Tuesday, 30 June 2015

new zealand (south island) : queenstown and around

For the second part of my NZ post, I would like to discuss about beautiful Queenstown, as we basically spent the last 4 days wandering around - out and about. 

On our way to Queenstown, we stopped at Cardrona Hotel, a very old fashioned and lovely place established in 1865. I was drinking Guinness by the fireplace, just the perfect way to start off the day! I am a huge fan of old pubs and hotels, they are so charming and the staff is always very friendly. I just felt like being in a different world and it was just relaxing I suppose. If you are driving to Queenstown, you should definitely stop there. It is close to a town called Arrowtown. Queenstown reminded me of Wanaka: a charming little village by a lake but it was busier and more modern if I may say so. It clearly reflected the touristy nature of the town with many shops and cafés. During the ski season Queenstown prices can go up double, winter being now. On our first day in Queenstown, we headed up to the Gondolas (Skyline Queenstown) to admire the breathtaking view from the top terrace and have fun on the famous luges. The Gondola ride is priced at NZ$32 for an adult return ticket but you can get a NZ$45 deal with one luge ride. The view is stunning and absolutely worth the price. Similarly for a dozen of dollars, I really recommend the luge ride. The golden colours of autumn were again, stunning, especially from above. 

Although Queenstown has TOO many cafés and restaurant, I did have my two favourites. Chicos & Old Man Rock and Fergburger Bakery. The former served the best avocado on toast I have had and relatively cheap. For NZ$16, I was served two generous toasts, one poached egg and bacon if you wished. Their iced tea is also a must try. I was in avo heaven (as you know how much I love avos..)! The latter, Fergburger is also a must. And I really insist on "must".. The reason is, their burger was voted as one of the best burgers in the world. Fergburger house has the burger place, a bakery (yummy croissants) and an ice cream place, they are all next to each other. But I have to admit, you cannot pass on the burger if you go to Queenstown. I mean, how often do you have the opportunity to try out one of the best burger on this planet? Now here is my personal little note. I did enjoy their classic double cheeseburger but honestly.. I wouldn't put it as my first favourite burger. For the Londoners and Aussies reading this article my top two are: The Royal Brothers in Melbourne, VIC and Shake Shack in Covent Garden, London. And for my fellow Americans, my favourite burger in the whole US is from 26 Beach Restaurant in Venice, CA. All of them were way better than Fergburger to me. I am not saying Fergburger was not tasty, but this is just my personal opinion. You still need to try Fergburger if you are around Queenstown!  

You may also be aware that Queenstown is well-known for its activities and adrenalin. Bungee jumping, skydiving etc. I started my week with some helicopter ride and famous Shotover Jet, absolutely sensational! I was planning on skydiving as well but here is my advice. Although NZ is one of the top ten places to skydive in the world it was nearly NZ$400 for 12,000ft when I paid AUD$270 for 14,000ft in Mission Beach, above the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. So I thought, why pay more than a hundred dollars more for less sensation? The 15,000ft dive was almost NZ$500 if I recall. Although it might have been once in a lifetime, I didn't think it was worth the investment. Wollongong is also a beautiful place to skydive if you live near Sydney. If you have never been skydiving before, I do recommend that you do it in NZ - forget about the NZ$200 bungee and go for the skydiving. If you have done it before, you may want to pass on it unless it is winter and you want to see the snowy mountains from above. Don't forget that you will need to add up the photo costs.. And it seems that in NZ a person jumps out, rather than having GoPro photos so it way more expensive than Australia, just to let you know. Canyoning is also available for the fanatics out there! The helicopter ride was awesome and gave a nice perspective on the Remarkables

One of the last days trip was driving 4 hours to Milford Sound. It was mistakenly called a "Sound" and is apparently a Fjord instead and should have been Milford Fjord. The drive was stunning as we drove more than 2 hours in mountains. You have the option to fly there (about an hour on a private plane) but again, it has a cost. We went on a cruise into the Sound until we could see the ocean and came back. A number of falls are appearing and if you do not come from Norway - where Fjords are everywhere - you will be blown away. So again, if time and money permits, you need to go on a Milford Sound cruise. It was one of the activities I most had high expectations for when booking my trip. 

The next morning, I was up for some Onsen! Having Japanese blood, going to a private Onsen in the middle of the mountains was a must for me. I do enjoy the hot water and peacefulness of the area. Just order a chamomile tea and burning aroma oil. You will reach the peak of relaxation. Price was less than NZ$40 for one hour and return transfer included. This was our last day and we went out doing a pub crawl, included the minus 5 Ice Bar. I had always wanted to go to the one in Melbourne so this was the perfect occasion. Apparently I was missing my Europe winter because I really enjoyed it from what I can remember ;) Queenstown is a young town full of English and Irish tourists, so if you're a going out type of person loving to socialise you will make friends very easily. Queenstown never sleeps and I can assure you you won't get bored until the early morning! To be honest, I did go a bit crazy and ended up skinny dipping in the freezing lake.. But oh well, you only live once they say!

Finally, the last day was driving up to Christchurch all day. Although we had a wonderful stop to experience sheep shearing in a local farm. I was really impressed by the technique and I guess if you're on a road trip you would want to stop there. Also - we had the best meal of all the trip with a delicious beef cooked on a barbie and a yummy pavlova for desert!  

Last but not least, NZ's South Island is a must see in your life. I have put the North Island on my bucket list but I'm pretty sure I will be back in the South anytime soon. I am aiming to go back for some skiing experience. Believe it or not, I haven't even be in the Alps to ski so this will be the perfect occasion to catch up on my skiing skills! 

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