With so many great hotels to choose from, we opted for the Crowne Plaza right on the waterfront at Lake Wakatipu, complete with stunning balcony views of the Remarkables and an Insti-worthy backdrop for endless photo ops. Directly opposite Steamer Wharf, we were strolling distance from a plethora of cafés, shops and adventure kiosks, and an easy five-minute walk to the base of the Skyline gondola, which made getting around totally stress-free. Tick! Plus, with accommodation at a premium, we took advantage of an autumn deal because on family holidays, every dollar counts. Tick, tick!
You can’t come to Queenstown without doing something slightly out of your comfort zone, usually involving heights, the fear-factor and a decent dose of screaming. For our first adventure, dangling from a Ziptrek zipline high above the forest had all three covered. Part nature walk, part sustainability talk, we zipped six lines, each steeper than the last, hitting speeds of up to 70km/h for the finale – the steepest line in the world. Gravity-fed, this is eco-tourism at its best, not to mention a damn good adrenaline rush. Just don’t look down.
If hang gliding is on your bucket list, a dive into thin air from the top of Coronet Peak with Sky Trek Hang Gliding is not to be missed. Unless, of course, you chicken out and watch your family flying in the distance from a table at Amisfield Vineyard like I did! Luckily, the whole flight was captured on GoPro and I also had a blow-by-blow account for the rest of the holiday, so I soon felt like I had done the “life-changing” tandem jump myself. “Just like flying,” “So quiet,” “Everything looked so tiny,” and on it went. At one point, our 14-year-old was given the bar to steer herself while her co-pilot let go. “I’m hooked,” she squealed. A total trip highlight and next time, I will be game enough to join in.
Justin Bieber may have looked a little bored when he rode the infamous Shotover Jet during his recent concert tour, but we found it a thrill a minute. Our guide Woody admitted a habit of fidgeting, but there was no time for that. Twenty-five minutes of full-throttle speed boat shenanigans as we skimmed over stones and hurtled towards rocks so close it was hard to tell if we were laughing or crying. And then the spins. The spins! We were wet, terrified and exhilarated, but once it was over, the kids just wanted to do it all over again.
On Sunday, we took a walk down Church Street for a hellishly good lunch at Devil Burger. And yes, it was sinfully good. But then, eating burgers is an endurance sport in itself in Queenstown, with the queue at legendary Fergburger stretching upwards of several hours in peak season. These South Islanders take their buns seriously and with good reason. We saw so many tourists walking around limping or on crutches, we decided it pays to refuel while you recoup. Burgers fit for carb junkies and daredevils alike!