There’s a certain kind of magic that hangs around Queenstown that’s apparent from the moment you step off the plane and gape at the Remarkables mountain range towering overhead. Scratch that, it’s apparent before your plane even touches down, as you see the mountain peaks approaching and can see the deep blue lake stretching out in the valley, with a small town hugging one end.
Since I had been here before, I held back on any remark after our arrival, to see if my sister felt the same thing I felt any time I was here. As we trudged through the airport parking lot, I heard a ‘Wow…” and turned to see her snapping photos of those same mountains that had stunned me the first time I laid eyes on them, and at every subsequent viewing since.
The feeling doesn’t stop once you’re in town – cafes, bars, shops, and beautiful hotels line the streets of ‘downtown,’ if it can be called that. It’s a perfect-sized town; enough variety to keep things interesting, small enough for you to get your bearings within 24 hours. It’s clean, beautiful, and full of happy people. Because how can anyone be surrounded by those mountains and that lake and not be happy?
We used Queenstown as our base to explore the surrounding area, and stayed with our friend Dan, who I met through Amanda, who I met when I hosted her in Sydney through CouchSurfing. They had chosen to settle down in Queenstown for several months to work, replenish bank accounts, and just enjoy the awesomeness that is QT. Needless to say, Dan and his roommates were all awesome, especially Toa, the sweet Staffie who shared the couch with me on a particularly cold night.
We spent a few nights getting acquainted with the bars of Queenstown. Since we were with ‘locals,’ we skipped the touristy attractions such as Ice Bar and instead made for places like Rhinos, The Find, and Vinyl, where we rocked out to a band that specialized in early 2000s pop punk with a mini guitar as a prop. And of course the famous Ferg Burger factored in as a dinner once or twice as well (Insider tip: you can call in your order and skip the hour long line at the window). The first time I came to Queenstown (on a slightly bigger budget), Eichardts and Botswana Butchery topped the list of pricier places to eat and drink.
We also visited the gondola and downhill luge at Skyline on the mountain above town, and even hiked up to the Ben Lomond saddle behind the tourist complex. What we thought might be a relatively easy 3 hour hike turned out to be a grueling 4 hours up a steep incline that left us sore for days. But what a view from the other side!
When it was time to say goodbye, my sister and I both didn’t want to leave. But who wants to leave such a beautiful place? But glaciers, national parks, and other adventures beckoned, so off we went!