Written by rajkumar_m on 30 Sep, 2011
At times, the least expected takes you off guarded. Queenstown is one of them. Queenstown is beautiful, vibrant and lively. I may even call that’s a best place to settle down after retirement. Its that beautiful. Queenstown is dramatic by looks and dreamy to feel.…Read More
At times, the least expected takes you off guarded. Queenstown is one of them. Queenstown is beautiful, vibrant and lively. I may even call that’s a best place to settle down after retirement. Its that beautiful. Queenstown is dramatic by looks and dreamy to feel. Queenstown sits at the shores of Lake Wakitapu and happy to share the canal like shore to the sister town Frankton. Queenstown hill oversees the lake and the little town. This hill measures more than 900 meters vertically. In simple, blessed to be rich with the best of nature’s gifts. After that stint with the cop, we reached Queenstown in the late afternoon. We stayed at Novotel hotel which is one of the biggest out there offering all ranges of views. It had all the notable touch of the city and the disturbances come free. However, it’s welcoming as the previous week was spent in lonely, quite hotels. Weather was following us from the Milford sounds which looked to rain anytime for long. We wanted to encash the non-rainy time. The very first of the attraction anyone will hear is Skyline on the Bob’s peak. Reaching Skyline is via Gondola that operates for 3/4th of a kilometre. It has a fine dining restaurant, few souvenir shops, Luge and an auditorium that plays Kiwi Haka (Maori Culture Show).Mostly these can be combined together and packaged based on our interests right at our hotel itself. We settled with Gondola, Luge and Kiwi Haka show. We had enough time to refresh ourselves and walk to the base from where Gondola starts. Lake Wakitapu looked ravishing and roaring like a sea. Interestingly the colour was a nice blue color even when looked from the shore. This tows is well planned and built. Am pretty sure their needs will be manifold soon. Town is getting extended along both the side of the shores of Lake Wakitapu. Within 10 mins of leisure walk, we found ourselves at the base of the mountain. A gondola took us to the skyline. We have got AJ Hackett bungy jumping has their jumping pad here with a breathtaking scenery of Lake Wakitapu. One dares a plunge there, could call himself daring, I bet. Right outside the skyline building a small path takes us to the Luge. That takes us to the peak in open chair lifts. We were thrilled with the Luge (in scenic view). The other route for the luge is faster. We were happy to get inside the building after that as it was starting to get colder. Kiwi HakaMaoris ruled this nation for long and the civilization is changed now. Still the descendants of this culture keeps it living forever with their shows. This show explains how their ancestors lived and about their habits. Its little bit interactive too. We were happy to be a part of it.Later, we walked through the streets of that town to find an Indian restaurant. Happily indulged with our food and called it a day. Managed to put some pics at the below link. Check it out.http://www.rainyhills.com/?p=229Close
Written by MagdaDH_AlexH on 13 Jan, 2011
We leave Queenstown on a morning of my fortieth birthday, and head for Clyde, a small ex-mining village in Central Otago, about 60 miles away. Our plan is to take a day getting there (as it's going to be undoubtedly scenic, as everything is in…Read More
We leave Queenstown on a morning of my fortieth birthday, and head for Clyde, a small ex-mining village in Central Otago, about 60 miles away. Our plan is to take a day getting there (as it's going to be undoubtedly scenic, as everything is in this wonderland of hills, rocks and water) and to go via Arrowtown, a popular day-trip destination from Queenstown. Scenic it is indeed, and we take a while even to drive the twenty-odd kilometers to Arrowtown, passing through pretty valleys and nearby ski areas. Arrowtown is now something of a tourist trap, aka heritage town, known for its gold mining past. The town, which is the last of the major gold-rush towns in Otago, sits in a valley at the confluence of the Arrow River and Bush Creek. Gold was discovered here in 1860's and the small river had a reputation of being the richest for its size in the world. This wealth drew scores of prospectors, including a sizable community of Chinese gold seekers (of whom now a museum-village remains on the banks of the river). There are several good walks nearby, towards the Remarkables and along the Arrow River (the full Arrowtown-Macetown circuit is 32km/almost 20miles long), but it's pleasant enough just to stroll along the river itself, surrounded by willows and poplars. You can buy a (plastic) dish for a couple of dollars and try panning for gold yourself or just poke about, imagining the gold rush days. Modern Arrowtown is a pretty place, with old, restored cottages and stores lining up the main street. Tourist-trade dominates, and there are numerous