Saturday, December 7, 2013

“Breathtaking... I wish I had weeks to spend here… everyone was just gasping
when we saw the landscape. It’s so beautiful.” - Former US President Bill Clinton

Queenstown is a resort town in Otago in the south-west of New Zealand's South Island. It is built around an inlet called Queenstown Bay on Lake Wakatipu, a long thin Z-shaped lake formed by glacial processes, and has spectacular views of nearby mountains such as The Remarkables, Cecil Peak, Walter Peak and just above the town; Ben Lomond and Queenstown Hill. The Queenstown-Lakes District has a land area of 8,704.97 km² not counting its inland lakes (Lake Hāwea, Lake Wakatipu, and Lake Wanaka). It has an estimated resident population of 30,200 (June 2013 estimate). Its neighbouring towns include Arrowtown, Wanaka, Alexandra, and Cromwell. The nearest cities are Dunedin and Invercargill. Queenstown is now known for its commerce-oriented tourism, especially adventure and ski tourism. It is popular with young international and New Zealand and Australian travellers alike. The town is the largest centre in Central Otago, and the second largest in Otago after Dunedin. Oamaru is now the third largest. According to the 2006 census, the usually resident population of the Queenstown urban area is 13,062, an increase of 22.1% since 2001. The population of the Queenstown ward at 30 June 2011 is 16,600. A resort town, Queenstown boasted 220 adventure tourism activities in 2012. Skiing and snowboarding, jet boating, whitewater rafting, bungy jumping, mountain biking, skateboarding, tramping, Parapenting, Sky diving and fly fishing are all popular. Most activities are safe, except for the odd paraglider stuck up a tree. Queenstown is a major centre for snow sports in New Zealand, with people from all over the country and many parts of the world travelling to ski at the four main mountain ski fields (Cardrona Alpine Resort, Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Treble Cone). Cross country skiing is also available at the Waiorau Snowfarm, near Cardrona village. The 100 year old twin screw coal fired steamer TSS Earnslaw traverses Lake Wakatipu. Queenstown lies close to the centre of a small wine producing region, reputed to be the world's southernmost. The Two Paddocks vineyard is owned by local actor Sam Neill. Neighbouring, historic Arrowtown features restaurants and bars. Queenstown has many festivals. In 2013, examples include Bike Festival (March/April), Winter Festival (June), and Jazz Festival (October). Queenstown Airport is located 8 km from town and has scheduled flights from Auckland, Christchurch, Rotorua, Wellington, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

1. Queenstown Hill

Queenstown Hill, also known by its Māori name of Te Tapu-nui "mountain of intense sacredness", is a small 907 metres mountain near Queenstown, New Zealand in the South Island. The lower levels of the hill contain housing especially near Queenstown, Frankton Road and Marina Heights. Mid way up the hill is a large forest of mainly douglas fir and larch, while the top is largely clear and the ground cover is that of tussock and native vegetation. The Time Walk is a walk on the Queenstown Hill that was created to mark the Millennium in the year 2000.

The entrance to the trail is on Belfast Terrace. At the start of the walk is a wrought iron gate which shows symbols of the local area. There are many panels along the walk describing the history of the area. The walk takes about three hours return, but can be shortened by not walking the full loop.
If you enjoy walking and the outdoors definitely do this walk. It is a 2+ hour round trip but with places you can stop if you don't want to go to the top. We thought it could have been better signed at the junctions. No loos, cafes etc so be prepared. At the top you can look across to Bob's Peak which is lower. Walking up Queenstown Hill is a free activity which gets you off the beaten track, but beware lots of uphill sections, some steep. Notice boards along the way tell you something of the area.
The Queenstown Hill walking track is accessible from the CBD - although if you are walking from the CBD, the ascent starts pretty much from the end of Ballarat Street! As you are climbing a mountain, it is an ascent the WHOLE way. It's challenging but definitely well worth the effort! The views are fantastic! Photos don't do justice! You can take photos with no interruptions, other people, etc as there are not many tourists around! Climb to the summit, you wont regret it! The descent is all downhill, you jog it down, and can be quite tough on the knees. A good walk up there and a loop track to vary interest either going up or down. The views from the very top are absolutely spectacular! 360 degrees.

Not far from the top is a sculpture called the Basket of Dreams by Caroline Robinson. There are expansive views from this point of the whole basin including Lake Wakatipu, Cecil Peak and The Remarkables. On a beautiful morning, it felt like sitting on top of the world. The last part from Basket of Dreams is the hardest but well worth it. The gate into the private land is fabulous and make sure you take the time to read the philosophical plaque at that point. Many information boards along the track describing the history of the area. Make sure you park at the entrance to the track, otherwise there are some really steep hills through the housing suburb to get to it. For a birds eye view (and for free!) this is the place to go.
When you get to the first cross roads on the actual hiking track turn left, you'll see a sign for a lookout if you go right but don't bother, it's nothing compared to the top and you'll save an easy 30 minutes! Nice track very steep so not just a leisurely walk but the views from the top are greats. You can start at town and if you take a left turn you can probably be back in town within 2-3 hours including taking pictures.

2. Skyline - Gondola & Luge

The Skyline Queenstown complex sits high on Bob's Peak and is reached by Gondola cableway. Located 5 minutes walk from central Queenstown. The restaurant offers a tempting six course 'Taste New Zealand' buffet of legendary proportions and spectacular panoramic views. The Queenstown attraction appeals to young and old alike. Ride a 3 wheeled Luge Cart with a unique braking and steering system allowing you to travel as slow or as fast as you dare!

This place is like the 'must go to' place of Queenstown!! The first time I went here we only went up the Gondola and it was super super cold! So we wanted to get back down. We also had no clue what a luge was then, and my friend told us that there was no breaks so we were super scared to go on them. So the Gondola goes up this mountain, hundreds of meters apparently, and you get out the top and you can look down on Queenstown.
Fantastic view. Then if you buy the Luge pass you go up this seat lift to a higher part of the mountain. The Luge is kind of like a go-cart. But you push the handles to stop and pull them towards you to go faster. The first time you go down you have to go down the 'beginners' track. Then however many times after that you can go down the other track which is so much better.
This is just a must do in Queenstown, and the whole family can do it and get involved! you will really enjoy the gondola ride & the views of the city & lake from the top. Even riding tandem down the scenic track was great fun since you can control your speed. Leave a little space to the people in front of you before you begin as you can keep catching one group and would have to slow down to avoid them. Just ignore the cameras & signs about the cheesy pictures they are trying to take and instead enjoy the views and luge.
I highly recommend this for everyone visiting Queenstown. It will be very fortunate to get crystal clear weather and breathtaking views of the town, the Remarkables and the lake. You can have lunch in the cafe which is very reasonably priced. Best calamari and chips and iced coffee! Great views too! You can try the Luge but only once and it may too slow.

This is a great way to spend half a day. The gondola trip on the way up is just the beginning of a fantastic time. The views over Queenstown and the Remarkables are amazing it's a great perspective of it all. The luge is great fun. Do more than one run at it, the first one is the scenic one and it really gives you a taste for it and you will definitely want to do more and more of them!. You should try to do this every time You go to Queenstown.

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