10 THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN QUEENSTOWN, NEW ZEALAND
Adventuring to Queenstown in New Zealand is a very happy pastime of mine. In as little as a few months I’ve visited Queenstown twice and needless to say, I’m in love. Did you know in the same time it takes to drive from Sydney to Newcastle, you could find yourself adventuring on the island of the long white cloud? Its therefore no surprise so many Australians fly to Queenstown for their action packed holidays. Surrounded by resplendent mountains and nestled on the glistening aqua shores of Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown is a place of pure inspiration. Rated as one of the world’s top alpine destinations, Queenstown attracts adventurists, adrenaline lovers and leisure seekers alike.
No two days are ever the same in Queenstown and this vibrant town and its surrounds offer a year-round playground with adventures from the mild to the wild with world-class food and wine. The options are limitless! If you find yourself in Queenstown any time soon, or you’re looking to adventure here in the coming year, below are my top ten things to see and do.
AMISFIELD WINERY Situated 15 minutes from central Queenstown, Amisfield Winery overlooks Lake Hayes and is surrounded by the snow capped Remarkables mountain ranges (see here and here). Housed in an iconic stone building, lunch is a must and so too is ordering the ‘Trust the Chef’ signature menu with dishes served by the chef using local ingredients available on the day. The wine too is just as heavenly - definitely try the bubbles! www.amisfield.co.nz
THE REMARKABLES Known fondly by locals as The Remarks, this mountain favourite (see here) is the perfect spot to ski for beginners and families. It’s pristine alpine location, sunny slopes, first class learning facilities and network of runs is where locals and visitors go for some classically fun skiing and snow boarding. There is plenty of advanced terrain to explore and for the intermediate, like myself, there are lots of runs that are a little more challenging. www.nzski.com
JACK’S POINT For those looking to rest their tired legs after a long and fun morning of skiing, the restaurant at Jack’s Point is the perfect place to stop and revive (see here). Only 15 minutes from the centre of Queenstown, the restaurant serves mouth watering seasonal produce, and I highly recommend the Puhoi Ricotta Ravioli with brown butter and sage - it's the perfect post ski carb load! Situated on the edge of Lake Tewa and back dropped by the Remarkables Mountain range, it is easily the prettiest and tastiest lunch I’ve experienced apres ski. www.jackspoint.co.nz
SPRING SPA After a long day of skiing, what better way to relax and unwind then get a foot and leg massage at Spring Spa in the centre of Queenstown. And that's exactly what I did, and high recommend you do too! For a full hour, you’ll be treated with a buff, polish and massage to sooth your aching muscles. Uh huh…perfect for getting your weary legs rested ahead of another day skiing. www.springspa.com
MADAM WOO I don’t know about you but after a day of skiing, eating and massages, there really is only one thing left to do – more eating! And drink cocktails, all the cocktails. Queenstown is pumping at night; bars are throbbing with young, fit things and restaurants are packed with foodies from all around the world. You think Bondi is busy in summer? Try Queenstown in winter and hello to all of the good looking people in the world! I highly recommend dinner at Madam Woo. Opened and managed by award winning restaurateurs Josh Emett and Fleur Caulton, in collaboration with Jane Leon, Madam Woo is their take on Chinese and Malaysian street food with big flavours. I also recommend the lychee martini’s – divine… www.madamwoo.co.nz
CARDRONA The beauty of skiing in New Zealand is that there is more than one mountain range to ski and conquer! After skiing The Remarks, why not try Cardrona? A favourite amongst the intermediate and advanced (see here), I’ve never come across more experienced skiers and snow boarders in the one spot. It’s a little intimidating but everyone is so friendly you forget about it very quickly. With deep snow cover, wide open slopes, serious half pipes, steep chutes and an extensive terrain park for freestylers, Cardrona has more lifts than any other South Island mountain. www.cardrona.com
HELI SKIING If the perfectly kept slopes at The Remarks and Cardrona aren’t enough to keep you entertained, you can indulge in a session of heli skiing. Yup! And that’s what I did. Heli skiing is the ultimate activity in Queenstown – untouched, crowd free slopes and fresh powder at your fingertips. Heli Tours fly you up to the mountains in a helicopter for a day of untouched alpine terrain skiing. I have to admit, I was very nervous once we strapped on our avalanche detectors and were flying atop of the mountain ranges choosing our first landing. But once the helicopter dropped us off and flew down to meet us at the bottom (see here), I’ve never experienced anything so pristine, scary and wonderful! The tour took us on multiple runs on multiple mountains (see here) but I chose not to tempt fate after my first run and enjoyed the view for the rest of the afternoon up the front of the helicopter with the pilot. www.helitours.co.nz
RATA After making it back on terra firma following an afternoon of heli skiing, I relaxed in a hot bubble bath for over an hour at the Sofitel Hotel and Spa, where I was staying, before having dinner at Rata with friends. Also owned by award winning restaurateurs Josh Emett and Fleur Caulton, the two foodies have taken inspiration from the southern landscape and everything that epitomises New Zealand. The perfect place to unwind after a day of skiing and exploring, I highly recommend the Southland Cheese Roll with bitter leaves, butternut squash, honeycomb and truffle dressing...amongst everything else on the menu. It’s one of the best meals I’ve had in my entire life! After dinner, and many cocktails, there is nothing else to do than bar hop around Queenstown, and that’s exactly what we did with some of the best freestyle skiers in the world. Lucky me wink wink. www.ratadining.co.nz
SHOTOVER JET Not many tourists can say they’ve been on the Shotover Jet twice (see here), and the fact that I can still leaves a huge smile on my face. To find out how good it was, read here. www.shotoverjet.com
SCENIC HELI TRIP Not content with one helicopter ride, in 24 hours I experienced two heli rides – this one however was a lot less stressful. Flying over the top of The Remarkables (see here here and here), the pilot stopped and we crunched through the fresh powder, taking photos and enjoying the sweeping vista of Queenstown and surrounding snow capped mountains. www.helitours.co.nz
SOFITEL HOTEL AND SPA Not sure where to stay? The beauty of Queenstown is that you can stay in the town or further out, depending on your budget and interests. This trip I stayed at the Sofitel in the middle of the town. A boutique five star French hotel, the Sofitel has all the luxuries one needs when adventuring around Queenstown and the South Island. www.sofitelqueenstown.co.nz
INSURANCE Whilst I am on the topic of international travel and adventuring, a lot of you often email me with questions about travel insurance. I never travel without insurance, and as I travel very frequently both domestically and internationally, I take out annual insurance with Southern Cross Travel Insurance. You can organise insurance for as long or as little as you like. Yet choosing the right travel insurance to suit your needs can get a little overwhelming. And with so many options available to choose from, where do you start? My best recommendation is to ask your family and friends. See who they organise travel insurance with and go from there. www.scti.com.au