gift shops, jewellery and greenstone stores and other purveyors of normal tourist merchandise. We are here in low season though, and the place has a sleepy feeling of an out-of-season resort, recognizable the world round. A look in the estate agent windows shows that it's not just tourist trade that followed gold, as property prices in the area are astronomical. The natural beauty, relative isolation and skiing seemingly draw those attracted by the idea of living the rural dream on their own acreage. We look into several shops, buy some fudge (which is better than American counterpart but still not a match for a good Devonshire clotted cream product, or, for that matter, even Polish "krowka"). The jewellery shops are more interesting and (as it is, after all, my 40th birthday) I receive a rather lovely greenstone and gold pendant from the Other Adult (as well as a felt beret and assorted gifts form the Older and Younger Child). After that, it's a lunch of pies and we get going on the way to Clyde.The road soon joins the highway 6 and we are on the Gibbston Highway, passing through the Central Otago wine growing area. It's the world's most southerly wine-producing region and commercial cultivation only started in the 1980's. The climate and soil conditions make the production quite expensive, which means that the resulting wines are quite expensive boutique products (prices start at around 20 NZD, or 10 GBP, and are usually quite a bit more) but the quality often justifies that. We buy a bottle of a fine Pinot Noir to take to our next host at Gibbston Valley shop and it is (it better be, at that price) one of the best reds I have tried, tight, fragrant and deeply satisfying. Not far from Gibbston Valley is the site of the original bungy jump, where those in search of a risk-free thrill pay 180 NZD for a five-second, 43m jump off the historic Kawarau Bridge. The concept appeals, but the charge appears as over the top as the original idea must have seem. Watching is free, though, and we spent an enjoyable half hour observing two people leaping (or being nudged) off the bridge strapped to latex ropes. The Kawarau River gorge cuts through bleak but dramatic scenery of the surrounding mountains, and soon we are in Central Otago proper, approaching Cromwell. Much of Cromwell's old centre is now under water due to construction of the Clyde dam and the Dunstan Lake, and the town is nothing but a service centre for the local area, known for fruit growing and goldfileds related tourism. The last stretch of the route takes us along the Dunstan lake, a high and open road cut from the rocky hillside. Artificial lakes often look bleak and industrial; it takes many years to create a more natural and appealing shore which vegetation, animals and people can enjoy.Wet flurry of snow fills the air and we are glad to arrive at our hosts' house; the last couch-surfing experience of our trip and one of the nicest. There is a traditional Kiwi salt-beef meal ready, and even a hand made card and a present for yours truly – such are the beauties of CouchSurfing. Close
Written by MagdaDH_AlexH on 10 Jan, 2011
Our second day in Queenstown and the weather couldn't be different from the crystal beauty of yesterday. It's raining, and the sky is thick with uniform darkness of grey clouds. The opposite shore of the lake is hardly visible. But we only have two days…Read More
Our second day in Queenstown and the weather couldn't be different from the crystal beauty of yesterday. It's raining, and the sky is thick with uniform darkness of grey clouds. The opposite shore of the lake is hardly visible. But we only have two days here, so we do need to get out and see things. This is, after all, travellers' duty: to go out and see things. Into the car it is, then, with our host waiting at home for the news of snow situation on the ski slopes, we set off for Glenorchy. 45 km from Queenstown, Glenorchy sits at the tip of the Wakatipu lake, near the borders of Mount Aspiring National Park and Fiordland National Park. In the straight line, Glenorchy is less than 50 km from Milford Sound – but the wall of mountains stands between us and the Fiords and the only road connection is via the incredibly round-about route through Te Anau. Hikers (or trampers, as hill walkers are known here) can do the 32km Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand's great walks which takes the walkers from Glenorchy to Te Anau road across the hills. The mountains are covered in snow, though, so doing any high levels walks is out of question. We drive along the mist-hidden lake, stopping on the way to look at rain-filled waterfalls tumbling off the rocks at the roadside (we will see hundreds of those later on the route through the West Coast). It's still raining as we park the car and get out for a wee walk and a look. Even in the rain, though, the lake is wonderful: moody,misty, subdued and yet powerful. The boat shed is empty, and there is only a few cars in the car park, but as we venture into the shop and a cafe, we find people and