It was a tough call when making the choice to live in Queenstown or Wanaka for my second winter. I instantly fell in love with the community and gorgeous scenery that Wanaka offers, but I was also drawn to the dramatic vistas and lively energy that flows throughout Queenstown. While I chose the stunning town of Wanaka as my home for the winter, Queenstown is just a short jaunt away and is a “must visit” when traveling through the South Island.
Queenstown is an adrenaline junkie’s dream. Within thirty six hours I had flown through the river on a jet boat and bungy jumped off of the Kawarau Gorge suspension bridge – the world’s first commercial bungy jump site. I spent my days admiring the jaw dropping views and running and hiking along the trails.
Jet Boat Tours: As you wander through the streets of Queenstown you will see a variety of jet boat tours, which all have great offerings. My experience was with Skipper’s Canyon Jet. Holy crap. This was so much fun! I nearly fell out of the boat given my relentless attempts to video our ride (lesson learned). Another highlight of the trip was that we drove on Skipper’s Canyon Road to reach the jet boats at their location on the Shotover River. This one lane, windy dirt road was built in the early 1800s and has an incredibly steep drop off. There are NO guard rails and while I felt incredibly safe with our experienced driver, those who are fearful of heights may need to wear a blindfold. Below you can see the road carved into the hillside. Once on the boat, our expert captain whizzed around the tight turns of the river and we even did a few 360s! After the boat ride, I was greeted by the lovely Bizzy Orr, who also lived on St. John. As most of my friends know, people who’ve lived on St. John tend to find each other all over the world!
Bungy Jumping: So I was not super keen on a this one, but when in Rome, right? A little back story: I went in Costa Rica and was dunked into a pool instead of a natural body of water and was forever traumatized. Jumping off of the Kawarau Gorge suspension bridge with AJ Hackett Bungy is A MUST. How did I feel? Well, the guys at the top were singing pop music, which made me giggle and forget that I was about to put my life at risk. As I hopped to the edge of the platform, I took a deep breath, gazed at the horizon, and dove off like I was diving off of a boat into the ocean. It was such a liberating feeling and I would do it again in a heartbeat! The jump was 43 meters (about 141 feet) straight down to the glacier fed Kawarau River. I was BUZZING with energy afterwards and felt like I could run a marathon! Now I just need to save my money for the Nevis Bungy, which is 134 meters (439 feet). Check out my Instagram for the video!
Tours: I did the Queenstown Highlights half day tour with Limousine South, which was a lovely experience. We went to Gibbston Valley Winery and Cheese Shop for some yummy treats after my jump. I highly recommend a wine and cheese tasting post bungy jump! The Otago Region is famous for its Pinot Noir. Gibbston Valley Winery is located just up the road from the bungy center, making it a convenient stop. We also made a trip over to Arrowtown, which is a quaint little gold mining town just outside of Queenstown. It’s the kind of town where you just want to sit at a café and enjoy a flat white or a glass of Pinot Noir.
The Lord of the Rings tour through Nomad Safaris was quite interesting as I had not realized that all of the films were shot over the same time frame. Our quirky guide, Badger, reads the books every year and knew everything about the production of the films. The scenery on the way to Glenorchy was jaw dropping we were fortunate to watch the snowstorm over the peaks (although we had great weather during the tour!)
Sunrise over The Remarkables
Lake Wakatipu with a moody storm brewing over Walter and Cecil Peaks
Staying Active: I practiced an Ashtanga yoga class at a Nadi Wellness right in town and had a wonderful experience. A snow storm was rolling in that evening, and our teacher kindly had the fireplace roaring while we started and ended our practice. I took a vinyasa class at the Lululemon store in Queenstown (they offer free classes Sunday mornings!), which was exactly what my low back and hips needed after my fourteen day hostel stay streak.
Running in Queenstown is a dream. You can take the path along the lake and through the park towards Frankton. The biggest challenge: not stopping to take photos every few minutes! I did have a couple of snowy runs (I’m still wrapping my head around the fact that I’m going into winter AGAIN!)
I hiked up Queenstown Hill, which is a steep uphill track that starts in town and goes up to the peak of Queenstown Hill. At the top of was rewarded with stunning views of Queenstown, The Remarkables, and Lake Wakatipu.
On my final day in Queenstown before I hitchhiked to move into my new house in Wanaka, I hiked up the Tiki Trail along the Gondola route. At the top there is a an impressive view as well as paragliding, a luge course, and mountain biking trails. On the way down, I took an alternative route along the Ben Lomand track back into Queenstown.