A short while ago I spent a few days in Queenstown. The ski season was coming to an end and I had really wanted to get down there before all the snow disappeared, as its famed for its great skiing. Almost everyone I speak to here asks if I’ve been to Queenstown. It’s very much new and on trend and in huge demand – the property prices reflect that.
Traveling solo, I caught an early morning flight down, very early, but it gave way to a scenic flight with a magnificent sunrise over the mountains. Unfortunately, I was too busy dunking my cookie (thank you Air New Zealand) into my cup of tea to remember take a picture. It was a good cookie though.
I landed, picked up a car, went immediately to hire my skis and quickly changed into my ski gear. I was heading for The Remarkables ski field. A magnificent drive up the mountain, there were some crazy views of Queenstown and the lake. The weather played its part and the sun shone, wind stayed away and it was a great day to be on the slopes.
I was fully aware this would be the last time I’d be skiing before I head to Austria in March. The snow was still great, given we’ve had some warm spells that I’m told can strip away up to 20cm of snow A DAY from the mountains.
When my legs started to feel like they could ski no more, I headed back to the hotel in Central Queenstown, dropped my skis off and went and had a look around. The town itself is compact, a typical ski village, tight and short of space, so everything is crammed in. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d left New Zealand. But it has a magnificent feel and vibe. Very happening, very hustle bustle.
Day two came around and the weather decided not to play its part – the Cardrona Ski Field, about an hour out of Queenstown, was closed due to high wind. I’d planned to head up there, so a little digging online unearthed a pretty cool hike up Wye Creek.
You simply followed the path of a fast flowing river up the mountain and there were numerous waterfalls flowing through different types of terrain.
A fairly demanding hike, it took around 3 hours to reach a pretty cool waterfall. At this point I turned around to head back thinking that I may run out of daylight/get lost/run out of phone battery or lose the car.
My phone told me I’d walked about 20km and climbed the equivalent of 220 floors. I would highly recommend it. Very off the beaten track and I didn’t see another person all day. Its a little hidden, but if I managed to discover it anybody can.
My third and final day was reserved simply for driving back to Christchurch. I had heard the drive was spectacular, but that really is an understatement.
It was sublime. I stopped at numerous places, Lindis Pass, Kawarau Gorge and the Clutha River.
Perhaps the most memorable stop was Lake Pukaki, I left behind my drivers licence and all, yes all, of my bank cards on a rock by the lake. I only realised when I got an hour down the road and went to buy some lunch to realise I had no cards on me. Wondering if I should go back or not, I decided to go back. When I got there, I soon discovered that all the rocks looked the same and that it would be a miracle if I found them and that I may as well just give up. I got the picture up on my phone and matched the rocks on the picture with terrain and, miraculously, I found them. I felt lucky and blessed, mostly because it meant that I’d be able to get the pie that I wanted for lunch.
All in all it was an incredible place. It felt so liberating and empowering to be travelling by myself too. And it was some very useful alone time. I hope to spend the winter in Queenstown next year to really get to know the place and make the most of it, so we will see how that plan turns out.
If you’ve ever been to Queenstown, I’d love to know your recommendations of things to do for the next time I visit.