warmth, and information on local walks and places to go. We have a cup of tea and then venture out, contemplating a walk up a hill or around the lagoon. Lagoon it is, as it's a gentle and easy walk and we still have plans to drive on - to Paradise. The lagoon walk has good paths (although the Younger Child still manages to fall into the water on a little detour across a plank-bridge to a sandbank opposite) and further in, a boardwalk that takes us a few inches above the water. There are reeds, willows and lovely reflections in the still waters, but what draws all the eyes and all the oohs and aaahs is the grand, craggy massif emerging from behind the mist and clouds. It's Mount Earnslaw, but I can't help but think of it as Caradhras, the peak that defeated the Fellowship on their way across the Misty Mountains, the mountain raising above the Redhorn Pass and the gates of Moria. I do wonder how much Lord of the Rings did for New Zealand's tourism, and how much New Zealand's beauty did for the popularity of Peter Jackson's film version of Tolkien's epic. The Glenorchy viewpoint provides the right angle (at least from the Lord of the Rings perspective) to look at Mt Earnslaw, because it's this side of the mountain that featured in the film. Caradhras is only one of the Lord of the Rings locations that can be found in this part of Otago. A short drive on a gravel road towards the hills from Glenorchy and we enter the broad valley that marks the confluence of the lake Wakatipu and Rivers Dart and Rees. This is the way to Paradise, a mountain-surrounded, broad and flat valley; idyllic pasture land, apparently named after Paradise shelducks that are common in the locality (though the romantic etymology, seeing the origins of the name in the beauty of the area, also has its supporters). Paradise represented Parth Galen in the Rings' film, and the thick and misty beech forest on the way to Paradise stood for, quite appropriately in the scheme of things, the woods of Lothlorien. The gravel road becomes a very much a dirt track, and all the traffic we pass (the whole two cars of it) on our way into the valley consists of four by four jet boating tour vehicles whose inhabitants eye our normal car with a look of incredulity. Still, we are not doing too badly when we come across what seems to me plainly impassable mountain stream. The Other Adult, though, has different ideas, and clearly encouraged by my rather hysterical protestations, decides to ford the waterway. We are herded out of the car, cross the stream on foot as to reduce the vehicle's load. Quite amazingly, by a stroke of luck or an instance of great skill, the Other Adult makes it to the other side so we can drive further in. We turn back when it starts to rain again (I have visions of the ford becoming a veritable rapid but it's nothing of the sort) and drive back to Queenstown for dinner and sleep. Close
Written by MagdaDH_AlexH on 06 Jan, 2011
Having given up on Milford Sound (reluctantly but in a fairly good humor, it's only now that I really regret not making more effort, it's strange how a mindset changes when traveling for a long time), we set off for this other South Island tourist…Read More
Having given up on Milford Sound (reluctantly but in a fairly good humor, it's only now that I really regret not making more effort, it's strange how a mindset changes when traveling for a long time), we set off for this other South Island tourist Mecca, the skiing, partying and adventure capital of New Zealand, Queenstown. It's not far form Manapouri to Queenstown, a total of 170km which shouldn't take more than two, two and a half hours to drive, even allowing for toilet and cigarette stops. We take half a day: this is the beauty of this place, where a scenic spot follows a spectacular view with a regularity that borders on inane.The first part of the drive, though, is fairly mundane. The weather is still mixed, and although there are some attractive patches on the road between Manapouri and Mossburn, with appealing rugged areas covered by red tussock grass (and no livestock for a change) it's only as we pass the Dome hills and drive into an area which feels distinctly colder, drier and higher that we start to oh and ah again. This is, in addition to all the scenic beauties, Lord of the Rings land. Many of the sweeping panoramas of Peter Jackson's epic have been filmed (to be later computer-edited) in Central Otago and a lot of the time one has a feeling of faint memory, not quite a deja vu, but a recognition that goes beyond memory of tourist brochures. We stop for lunch at an elevated rest area, with sweeping views of the Eyre Mountains. It's sunny, crisp and very cold. The mountains, and the fields below, are all around us, a perfect combination of pastoral and wild. One almost expects the band of the Fellowship to come galloping out of one of the valleys. Soon we are nearing the Wakatipu Lake, a long and narrow, z-squiggle shaped mountain loch in the central part of which Queenstown spreads. We can't resist stopping every few miles (or maybe even more often) for a photo, for a look, for a view. Each view is different, each is breathtaking, each spectacular; dark crags crowned with shining snow raising from the water into the cobalt sky. We manage to find our host, a fifty-something snowboarder, biker and a tour guide with a new agey streak. We get set up and then go back to the center of town: fish and chips, and a play park, and a view of the lake in the falling light, the steam excursion ship TSS Earnshaw returning to town's harbor. Close
