We’ve been back home in Calgary long enough that I’ve pretty much taken care of the backlog of mail, voice messages and home maintenance tasks that accumulated while were in New Zealand – at least to the point I am excited to begin blogging about our four-week adventure.
Yes, four weeks! C set the stage for our extended family vacation by completing high school a semester early. We departed just a few days after he wrote his last Alberta Diploma Exam. K missed 17 days of junior high, but should be able to catch up with his classmates over his upcoming two-week spring break.Our 24-hour travel “day” ended in Queenstown, on the South Island, where we left our bags in the care of hotel staff and headed out to explore the pedestrian-friendly streets of this lakeside resort town.
In some ways, Queenstown reminded us of Banff – but only if we ignored Lake Wakatipu and focused on the surrounding mountains (like The Remarkables, Cecil Peak, Walter Peak and Coronet Peak). The lakeshore parks and pathways reminded us of the Okanagan Valley (in British Columbia). More than anything, we appreciated the omnipresence of green; the trees, shrubs, flowers and grass here in Calgary won’t show signs of green for another month or two!
Our first stop was at the Telecom New Zealand shop located at #10 Beach Street. A NZ$50 30-day prepaid SIM card for Mr. GeoKs’ unlocked iPhone came with more minutes, text messages and data than we’d need during our trip. The unexpected bonus? Up to 3GB of data/day through Telecom NZ’s network of WiFi hotspots. Every Telecom NZ payphone is a WiFi hotspot and we became accustomed to seeing people hanging around phone booths with their laptops open.
Next, we ordered our first meal in New Zealand – and our last without consulting TripAdvisor! We were taken in by the fact that every outdoor table at that particular restaurant was occupied. Had we looked closer, we might have noticed that everyone was enjoying a late morning coffee (not a meal) and the late summer sun on the patio. Our orders of fish ‘n’ chips and bangers ‘n’ mash gave us a poor first impression of New Zealand food. As we learned over and over again, this meal was the exception to the amazingly good, fresh and well-prepared food that seems to be the country-wide norm.
We stayed fairly active the rest of the day – all part of our plan to stay up until a reasonable bedtime. By the time we slipped between the sheets, we’d explored the Queenstown Gardens, found a half-dozen geocaches, enjoyed an excellent supper and settled into our hotel.
Please click on any of these photos if you wish to view full size.
Over the next three days we enjoyed a helicopter excursion to Milford Sound, challenged ourselves with a guided hike to the summit of Single Cone in The Remarkables, and toured a number of locations where scenes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy were filmed. I expect to publish a blog post about each of these excursions over the next few days.Intermittent rain, the need to do laundry and general laziness shaped our fifth and final day in Queenstown. We hauled our accumulation of dirty clothes laundry down to the hostel a few blocks away and ran everything through the washer and dryer so that we could re-pack our suitcases with clean clothes for the drive to Franz Josef. We explored other streets in Queenstown, confirmed our rental car reservation and enjoyed another visit to the Movenpick ice cream shop located on Beach Street.
Our last Queenstown supper came from Fergburger on Shotover Street. When we asked our guides and hotel staff for their restaurant recommendations, Fergburger was on every list. We followed advice from the locals and called in our order, which was ready for pick-up 20 minutes later. This definitely beat standing in line for a while before ordering, especially since there always seemed to be a very long line, starting as early as 10:30 or 11 each morning. By the time we added chips and onion rings to our order, the bill came in just under NZ$70. I’m sure we’ve never before paid so much for a take-away meal, so we’re sure glad it tasted better than all those other take-away meals!
Our overall impressions of Queenstown? It’s definitely tourist-oriented, with a wide range of adventure excursions on offer: everything from para-gliding, bungee-jumping and jet boats to mountain biking, hiking and skiing. There’s a fairly wide variety of good restaurants and the main townsite is easily managed on foot. If we ever make it back to New Zealand, another visit to Queenstown would definitely be on our list of places to visit.
Have you ever been in Queenstown? Is it on your bucket list? If you have a Queenstown-related question, please feel free to let us know and we’ll do our best to answer.