Nestled at the foot of tremendous mountain ranges and sparkling blue lakes is a small village peeping out with cute white houses and perfect pointed trees. It is picturesque, quaint, and...the adventure sports capital of the WORLD? Yes. Welcome to Queenstown, New Zealand.
Queenstown's epic scenery is only rivaled by the ridiculous number of activities available in the lively town. With the hottest party scene in New Zealand and mad mountains for skiing and boarding, this lakeside resort village on the South Island is a year-round vacationer's paradise. Many people fly to Queenstown from other parts of the country, however the drive into the city from any direction is nothing less than spectacular. Curving roads around Lake Wakatipu and other nearby lakes provide a photo opportunity at every turn, and waterfalls cascade down the steep rock mountains. Much of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy was filmed in this area, and with a rental car you can explore some of the more remote parts of the country, land that puts new meaning to the words "rugged" and "isolated."
Close by is the old gold-mining outpost of Arrowtown, a more touristy getaway with a storybook setting, cozy restaurants and plenty of gold for the intrepid shopper. Many travelers also like to book sightseeing flights from Queenstown to nearby Milford Sound, one of the most staggeringly beautiful places in all of New Zealand. However you really don't have to leave Queenstown at all; with a wild variety of hotels, shops, restaurants and attractions, everyone from budget backpackers to luxury travelers will find a niche and a mountain to climb- or jump off of.
Things to do in
Queenstown is an adrenaline junkie's paradise. Just some of the activities you will find include bungy jumping (three terrifying locations including the Nevis, the 3rd highest bungy in the world), jetboating, skiing, snowboarding, fly-fishing, skydiving, wine tasting, hot air balloon rides, white water rafting, canoeing, hiking, scenic flights, mountain biking and hang gliding. Lord of the Rings' tours take fans to different movie locations around the area, and heliskiing adventures to Milford Sound or day trips to Arrowtown, Wanaka and Glenorchy are also popular and easy to book any time of year.
Just a few minutes walk from the city center is the Skyline Gondola, which you can ride to the top of the town for an immense view of the surrounding lake and mountain ranges. Pull up a stool and have a pint of thick Kiwi ale at what is quite possibly the best bar in the world- judging by scenery, anyway. While up top you can also dine at the Skyline restaurant, luge down a racecourse like a teenager or, this being New Zealand, bungy jump off the side of the cliff- although you might want to reconsider that order.
A travel hotspot, in Queenstown you will have no problem finding apartments to rent, shops to browse or restaurants to cuddle up in, from wood oven pizza parlors to gourmet sushi establishments. Nightlife is crackin' and as the daylight fades, all the sports junkies start to cool down and come out of their harnesses. Parties and dancing often go on until dawn, which is something to keep in mind as you choose the location of your accommodation.
Lomond Lodge: apartment-like lodging a few minutes outside of town
Orchard Cottage: bed and breakfast-type cottage, good for families
Comfort Inn Melbourne Motor Lodge: good value, nothing fancy but clean rooms
The Whistler Queenstown -like and clean, good-sized room and nice staff
Scenic Suites Queenstown: larger hotel, modern with more impersonal vibe
Browns Boutique Hotel: central location, comfortable, cozy, cute with great views
Azur: super luxury lodge, high attention to detail and personalized service