Written by Red Mezz on 19 Aug, 2009
It's true, most people come to New Zealand and especially Queenstown for the 'Extreme' sports. And though I spent much of my time in New Zealand wondering where all these extreme sports were, there is no doubt that they are in abundance in Queenstown.…Read More
It's true, most people come to New Zealand and especially Queenstown for the 'Extreme' sports. And though I spent much of my time in New Zealand wondering where all these extreme sports were, there is no doubt that they are in abundance in Queenstown. Despite my coming to New Zealand for a bit of solitude and serenity - in the end Queenstown was one of my favourite places to visit in the entire country. But it has a lot more to offer a traveller than just the change to jump off of things or ride down rivers. This you can do until your heart's content - and for a very reasonable rate given the standard prices for things in New Zealand. But don't rule out Queenstown as a place to visit if you're looking for something a bit more subdued. Perched on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown is a beautiful city with a lot to offer. The lake itself - though not the surreal turquoise of some of the nearby Alpine lakes, is stunningly clear and almost the blue of the Pacific Islands. Yes - there are boats and jet skis and kite sailing to be done all along it, but the size and serenity of the lake mean that you can stop any number of places just on the walking path around it just to sit and enjoy watching the other travellers exert themselves. Beautifully arranged and kept, Queenstown is a great place for wandering about, and the weather here seems to be particularly nice. A good spring day (sometime in November is always good) is excellent in Queenstown as the weather warms and the skies clear - and yet the hardcore summer visitors haven't yet arrived (while the winter sportsmen have moved on) Not to mention that the off season prices in Queenstown accommodation and events drop drastically - in some cases as much as half price. The shopping district is filled with lots of options from traditional kiwi souvenirs to nice clothing stores and good restaurants. There are plenty of cafes and lake front eateries to enjoy, and little local walks to meander down that don't involve anything too strenuous. There's an excellent cheesery just outside of town and you're only a short drive away from the stunning wineries of Cromwell and the famous Otago Pinot Noir. This is a great city to visit, and one that I wish I could have spent more time at while I was in New Zealand. No matter what you are coming to New Zealand for, I highly recommend you make time for a wander about Queenstown - and if you feel up for it there is no small choice in activities if you want to do something a bit more adventurous. Close
Written by lo7la on 24 Feb, 2009
Although only one person in our group had rafted before we opted for the more exciting option of the Shotover River. While the day we went in November was sunny and warm it had rained for two solid days before hand. Rafting officals had just…Read More
Although only one person in our group had rafted before we opted for the more exciting option of the Shotover River. While the day we went in November was sunny and warm it had rained for two solid days before hand. Rafting officals had just reopened the Shotover that day. The day before the river had been too high and too fast. We caught the mini bus out to the Shotover river from the downtown Queenstown business location. This was a short 5min ride. At the Shotover building we were given a short brief on what to expect though out the day and then formed a line to get wetsuit, booties, helmet, waterproof jacket and lifejacket. Down the stairs to change into swimsuites and wetsuits. I'd recommend going with a friend, cause it's gonna take two of you to get the suits on.Once kitted out we felt a bit overdressed and it was a bit stiff and bulky to walk in. Not to worry, we were glad to have on that much kit once we were in the raft. We were then loaded onto one of two mini buses that went up and out towards the road leading to Cornet Peak. However we diverted and headed round the back of the hill down towards Skippers Canyon. Here we went along the grade 2 "Highway" (pretty much one lane and you cross your fingers no one is coming from the other way). Our guide on the bus gave us a bit of the local history to do with the gold mining. 