New Zealand with Kids - Day Twelve, Queenstown

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

leaving Christchurch (left), flying over the countryside (right) 

Woke today absolutely shattered from lack of sleep – it was so bad and I was just so over it, I wanted to get on a flight and head home.

Amazing how the simplest things can really shake up your travel plans and make a trip so unpleasant, but then, being a typical perfectionist and just wanting our entire trip to be blissful, happy, peaceful, exciting, lovely, fun, fabulous, cultural and fulfilling… I guess it’s easy to become so disillusioned by the smallest things. And often it’s the smallest things that can really spoil a holiday.

On the flight to Queenstown, my husband handed me a newspaper article about a woman travelling with her family, and her hilarious ‘nothing works out perfectly on hols with the fam’ observations not only made me laugh, they lightened the load a little, and I began to feel more confident about another three days on the road… surely things could only get better in the Southern Lakes region.

on the way to Queenstown
Well, I’m pleased to report things got very better. Very quickly.

Queenstown is really just a surreal place. You hear things about places being beautiful and then you get there and yeah, they’re really good or okay. But Queenstown lives up to the hype. Even on an overcast, cool, ‘summer’ day, the scenery is so striking, you can’t help but feel lighter and sunnier in the heart.

Reminiscent of southern Germany in terms of its mountains and foresty and the way the sun breaks through clouds and spotlights the divine crevices of those giant alpine backbones running around the town on all sides, this is a place of pure bliss. With the teal blue Lake Wakatipu, divine chalet style buildings and pine tree forests stretching to the heavens, you can’t help but sigh.

The township itself is small but the outer suburbs stretch for quite a way, with nearby Frankton also full of plenty to do and see. In fact, it would be hard to run out of something to do in Queenstown. Like every main town or city in New Zealand, there’s just so much information, so many i-site offices, so many brochures, flyers, booklets and maps – stacks of them at the door to almost every store or café – the NZ Tourism Board is certainly doing something right.

Just be really selective in your choices, though, because most things are outrageously expensive, especially anything to do with risking your life and limb. One tip: do book any activities directly with the provider, if possible. Don't rely on the tourist offices for bookings - get your information there then book direct.

The cab ride from the airport to our accomm – Garden Court Suites and Apartments just 100m from the lake on Frankton Street – cost around NZ$40 and took about 15 minutes. Arriving close to 11am, we were delighted to find our room ready – and were even more delighted when we opened to door to this absolutely glorious twin room experience. The relief I felt at this gorgeous, quiet, beatifully located spot was unbelievable.

view from lower balcony

view from upper balcony

kids' room upstairs
Set right on the edge of the property in its own little building, our two rooms – a downstairs one-bedroom and an adjoining upstairs studio apartment – were spotlessly clean, modern, fully equipped and luxurious with – you guessed it – a spectacular view across the lake. I wanted to cry, I was so so happy. This was our most expensive accommodation on the trip but still affordable and worth it for the luxury, even if only for a night.

the view from the end of our street; sigh
Not wanting to leave (seriously!) we dragged ourselves away and walked into town (5 mins) and had a great coffee at the Post Office Café.

Then walked up the small hill to the Skyline Gondola, past the Kiwi Birdlife Park. Not wanting to part with any more money to see something we'd already seen, we gave it a miss, but they do guarantee kiwi sightings so it would be worth going if you haven't seen one.

Going up!

bungee jumping, anyone???
At NZ$64 for a family to take the gondola to the top of the mountain, sightsee on the platform and come back down again, this is yet another steep expense, but well worth it for the incredible views across the lake and mountains - and this was by far the most breathtaking gondola experience in NZ. For around $30 more, each family member can take a luge ride.

Going down!

For those a little more adventurous, hook your mountain bike up to a passing gondola and ride on down an incredible steep incline. What a thrill. Riley would have loved it. Even the gondola trip alone is very special – like going up in an open air lift – 500 storeys high.

After the gondola, we wandered the quaint town streets, and along the waterfront, spying some good cafés, bars and pubs, and earmarking some for a visit. After a shop in the Alpine supermarket on Shotover Street, we walked back to our glorious room for dinner, then Husband and the kids skimmed stones down on the lakefront. I mean - who wouldn't want this backdrop whilst skimming stones??

We finished the day with the most fabulous, much-need night’s sleep.

On an ‘appreciate the small things’ note, one thing that truly enchanted me about New Zealand as a whole is the quality of the housing. Like – wow. So many stunning, fascinating, architecturally interesting and beautifully maintained houses and yards. It was a real pleasure to cruise the streets and absorb these impressive buildings – everywhere we went in NZ. Gosh. I'm sounding like my grandfather (love you, Bampa).

New Zealand with Kids - Day One, Auckland
New Zealand with Kids - Day Three, Auckland
New Zealand with Kids - Day Four, Rotorua
New Zealand with Kids - Day Five, Rotorua
New Zealand with Kids - Day Six, Lake Taupo, Palmerston North, Wellington
New Zealand with Kids - Day Seven, Wellington
New Zealand with Kids - Day Eight, Wellington
New Zealand with Kids - Day Nine, Inter Island ferry, Picton, Blenheim, Christchurch
New Zealand with Kids - Day Ten, Christchurch
New Zealand with Kids - Day Eleven, Christchurch
New Zealand with Kids - Day Thirteen, Queenstown
New Zealand with Kids - Day Fourteen, Queenstown, Glenorchy, Arrowtown, Wanaka

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