The moment I booked a flight to Sydney, I knew I’d wind up booking a flight to New Zealand, too. No way, José, was I gonna fly to the other side of the world and not visit both countries. I mean, who knows when I’ll be in that hemisphere again. It’s not exactly a quick (or cheap!) jaunt across the Pacific. And, truthfully, New Zealand was higher on my bucket list than Australia.
At first, I wanted to see ALLLLL the things in New Zealand. Well, I still do, but I knew I couldn’t fit it all into this one trip and still visit Sydney—so, I had to pare it down. But where to even start?? New Zealand has two islands, after all.
Although flying from Sydney to Auckland was the cheapest route, I knew I’d be city’d out after a few days in Sydney. That helped me eliminate the north island. Plus, I was dead set on hiking and bungee jumping in NZ. Google searching those topics soon led me to the south island’s Queenstown area.
Really, though, I was still all over the place. Did I want to rent a car? A camper van? Stay in Queenstown? How many things could I fit into a few days… realistically? After MUCH deliberation, I came to the logical conclusion that maximizing my time in Queenstown was the best option. It seemed to offer everything I wanted to experience in New Zealand: lakeside vista, mountains for dayssssss, serious hiking, daring adventures. Yup. Everything I wanted.
After snagging a cheap Airbnb right in town, I went to work planning the rest of my 2.5 days in Queenstown. Top priority? Bungee jumping. I’d done it in Switzerland, but I’d also heard that New Zealand is THE place to jump, so why not do it again? And, I would have. Except that my research led me to something that sounded even better. Something new. Well, two things, actually: the Shotover Canyon Swing and the Canyon Fox. The swing is essentially bungee jumping that ends with a Tarzan swing through a canyon. And, the Canyon Fox is the world’s only freefall-zipline-hybrid experience. Done and done.
Next priority? Hiking. Queenstown has several options. Bob’s Peak, Ben Lomond, and the less-intense Queenstown Hill—though its incline would still put many hills to shame. Before arriving in New Zealand, I was set to do the 5-7 hour roundtrip hike from Bob’s Peak to Ben Lomond. Howeverrrrrr, several consecutive days of heavy rain showers made that trail a no-go. Queenstown Hill was a safe bet, though, so after my canyon adventures I spent the afternoon trekking it to the top. While not the most challenging hike, it took about an hour to reach the summit and my glutes were feelin’ it. I also felt like Queen of the world (bad pun??) from that vantage point.
Priorities aside, all the above actually happened on my second full day in Queenstown.
My first full day started with a foggy, rainy, early morning boat cruise around Lake Wakatipu. Though the weather was disappointing, being only one of three passengers totally made up for it. We were invited to spend nearly the entire cruise in the wheelhouse with the captain for an exclusive tour of the lake. He shared personal stories, pointed out trees that look like broccoli, showed us the lake’s depths beneath our boat as it moved across the GPS, and had us Google a villa high up in the mountains… with floor to ceiling windows… that you can rent for thousands of dollars a night. By the end of the cruise, I was sorta grateful for the fog. It made for a unique experience that I wouldn’t have otherwise had.
Around noon-ish that day, I walked a few blocks from my Airbnb to the Skyline Gondola that took me up, up, up to Bob’s Peak. The view from the top was the sort that makes your jaw drop. Even in the rain—which was still drizzle-misting overhead.
When the sky fiiiiiiinally cleared around 5 pm, I was itching to be outside. The couple on the boat had mentioned a lakeside path, so I headed that way. Boy, am I happy they suggested it, because WOWZA. Killer views at every turn. Fresh, alpine air. If I hadn’t already fallen in love at first sight with Queenstown, that would’ve been the moment.
These were the highlights of my time in Queenstown. In between, I explored the charming downtown area—wandering the harbor, browsing the shops, and trying all the New Zealand foods. (Read about that here).
When it came time to leave this mountain town, I didn’t wanna. I wasn’t ready. I even had two beach days in Sydney ahead of me, but oh how tempting it was to miss my flight and stay put in New Zealand. Of course, I enjoyed my final days by the beach back in Oz. I really did! It’s just that some places speak to your soul—and Queenstown had a LOT to say to mine.
If ever you find yourself planning a trip to New Zealand, do me a favor. No. Do yourself a favor and put Queenstown at the very top of your list. And when you book that flight, be sure to get yo’self a window seat.