February 24, 2024

Queenstown New Zealand is a spectacular place. Located on the shores of the deep blue Lake Wakatipu, and surrounded by the 7,000 foot (2,300 metres) high Remarkables, the scenery is breathtaking. Queenstown is a must for any New Zealand holiday.

We would like to share a day in Queenstown with you.

Out of bed around 8am, the day is bright and sunny, although cool, with a maximum predicted temperature of 14 degrees celsius today. It’s mid October and although today is a perfect alpine day, there is snow on the peaks and small falls are still possible, although less likely as the month progresses.

We start the day with a cooked breakfast in our apartment at the Beacon, which overlooks the lake. Amazing views, and it really is worth paying a little extra for a room with uninterrupted lake views. Lake Wakatipu is around 40 kilometres (about 22 miles) long, and stretches between the small villages of Glenorchy and Kinston. The drive to either of these from Queenstown is a memorable experience as you follow the lake edge all the way. But that’s not for us today.

Today we drive to the beautiful lakeside township of Wanaka (Wan-a-ka), which is around one hours drive from Queenstown. You can go via the township of Cromwell, but a much more interesting drive is via the Crown Range. The road climbs over the Crown Range and is the highest main road in New Zealand. There are several lookouts on the way, which provide wonderful photo opportunities looking back towards Queenstown (make sure you have plenty of film, or for digital users, a large memory card). On the way, around 25 kilometres before Wanaka we pass the historic Cardrona Hotel, which dates back to the 1800s. More on that later. Once in Wanaka we stroll along the lake edge, and from the small pier in front of the Tourist Information centre, you can see hugh trout swimming just metres below you in the clear waters of Lake Wanaka. Unbelievable. We take a stroll through the town and as always, we are impressed by the cleanliness and presentation of the town centre. The locals really do take a lot of pride. There are numerous cafes and gift shops for your kiwi memorabilia. If you have an hour or two to spare, visit the Puzzling World. This place is great fun for kids and adults, and has a maze, various optical illusions and lots of brain teasers. Well worth a visit.

But now it’s time to head back to Queenstown. But not before a visit to the Cardrona Hotel for lunch. As you enter the hotel, you are greeted by examples of local historic bits and pieces, and in the bar area, look through a glass panel in the floor to an old gold mine shaft. The hotel has a menu full of hearty kiwi dishes, and a selection of fine wines and beers. If the day is cool you have the option of sitting inside by the open fire, but with such a perfect day, we decide to sit out back in the spacious and manicured garden at one of the many timber tables. Our table sits on a beautiful lawn area and we are struck by the distance between us and the closest diners (probably 15 metres or 50 feet). If you have children there is plenty of room for them to explore safely. We sit in the sun and sample a Speights beer (ok, I sample two) and a local Sav Blanc, and tuck into our lunch, thinking how perfect the day is. Our meal is well presented and very, very good. We are even joined by the resident cat, who sits next to us on our bench seat, and delicately takes a few small pieces of chicken from me. The locals sure are friendly.

Time to head back to Queenstown, and as we descend the Crown Range we are again dumbstruck by the view and the beauty of the Wakatipu basin. As we reach the bottom of the range, we detour a few kilometres to the historic township of Arrowtown, an old gold mining village, which is now filled with lovely cafes and shops selling local arts and crafts. 

Its then a 20 minute drive back to Queenstown, where we put our feet up in our apartment, gaze out at the lake, and watch the old steamer the TSS Earnslaw as it sails past on one of its regular cruises. We wonder what adventure tomorrow holds for us in this gorgeous place.