45 minutes later we came to the start of the rafting area. Here one of the guides went through more safety issues and we were split into groups of 6-7.This is when the reality of what we were about to it hit me. The river was still running fast and it was still high. These were the conditions each guide prayed for at night. We each grabbed a paddle and posed for a parting picture. Once on the raft our guide went over a few basic instructions, the main one being "you do what I say when I say and we all stay on just fine." Luckily she made it easy to learn and by the first mini rapid we passed with flying colours. The trip went by pretty fast, however I didn't feel cheated for time. The water is cold, even being summer time and I was grateful they took the time to kit me out in a wetsuite and was cursing myself for not bringing gloves. Most of the rapids were navagated easily. Depending on how many people are signed up for the day you could be in one of seven or so other rafts. But again, I didn't feel jipped. This is your experience and the other rafts don't interfer in your enjoyment. Even pulling to the side to wait for the other rafts just allowed us a moment to look around and take in the canyon sights.Our biggest moment of excitement came on the last rapid. It was called Mother in Law - because she is a b$^ch. Usually the guides take you through a small cave with a grade 5 rapid on the otherside. However because of how high the river was running this wasn't possible. All the guides pullled their raft over to the side and tied up to the rocks. They all got out and confered. Then the first two rafts went for it. They both flipped over and all passengers went for a swim. Luckily safety is a high priority and the guides were prepared. We were the 4th raft to go. Commands came loud and fast. Paddle hard! Harder! Get in! Get in! GET IN!!! Lean left! Lean right! The raft folded in half, someone fell out, we slid from side to side and then, it was over. We were through the 5+ rapid. We had lost one person, when the raft folded one of our passengers took an oar to the mouth. However she was pulled out by a guide and luckily only sustained a bloody lip.We cheered. Blood pumping we paddled the short distance to the end of the rafting where the rafts were loaded onto traylers, ready to be transported back to the start.One very exciting experience not to be forgotten.Close
Written by Jack Ventura on 31 Jan, 2004
During my planning for this trip, I sent an IgoUgo guide an email asking a not-so-easy question. I wanted to know how best to count down toward the 2003 New Year in Queenstown, New Zealand for a group of family and friends, ranging in age…Read More
During my planning for this trip, I sent an IgoUgo guide an email asking a not-so-easy question. I wanted to know how best to count down toward the 2003 New Year in Queenstown, New Zealand for a group of family and friends, ranging in age from 3 to 70, maybe 20 of us in total. She generously replied and I accepted her suggestion. Thanks to dawn,
we had a grand time!
I wasn’t so sure whether we all would converge, but in 2’s and 3’s and 5’s through the evening, everyone made it to:
Skyline Gondola, Restaurant, and LugePO Box 17Queenstown,
New ZealandTel: (64) (0)3 441 1010Fax: (64) (0)3 442 6391
We had made reservations to celebrate with a buffet dinner, followed by a night of music, dancing, and noisy party favours. The cost of this special dinner, NZ$65 (half price for children under 15), included the gondola ride and a glass of champagne. It was a fair price, even with the 30-day prepayment requirement.
Everyone enjoyed the Skyline Gondola ride up Bob’s Peak. The cabs seat four, and the side facing downhill is better, but the profusion of wildflowers and the occasional sight of hikers below switch-backing up the slope was good, too. It’s a four-minute ride that normally costs NZ$15 round-trip ($5 for children, or $30 for a family of four) and runs from 9am through 9:30pm to midnight, depending on the season.
Some of us arrived early. From the vantage of Skyline’s observation decks, the views of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu, and The Remarkables are pure postcard. But, there are other things to do at Skyline. In fact, the sensible approach is to decide ahead of time what you want to do, and purchase everything as a package. It’s a substantial discount savings.
I found myself repeatedly riding "The Luge". It cost NZ$18 for five runs. (There are several price points, including lesser admission for children and families.) You hop onto this little go-cart that’s reminiscent of red Radio Flyer wagons and then let gravity take its course down one of two concrete tracks. The Scenic Track is a gentle coast. But the Advanced Track is a wild maze of twists and banking turns. To apply brakes to the wheels, you pull back on the steering bar. One of my friends said he nearly wiped out. Me, too. Don’t be fooled by its looks. It is an X-Games thrill that I wouldn’t recommend to someone who doesn’t obey the physical law of ‘braking into a turn’. The little ski lift chair ride back up to the top of the hill is fun, too.
