Queenstown is New Zealand’s premier commercialized resort town, superbly set by deep-blue Lake Wakatipu and hemmed in by craggy mountains. Kiwis and visitors complain that the town is too loud, crowded, expensive, big for its boots and the victim of devil-may-care development. There’s some truth in this, with the faint screams of adrenaline activity junkies piercing the tranquillity and the base thump of music and shrill whistle of the TSS Earnslaw providing the backdrop, but somehow Queenstown retains the air of a small-town idyll. Furthermore, it offers a great selection of restaurants, some of the flashiest accommodation in the country, and nightlife that will either suck you in or drive you away.
Best taken in small doses, Queenstown is well worth using either as a base from which to plan lengthy forays into the surrounding countryside, or as a venue for sampling all manner of adventure activities. The most prominent of these is undoubtedly bungy jumping at three of the world’s most gloriously scenic bungy sites, visited either in isolation or as part of a package, perhaps including whitewater rafting and jetboating on the Shotover River.
Visitors after a more sedate time plump for easy walks around lakeshore gardens and to hillside viewpoints; lake cruises on the elegant TSS Earnslaw, the last of the lake steamers; a gondola ride to Bob’s Peak, which commands magnificent vistas from a cable car over Queenstown and the Remarkables range; and wine tours around some of the world’s most southerly vineyards. Milford Sound can be visited from Queenstown.
Frantic summers are nothing in comparison to winter, when Kiwi and international skiers descend on Coronet Peak and the Remarkables, two fine ski-fields within half an hour of Queenstown, particularly during the annual Queenstown Winter Festival, late June and early July.