Article Check out Queenstown and remote Glenorchy
The drive from Wanaka to Queenstown takes about an hour, but the lookout spots along the way are highly recommended. We started driving through a Savanna-like valley which took us over curvy roads towards a beautiful view of Queenstown from above. Before we drove into Queenstown, we did a little detour to the Kawarau Bungy Center. We both planned to do our first bungy jump during our South Island tour and it seemed perfect to do it at the world’s first permanent commercial bungy site, which A J Hackett opened here in 1988. You will find many different activities for your adrenaline rush around Queenstown, but the bungy jump at the Kawarau Bridge is probably the most popular choice. If you ever thought about doing a bungy jump, we can both recommend this particular location. The friendly staff, light blue colour of the river and the rough cliffs make it a perfect spot.
Full of adrenaline and extremely thirsty, we drove another 30 min. into Queenstown’s town centre. There were lots of people on the streets, shopping or sitting at the bars and restaurants. On the lakeside, there was a nice little market with local handcrafts and food. We did not spend much time in Queenstown, since we were heading further to Glenorchy and planned on exploring Queenstown further on our way back. The drive to Glenorchy was amazing. The road leads you north along the shores of Lake Wakatipu, surrounded by mountains with snow tops on every side. This drive offered probably the most spectacular view that we have seen so far during our trip. After about 40 minutes, we arrived at the Camp Glenorchy Eco Retreat. This campground is a bit more pricey than our previous ones, but it had the most beautiful design and setup that we have seen so far. The kitchen, dining area, lounge, outdoor bbq with fireplace and even the bathroom facilities were amazingly cozy and with such a lovingly planned interior design. Additionally, the whole campground does an awesome job of being eco friendly; from solar panels to compost toilets in a very modern and clean way. On the next day, we initially planned to do the first section of the Routeburn Track and walk to the Routeburn Flats Hut and back from there (5-6 hours return). Unfortunately, the weather condition was not too good on that day and we decided not to do that walk in the clouds with no view. As an alternative destination, we drove to Diamond Lake next to Mount Alfred, where you pass the “Forests of Middle Earth” from the Lord of the Rings. The lake was nice, but the highlight was still the surrounding mountains which you can see from almost everywhere in that area. Maybe the reflection of the lake during sunshine would have been additionally nice to see. Right on the other side of Mount Alfred, we found the scenery used for “Isengaard” in the Lord of the Rings, which is probably more rewarding for actual fans, but you don’t have to love the movies to enjoy that beautiful view.
After a 40 minute drive, we arrived in Queenstown again. We chose to stay at the Queenstown Holiday Park & Motels Creeksyde for a total of 3 nights. The campground is located close to the town center (10 min. walk) and even closer to the Skyline Gondolas (5 min. walk). The Holiday Park has beautifully designed buildings and art-like sculptures everywhere around the park, which makes it pretty special. The facilities were always clean and the international staff was very friendly. The powered spots were, perhaps, a bit too close together and we stayed on a space with three other cars, whereas you could stay by yourself at remoter campsites outside of the town. But it was still a fair deal, considering the central location and the beginning of New Zealand’s spring school holidays. We checked-in and made ourselves comfortable at the Holiday Park before we went to the reception and booked a return ticket for the Skyline Queenstown Gondolas + 5 rides each for the Luge tracks. As a bonus for booking the tickets at the Holiday Park reception, we received unlimited wifi access for the rest of our stay with no extra costs. You can decide if you would like to walk up the Tiki Trail to the viewing platforms or be lazy , like us, and take the Gondolas, which are actually one of the steepest rides worldwide. The lookout at the top is amazing! If you can’t get enough of the view, you can start a hike up to Ben Lomond Saddle (2-3 hours one way) or even further to Ben Lomond Summit (5-7 hours one way). Keep in mind that it would take you about an hour longer in each direction if you don’t take the Gondolas. Since we arrived in Queenstown on a weekend and at the beginning of spring holidays, the Luge attraction was packed and many others had the same plan as us. Even though we had to wait a little for the ski lifts to take us to the start of the Luge tracks, we had a lot of fun and both agreed that it was worth it. The tracks were never too packed and I felt that it was probably more fun to overtake and race with everyone else than to have the track all by yourself. After the rush, we enjoyed a drink with an amazing view at the Stratosfare Bar before taking the Gondola down and heading back to our campsite.
The next day, we decided to have breakfast in the town center and went to Ivy’s & Lola’s Kitchen & Bar down at the waterfront. The interior was amazingly cozy with a big fireplace and old radios placed decoratively around the room. Although it started to rain when we left the cafe, we were stubborn enough to walk through the Queenstown Gardens with an umbrella. Spoiler Alert: This park is definitely worth visiting in sunshine. We slowly strolled around Queenstown back to our campsite and since the weather was clearing up, we decided to drive to Arthur’s Point, which was a 5 Min. drive. At Arthur’s Point, you can either book or just watch the Shotover Jets blast up and down the river at high speed with action-filled maneuvers. We chose to walk the Historic Tunnel Track and watch the Shotover Jets next to us on the river. It is a short 20 min. return walk which leads you to the Oxenbridge Tunnel. The river became famous after the successful gold mining started here in 1862. The Oxenbridge Tunnel was an attempt to wash out gold into the river and even during our short walk, we could observe two men down at the river washing the ground for gold. Back in Queenstown, we left the car at the campsite and walked to the 1876 Bar for delicious snacks and amazingly cheap beer with $6 NZD for a pint. Take a close look at how the barkeepers fill your up your tap beer. It will be a secret before you go there and explore it yourself ;). Just to say: we hadn’t seen this pouring method before.
Our last day in Queenstown started cloudy, but the weather forecast promised sunshine later on. We both wanted to play Mini Golf and chose the indoor option at the Caddyshack City Mini Golf. The setup had so much love for detail and is a fun and special alternative to the usual mini golf places. The sun was shining when we came out and we decided to stroll through the city and headed to the Queenstown Gardens, which was definitely worth a second viewing in the springtime sunshine with all the colorful flowers and bushes. Since we hadn’t had the best weather on our drive to Glenorchy, we wanted to repeat at least a part of the drive and headed to Bennetts Bluff Lookout. The whole drive is amazing and even more spectacular without clouds obscuring the top of the mountains around the lake. Last but not least, we wanted to try and taste the famous Fergburger. We passed the place a couple of times before and there was always a queue and many people waiting in front of the burger place. So we looked it up and were amazed by the positive reviews claiming this might be the best burger people had ever had in their lives. The place had over 9,000 Google reviews. Wow… The meat option was definitely in our personal best list of burgers. The falafel option was not the “best” but still pretty good. Full and happy, we went back to our campervan and spent the rest of the day in our home on wheels.