Queenstown Hill [35mm, f/2.8, 1/40sec, ISO100]
Every now and then we’d catch glimpses of the lake below through gaps in the trees. Made us feel like we were in Lake Garda, Italy.

The intermittent views are spectacular [35mm, f/8, 1/40sec, ISO100]
Unlike at Fiordland or Glenorchy, the forests above Queenstown are quite dry. Many pine trees; not many ferns. Reminded us a lot of Colorado hiking.

A familiar Colorado sight? [16mm, f/8, 1/15sec, ISO2500]
Pretty soon, we cleared the trees and were walking out in the open.

Above treeline on Queenstown Hill [35mm, f/8, 1/200, ISO100]
The views from above treeline were stunning. The lake shone an impossible shade of blue. The colour is due to “rock flour” (rocks ground up by glacial erosion).

Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown [16mm, f/8, 1/400sec, ISO100]
In almost no time at all, we were at the summit. The views all around were majestic.

Queenstown Hill panorama [16mm frames, f/16, 1/100, ISO100]
Summit family portrait in extremely windy conditions [35mm, f/4, 1/500sec, ISO100]
The remarkable Remarkables [35mm, f/8, 1/80sec, ISO100]
Due to the winds, we did not linger, and made our way down.

All in all, Queenstown was a mixed bag for us. We loved the variety and quality of food (the eggplant hawker roll at Madam Woo was heavenly). The crush of tourists, not so much (especially the throngs that thwarted my goal of tasting the famed Fergburger). The natural setting is beautiful, but felt very much like Colorado (so did not have as much of a “wow” factor for us). Still, it makes for a nice change of pace on the South Island.


4 thoughts on “Southern Road Trip Pt. III – Queenstown”

  1. Your pictures are stunning! We can’t wait to get to New Zealand and start our own adventures here, hopefully just a little while longer..loved reading about your Southern Road Trip 🙂

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