ADVENTURE CAPITAL OF THE SOUTH SEAS

“If you can’t do it in Queenstown, it hasn’t been invented.” Popular saying.

The holiday destination of Queenstown is a New Zealand success story. The lakeside town is recognized as one of the world’s top alpine resorts and is rapidly growing into the status of a city. It was named ‘Queenstown’ because the early European arrivals to the district decided it was a place ‘fit for Queen Victoria’.

Queenstown

The permanent population is 23,000 but this number doubles during the busy ski season. In 2013, close to two million visitors enjoyed the delights of this amazing resort resulting in Queenstown’s airport being the third busiest airport in New Zealand with frequent direct flights to Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch as well as Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast in Australia. Travelers from around the world voted the airport 7th in the ‘Top10 Best Airport Approaches in the World’ competition.  It was the only airport in the southern hemisphere to be on the list. A total of 79 airports were up for the award.

It can be a white knuckle experience flying into Queenstown. The plane’s wingtips seem worryingly close to the shear sides of the towering mountains and the updrafts caused by the terrain can throw the plane around like a plastic duck in a bath. If the approach is over Lake Wakatipu, then the passengers gaze out their windows in wonder at the town’s spectacular setting that makes this place so popular with tourists from the world over.

Join a flight as it flies over the mountains approaching Queenstown, then breaks through thick cloud to land:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mxmFCw-Dig

Queenstown is marketed as ‘the Adventure Capital of New Zealand’. With a staggering 220 different adventures available, it certainly outclasses any other town in Australasia for exciting activities. Apart from fishing and skiing, you can also play golf, paraglide, jet boat ride, pan for gold and sample world class local wines. There is also whitewater rafting, snowboarding, skydiving, river surfing, canyon swinging, walking, swimming, cycling, water cruising and hiking  – Whew! With all these adventures available, it will come as no surprise that bungy jumping was invented in Queenstown and possibly the finest bungy jump in the world is one of the town’s most popular activities. As an advanced concept on the bungy, the world’s largest swing is also popular with thrill seekers. The rope you dangle from is longer than a football field! Check it out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hwy9IOrUzO0

Nevis Swing

POPULAR FILMING LOCATION

The spectacular scenery around Queenstown is a magnet for film makers. The ‘Eregion Hills’ and the ‘Ford of Bruinen’ that appeared in Fellowship of the Rings were filmed in the area and the Remarkables became the Misty Mountains in the Lord of the Rings films. Ian McKellen who played Gandalf said, “I feel I know Queenstown quite well. I’ve been to places that have the same sort of spirit elsewhere in the world but nowhere in quite such a magnificent setting.” James Nesbitt, who played Bofur, was equally taken with this magic town, “You know when we all went to Queenstown I’d never been there before and it was just astonishing – I mean a beautiful jewel really at the bottom of the world.”

Ian McKellen

EARLY DAYS

In 1859, Welsh explorer William Rees set up a sheep farm on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. He named the tallest peaks he could see on the far side of the lake after his sons, Cecil and Walter. Two years later, gold was discovered close by and the Otago Gold Rush brought thousands of miners to the area. Rees converted his woolshed into accommodation and a town soon took shape. In fact, William Rees is regarded as the founder of Queenstown. He set up a hotel, the Queen’s Arms, and as business boomed, Rees went into partnership with Albert Eichardt and shortly after Eichardt took over the hotel and gave it his name. Today, this hotel is one of the top luxury boutique hotels in the world. In a way, the hotel’s journey from humble woolshed to a world class luxury hotel, mirrors Queenstown’s own rise from a quiet little lakeside village to a world class alpine resort.

Eichardt Hotel

TOURIST ACTIVITIES

Adventure tourism arrived with the Shotover jet in 1965. This is still a popular activity in the town and to date, has carried over 3.000.000 passengers. It used to be the ultimate thrill seeking ride, but today, as I mentioned above, there are far more heart stopping attractions for the Adrenalin junkie to try. However, the Shotover Jet has become a ‘must’ for any international visitor to the town.

