Queenstown, New Zealand is well known as a top winter destination due to it’s proximity to several excellent ski fields. However it also makes an excellent stop for a few days during a summer tour of New Zealand’s South Island.
Queenstown sits on the edge of beautiful Lake Wakatipu, surrounded by picturesque mountains that are often capped with snow. The town has good shopping and also makes a great adventure playground, where you can go hiking, jet boating, bungy jumping, white water rafting and what ever else your adventurous appetite can handle.
On my tour of the South Island we spent three days in Queenstown, and camped in our campervan right next to the lake.
Although there is no snow to ski on during the summer, the chair lifts at the ski resorts still operate and you can get some amazing views from Coronet Peak and The Remarkables, which is well worth checking out.
Arrowtown is a historic old gold mining town, located about 20 minutes drive from Queenstown. Sitting on the Arrow River which was rich in gold in the 1800’s, the town’s historic buildings are well preserved and walking it’s streets has a real old feel to it. There are also plenty of interesting shops and cafes to check out.
A visit to Queenstown should always include a jet boat ride! Flying across the water at incredible speeds while doing 360 degree spins is great fun. There are a lot of jet boating companies at a lot of different locations in Queenstown, but I found the best (and most daring) to be the Shotover Jet on the Shotover River. The jet boat speeds through the narrow Shotover gorge doing 360 degree spins where you think that you will smash into the sides of the gorge. It’s very exhilarating and I highly recommend the experience.
If jet boating isn’t your thing, or you just want a slower change of pace from all of the extreme sports that you have been participating in, then a steam boat cruise on Lake Wakatipu is perfect. The TSS Earnslaw is a vintage steam boat that does daily cruises on Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak High Country farm, where you can take a guided tour to see how a New Zealand sheep farm operates. They also offer evening dinner cruises, however I only did the day cruise to the farm which was nice and relaxing.
Skipper’s Canyon Road is one of the most dangerous roads in New Zealand, and in fact hire cars are not insured if you drive on the road. Following along the Shotover River, the road is cut into the cliff side of the gorge, and at some points is 100m above the river. Taking a tour along the road is a great experience and the gorge is very beautiful. I found it incredible how the people had to cut the road by hand, all to gain access to the gold deposits in the river. Some scenes from “The Lord of the Rings” were also filmed in the canyon. Who knows how they got down there!
I could have easily spent a couple of weeks in Queenstown and would have never been bored. Anytime of the year is a great time to visit Queenstown.