Friday, 13 September 2019

A week in Queenstown, New Zealand

One of the places that has been on my travel bucket list for many years is Queenstown, New Zealand. When we discovered that we could both take a week off work at the end of August, we decided to book in some flights and accommodation for 7 nights in the magical town of Queenstown. Even though I had pretty high expectations, the beauty and magnificence of this town definitely exceeded them. I've provided a guide below of our favourite activities and places we ate and drank, as well as a bit of info on where we stayed.


Our accommodation


After being recommended The Dairy Private Hotel by a few people, and finding a good deal online for this spot, we decided to book in here for our stay. Located in the heart of Queenstown, just down from the gondola, this was in a prime location, with plenty of cafes and restaurants only a short walk away, and the bus to the ski fields only a couple of minutes' walk away too. Some of the highlights of this hotel were the smaller size (given that they have less than twenty rooms in total), the location in the centre of Queenstown, the inclusion of a continental and hot breakfast each morning, the roaring fire in the living area, and the outdoor spa, which was the perfect spot to relax after a day on the slopes.


Our favourite activities

 

 Skiing

As it was our first time visiting Queenstown, we were keen to try out a couple of the main skiing spots, so we spent our first two days skiing at The Remarkables, and another day skiing at Cardrona. We took the bus up the mountain to both locations - The Remarkables was about a 45 minute drive away, while Cardrona was about a 60 minute drive. Both locations were stunning and provided plenty of runs for beginners through to experts. We were also impressed with the food options available on the mountains, with plenty of delicious hot meals available at lunch time (particularly given the large number of hungry skiers and snowboarders descending on the cafes and restaurants around midday).



Jet boating

In addition to skiing, we wanted to try out some of the more adventure-focused activities that are on offer in Queenstown. When we woke up one morning to a dreary, rainy day outside, we decided not to head up the slopes that day, and instead booked a jet boating trip on the Shotover River for that afternoon. Thankfully, the weather cleared up by 2pm for our trip, and we spent the hour zooming around the river, doing a few 360s, and stopping occasionally to find out a bit of history of the river and Queenstown in general.

Clay target shooting

Dave had been clay target shooting in the past and absolutely loved it, so when we saw that it was on offer in Queenstown, we thought we'd give it a go. We booked in with Break One Clay Target Sports for a Friday morning session, and were picked up from Queenstown and driven to their location about 20 minutes' out of town. As we were the only ones who had booked in for that day, we had a private session with our instructor, who was very safe and careful in ensuring that we were doing everything correctly. While it took me a bit of time to get used to the recoil against my cheek, I did manage to hit a few targets, and was glad I gave this activity a go.

 

iFLY indoor skydiving

When we were in the Gold Coast earlier this year, we walked past an iFLY indoor skydiving centre and were intrigued by the idea of it. When we realised that there was a centre about 50 metres from our accommodation, we thought we should give it a go (particularly since it is highly unlikely either of us will ever be brave enough to try real skydiving). After being given a safety demonstration and an explanation of how best to fly in the tunnel, we were suited and goggled up, and entered the tube. Each flight is 60 seconds in length, and simulates what it is actually like to skydive. It is a unique experience, and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone interested in the idea of skydiving, but not willing to do the real thing. Our instructor, who was also a skydiving instructor, said that the feeling you experience in the indoor skydiving tube is pretty much the same as that which you experience when skydiving in the open air.
 

Onsen hot pools and massage

Something that I really wanted to experience in Queenstown was a visit to the Onsen hot pools, and as I had heard that they book up months in advance, I made a booking back in June for a one hour hot pool session followed by a one hour massage. We were picked up in town by the Onsen staff and driven to their location about 15 minutes' out of town. After filling out a couple of forms and being asked what snacks and drinks we would like as part of our package, we were taken to our onsen, along with a glass of champagne for me, a beer for Dave, and some chocolate and ice cream. The location was stunning, overlooking the surrounding mountain regions, and after an hour of soaking in the spa, we enjoyed a relaxing massage. If you visit Queenstown and are looking for some relaxation, I'd definitely recommend jumping online or on the phone to book in a visit to the onsen hot pools.
 

Gondola and luge

A trip up the gondola is one of the best ways of seeing Queenstown from above, with the incredible snowy mountain peaks and beautiful lake below. As we were staying very close to the gondola, we headed up there one afternoon to take in the magnificent views. We also decided to have a go on the luge, which brought back all the Cool Runnings and Mario Kart memories from my childhood.

Our favourite cafes and restaurants

 

Flame Bar and Grill

One of the best burgers that we had in Queenstown was at Flame Bar and Grill (even better than Fergburger). Situated on the waterfront, this casual restaurant serves amazing steaks and burgers, and also offers some awesome milkshakes - I recommend trying the salted caramel popcorn flavour.

