It’s taken me far too long to visit New Zealand’s biggest tourist destination. I’d like to think that I was saving Queenstown for the right time, and it couldn’t have felt more perfectly timed heading down there the first weekend of Winter. With the clearest blue skies, towering mountain ranges, clean air, gourmet foods and awe-inspiring scenery, it’s fair to say Queenstown was everything I expected it to be. Like many people who get to visit this incredible little city that is surrounded by mountain ranges, I fell immediately for it’s small town vibe, but big city offerings.
I spent four days in Queenstown, flying in direct from Auckland which is only a one and a half hour flight. My biggest tip for flying in would be to pay whatever you can to have the window seat, and fly in during daylight. Flying over the crisp, snow drenched Southern Alps will leave you in awe.
I think the reason I was saving Queenstown is because I’ve always thought of it as an expensive playground, which is true in many ways. To experience Queenstown to the fullest- you can’t really leave without a drive to the wineries, going up the gondola and feasting on all those best Kiwi delights. Car hire, activities, accomodation and food all add up here, and while the city doesn’t have uber, their taxi’s are pretty pricey. So in saying that, hiring a car in Queenstown will make your life a lot easier, and mean that you are able to experience all that you can.
Watch my Queenstown video here.
For the best car hire deals in New Zealand, I recommend booking with Jucy.
I had my eye on the Sherwood Queenstown ever since I stumbled upon their website back in March. This newly renovated hotel is all kinds of cosy and the team here have perfectly concocted the organic, homey, original vibe. If there’s one thing I love, it’s boutique accomodation and the Sherwood ticked all the boxes. We loved the little details in the room- the kitchenettes, custom woven blankets, room interiors and felt very much at home here. The property features an organic garden, teepee, drop dead delicious restaurant and bar, outdoor fire pit (which has been converted from a swimming pool), yoga & pilates studio and bike trail (with bikes to rent). There’s also activities which are perfect for the evening when you’ve got some down time- a sauna, ping pong table, live music & events.
My favourite meals in Queenstown were here at the Sherwood, their brunch and dinner menus had me back time and time again over our trip, and they serve up a great cuppa Supreme joe. Even if you’re not staying here, I recommend coming up for a meal. The bar interiors are cosy, warm and modern and is such a refreshing place to sit in the mornings with your laptop and view of the Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu.
Dinner items you have to try: Pesto spaghetti, roast potatoes, creamy polenta and for dessert, you can’t go past the Sherwood Mess-meringue, lemon & coconut.
On Sundays they also do a Slow Cooked roast night for $25pp. Okay, okay, if I think i’ve sold you by now. Be here now.
TO DO & SEE
HIRE A CAR AND DRIVE TO ARROWTOWN
Arrowtown is a small, nearby town which used to be a mining village. It’s a 30 minute drive from Queenstown, and on the drive you’ll bypass wineries which are well worth the stop (but more on that later). If you’re into cafe culture, I suggest driving out here for a brew instead of hanging about in Queenstown, who in my opinion, have a better dinner/nightlife culture.
Arrowtown has quaint shops, little laneways to explore and original colonial structures. Try one of the local bakeries and enjoy the gift stores dotted about.
SCENIC FLIGHT WITH THE HELICOPTER LINE
Getting up into the snowy mountains was one of my favourite parts of this trip. While we visited Queenstown the weekend before the ski lifts opened, we were really excited to get up into the air with my friends at The Helicopter Line to do a 20 minute scenic flight, complete with a snow landing up in the Remarkable’s. The Remarkable’s, and it’s name pretty much speaks for itself. This impressive backdrop to Queenstown is what makes the town so picturesque.
There’s just something magic about landing up in untouched snow and getting to run about in the fresh powder.
VISIT MILFORD SOUND
I’ve grown up with seeing tourism ads of New Zealand with panning shots of the Milford Sound, but visiting it for yourself truly is something else. Seeing the towering Mitre Peak with your own two eyes leaves you pretty much speechless. Standing nearly 1700 meters tall, it’s one of the most photographed peaks in New Zealand.
The best thing about the Milford Sound is that it’s actually better if it’s rained earlier that week or that day because this is when the many, many waterfalls come out to show off. We had a really dry week when we visited, but we still got to witness the heavy waterfalls and magic of the Sound.
We took a day trip from Queenstown with Kiwi Discovery– a 10 hour return coach journey and a 2 hour cruise along the sound, but worth every second. There’s not many coach journeys I can recall that I enjoyed, but between the mountain ranges and our driver Bob’s enjoyable, informative and witty commentary, I can add this to the list of coach trips I’d take again.
With stops in Te Anau for an ever so important coffee break and at Mirror Lakes and Fiordland National Park, I can honestly say that driving through this region of New Zealand left me feeling pretty chuffed to be a Kiwi. It’s unbelievable how fresh and clean the air is, and I’m so proud of the way we look after our country. Even stopping in the most remote of places, to the most perfectly tidy bathroom stops, you can tell that the folk here in the South really do look after our beautiful land.
Our two hour cruise on the Sound could only be summed up as enchanting. From the waterfalls, to pods of dolphins swimming up to the boat, rainbows and seals, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. Be sure to layer up if you’re visiting in winter as it can get quite chilly.
We took an afternoon trip out to Amisfield Winery, which is closer to Arrowtown. Their lunch menu is to die for and you’ll be spoilt for choice with wines & cheese to accompany. Amisfield has been around since 1988 and really do know their stuff, crafting some of New Zealand’s best wines from the Otago region. If it’s a nice day, sit outside and enjoy the mountain ranges that surround the winery.
10 Lake Hayes Road, Queenstown 9371
GO UP THE GONDOLA
The view from the top of the Gondola boasts the very best views of Queenstown, and you’re seriously missing out if you don’t get up here. Once you’re up the top, enjoy views below of bungy jumpers, grab a coffee at the cafe or luge down the mountain side.
ONSEN HOT POOLS
Onsen Hot Pools is an absolute must do. Located outside of the town centre, if you don’t have your own transport you can arrange to be picked up in the town and whisked away to the ever so postcard worthy Onsen Hot Pools. With mountain views, retractable windows, champagne & ice cream packages, I loved spending the morning here. We had an hours package, with use of the changing rooms, lounge and cafe. You can also get a massage here with a view, and add in pamper packs to make it all that more special.
You’ll have views of the shot over jet below and the entire wall of windows rolls up so you can soak up the views.