A 2 hour car ride back from Waipu to Auckland and a 2 hour flight and we landed in Queenstown- Tourist Central, but stunningly beautiful. I was unaware that it was such an old settlement of historical architecture and narrow lanes, full of bars, cafes and boutiques. A steady stream of ambulances wailing, assured us that the orthopaedics were rubbing their hands with delight at the bungee jumping, white water rafting, sky diving and extreme sports that make Queenstown so popular- and the ski season has not even started.
I had read that the locals are tired of the tourists, especially the Freedom Campers who are using the surrounding area as a great outdoor toilet. I wonder how they are going to police that?
The first night, after checking into our amazing Airbnb in Frankton with the most stunning view over the lake, we ventured into the CBD of Queenstown. WOW. We headed to the much acclaimed Botswana Butchery. The roads were jammed with traffic, parking spaces were unavailable and the joint was packed with a huge assortment of adrenaline fuelled backpackers, wealthy Europeans, masses of Chinese. It was very much ‘ Spot the Kiwi.’
The foreshore of the lake was festooned with hip bars and cafes which spilled out onto the promenade. As the sun set the Scottish pipers farewelled the day. It has been unusually hot, over 38 degrees and being so far south the sun does not set until after 10.00 pm. ( way past my bedtime). The bars and the clubs were just starting to rev up for the night.
The next day we drove to Arrowtown on the River Arrow, a car is essential to visit the area. We were confronted with busloads of tourists and while the town is very picturesque it is also an ultra expensive tourist rip off. Gold was discovered here and boosted the town’s prosperity, and it still retains that old fashioned vibe. It reminded me of Silverton the cowboy town in the Colarado Mountains.
What is a trip to New Zealand without a visit to the wineries! Rippon Wines in Wanaka is truly stunning and is one of the few wineries left that do not charge for tastings. It’s Alpine location above the brilliant blue lake contrasts withe snowy mountain peaks and the warm beaches on the sandy shores of the lake. I felt like yodelling, and breaking out my Heidi dress and Alpine hat.
Onwards we drove to the Mount Difficulty Winery, in contrasting landscape. Dry, barren, rocky decorated with spinifex and cactus. Huge Arizonian buttes and sandy desert formations- how could a winery be here? A winery with an acclaimed restaurant? Over the hill and around a bend and here was another spectacular restaurant with another amazing view. There were bonus cowgirl hats provided because of the heat- quite unusual weather for this part of the world.
The food was probably the best we have had in all of New Zealand- and reasonably priced, prompt efficient service and served with their wine suggestions. But the cowgirls were getting hot! Lamb rack on pea puree with quails eggs, snow peas, blanced capsicum and anchovies- with Mt Difficulty Sauv Blanc or Roaring Meg Rose.
It was a brief visit to Queenstown, the average visit is usually 3 days. I would love to move to New Zealand, it is such a pity about the expensive real estate!