I’m sitting in the lounge part of my lake front room at the Rees Hotel watching the mist roll over the hills across the lake and white caps try and stir up a frenzy below. Yesterday Queenstown was all blue sky and the lake was flat. Today she’s packed a bit of a tantrum and town is filled with skiers who can’t go up the mountain, but there’s something charming about today. It’s the sort of day where sitting in front of a fire with a glass of pinot noir is virtually prescribed. And that, my friends, is my ideal Queenstown day!
For those who read this blog regularly or follow me on Facebook, it’ll come as no surprise that I prefer to shop and taste wine than head up into the artic chill donned in thick padding to slip and slide my way back down.
So while Queenstown is most famous for its (highly sought-after, I might add) ski season, this post is for my fellow ski haters.
What do non-skiers do?
On a smashing blue sky day, which is quite often here actually, a trip up the gondola for the most movie-set breathtaking views is well worth it. ($33 per adult. Family passes available and others that include luge rides). It really puts this region into perspective. Plus there’s luges for the whole family up here if you have a bit more energy than just whiling away an hour in the best appointed cafe in the world.
At the foot of the gondola is this really cool bird sanctuary. I was in two minds about going in ($45 per adult), but am so glad we did. The two kiwi houses are very good and actual bugs are released here each night, along with feeding time when the keepers push a mix of delicious wormy kiwi food down into a hole so the birds have to peck it out. But because there are also worms and other insects, they were busy dashing about pecking their long beaks (with nostrils on the pointy end). These birds will eventually be released into one of New Zealand’s wild protected kiwi sanctuaries, so they’ll be having to fend for themselves. I think that’s what I liked most about this park, that many of the birds came here injured and are being rehabilitated. A couple of tui were ready to go though. The sign said one had a broken wing, but not any more!
TSS Earnslaw steamship
Lake Wakatipu draws everyone from photographers to jet skiers, fishers and day trippers. If you want to get out on this glacial lake (I was told you have about 20 minutes to get out if you fall in before the cold will get you!) take a cruise on the Earnslaw and watch the crew stoke the fires to make the steam engines work. There’s a cafe on board to grab some lunch or a wine as you explore the bays – and you might even join a sing song around the piano!
Wander through town
You won’t need long, but there is some nice shopping here. Many are souvenir shops, but they do sell more than carvings and paua shells. You’ll find merino sweaters, blown glass bowls and vases, wooden cheese boards and jewellery. There are a handful of shops that other New Zealand cities have to satisfy your desire to try on a new outfit. But at the end of the day, you don’t come to Queenstown to shop. There are cafes and restaurants and pubs and wine shops.
You’re only a 20-minute drive from the cutest little town in New Zealand: Arrowtown. And if you come in autumn it’s covered in golds, reds and oranges. I just read that houses here are now $1million, so even Aucklanders can’t buy here! But you can visit and wander through the main street browsing the little boutiques and souvenir shops. We made reservations to see a movie at Dorothy Browns cinema with their huge chairs and armrests to hold your glass of wine and cheeseboard at intermission, and came back in the evening to watch our All Black rugby hero Richie McCaw’s life on the big screen. When we came out it was snowing! I was so excited I nearly lay in the street to make a snow angel.
Where to eat in Queenstown
I have been to Queenstown twice in the last 18 months, so have added some more info about the places I ate at and can recommend here >>. They cover The Cow, Eichardt’s, Fergburger, The Ballarat Trading Co, Boat Shed Cafe and Madam Woo. Feel free to tell me your favourites in the comments!
Here’s my post on two hotels I stayed at in Queenstown: The Rees and Heritage Queenstown >>>