Backpacking around the North and South Islands of New Zealand, nothing compared to Queenstown for fun, entertainment and adventure.
Thrill seekers, scenery chasers and party animals will fall in love with Queenstown. The alpine resort attracts 1.9 million visitors a year from all over the world and it’s easy to see why. I was lucky enough to have five nights here but met lots of backpackers who were passing through in a couple of days. If you don’t have time to see all the incredible corners of this region, here are the best bits to see in 24 hours.
Stay at Nomads – 5/11 Church St, Queenstown.
Six-bed dorms for around $35NZD, central location, free breakfast, big lounge, roaring fire in the winter, cinema room, sauna and ski storage.
Great base to explore the town, take a day skiing in Coronet, Treble Cone or Cardrona and enjoy the night-life.
Price Exchange: 35NZD is around $29USD, 21.5EUR and £17.5
The lake is beautiful, especially in winter (June, July, August). Spectacular views, stunning walks and a great place to sit and watch the world go by with a steaming mug of mulled wine.
You’re in the heart of the adventure capital so it’s the perfect spot for adrenaline junkies to get their heart-rate up.
Take the famous AJ Hackett bungee jump from 134m (440ft) above the Nevis River and scare yourself silly for $260.
How about the Shotover Canyon Swing? For $200 you can take to the 109m cliff top and enjoy a 200m swing at a rate of 150kph!
Experience The Luge – cart your way down the 800 meter track with stunning views and the thrill of backed corners, tunnels and dips from $33 per adult – it’s as fast or slow as you make it so this one is good for families too.
Milford Sound is an area of outstanding natural beauty south-west of the South Island within Fiordland National Park. Take a boat trip through the fjords to see dolphins, seals, waterfalls and snow-capped peaks.
I arranged a fully-inclusive tour through the travel desk at Nomads Backpackers hostel. It was a four and a half hour drive from Queenstown, passing through pretty towns with mirror lakes and the picturesque Te Anau. For a hostel pick-up, transport, Milford Sound boat tour, lunch and a return journey, it cost around $180
Maori are believed to have discovered Milford Sound more than 1000 years ago and no trip to NZ would be complete without it. The boat trip took us through the fjords for about two hours and included a great lunch on-board. It was desperately cold taking photos from the roof of the boat so bring as many layers as possible for a winter visit as it averages 0-6 degrees Celsius.
I took a day trip to Mount Cardrona and, as I was travelling alone, decided to join a group for a two-hour session in the morning and enjoy the afternoon exploring the slopes by myself.
Don’t expect the length or altitude of many European resorts because the runs are limited in comparison. What you will appreciate is that queues are relatively short and there are much fewer people than you’d find on the average red run in Val d’Isère.
Book a package that includes transport to the mountain, hire of all clothes, lift pass and a half-day group lesson to get to know the best runs with a guide before you go out alone. I arranged the trip at the travel desk in Nomads hostel and got a pick-up from outside the hostel to save any early morning hassle.
The trip by mini bus was 1hr 15 and the total package was around $180 for the day.
Take a walk along the pier for restaurants with a view over the lake or visit the popular ‘BRAZZ on the Green’ for a cosy atmosphere, delicious food and one of the best chargrilled steaks I’ve ever ordered. If you want to experience real taste of Queenstown, it has to be Fergburger. Before I’d even left Brisbane airport to get my New Zealand flight, three people had told me to visit Fergburger and they weren’t wrong. Enormous, freshly made beef burgers with every topping you could dream of and incredible meat pies that satisfy you like no other take-away at 2am. Take a look at 42 Shotover Street – the Tropical Swine was the best thing I’ve ever laid hands on for $13.90!
Minus 5 Ice Bar (88 Beach St) is a magical cove of iciness. Get kitted out with a ski coat and gloves and spend 45 minutes drinking cocktails from a glass made of ice. Entry with one cocktail included is $30 per adult. I chose to indulge my alcohol dependency at the unusual hour of 3pm and was lucky enough to get the bar all to myself. Not great for meeting travel buddies but great for an unobscured view of the sculptures.
If you like a backpacker, party atmosphere with your drinks, you need to hear to Cowboys Bar at 7 Searle Lane. Sit by the fire with a Pinot Noir, watch the footy, play pool, meet new mates and get acquainted with the nine foot bear. What’s not to love!
When you finally manage to tear yourself away from the charms of Queenstown, I found the best way to explore the Islands was using The Naked Bus – famously advertising trips from $1. It’s billed as ‘cheap, no-frills travel’ which had me expecting it to be cold, vandalised and infrequent but to be honest I found it reliable, clean, efficient, great value and a really good way to get around with some spectacular views en route.
If you want to visit Queensland, the best advice I can give you is that 24 hours is not nearly enough!