Queenstown: Moving On From New Zealand
There's a lot of hype around Queenstown. Located on Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by picturesque mountains, Queenstown is a stunner.
Among foreign travelers, it's known for the abundance of adrenaline inducing activities. Think: paragliding, flyboarding, ziplining, skydiving, jet skiing. In fact, it's notably the home of commercial bungy jumping. Queenstown was our last stop on our Southern Island tour.
Throughout our three weeks in New Zealand, the reoccurring question was: "Have you been to Queenstown?!" Followed by: "Oh you're gonna love it!"
We didn't love it. Queenstown is a lot of action. Quite frankly, it's simply overrun by tourists. You can't deny the stunning backdrop. And I think if we started in Queenstown, we would have a different reaction. But after spending time in so many smaller, quainter villages, Queenstown was an adventure advertisement overload. Fortunately, we were staying in an Airbnb five minutes outside of Queenstown and tucked away in the mountains.
We felt ages away from the bustle of the downtown.
Our first evening, we were treated to a vibrant sunset from our room.
The house was built by a couple who had lived in Queenstown for the past 30 years, before the town became the exhilarating destination it is today. They had an infectious love for Queenstown, but shared a sadness for what it's become. From our room, you could still see the pristine mountains, and what draws all those tourists, including ourselves.
Listening totheir perspective over freshly baked bread and homemade jams each morning was a highlight. They rent out two bedrooms in their home, and accompanied by other European guests, we talked politics, traveling, and the rise of Queenstown. The couple was eager to share their beloved city, but also made some stellar recommendations in the surrounding areas.
On our first full day, we hiked Routeburn Track, roughly 45 minutes outside of Queenstown.
The coastal drive along the lake was brilliant.
It was a gorgeous day, so we were able to appreciate the incredible clarity of the water.
The Routeburn Track is known as a shorter multi-day hike, through mountains and valleys with waterfalls and immaculately pure lakes. We started near Glenorchy, an area lauded as a gateway to some of the most spectacular hiking in the world.
We hiked through now familiar beech forests.
And crossed several swing bridges over the valley.
We were the only one's crossing the bridges, but their sizable sway over gushing water could feel unnerving at times.
There were beautiful view of the mountain floors before the landscape opened up at the Routeburn Falls Hut. To the first hut from the carpark and back was around 10 miles.
Our Airbnb was also conveniently only 15 minutes outside of Arrowtown, a historic settlement founded in 1862 during the Otago gold rush. We loved exploring the tree-lined streets and cottages. In fact, one day we had lunch at Slow Cuts, went to our Airbnb after, and decided to drive back that evening for dinner at Fork and Tap. We highly recommend both.
During the day, there are wonderful walking tracks just behind the town. We were pleasantly surprised to find a loop track along the banks of the Arrow River, the Arrowtown Millennium Walk. It was overcast, so the easy trail covered by Willow and Sycamore Trees was ideal. We later learned that part of this trail was the location for "The Gladden Fields" of Lord of the Rings.
Should we revisit New Zealand, we'll stay in Arrowtown.
Queenstown is a target destination due to it's undeniable beauty and wealth of activities. However, it was the people we met and our conversations with fellow travelers that resonated. It was a great way to cap off our time in a magnificent country. The scenery, the people, the untouched landscape. We absolutely loved New Zealand. But we're quite unoriginal with our affection. I'd argue everyone who visits falls in love with the country.
Surprising aspects about New Zealand:
1) The highways: There are no billboards. None! Even on the most major thoroughfares, the only signboards you'll see are telling you to not look at your phone or pull over when looking at the scenery.
2) Kiwi: The common term for residents of New Zealand is actually a flightless bird.
3) Weather: The climate is temperamental and changes rapidly. When going outside, it's best to dress in many layers, and bring both sunscreen and a rain coat. You never know.
4) Affordable: Right now, the exchange rate is fairly favorable for the American dollar. Pricing is about on par with any major city in The States., but the exchange rate is roughly 1 U.S. dollar to 1.4 New Zealand dollars.
5) Tourist destination: A major tourist spot for Chinese and German visitors. We met a fair amount of European travelers, but by far most were German. We only met one other American couple.
6) Dining: You typically go up to the counter to order and pay at a restaurant, the server very rarely brings the check. Tipping is not customary.
7) Water: There are jugs of water and cups at nearly every eating and drinking establishment, and it's help yourself! I don't understand why they don't do this in the U.S.
8) Terminology: New Zealand is an english speaking country, but there are still word choice differences that threw us off. Capsicums are peppers, chips are fries, tins are cans, packets are sachets, chemists are pharmacies, carparks are parking lots, petrol is gas, bushwacking is hiking.
9) The outdoors: The landscape is truly breathtaking and the country really encourages you to get outside. When in New Zealand, it's tough not to.
10) Dairy: Due to the ample farmland, it's unsurprising that nearly any dairy product is phenomenal. The milk is simply richer. But it's the ice cream that I'd argue is the best in the world.