There’s also a bungee jump called "The Ledge". It’s a 47-meter drop from a platform built next to the Skyline
Gondola’s terminal, but it’ll seem like a 400-meter drop all the way down to Queenstown. At NZ$125, I felt it was
rather expensive, even if you do get a commemorative T-shirt for the feat. Children at least 10 years old and
weighing at least 35 kilos pay NZ$89. Reservations are made through the original bungy-jumping
company, AJ Hackett, on the web, by phone (03.442.4007 or
0800.286.493), or in person at their store on the corner of Shotover Street and Camp Street. I was very tempted by
their heavily discounted multiple-jump packages, particularly the one paired with "Sky Swing", their newest thrill,
also at Skyline. It’s a fall not unlike bungee, except that instead of bouncing back up, your harness sends you into a
soaring arc through the air. That alone was NZ$85, but the two combined was NZ$155. And still, I
I don’t think any of us watched "Kiwi Magic". It’s a 30-minute video about New Zealand and Maori culture that
would’ve cost about NZ$10 to watch. At the entrance to the theater, there’s a games arcade of maybe six
aging machines. I don’t think I ever saw anyone playing them, either.
Anyway, I, for one, was there for the buffet dinner. Having arrived early, I decided to scope out the dining room.
The expansive second floor was crowded with tables and chairs for maybe 300 people. I was initially disheartened
and was then relieved to learn that this was for a tour group from Korea. My relief turned to excitement on the
first floor. Past a billiard table next to a souvenir gift shop was a full bar with stools, lounge tables and chairs
against the view windows. A hostess gave me a personal tour of the tri-level Skyline Cafe, complete with a
dance floor. I could tell we were going to have a fun party. The top level was
solely devoted to the food, and the cold selections already being arranged on crushed ice also looked promising --
cold cuts & cheese, smoked salmon, in-shell prawns, mussels, and several different salads.
When the dinner began at 8:30, about 150 people first toasted with wine, beer, champagne, or fruit juice. I admit I
gorged. The seafood chowder and roasted pumpkin soups were excellent. The carving board only had
turkey and ham, but I was pleased to see a whole poached salmon next to it. Among the hot entrees, the roast
chicken was surprisingly good. I love seafood, and both the mixed steamed shellfish in lemon butter and the
Cajun-spiced cod in tomato relish garnered a second helping. I’ll also venture any local cuisine, but I’m sorry, I
had no palate for herb-roasted kumara, a tiny sweet potato with the texture more of a bulb than a tuber
vegetable. I remember the dessert cart being varied, but not what I ate; I probably finished my meal with fruit and
a taste of the chocolate mousse. We all had a good time stuffing ourselves, and each other, with Skyline Cafe’s
New Year’s Eve buffet.
The live band that followed, a three-piece (plus drum machine), was quite good. I complimented them during
intermission for a particularly jazzy rendition of Eric Clapton’s "Layla". Both sets were mostly cover pop and rock
to dance rhythms, interspersed with completely unfamiliar ditties that were obviously traditional sing-a-longs. We
chatted with other tables, found willing dance partners, formed the requisite conga line, and made general
I was sipping scotch and teaching my bored nephew how to play billiards, his first experience with the subtle sport,
when people began to exit the restaurant. We all went outside to stand along the observation balcony to watch the fireworks.
Someone shouted, "Ten, nine!" About the time everyone together shouted, "Zero!", small fireworks, with their delayed
"booms!", colored Queenstown Bay. It was a nice show, but rather unusual. I’d never looked down at a
fireworks display before.
Hugs and well-wishes were passed among everyone on the balcony when the fireworks ended, and we formed a line
for the gondola ride back down to the terminal at the end of Brecon Street. On the descent, you could hear the
crowds getting louder as you got closer to the bottom. Most of my family headed back to the hotel. A couple of my
friends and I went down to the city’s center and continued reveling the happy New Year until its first wee hours.
