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.
Just a bit farther along from the wharf is Queenstown Gardens, a relatively tranquil piece of green that juts out onto the lake.
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.
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.
Pretty soon, we cleared the trees and were walking out in the open.
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).
In almost no time at all, we were at the summit. The views all around were majestic.
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.