Patagonia 

If you are looking for an excellent gelato, hot chocolate or some gourmet chocolates in Queenstown, it is definitely worth stopping by Patagonia. I highly recommend their dulche de leche ice cream.

Fergburger

Given the huge hype surrounding Fergburger, we knew that we had to try out this burger joint during our visit. We headed there on a Saturday night at around 6:30pm, and surprisingly the queues weren't too crazy - we probably only waited 20 minutes from arriving to getting our meals. We both went for the Ferg Deluxe burger (with beef, bacon, cheddar cheese, sweet pickle, lettuce, tomato, onion, aioli and tomato relish), and while it was good, I wouldn't say it was the best burger I've ever had (see above re: Flame's burger). Still, it was worth a visit to this iconic spot.

Mrs Ferg Gelateria

An off-shoot of Fergburger is Mrs Ferg, a gelato shop which has two locations in Queenstown. While not quite as good as the Patagonia ice cream, their salted caramel flavour is definitely worth trying if you're looking for a sweet treat after your burger (they also do an excellent thickshake made with the salted caramel gelato).

Bespoke Kitchen 

If you're looking for a healthy, hipster breakfast or lunch spot in Queenstown, Bespoke Kitchen is a great option. As we had breakfast included with our accommodation, we didn't try anything from their breakfast menu, but we did buy some excellent takeaway sandwiches for lunch one day, and had a couple of lovely coffees from here as well.


The Lodge Bar

The Lodge Bar, which is owned by the clothing store, Rodd and Gunn, is a cozy spot to head to for a cocktail or whisky. Located on the waterfront, this bar is welcoming with an open fire and cozy decor - the perfect escape from the wintery weather outside.

The Fat Lamb

We stumbled upon The Fat Lamb one day when we were wandering through the streets of Queenstown, and decided to make a booking there for dinner that evening. The menu provides an array of delicious lamb dishes, and I was very pleased with my choice of slow-cooked lamb ragu with fresh pappardelle (one of my favourite food combinations). The service was extremely friendly, and the open fireplace at the entrance to the restaurant provides a lovely ambience.

Madame Woo

A few people had recommended Madame Woo to us, a trendy Malaysian restaurant in the centre of Queenstown, so we wandered in here one evening and were able to get a table 15 minutes later. As we were not starving, we decided just to share the prawn, coriander and ginger dumplings, and the char kway teow, both of which were very flavoursome and fresh.

Rata

One of our favourite restaurants in Queenstown has to be Rata, which is owned by Josh Emett, and serves exquisite dishes comprised of the freshest local New Zealand ingredients. We started off with the line-caught kinfish crudo, followed by the venison loin with red cabbage puree, carrot, swede, truffle gnocchi and baby turnip, and finished with the chocolate fondant with kumara ice cream. We could not fault anything at the restaurant, from the friendly service, to the delicious meals, to the ambience and decor.

Botswana Butchery

Another one of our favourite meals was at Botswana Butchery, which specialises in a range of beef, lamb and venison dishes. We started off with a dish of mac and cheese with bacon to share, and for mains I had the rib eye fillet, while Dave had the rib eye on the bone, all of which were amazing. For dessert, we each got the chocolate fondant, which was perfectly cooked with a dark gooey centre.

The Bunker

I was slightly hesitant to include The Bunker on this list, as, while the ambience (with an open fire and intimate setting) and food were wonderful, we were not at all impressed with the service. Our waiter seemed to go out of his way to be surly and rude towards us, which increased as the night progressed, however we think this must have just been a one-off, given how many good reviews we had heard and read about The Bunker. Despite that, the venison and beef, followed by the chocolate fondant (are you sensing a theme?) were all delicious.

Finz

If you're looking for some delicious, fresh seafood in Queenstown, Finz is definitely worth trying. It is located on the waterfront and offers casual meals, like fish and chips, to more gourmet options, like sesame rolled tuna loin with carrot and zucchini noodles, bok choy and soy chilli dressing (this was the option I went with, and was not disappointed).

Tanoshi 

We were quite keen to get some Japanese one day for lunch, so we headed to Tanoshi, a small Japanese restaurant in town. We ordered a mixture of salmon sashimi, tuna sashimi and beef tataki, and were very impressed with the freshness and quality of the dishes. This is a great option if you are looking for a lighter meal amidst all your other holiday eating.


Hopefully this has given anyone heading to Queenstown in the future an idea of where to stay, eat and go. It truly is an incredible place, whether you are looking to partake in some skiing and adventure activities, or simply relax and eat around town - there is something for everyone.




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