YEAR ROUND EXCITEMENT

Shotover White Water Rafting

Queenstown has world class golf courses, exciting mountain cycle trails as well as some of the best fishing and white water rafting in the world and is a magnet for skiers who flock to the two world class ski fields found in the town. Coronet Peak is the country’s first ski field and the best known, and was the first ski field in New Zealand to offer night skiing. Its ski runs have such a great reputation that international professional skiers use them for competitions and recreation.

Across the valley, the Remarkables Ski Field is recognized as one of the finest in the southern hemisphere.  The view from the access road over lakes and mountains, is arguably the finest alpine scenery in the world. When I first drove up this road, it was difficult to keep my eyes on the road as the scenery was a major distraction at every corner. I’m sure there have been accidents on the road because of this very reason.

Remarkables Ski Fields

Since 2000, the town’s winter festival has grown into one of the most popular winter events in the southern hemisphere and is becoming a ‘must do’ for young travelers from Europe, USA and South America.

THE GOOD LIFE

Queenstown offers some of the finest restaurants in Australasia and is also home to an impressive 13 luxury lodges that attract international celebrities and wealthy businesspeople. Some of these lodges promote the lack of population as a major attraction. It is easy to drive or fly to areas that dwarf us mere humans.

Queenstown Luxury Accommodation

The dramatic wilderness around here has to be experienced to be truly appreciated. I have often stood in silent amazement and gazed at the surrounding mountains, sparkling lakes and fish filled rivers and realized how lucky I was to be able to experience it all. On top of this, there are 11 internationally successful vineyards around the town that offer tastings and food.  All these facilities attract international television production companies, especially from across Asia. In the past few years, Indian, Japanese and Korean crews have chosen the scenery in the Lakes District for a variety of commercials from clothing to cars and electronic devices. Even Bollywood has found Queenstown with at least one colourful musical shot in and around the resort.

LADY OF THE LAKE

My twin sister and I went to primary school in Queenstown for a few winter terms. We stayed with our grandmother and in those days, Queenstown was a quiet rural holiday spot. There wasn’t much for us to do apart from taking a walk in the Queenstown Gardens. A special treat was to spend a day sharing deck space with sheep on the lake steamer Earnslaw as it delivered stock and supplies to farms around the lake.

I was fascinated by the Earnslaw, now the town’s most cherished icon. I would look out for the black smoke snaking skyward as this graceful old vessel powered her way back from the head of the lake. I would then wait for the “Lady of the Lake” as she is affectionately known, to blast her whistle announcing her return to the town’s dock.

TSS Earnslaw

This historic steamship was launched in 1912, the same year the Titanic sank. Unlike the latter ship, the TSS Earnslaw has had a long life. There was a time in the 1960s when the elderly steamer’s future looked dim. When a road was built to the head of the lake, the steamer was no longer needed to carry goods to and from the lakeside farms. Fortunately, it was purchased by a tourist company who saw the potential in the old ship. Today, the Earnslaw has been sympathetically modernized with glass covering the sides of the main deck. It’s a considerable improvement from the canvas sheets we had for protection back in those school days. The ship now offers short trips around the lake to those less inclined to jump off things.

This short video made a few years ago, gives you a good idea of how graceful this lovely old steamer sails:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSP65EYeIaA

With so much on offer in Queenstown, the cost of living in the town has risen and now property values are on a par with Auckland, the country’s largest city. Accommodation and food, as well as the price of many activities, has put the town beyond the budget of many Kiwi families. As a result, towns within an hour’s drive have become the bases for their holidays. In Queenstown, you are more likely to bump into a young Englishman, German, Australian, Japanese or American than a local kiwi. This lakeside town has become Australasia’s top international alpine resort.

Night at Queenstown

Take a look at some of Queenstown’s attractions in this short promo video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFCoMqDGo_w

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