Queenstown is a beautiful town in the middle of the South Island of New Zealand, named after Queen Victoria and the original Queenstown that already existed in Ireland. The town is cradled in a nook of Lake Wakatipu called Queenstown Bay, surrounded by Queenstown Hill and The Remarkables (Mountain Range). Lake Wakatipu is the third largest lake in New Zealand by surface area, although the surface area fluctuates throughout the day as the water level of the lake rises and falls (20cm every 27 minutes) due to a complicated phenomenon that people refer to as the “heart beat” of the lake. Although New Zealand is full of gorgeous lakes, Lake Wakatipu is one that’s super easy to enjoy as opposed to passively observing it’s gorgeousness like the lakes featured in my last post.
According to Maori legend, the lake was created by the death of a giant. The Maori chief’s daughter was in love with a commoner, but their love was forbidden. She was then captured by a giant. The chief said whoever rescued her could marry her, so her love tracked the giant by following the warm breeze that he knew would put the giant to sleep. Finding the giant asleep, he tried to rescue the chief’s daughter, setting the giant on fire in the process. When the giant fell, the weight of his body and the heat of the fire created Lake Wakatipu. It is said the heart of the giant still lives under Pigeon Island and is responsible for the “heart beat” of the lake.
Queenstown today is an adrenaline junkie’s dream! Almost the entire economy is built on so called “adventure tourism.” The town offers plenty of opportunities for water sports on the lake like kayaking and paddleboarding, available without appointment or fuss directly from the beach. For the more severely addicted adrenaline junkie, there’s sky diving from planes, hang gliding, paragliding, zip lining, and bungee jumping. You name it, you can probably do it there. It’s also incredibly easy to book through a local agent the morning of or morning prior.
Furthermore, Queenstown boasts one of the best burgers in the world! The Fergburger! I went classic with avocado. It truly was one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten. I think this is mostly because New Zealand seems to have really happy cows. 🙂
They also have really vibrant night life! Depending on what time of year you go, the sun doesn’t set until 10 or 11pm so everyone grabs a bottle of wine or some beer and heads to the lake shore to watch the sun set. I chose to go hang gliding while in Queenstown and the night after my session, all the guys and gals from the hang gliding and paragliding groups in the area met up on top of Ben Lomand Peak and paraglided down to the beach, doing tricks all along the way as the sun set. It was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen!
Since Queenstown is situated in a valley surrounded by mountains, there’s also plenty of opportunities for hiking. Two of the most popular hikes are Queenstown Hill and Ben Lomond. Queenstown Hill is a quick walk from downtown and takes approximately 2 hours to summit. It looks over The Remarkables, the town, and the lake and has a great view of sunset. It’s a relatively easy hike if you haven’t brought boots or don’t want to dedicate your whole day. I hiked it by myself for a sunset view from the top after spending the day at Milford Sound. Ben Lomond peak is ranked as a better hike and certainly more challenging. To hike from the base to the peak takes 6-8 hours return.
The good news is, you can actually take a gondola halfway up to Bobs Peak if you are determined to hike Ben Lomond but have more limited time…or if you’re lazy and just enjoy a lovely gondola ride!
Bobs Peak is another adventure-packed area. From the Skyline gondola station you can easily access bungee jumping, mountain biking, and the summer luge. Getting the ticket for the gondola and then 6 rides on the luge is relatively inexpensive and super fun! I had never done a luge before but it’s a bit of a rush without being too extreme.
There’s also beautiful views of the surrounding lake and mountains to entertain you whilst standing in line. Don’t worry though, the line doesn’t take long! I was able to do this after my hang gliding session and still make it back to the beach in time for sunset!