New Zealand with Kids - Day Fourteen, Queenstown, Glenorchy, Arrowtown, Wanaka

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Our last full day in New Zealand was our absolute favourite – and truly made us want to stay longer and explore the spectacular south island even further. I would go so far as to say that if you have a choice of which island to visit, it would be south island all the way.

After breakfast on the balcony, we hired a car (and were upgraded to a RAV4) and it was the best $120 we ever spent. We first drove north west to Glenorchy, which lies at the very top tip of the boomerang-shaped Lake Wakatipu.

The trip runs all the way along the lake and offers some pretty spectacular views. Be prepared to stop - a lot - to truly take in the splendour.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed in the land from Glenorchy north and it was easy to see why. Looking at these photos again just makes me want to cry, it was so beautiful.

We arrived at Glenorchy to drop Ella at the Dart Stables where she joined a 2-hour horse trek along the Dart River on a beautiful little pure bred thoroughbred named Pete.

The horse ride is expensive $110 but quite an incredible and unique experience – that once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. Longer Lord of the Rings treks are also available, which visits some of the filming sites. You can also do these horse treks at other spots around Queenstown, but I would recommend this one - purely for the landscapes. You can get the free shuttle bus from Queenstown, too.

In the meantime, while Ella had a once-in-a-lifetime experience, the three of us had coffee at Foxy’s café, then had a little wander around the tiny township with great views of the northernmost tip of Lake Wakatipu.

We then jumped in the car and drove north towards Mount Aspiring National Park, drinking in the rugged snowcapped peaks jutting from a clutch of other rugged peaks and looking suspiciously Lord-of-the-Rings-like.

So, we took an off-road track north and traversed some little fjords in the RAV4, stopping for a drink of the pure, crystalline water. We eventually reached the end of the road where Riley immortalised his name in the mushy clay.

This was a mesmerising experience and so worth doing. There are other off road tracks which are easily traversed by regular cars so long as there’s been no flooding, so you could check with the cafés in Glenorchy first.

There are some other tracks – one in particular to Paradise, where many of the Lord of the Rings scenes were filmed. Amazingly, Milford Sound is only about half an hour as the crow flies across the mountain range, but it’s so high and unable to be traversed… maybe a tunnel option will appear one day because it’s just so close yet so far (Milfound Sound can only be reached by a lengthy 4+ hour journey south of Queenstown in a big loop).

After our car trek, we returned to Glenorchy and walked around the Glenorchy Lagoon which features a boardwalk through the water with more spectacular views. It takes about 40 minutes of pacey walking.

We then drove back to Dart Stables and spotted an ecstatic Ella meandering along the road on her steed. She had an incredible ride and promised loads of spectacular photos from her disposable camera. She totally fell in love with her little thoroughbred Pete, and it was so wonderful to hear all about her travels.

it's love
On the road again, we headed back through Queenstown to historic Arrowtown about 20 minutes north east, via Arthur's Point and the Shotover river, where you can do some thrilling jetboating if you're willing to pay a price that will make you choke on your chocolate fish.

It was then in to Arrowtown. This is one of those places that everyone rants about but doesn't live up to the hype. I mean, it's lovely and worth a trip if you're close-by, but it's nothing incredible, and frankly, looks like a touristy movie set. And there were plenty of busloads of tourists to justify that opinion!

Historically, it's interesting.

The town was an 1860s gold rush site and the entire town has been kept as an old-worlde style township in keeping with that history. There is a museum and an old Chinese settlement with an original ’corner’ store (above). The river and small parklands are wonderful for kids and there’s a fantastic lolly shop – the Remarkable Sweet Shop – which is probably the most remarkable thing in Arrowtown.

After a little meander, we jumped back in the car and headed about an hour north to Lake Wanaka. We took the winding mountain route - Crown Range Road - via Cardrona. This winding trip is worth it - there is some pretty spectacular mountain scenery… it is so worth the drive for this alone.

Lake Wanaka is a smaller, rounder version of Queenstown’s Wakatipu and is a lovely little town, almost beach-like. It has a fantastic kids playground on the waterfront, paddle boats, great coffee and a special-looking (we didn’t go) Puzzling World and Toy and Transport Museum just out of town. Nonetheless, there's nothing remarkable here and the scenery isn't like Queenstown... it’s clear this is a passing-through-on-the-way-to-somewhere-else town.

If you have some spare cash, it might be worth heading here but if you're at the end of your journey and cashless, like us, grab a gelato, play at the park and go.

The real gems are on the road between Wanaka and Queenstown via Cromwell, along Luggate-Cromwell Road. Here you will find a soldier-line-up of vineyards that will have you drooling as row upon row of green vines flash past your car window, with striking mountain backdrops.

This is one of NZ’s many spectacular wine routes – and lo, the wines are very very good. Oh how we plotted and planned our retirement trip back to the South Island sans kids so we could cruise the vineyards and other glorious sights the kids would find boring.

There is also a long queue of orchards and fruit shops selling apples and pears and peaches and berries and the most succulent cherries ever. We snaffled a 1kg bag for $5 and had to seriously contain ourselves from devouring the lot.

Back at our apartment, I had that rare heart-wrenching moment of standing on the balcony watching the rain roll in over that spectacular lake view. Tears sprang to my eyes as the rain pinged gently on my shoulders.

Queenstown and environs made a wonderful trip to NZ so very very special. It’s no wonder people visit and never leave. It’s my number one destination of choice for NZ and Lou (ex-Maeve mag founder) – you were right; a visit to NZ is impossible without a Queenstown fix. Don’t miss it.

Tomorrow we commence our 4-leg flight home. Although we struggled with accommodation at times, our NZ trip was a worthwhile experience and Husband and I agreed we would be back – but probably mostly to the South Island, with the Bay of Islands and a return to Rotorua on the North Island.

NZ Highlights
Kiwi birds, striking suburban houses, Te Papa museum, Queenstown and environs, NZ vino, Christchurch and playing cards with the kids at the Brew House in Wellington.

NZ Lowlights
Gilmer Terrace Serviced Apartments, no aircon south of Rotorua, noisy neighbours pretty much everywhere, high-priced tourist attractions, and while there’s a high level of friendliness amongst the populace, customer service is really inconsistent and I must admit well on the lower side of fantastic.

What New Zealanders do well
Coffee, fruit, wine, incredible tap water, conservation, Maori heritage, architecture, history, museums (some of the best in the world), tourist attractions (albeit chokingly overpriced at times), and no one does adventure attractions like NZ (albeit priced out of control).

Oh, and NZ has the best tv ads in the world. I can still hear the Inter Islander jingle... Love you, NZ.

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 Twelve, Queenstown
New Zealand with Kids - Day Thirteen, Queenstown


Widge said...

I have loved reading of your adventures in my homeland :)
especially the Christchurch and Queenstown posts as I live just out of Chch and we like to holiday in Queenstown. One of our my favourite places ever!
Great photos and so cool to see these familiar places through a tourists eyes.
Hope you have a great journey home xo

Tania McCartney said...

So glad you've loved this, Widge - we loved being there! There are only a few places in the world I'd rush to go back to (only because there is so much to see!) but we would go back to NZ in a hearbeat. Loved it. Enjoy your NZ lifestyle, you lucky duck!

Anonymous said...

WOW - STUNNINGLY beautiful!! TB

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