It may only take 58 minutes on a good day to drive from Queenstown to Wanaka, but I took five nosey days in a Maui Motorhome to explore as many nooks and crannies as I could find.
Slow travelling is a bit like slow cooking: the smells, tastes and the chance for a fabulous experience makes it far better – if you have time. Of course, sometimes that’s not possible. I get that (see my blog on driving around Ireland in 4 days), but this road trip has been on my Bucket List for a while and I had loads of things I wanted to do in this western part of Central Otago.
Where to stay:
We spent 2 nights here, 1 at the beginning and 1 at the end. We ended up choosing the same Top 10 Holiday Park both times, despite having a few options. We chose Creeksyde because of its central location – a 5 minute walk from the hustle and bustle of Queenstown’s CBD (if you can call it that). It was $52 per night for the 2 of us. That included our parking spot (next to the creek on the 1st night), power for our heater, microwave and to keep lights, TV etc charged. They are also redoing their ablution facilities and the new one that I discovered on our 2nd visit has great showers and very cool scenic wallpaper. They have kitchens here and TV lounges with fireplaces, although we stayed cosy in our motorhome.
I will write a whole post about this, but suffice to say this was a real treat. It’s part of Maui’s Winery Havens where for $140 you get to stay amongst the vines and receive a platter of nibbles, and in our case, all the ingredients for a stunning meal from the chef, plus a bottle of wine to take back to our little piece of paradise overlooking the tranquility of Lake Dunstan.
Confession time… my aunt and uncle have a 4 bedroom holiday home here and had made a special trip over from Dunedin to see us, so I simply had to sleep at their place! However, before that last minute arrangement was made, I had been researching where to stay, as no free camping is allowed in Wanaka. The Wanaka Lakeview Holiday Park is an easy walk into town for dinner, cafes, shopping etc. But if you are all set up and would rather something more remote, I liked the look of Lake Outlet Holiday Park with sweeping views over the lake and lots of 5-star reviews on Tripadvisor.
Where to visit:
As luck would have it, we arrived into Queenstown on the last day of the 2-week Arrowtown Autumn Festival, so we hightailed it over there (20 minutes away) in our campervan, pulled into the riverside parking area and got amongst the action. Arrowtown was a gold mining town and its museum ($8) is worth a browse – especially if you have (or still are, like me) reading the Luminaries. There is one main street with boutiques, wine shops and cafes and it’s as pretty as a picture. So I did.
I first came to Cromwell as a kid on a family holiday in 1985 just after they had announced plans to flood the town and move it up the hill. I remember being quite disturbed by this and hoping all the people would be able to get out. They did. This little historic street of buildings they moved up the hill is worth popping into for a look and a coffee. It has loads of potential and I just hope some enterprising person grabs hold of the old post office and turns it into a pub with outdoor seating and live music…
We only stopped in Tarras because it was about 1 km out of our way to Wanaka. It’s most famous for Shrek the woolly sheep that was found hiding up in the high country and had avoided being shorn his whole life. His fleece is here in a little one-room museum, along with a general store selling local goodies and a cafe. That’s it.
We returned to Queenstown from Wanaka over the Crown Range because I wanted to visit the Cardrona Pub. This famous gold mining drinking establishment sits at the foothills of the Cardrona ski field. It’s one of New Zealand’s most historic pubs. Out the back is a beer garden or if it’s chilly, two roaring fire places keep the inside rooms snug. I had a nosey through a couple of the rooms – they have 16 hotel rooms which are popular during ski season.
I visited the Shotover Jet when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge came for a spin on the Shotover River. Which was just as well because due to heavy rain up in the canyons the jet boat rides were cancelled thanks to flooding. If you’re after a few thrills and spills, this is brill!
The very first bungy jump in the world is right here – since 1988 when A J Hacket and Henry Van Asch decided to throw themselves (and anyone else who they could convince) off the highest bridge in New Zealand with nothing but a giant rubberband tied around their ankles.
Or you might like this one: my 5 day road trip through Mackenzie Country 🙂