In a quiet corner of the world, is South Island’s Queenstown- a city in its own right, but a town all the same. I find it difficult to put into words the effect Queenstown has on me. Me, the jabbering, spill-all-your-thoughts-in-a-single-breath, 60 scattered thoughts a second blogger who describes places for a living, finds it impossible to sum up Queenstown. Is it a town or is it a city? Is it a honeymoon destination or do I want to picnic on its cliffs with my friends? It’s a permanent tourist spot that’s far too peaceful to be one.
It’s pure, untouched beauty for miles and miles. While driving along its vineyards and lavender fields, it’s a little bit of the Italian countryside. While walking around its pubs and cafés, it’s a little bit of Eastern Europe. By its beaches and lakes, its Australia. But in the warmth and friendship that its locals greet you with- it’s quintessentially New Zealand. It’s adventurous, it’s quiet. There are flyboarders on your left and jetboaters on your right.. and yet, all you can hear are the birds chirping and the sound of the wind blowing- that annoying fully-powered breeze that makes it so inherently NZ! I don’t believe in plans, but I have one- this town is going to be my retirement home.
A little about Queenstown:
A town built around a lake, surrounded by cliffs on all sides- that’s Queenstown in a nutshell. Downtown is by the banks of the lake. Pubs, cafes and boutique stores, the big brands and the sweet shops- all together in one place. There’s a park to the left, and more cafes on the right. Most houses are located on the cliffs surrounding the lake, usually with a view of the lake.
The Kiwis are outdoorsy folks, and Queenstown makes this possible. You could opt for one of the many adventure sports available here: bungee jumping, flyboarding, kayaking, jet boating, luge rides to name a few. You could take a gondola to the catch a glimpse of Queenstown from the top, or you could book a scenic ride (a name given to helicopter rides) that takes you to Milford Sound or the Mount Cook glacier.
With all it’s adventure activities, there isn’t a sound to be heard in all of Queenstown- aside from the occasional performer downtown. On one such mellow evening, I found myself perched atop a boulder by the beach, just a few minutes before sunset, listening to the waves (along with a hundred other people sitting in complete silence) when a guy with a guitar began strumming away, and just then the sun began to set. It was all too surreal but it was a perfect Queenstown moment.
Where to stay:
Queenstown has a bunch of hotels conveniently located downtown, right opposite the lake and a stone’s throw from all the main spots. But these would probably be too expensive to rent during the peak season. While Heritage Hotel, The Rydges and The Lofts Apartments are the tried and tested ones I could recommend, they might be a bit on the steeper side during the summer months. You can also AirBnb it- something I did, and absolutely loved. For those who are new to Airbnb- it’s totally safe and some apartments are just gorgeous! I like to have a bit of space to move around and the #LiveThere concept is a hit in my opinion. Queenstown has a bunch of beautiful properties listed on Airbnb and I chose mine from there. It came with a view, a parking space, three bedrooms and two bathrooms, a living space and.. a fireplace. I loved it! My host was an amazing and super cooperative lady, so the overall experience was quite positive. In case you’re browsing, you can check the listing out here.
While buses run downtown, most houses are located on the cliff with no bus connectivity. Your best bet would be an Uber, but those are expensive in New Zealand. I would strongly recommend booking a car rental. Most car rentals have shuttle services from the airport, with dedicated pick up and drop off points, so you won’t have to spend a dime from the rental to the airport. Renting a car is the most cost-efficient and convenient way to travel in NZ. Most car rental companies allow you to pick cars in one city and drop them off in another, so go ahead and plan that road trip. It’s the best way to see this country. Be warned though, parking is expensive in NZ and specially in the Queenstown Downtown area.
What to eat:
Girl’s gotta eat- and this one doth eat a lot. So here it comes- Fergberger, for overrated burgers (only a tad overrated tbh) and milkshakes- but this place is truly legendary and the lines are long. They have a bakery and a gelato store as well, and it’s all heavenly. Mandarin has delicious chinese food, Bollywood has great Indian and My Thai has delicious Thai. Drop by Patagonia for the best ice creams and churros. The Remarkables Sweet Shop has every form of chocolates and sweets known to man. Other recommended cafes are Halo, Bathhouse and Vudu. The Grille is a pub that serves huge servings of bar food. Pig and Whistle is one of the better pubs with outdoor seating, and Pog Mahones is an Irish pub that I love! It’s at the wharf so the view is a plus.
Where to shop:
Downtown- that’s your one-word answer. All the stores- local ones and branded, are located here, except two important (and my favourite) stores- The Warehouse (with a jingle that goes “The warehouse! The warehouse! Where everyone gets a bargain!” ..never mind) and Countdown (a one stop shop for EVERYTHING groceries!) located near the airport. There’s also Pack ‘n Save- which is cheaper than Countdown, but I prefer the latter for no reason whatsoever. Maybe because my mum loves it and I follow her around like a lost puppy fairly often.
Things to do:
Just read Things To Do in Queenstown.