At the end of Brecon Street, at the foothill of Bob’s Peak, is the terminal for the Skyline Gondola. There are a number of other attractions there, too. My little niece raved over the two miniature golf courses, one indoors and another outdoors…Read More
At the end of Brecon Street, at the foothill of Bob’s Peak, is the terminal for the Skyline Gondola. There are a number of other attractions there, too. My little niece raved over the two miniature golf courses, one indoors and another outdoors across the street. I was a bit surprised that I was the only person interested in seeing a real live kiwi. I think that a destination’s wildlife speaks strongly of the character of that place. With this enigmatic creature, to the extent that New Zealanders refer to themselves as "Kiwis", it couldn’t be more true. The place to see one in Queenstown is:
Kiwi & Birdlife Park
PO Box 643
Queenstown, New Zealand
Tel: (64) (0) 3 442 8059
Fax: (64) (0) 3 442 8061
It’s a private urban sanctuary for New Zealand’s unique flora and fauna, both common and rare, run by the Wilson family since 1986 when they converted an unsightly refuse site into a licensed rehabilitation facility for injured birds. Since then, it has built a nursery and has been participating in a national breeding program for New Zealand’s indigenous birds. Its current effort is toward the Black Stilt, among the top ten most endangered avian species in the world. Estimates for this freshwater wading birds is around 150 left in existence, both wild and captive. And, I got to see one. They also have takahe running loose. Once common throughout New
Zealand, these large and plump, hen-like flightless birds were on the dodo-list until 1948. In true detective fashion, an ornithologist named Geoffrey Orbell concentrated his search in the Murchison Mountains on the far side of Lake Te Anau. Once found, the New Zealand government stepped in. It seems that grazing deer, introduced from Europe, was a major competitive problem for these birds. Today, encouraging numbers are being
released every year, including some onto predator-free islands tightly managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC).
But it was a kiwi I most wanted to see. The kiwi is a flightless nocturnal bird, sleeping in underground burrows by day. Their feathers are more like hair. Long bills with nostrils at its tip are used to root for grubs and worms. They mate for life, and lay the largest egg compared to body weight of any other bird in the world. Of course, to see them as the tourist that I was, it required an artificial environment. I stood in the dark, nothing to do, for a good 20 minutes before my eyes began to adjust to the fake moonlight. A hazy shadow, on the other side of an enclosure, I saw them . . . little wobbling beach balls poking pencils into the crevices of the glass wall.
The kiwi’s legacy is also in jeopardy. As one might expect, human shortsightedness is the cause. The introduction to New Zealand of the opossum has been an ecological disaster. Kiwis are one of the favorite prey of these nocturnally active and aggressive marsupials. You’ll find many products at gift stores throughout New Zealand made of
‘possum hair, from stuffed plush souvenir toys to luxurious scarves. By all means, buy them. A percentage goes to the New Zealand government’s efforts to control the detrimental effects of this alien species. Most of the fur is collected from road kill. They are so abundant that some estimates place their numbers in excess of New Zealand’s domestic sheep population.
You can’t miss the tunnel entrance to Kiwi & Birdlife Park. It’s open daily at 9am, and it takes a leisurely hour or so to walk its self-guided garden trail. Admission is NZ$14.50 ($5 for children, also discounted for families). If you’re there at either 11am or 3pm, be sure to watch the brief conservation show, where you’ll be introduced to some of the park’s resident birds by name.
I liked the visitor center/souvenir shop; it’s one of the better ones in Queenstown. And a percentage of its sales goes toward conservation projects. In a corner nook of the store were some attractive dining tables, but I did not check out the menus.
The tuatara is worth checking out -- another evolutionary oddity of an isolated island. It looks like an iguana, but it’s not even a lizard. Scientists say that it is a missing link, the sole survivor of a prehistoric family of intermediate creatures.
Another bird I was much hoping to see in New Zealand is the kea, the only alpine parrot in the world, and a big one at that. The Kiwi & Birdlife Park has them, but I was fortunate to see them in the wild at Mount Cook, also. Inquisitive and fearless, these protected birds have been known to tear automobiles apart.
Click and listen to this: NZbirdcall.wav. I captured it on my digital memo recorder. We had stopped at the quiet wayside called Mirror Lake along the way to Milford Sound, and this amazing bird sang from somewhere deep in the alpine rainforest. I have no idea what kind of bird. I sent the recording in an email to my cousin, Ace, and we’re both going to New Zealand next year to uncover the culprit!
