When you Google Queenstown you find a Lonely Planet entry that says, ‘Queenstown is as much a verb as it is a noun.’ It would be more accurate to say that Queenstown is an adjective. But which one? Queenstown offers everything that a verb loving, adrenaline junkie could ask for – bungy jumping, zip lining, heliskiing, amazing nightlife, bars and restaurants. But it is so much more than that.
Queenstown was the place we chose for our midyear snow holiday but now that we are travelling with a toddler, we knew this was going to be a different kind of holiday for us. As owners of a ski travel and clothing store, a large part of our business involves preparing clients for holidays on the slopes. There’s no denying that Queenstown offers fantastic skiing and its natural beauty is stunning. But there is another side of a snow holiday in Queenstown that is easy to overlook when you’re focussed solely on the skiing experience. Our holiday left us with memories of scenery, people and places that will last a lifetime.
View from Kamana Lake house – great coffee!
The Flight – The Remarkables
After only a three and a half hour flight from Brisbane you fly over a mountain range and land in Queenstown Airport in Frankton Otago. The name of the range is The Remarkables and while the name may not be overly creative, it’s true they are – well – remarkable. I’m obviously not the only one who struggles to find the right adjectives to describe this place.
We chose not to stay in the heart of Queenstown. As this was going to be a different kind of trip for us, we chose the Hilton Resort and Spa on the other side of Lake Wakatipu. This gave us the best of both worlds – easy access into and out of town via a water taxi but peaceful evenings at the resort if that’s what we wanted with Harlem.
View from Relaxation Suite hot tub at The Hilton
At the Hilton we had our own private hot tub and let me tell you, there is no better way to finish the day than sitting in a private hot tub overlooking Lake Wakatipu with a glass of Pinot from the Central Otago region. This lightning bolt shaped lake was carved by a glacier and is bordered on all sides by tall mountains. An unusual feature of the lake is the tide-like movement of the water every 25 minutes. It is in fact an effect of atmospheric pressure but I prefer the Maori legend which tells of a sleeping monster name Matua who is lying at the bottom of the lake, its heartbeat causing the water to rise and fall. Or maybe it was the wine – we did our level best to try many of the wines this region is famous for and I discovered a wonderful local rosé called Blondie.
The lake figured largely in our daily activities. Just seeing it every day was a soothing experience. One day we hired electric bikes, Harlem in the baby carrier on the back and made the most beautiful bike ride ever. This simple activity was the highlight of our trip.
Walter Peak Station
We also caught a steamship – the famous TSS Earnslaw’ and took a 35 minute trip over to Walter Peak Farm. A drive there would have taken over three hours. This historic steamship was built in 1912 and is the only remaining commercial passenger-carrying, coal-fired steamship in the Southern Hemisphere. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip and royalty (besides us, that’s a joke) from around the world have travelled on this charming old ship. It was once even in an Indiana Jones film posing as an Amazon Riverboat.
Walter Peak Station offers a farming experience where you can get up close and personal with llamas and cows and watch sheep being sheared. You can also view the local ducks. We however, had a gorgeous grazing lunch there again overlooking Lake Wakatipu. The original homestead at Walter Peak Station was built in the 1800’s and has a beautiful family friendly vibe. This lovely place is just a short cruise away from lively Queenstown but I couldn’t help imagining how harsh life would have once been for those early white settlers. This is a day trip I’ll certainly be recommending to all my travellers. With or without kids, it is an absolute must do.
View from the original homestead
Private Guided Tours
We extended our holiday by one day as we had the opportunity of experiencing a new product. Private guided tours are ideal for families who want to share the cost of a private guide. We went on a Heli hike with a private helicopter and guide. Flying over Lake Wakatipu and the mountain ranges of Queenstown is an exciting way to appreciate the beauty. We landed in a gorge that is known as Middle Earth Waterfalls which is where the film ‘The Hobbit’ was set. After an hour long hike with Harlem in a backpack on Hayden’s back, we met up with our guide for a picnic. It felt like we were the only people on earth. The peacefulness, the size of the mountains surrounding us and the freshness of the air made for a surreal experience. We finished it off with a glass of bubbles and a picnic of gorgeous fresh produce. In fact, a private guide is certainly something that we would recommend for any occasion – milestone birthday or celebration of any kind. I have lots of new ideas to share with travellers.
Picnic and Bubble after a Heli Hike – earned our bubbles
Just so you know, we didn’t neglect the heart of Queenstown. We had some beautiful dinners at Botswana Butchery, Yonder, Big Fig and Voodoo. Earlier sittings can be booked for families and I discovered some local babysitting services which I can highly recommend.
Trying the describe Queenstown and all it has to offer is a difficult job. I could write a book and never get it right. Words like beautiful, stunning, amazing – all accurate but somehow they all fall short. I hope the images manage to convey what I have failed to do. You simply have to go to believe it and see it for yourself. This holiday will live long in my memory and I’d love for you to be able to experience it too.
New Zealand’s ski season runs late into September and some resorts go through into October so there’s still plenty of time for you to get to Queenstown.
The Remarkables Ski Resort – July 2019
743 Stanley St, Woolloongabba
1300 766 911 (Toll free)