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Queenstown: 10 things to do in town and around

Published
December 8, 2020
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THIS POST ACCOMPANIES MY BOOK THE SENSATIONAL SOUTH ISLAND: NEW ZEALAND'S MOUNTAIN LAND, AND WILL BE UPDATED SHORTLY

First, take a cruise on the Earnslawto Walter Peak Station for lunch and a tour of the farm park or, better still,for dinner on a long summer evening.

The Earnslaw under Walter Peak,2017. Could just as well be 1917!

Second, go up the Skyline Gondola to the Skyline Restaurant,which is perched on a crag 450 metres or nearly 1,500 feet above Queenstown.The crag is called Bob’s Peak, though oddly enough there is an official BobsPeak in quite a different location near Moke Lake.

Embarking in the Queenstown Skyline Gondolafor a 450m descent to the town on the lake, visible far below.

There’s a luge and other amusements next to the SkylineRestaurant, and you can also head into the back country from this point. Moreon that below!

A more factual Māori tale than the one about the giant describeshow Hākitekura, the courageous and athletic daughter of the local rangatira, orchief, Tuwiriroa of the Kāti [Ngāti] Māmoe iwi, once clambered to this exactspot to get a good view of local landmarks, and plot her direction accordingly,before swimming across the lake and lighting a fire on the other side, just toshow that it was possible to do so!

Third, visit Arrowtown!

Arrowtown: BuckinghamStreet, by Buckingham Green

Fourth, there’s the Bobs Cove area and Twelve Mile Delta,much less than twelve miles west of Queenstown in spite of its name, which hassome amazing views of its own, and which also includes historical lime kilnsand Lord of the Rings filming sites.

Bobs Cove and the Twelve Mile lakeshore. Screenshot of map by Land Information NewZealand via topomap.co.nz, 5 June 2020. Crown Copyright Reserved.

Fifth, other good viewpoints close to town includeQueenstown Hill and, elsewhere, Deer Park Heights, a private venture where youcan also get to see llamas.

View from Deer Park Heights

Sixth, you can visit Moke Lake, pronounced Mokeh and meaningsolitary, in the hills behind Queenstown, and hike the Moonlight Track back tothe suburb of Arthurs Point in Queenstown, on the Shotover River.

Moke Lake in winter

It’s on the road to Moke Lake that you go past the otherBobs Peak, confusingly.

This Bob who pops up all over the place, by the way, wasRobert Fortune, who captained a lake-boat for William Gilbert Rees: an earlyfounder of Queenstown whose statue beside that of an intelligent-looking sheepseems to indicate that, yes, people really do grow to resemble their pets.

Seventh, you can take the Shotover Jet jetboats from ArthursPoint up the Shotover Gorge. Interestingly enough, the spot from where thejetboats take off, under the interesting and historic Edith Cavell Bridge, hasall sorts of multi-coloured pebbles in the water, instead of just the usualgrey ones. This is because of the region’s wealth of minerals: of which more,below.

Eighth, Queenstown is also where the whole modern bungyjumping craze also began. You can bungy jump off the original bridge where itall started, an old disused bridge on a gorge of the Kawarau River, just eastof town.

Ninth, you can drive to the top of the lake and take in thecafé society of Glenorchy and Kinloch, head up the Paradise Valley to ArcadiaStation and the guest accommodation run by the Paradise Trust.

Check out the ParadiseTrust’s amazing website: paradisetrust.co.nz.If that doesn’t make you want to go there, I don’t know what will!

The real-life top of Lake Wakatipu is a fascinating area,not to be confused with the misleading impression created by the British drama Topof the Lake. It’s a place where many tramping tracks begin and return. I’vegot chapters on the Rees-Dart Track, the Caples-Greenstone Track and theRouteburn Track, all of which start from here. But even without embarking onthose multi-day tours, it’s possible to hike closer to the lake in the WhakaariConservation Area.

This area includes disused scheelite mine workings, relicsof yet another extractive activity.

The Top of the Lake

Abandoned miners’ tram-tracks in the WhakaariConservation Area

There is occasional talk of starting the scheelite industryup again, but these proposals are very controversial. It seems that peopleprefer to admire this sort of thing from a distance of years, rather than haveit going on in their backyard right now.

DOC web page on the Whakaari Conservation Area: https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/otago/places/whakaari-conservation-area/?tab-id=50578

Tenth, though I don’t really recommend it, on a good day,when the ground is perfectly dry and firm, you may care to hazard a drive onthe Skippers Canyon Road, a narrow gravel road incised into the side of a cliffas if with the end of a ruler.

If you’ve watched one of those docos about the road of deathin Bolivia or whatever it’s called, well, the Skippers is like that. Check itout here before you drive!

dangerousroads.org/australia-and-oceania/new-zealand/55-skippers-canyon-road-new-zealand.html

Your insurance may not be valid forthis road, which is often excluded on Kiwi policies.

All the same, some adventure tourism buses use the Skippersto get to their destinations: an adventure in itself. Maybe you could get aride with them, as their drivers will be experienced.

Finally, I should add that there are lots of other thingsyou could spend money on in the Queenstown area. I’ve been focusing on thingsthat are either fairly cheap, free, or must-dos in compiling this list. I’vereally only scratched the surface of some of the more expensive, wild, orexclusive things that go on in the area. Nor have I mentioned the skifields!But they are covered in a couple of the blog posts below, which I would urgeyou to check out.

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