Written by Cara Lee on 22 Oct, 2004
The first thing that will astound you about Queenstown is the scenery. There is nothing like it anywhere else in the world! The sunsets in Queenstown are some of the most amazing sunsets in the world!
One of the best things about Queenstown is that it…Read More
The first thing that will astound you about Queenstown is the scenery. There is nothing like it anywhere else in the world! The sunsets in Queenstown are some of the most amazing sunsets in the world!
One of the best things about Queenstown is that it has something for everyone.
Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand. Experience the worlds first AJ Hackett Bungy Jumps, skydiving, canyon swinging, paragliding, hangliding, skiing, snowboarding in winter, or rafting just to name a few. One of my favourites was paragliding off Coronet Peak, as the scenery was fantastic. Another great one, ideal for the family, was the Shotover Jet, a fast-paced jetboat going over just milimetres of water.
For those who after something more relaxing, there are some magnificient wine tours on offer. One of the better ones is the Queenstown Wine trail. The guides were friendly and knew everything there was to know about wine.
For the Lord of the Rings fans out there, there are tours taking you out to Isengard and various other locations from the movie. Taking a tour is not necessary, a cheat's guide is to by the locations Lord of the Rings guide and take yourself out there by car to the various sights.
Queenstown is very busy; therefore, it is better to book in advance. It is very easy to get around Queenstown, as most accomodations are situated in the centre, with shuttles to and from the airport.
Written by Villadon on 25 Feb, 2005
11/2: caught the plane from Wellington to Queenstown with a stop over in Christchurch to change planes - well, that was the plan! What actually happened was that we changed planes, then sat on the tarmac for an hour or so, then were herded…Read More
11/2: caught the plane from Wellington to Queenstown with a stop over in Christchurch to change planes - well, that was the plan! What actually happened was that we changed planes, then sat on the tarmac for an hour or so, then were herded off, got our luggage back, waited at the airport for a couple of hours because Queenstown was fogged in. They then put us on a bus for the 8-hour journey to Queenstown, arriving at just before 8pm instead of 10am as originally planned - that's travelling for you!
Queenstown Mews Timeshare was a very pleasant surprise, well-located a couple of minutes' walk to the town centre. Everything you could want was there, including your own washer/dryer. On-site free games, books, videos, bikes, golf clubs, tennis racquets, a spa, sauna and BBQ, even a complimentary newspaper each day.
Queenstown is a year-round resort town, with stunningly beautiful scenery around a great lake and every form of extreme sport offered and was one of the regions where 'Lord of the Rings' was filmed.
Whilst in Queenstown, we did the jet boating on Lake Wakitapu and Shotover River - very exciting - and went up the gondola to Ben's Peak, which offered a fantastic panoramic view over Queenstown, the Lakes and surrounding areas. We spent a bit of time watching the paragliders taking off from the peak.
Another day we drove to Milford Sound, described as the 8th Wonder of the World, about a 4-hour drive each way. Along the way the scenery was simply stunning, with waterfalls threading their way down every hill, snow on some peaks, then once you arrive and go on the cruise onto Milford Sound you are just lost for words, so fantastic. Milford Sound was created by a Glacier which carved out this magnificent fiord which has waterfalls, dolphins, seals and millions of mosquitoes - be warned when you go take repellent with you - but do go, it is just the most beautiful place.
Arrowtown, a 20-minute bus ride from Queenstown, is a picturesque old gold mining town, is quite quaint with some of the original buildings still standing and worthwhile visiting. There is an area that has been preserved where the Chinese miners lived when gold was discovered in the Arrow River in 1862. It was famed as one of the world's richest sources of alluvial gold.
After our week in Queenstown, we hired a car and went north-west to travel along the wild scenery of the West Coast, passing through Cromwell, Wanaka (lots of stone fruit orchards and a beautiful lake in the centre of town). On our way we passed the bungy bridge - the original bungy site - crazy! On through to Haast Pass (562M summit), more fantastic mountain scenery, overnight at Haast Beach - more BIG sandflies than you can shake a stick at!
Next day at Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier - both were very impressive. These two great rivers of ice are unique in the world in that no other temperate region glaciers in the world descend to so low an altitude - 250M above sea level. You can walk up to both and see the blue ice. The melted ice with great chunks flow quite fast to the sea. My favourite was Franz Josef.