New Zealand is widely regarded as one of the most naturally beautiful countries in the world. From the rugged mountain peaks characterizing its skyline to the collection of dramatic canyons, cliffs, rivers and beaches dotting its terrain – the destination is one of scenic perfection.
Thrill-seeking travellers have long flocked to the country in droves in search of the numerous adrenaline fixes its natural landscape has to offer. While Wellington holds claim to the country’s capital, the charming city of Queenstown has steadily emerged as New Zealand’s main tourist draw. With its proximity to the awe-inspiring Lake Wakatipu, numerous nearby mountains, challenging hiking trails and sweeping vistas, the small city of just 13,500 permanent residents has come to be known as Oceania’s centre of adventure.
While Queenstown certainly offers no shortage of endorphin-charged outdoor activities, there’s more to this city than adrenaline rushes and adventure. From world class dining and wine tasting to lake cruises, scenic drives and a bustling downtown core, here’s how to spend a long weekend enjoying all that it has to offer.
While navigating Queenstown, be sure to sip your way across a region that boasts some of the best red wine in the world. Home to over 200 vineyards, New Zealand is well-regarded for its production of Pinot Noir in particular. Wine tours are readily available in and around the city, with many offering lavish lunch or dinner spreads using ingredients sourced straight from the nearby organic farms. Don’t forget to bring your camera – the scenery surrounding the vineyards is just as unforgettable as the wine! For those short on time or who prefer to indulge in a nightcap, head to The Winery in Queenstown’s thriving city centre, where over 80 of New Zealand’s best wines are available to sample.
Queenstown offers an abundance of dining options, ranging from casual to high end. Known for its seafood in particular, the city’s green-lipped muscles and oysters are its specialty. If you prefer fish, opt for a piece of cod or salmon – caught fresh in the region and sold by local fisherman. As much of New Zealand cuisine is British influenced, expect to stumble across tried and true favourites such as fish and chips and savoury meat pies.
Meat lovers will appreciate the award-winning quality of Queenstown’s beef, lamb and venison – often served with roasted kumara (sweet potato chips) and followed up by a traditional Kiwi treat. Pavola, in particular, is one of the city’s most popular desserts – combining a crispy crust, creamy meringue centre and fresh fruit toppings including, of course, kiwis. If you’re still craving a sugar fix, pay a visit to Patagonia Chocolates, where you’ll find the best coffee and chocolates you might have ever tasted.
Don’t miss Fergburger, the city’s wildly popular burger spot. Line ups often snake out through its front doors, but the wait is well worth it. For a one-of-a-kind experience, head to the Walter Peak High Country Farm just outside of Queenstown and enjoy a leisurely gourmet barbecue lunch.
Get an adrenaline fix
From horseback riding to three different bungy jumping platforms, a selection of sky swings, jet boat rides, paragliding and more – just about any adrenaline rush can be had in Queenstown. Sky dive above the glimmering Lake Wakatipu below, luge down the side of a mountain, go off-roading within the region’s hilly terrain, zip line through a verdant jungle or snowboard down Coronet Peak. Spend a leisurely afternoon jet-skiing, or have a helicopter drop you on top of an imposing mountain before you shred your way through a fresh snowfall to its base. In the Southern Hemisphere’s adventure capital, there is no cap on the amount of thrills one can seek. With a selection of activities targeted at all ages and a variety of fitness levels, Queenstown is guaranteed to keep the entire family entertained.
Indulge in nature
A relaxing river boat tour around one of Queenstown’s claims to scenic fame, Lake Wakatipu, is the best way to experience panoramic views of the amazing surrounding landscape. There are many different tours available, depending on what you’re looking for. Take a ride on a vintage steamboat, tour its engine room and learn about the region’s history. Alternatively, splurge on a luxury river boat tour – complete with a cocktail hour and dinner service.
To stretch your legs, hike up the Queenstown Hill and enjoy sweeping views of Lake Wakatipu and the nearby Remarkables mountain range. For those who prefer a more leisurely pace, take a memorable gondola ride up to Bob’s Peak and marvel at a 220 degree panorama of Coronet Peak, Walter Peak, Cecil Peak and the city of Queenstown as you climb up to 450 metres above sea level.
Nature lovers should consider renting a car to take a leisurely drive along the stunning Glenorchy Queenstown Road, which winds past expansive bays and snow-capped mountains. For those who have a bit more time, start your journey in Wanaka and cruise the State Highway 6 to the city of Nelson. This west coast route is considered one of the best drives in the world, with roads leading through steep mountain passes, tropical jungles and along the edge of sprawling oceanside cliffs.
Bordering the vast Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown and boasting breathtaking waterfront and mountain views, Anantara Vacation Club at Oaks Shores is conveniently located just a 15 minute drive from the airport and half an hour’s walk from Queenstown’s charming town centre.
Prefer a tropical climate for your next long weekend holiday? Head to lush Bali and enjoy its endless maze of quaint restaurants, cafes and boutique shops.
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