on May 26, 2010
A perfect day in Queenstown might include a drive to view the Southern Alps from Coronet Peak; a tour of historic Arrowtown, ablaze with autumn colors; a close-up view of bungy jumping at Kawarau Bridge; a jaunt through wine country to sample cheese at the Gibbston Valley Cheesery; and a stop at lookout points over Lake Hayes and Queenstown.You might even fit this perfect day into a morning if you call RD Tours.The company specializes in showing visitors unique, rural South Island sights (RD stands for Rural Discovery), and in four hours, RD’s director showed me the best of the Queenstown region on the company’s half-day local area tour—and the best of Central Otago is quite enough to make you fall in love with the place.Charles picked me up at 8:30am in one of RD Tours’ comfortable SUVs, and we set off for Coronet, the closest ski area to Queenstown and a wonderful spot for vantage points of the mountains, rock formations, and Lord of the Rings sites. As Charles expertly maneuvered along Coronet’s winding roads, he told me all about the history of the area, both of its geology and settlement, and even shared books on the subjects.Our next stop was Arrowtown, where, I’d just learned, there is a historic Chinese settlement that was inhabited by Chinese gold miners who were allowed to move in only after the European gold seekers had mined to their hearts’ content. We toured the settlement’s tiny buildings, situated just a minute’s walk from the heart of Arrowtown, and stopped in nearby Joe’s Garage for a perfect flat white. Joe’s is tucked away in a second-floor space on the main street, but it’s bustling with locals and has a fantastic deck for outdoor coffee.On to AJ Hackett Bungy, where we were able to walk right onto the bridge where jumpers were taking off; after watching a jump from there, we caught a few more jumps from a viewing platform just to the side of the bridge. The atmosphere was festive, with rock music pumping up jumpers and spectators cheering them on. There’s also a small bungy museum that’s definitely worth a look. In fact, even if you (like me) have no interest in (i.e. are terrified of) bungy jumping, taking part in the experience in some way is fantastic—and Charles’ enthusiasm for it all was infectious.We ended our morning with a stop at the Gibbston Valley Cheesery for some sampling—they also offer cave tours at their adjacent winery—and a few more stops at viewpoints around and above Queenstown.I got so much more than some of the most stunning views I’ve ever seen; with Charles’ incredible knowledge of the area, and particularly of the outdoors, I got an education in Queenstown and Central Otago that enhanced the rest of my time there.RD Tours offers a variety of small-group tours, and will even tailor one to your interests; I can’t recommend them highly enough.
©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009