Action-packed in Queenstown
For Christmas 2018, Rebecca Leader surprised her family with a trip to Queenstown. It was their first time in the adventure capital of New Zealand — many say the world — and they loved it.
It was early January when we flew from Gisborne to Auckland. We were cutting it fine with the transfer to our next flight that would get us to Queenstown. We literally had to run through the Auckland Airport to be on time for our flight. We boarded our plane and caught our breath — Queenstown here we come!
The descent into Queenstown is stunning, flying in over the snow-capped mountains on a crystal clear day.
We collected our hire car for our long weekend, loaded our luggage and went in search of our hotel. We stayed at the Heritage Hotel which is just over 1km from the city centre. A great location for strolling into town as parking in Queenstown is hard to find.
Queenstown has something for everyone, whether you want to take it easy and just enjoy the sights, the wonderful wines in abundance or be a bit more adventurous.
We decided to combine all of the above.
Our first day was fully booked. We had a hop-on-hop-off wine tour booked. However, I also managed to include a stop in Arrowtown — this was part of the tour — and a stop at AJ Hackett to do the Kawarau Zipride. I'm a bit of an adrenaline junky and have bungeed before so I found the Zipride a little tame. But my son loved it.
There are so many wineries to choose from on this particular tour it was hard to choose a few to go to. I had talked to the chef at our hotel in the morning and he suggested Mt Rosa winery as being one of the best. It's a smaller, less commercial winery and their wines are a reflection of that. I'm not usually a lover of sauvy but after a tasting and a bit of a debate, we decided that was the best wine . . . and it wasn't an easy decision.
Kinross cellar door was also an enjoyable stop — here they have five different local wineries showcased and the food was amazing.
On to Wet Jacket, one of the only gewurztraminer-growers in Central Otago. And what a gewurz it was!
White Stone cheeses also had a tasting room in the old converted woolshed and the cheeses were amazing. My 12-year-old loved the blue cheese.
Saturday arrived and whereas Friday had been beautiful and sunny, Saturday was now cold and drizzly. That didn't stop us though. We had places to go and things to explore.
We walked into town and wandered around the craft market, got some breakfast and had a jet boat ride up the Kawarau River and into the Shotover. We got a little wet but it was loads of fun.
We tried our hand at an escape room, but we weren't very good, checked out a craft brewery and visited an ice bar.
Sunday morning was fine and clear which was good because our adventure today was one so full of adrenaline I will never forget it.
If you haven't heard of Kawarau River Surfing, it's literally riding for an hour down a raging river through grade three rapids on a boogie board. Then doing it again if you're brave enough or fit enough.
When I had seen the Kawarau River two days before, it was a beautiful turquoise, fairly sedate-looking river. By Sunday after all the rain the day before, the river had become a raging brown torrent. They gave us a little safety lesson at the beginning, telling us how to get out of whirlpools and how to roll on the board.
Within the first few minutes of setting off, I was caught in a large whirlpool. I remember looking up and catching the guide's eye and he made a swirling motion with his finger indicating I needed to let it spin me and drag me under. I took a deep breathe and went with it. It pulled me under for a few seconds then spat me out.
This was the start of an hour of surfing the rapids getting pulled under by whirlpools and repeatedly dunked face first over “waves”. I freaking loved it.
Once back in town, it was such a lovely day we decided to head up the Skyline Gondola to see the impressive views and to do a little luging.
On Monday, our final day, we drove our rental car to Cardrona. We had mountain carting booked. We had one run down, which was fun, but due to severe winds, that was all we could do safety. I intend to return one day to complete this adventure.
We drove to Wanaka and had a look around the picturesque town, then drove back through Cromwell so we could stop at Mt Difficulty Winery
We arrived back in Queenstown feeling a bit disappointed that the mountain carting trip hadn't gone as planned, so we decided another lot of luge races were in order.
Our little family, the three of us, have become quite competitive now our son is older. This showed on that Monday afternoon. Never have I had so much fun and laughter while luging. This was definitely another highlight of our trip.
The girls in the photo booth at the bottom of the luge started watching for us to come down and had our photos front and centre when we arrived. We were racing and overtaking each other, and the photos are hilarious. One of the girls mentioned that moments like that was why she did the job.
Queenstown has great pinot noir and ski fields are a given . . . but the town has so much more to offer. Visiting in the summer gives you a few different options to try.
Since our Queenstown trip, our son has asked repeatedly to return. He has since taken up mountain biking and would love to have a go at the amazing trails from the top of the Skyline Gondola.
Maybe this will be our first post-Covid-19 family holiday.