Destinations

Summer fun in Queenstown

Whether you're seeking an adrenaline ride or laid-back luxury, Queenstown has it all!
Queenstown

“This is awesome!” I yelled at my boyfriend Tom through a cloud of dust and mud, as I whizzed down a rocky path in a Honda 4×4 buggy. “I’ve got no fear!”

“Fear killing me!” he replied nervously, holding his hands up to block the oncoming branches I’d accidentally sideswiped. Point taken.

Jumping into these Big Reds at Queenstown’s Off Road Expeditions wasn’t exactly the most romantic start to our weekend, but when you’re in the adventure capital of the world, it’s great for getting the adrenaline pumping, as well as testing out who in the relationship is the better driver.

Fast and furious: the speedway leads to some fabulous views.

Following an hour of driving the Big Reds through some of Queenstown’s most stunning landscapes – including sweeping views of the town and Lake Wakatipu – we were each then treated to a 15- minute thrill ride by our guide Lachie in a 1000cc Can-Am Maverick, a rollercoaster on dirt.

Adventure is what Queenstown is known best for, it’s true, but there’s more to this southern paradise than thrills and spills, as we discovered on our weekend break. After our petrol-powered morning, it was time to let our bodies do all the work, and high time for a wine – so we did both, and travelled out to Gibbston Valley Wines for a bike and winery tour.

Hire your preferred bike and choose your trail. Your options range from pretty-much-all-flat to hills-hills-hills. As I’m not the world’s most confident cyclist, we opted for the easiest track, which saw us cycling along the Kawarau River, taking in over 7km of breathtaking scenery.

There’s more to Queenstown than thrills and spills.

It was when we arrived back at Gibbston Valley, feeling as though we thoroughly deserved the incredible lunch and wine-  tasting we were about to enjoy, that I discovered they also have electric bikes, which would have saved a lot of grumbling when we did have to tackle a hill. But at least I did something for my thighs!

The next day, preferring a slightly slower pace, we took a leisurely stroll up to the famed Skyline Gondola and Luge. The view is simply awe-inspiring, from Queenstown Hill to the left, to glassy Lake Wakatipu on the right. But the relaxed vibe wasn’t to last as no visit to Q-Town is complete without a ride on the Shotover Jet.

The Shotover River made the perfect setting for high-speed thrills a la William and Kate.

Sitting in the same seats the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge occupied during their 2014 Royal Tour – their customised life jackets are on display in the office – we whizzed down the Shotover River, at times over barely 10cm of water, and at others so close to the schist on either side of the water that I swore we were about to hit it.

After that, I decided we’d had our adrenaline fix for the weekend, so to finish off our 48 hours in Queenstown, we headed along to Onsen Hot Pools for a bit of relaxation. Perched high on a hill overlooking the Shotover River, Onsen is Queenstown’s only indoor-outdoor, private hot pools. With the weather having taken a turn for the worse – and a retractable window allowing us to convert the indoors to the outdoors – we were treated to a truly spectacular view.

It was the perfect way to finish a perfect weekend – with the added benefit of soothing my aching muscles. Next time, Queenstown, I’ll be better prepared for the cycling – and by that, I mean I’ll be on the electric bike!

Insider’s guide to… Queenstown

Stay at: Without a doubt, the Crowne Plaza. It’s a stone’s throw from town, with incredible lakefront views and lovely staff – one of whom memorised my coffee order! Visit crowneplaza.com/queenstown for more details.

Eat at: New restaurant Blue Kanu, an exciting blend of Polynesian and Asian cuisines – or Polynasian, as owner Karen Hattaway calls it – is truly not to be missed. Find the menu at bluekanu.co.nz.

What to pack: If you have those cycling shorts with gel inserts in them, take them. And also, don’t forget a pair of jeans, even if it’s the height of summer – if that southerly wind whips up, it gets cold pretty darn fast!

Best place to spot a celeb: When we were enjoying a glass of bubbles at Blue Kanu, we bumped into former Close Up presenter Mark Sainsbury, but we reckon MasterChef judge Josh Emett’s new restaurant Madam Woo would also be a great place to run into a household name. The food’s fantastic too!

When to go: Whenever – Queenstown is truly a four season holiday destination. There’s snow in the winter, and sun in the summer.

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