With incredible views, scenic walks, and any kind of activity your heart could desire, is a week long enough to enjoy all that Queenstown has to offer? Here’s what I filled my time with on my second visit, and a few ideas to enjoy what Queenstown has to offer!
I was fortunate enough to hitch a ride with a couple of friends I had met while WWOOFing in Franz Josef who happened to be driving from the West Coast to Queenstown. I had a few spare days to kill some time before heading on a road trip from Christchurch and thought what better place than the backpacking capital of Queenstown to roam for a week?
As we left Franz it was sad to see it shrink in the distance behind, as we’d had some brilliant times there making memories, and of course just the place itself is phenomenal. Weirdly however, the minute we were past the mountains heading towards Fox Glacier the sun was out, the clouds were gone and it felt like the prime of summer again after spending time in the overcast mountain town!
After a couple of short toilet and snack breaks we were straight on the road to Wanaka, where we hoped we would be able to find somewhere to camp. However the beautiful thing about driving yourself is that you can stop anytime and anywhere you want. This meant we stopped for a couple of short walks such as Roaring Billy Falls and Blue Pools.
As usual, it was a stunning drive to take us all through Lake Hawea where we eventually reached Lake Wanaka. It was here that we decided to start keeping an eye out for somewhere to camp that evening to break up the long and winding drive. Around 20km from the main town of Wanaka in Albert Town we found a beautiful spot overlooking the lake to set up camp. Just before sunset we found a quiet unmarked area to park up, set up the tent and enjoy a chilled evening talking and laughing. That nights sleep was certainly a cosy one with three of us in a two man tent, and with such a clear night on the brink of Autumn it was starting to get chilly even then.
Driving Through Roaring Meg, Blue Pools, and waterfall breaks
Waking up along with the sunrise, we enjoyed a brisk breakfast with farm views. We drove on for a short while to Wanaka and walked around the town briefly before continuing our journey to Queenstown. We had our lunch in the sunshine (again, yay!) at Lake Hayes, then drove through the small and quaint town of Arrowtown before we finally made it into Queenstown. From there we had to say our goodbyes, (for now at least) and they dropped me off at my friend’s house, where I’d be gratefully staying for the rest of the week. Queenstown is notoriously hard to find inexpensive accommodation, so I was fortunate to know a kind local!
The rest of the week in Queenstown was a great chance to revisit this amazing town and having a local guide was incredibly useful. My host was able to point me in the right direction of great places to spend my time, and activities to do. In between time spent catching up, wandering about, and eating/cooking food, we took a couple of stunning walks nearby.
We took one gently stroll to Kelvin Heights where walking through forest, along the coast, and around a golf course you can appreciate great views of the mountains. Along the way there’s even some subtle yet meaningful statues and works of art, including one piece called “Thru Link to Peak” which if you look at it in just the right angle gives a unique perspective of the mountains ahead of you. Especially on the afternoon we were there where the weather was moody enough to provide just the right atmosphere it was a great little spot to rest on the walk.
Another walk we took was up a very literally named Queenstown Hill where after heading through forest for a while amblers will eventually reach the most spectacular views overlooking the mountains and lake, and right at the top is Millennium Basket, which was to commemorate the year 2000. Its a simple but interesting structure and big enough to sit in and enjoy the views (and catch your breath!).
A Queenstown must-do is to take the all important gondola up to the top of a mountain and witness the views of the town from there. At the top is the luge which looks like great fun, but that day was one for relaxing rather than thrills for me!
Millennium Basket & View from the Gondola
Other than walking and enjoying the various amazing views, my days were spent wandering around the town and generally soaking up Queenstown life. I’ve said it before, but I could definitely see myself spending more time in Queenstown. You just can’t beat those views! The week had a great balance of plenty of time to myself and to reflect on the trip so far, amongst other things, and then time to spend with friends and meeting new people. It meant I never felt lonely, but still had my independence which was absolutely ideal.
I’m certainly very grateful for the kind of environment Queenstown offers – there’s so much to see and do which provides the perfect backpacker atmosphere. It’s never hard to find someone to chat to and being such a small traveller world you tend to bump into people you’ve already met, which is bizarre but strangely reassuring.
After a great week of exploring and eating (yet another Ferg Burger and a delicious dinner at Caribe – seriously would recommend that tiny Latin American place!) and enjoying time away from dorms for a change, I was back on the road heading through Tekapo to Christchurch and about to set off on a road trip adventure.
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