With the decision made to return back to the UK at the end of my Australia working holiday, it was time to exit the country, and get going on the long road home, we will be reunited before you know it!
Conveniently flying direct from Melbourne to Queenstown, I would begin on the South Island, and from here there were absolutely no plans. Usually one to obsess over travel guides before a trip, this was a whole new experience for me. However! There is an important lesson to be learnt from this. Seemingly if you are flying into New Zealand on a tourist visa, they will not let you onto the plane without an exit flight from the country. Here followed an incredibly stressful 30 minutes, but eventually my bag made it as the last one to be checked in for the flight. Fortunately I had an exceptionally helpful girl at Flight Centre, which is more than can be said for Air New Zealand who were must unhelpful during the experience. Lesson Learnt!
So with a confirmed 3 months ahead of me, there was literally no turning back! It is an impressive flight into Queenstown over the mountains, so I didn’t even need to step foot into the country to see that the rumours NZ is one of the most beautiful countries in the world was going to be true. Only confirmed further on arriving into the town! It turned out I had booked a great hostel for my first few nights, Adventure Q2 Hostel. Clearly very new, and very well designed, with the little details making the difference, like fixed bunks with curtains to give a bit of privacy, and to avoid feeling every movement of the person above or below you. The hostel is also right in the centre of town, which is perfect to get out and explore.
Queenstown has a reputation as the adventure capital of the world – which certainly isn’t a lie. It was pretty overwhelming arriving into a place where everyone is asking whether you will be skydiving or bungee jumping, or doing things you’ve never even heard of. It was easier to accept the drink offered from one of the American’s in my room and choose to worry about all of that later. It would have been amazing to embrace more of these opportunities, but as you may imagine, they are all rather budget breaking, so they will have to wait until I return one day. Of course this didn’t mean I would be relaxing in my room the whole time, here were some of the highlight of my Queenstown experience:
Few of the activities in Queenstown come without a hefty price tag, but it was completely free to hike up Queenstown Hill and check out just how incredible this part of the world is. Probably not a hike I would refer to as a “hill”, I was almost ready for collapse after hiking up to the start of the trail. But of course I pushed myself to the top, and it was worth every step. The view is breath taking, and for a good 30 minutes I had the place all to myself. A perfect way to shake off the stress from the journey!
I was never going to be able to say no to ALL of the activities, and a return to the snow was long overdue after a whole 3 years away from the Canadian mountains. I was able to rent a board, boots, clothes and a helmet for only $50, and the shuttle bus to the mountain leaves directly from the same building as the rental shop. I was unsure which of the mountains to choose, but settled on Remarkables, which is approx. 40 minutes out of the town. I was lucky to have perfect conditions, and actually very good snow for spring time boarding, and just to show how small the world is, ran into an old friend working as a lift attendant!
Wandering through Town
Such a cute mountain town could only remind me of the places I loved so much in Canada, so it took a fair bit of time to peruse though the many shops, wander around the park, and enjoy a delicious hot chocolate at Patagonia on the waterfront whilst catching up with my tales to yourself! It is also sacrilege to go to Queenstown and not indulge in a Ferg Burger, a tiny shop where you must choose a time carefully or face a huge line. Luckily I was able to time this to perfection, and enjoy my absolutely enormous (and gluten free!) burger in the sunshine at the lakeside. Similarly if you find the line too large, it is perhaps controversial to say, but Devil Burger was just as delicious!
Day Trip to Wanaka
After learning a friend from Canada was living here, and conveniently getting a ride from some lovely American boys, it seemed the perfect opportunity to take a trip. (I would later return and stay in Wanaka TWICE after this, but that’s the beauty of having no plans!) Wanaka is essentially a smaller, less crazy version of Queenstown, and has a great chilled atmosphere. Whilst waiting to meet my friend I enjoyed breakfast on the waterfront, and took a long walk around the lake, which is continually stunning from every angle. A popular activity is to take a day to hike Roys Peak, however this is closed during lambing season, so I missed my chance with this on every occasion.
There’s a few different ways to get out and see the mighty Milford Sounds, but after awaiting to hear reports from my roomies, I decided to go with Jucy Cruises, which run a day trip from Queenstown. Unfortunately I wasn’t so lucky with the weather, but this is definitely a magical place. The bus stopped off at a few viewpoints along the way, including within the Paradise area, which as a filming location, was my first experience of feeling like I was driving through Lord of the Rings! I was lucky to meet a couple of nice boys in my group, and as the rain kept so many people inside the boat, we often had the top deck to ourselves when venturing outside. Fortunately the day was still clear enough to take in the views, and getting right up close to one off the enormous waterfalls was quite the experience!
This can also be visited from Te Anue, or a cruise may be joined if you have your own vehicle to get there. Kayaking was generally considered to have been a great way to see the area, so perhaps I was a little hasty in rushing into a day tour.
TOP TIP: If visiting NZ, get to use the website “Bookme” – this is similar to group on, and offers amazing discounts on activities and tours where available. Generally this is easier to use if you have an idea of dates and are able to book in advance, but deals such as jetboating in Queenstown for $9 instead of $99 are too great to miss if catching them at the right time! Something I wish I had learnt a little earlier in my trip!
- This is one place in NZ I would highly recommend booking accommodation ahead of time, as it is definitely the busiest place I visited on the south island. I had to relocate to another hostel as mine was fully booked, but was able to stay at Nomads for only $19 per night using a discount code on their website. Generally I heard bad things about this hostel, but as I had a 10 bed dorm to myself for 2 nights, and decided to be fairly antisocial after coming down with a very unpleasant cold, I don’t really have much to say about it!
After a fair amount of panic over what to do with my time in NZ, I managed to line up some work for accommodation on the east coast, so my journey would next take me to Dunedin, and hopefully out of the crazy for a while…
With kindest regards,