A Pretty Remarkable Week
My grandpa turned 70 a few weeks ago. To celebrate a very remarkable man, my mother, brothers, cousins, aunties, uncles, grandparents (and thankfully not their pampered puppy) hit up the Central Otago region of New Zealand’s South Island. This picturesque area, characterised by still lakes and sweeping mountain ranges, didn’t know what had hit it when the whole lot of us stomped in for a week of family fun in the frosty weather.
Just flying into Queenstown, I knew it was going to be a good week. The sun shone over the snow-capped peaks and Lake Wakatipu was sparkling.
Here are a few things we got up to during this awesome week away:
Remarkable by both name and nature – this striking mountain range is home to some killer views and snowy slopes suited to skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels. My family took to The Remarkables Ski Field for some action-packed days of snowboarding. Unlike the rest of my family, I’d never done any snow sports before this trip. All of my cousins, who are far younger than me, have it sussed and shred the slopes in style. Despite my inexperience, I was keen to give it a try anyway. My uncles are always pushing me to do things that I otherwise wouldn’t, so, after a few tries on the baby slopes, they took me up the chairlifts to the top of the mountain! I spent most of the time either digging my heels into the snow trying not to topple, or on my butt, but I had the best time!
Before moving to New Zealand for university in 2015, I’d never even stepped foot in the South Island. After 4 trips to Queenstown, I’m becoming quite familiar with the area. No matter how many times I visit, this lakeside town never loses its “wow” factor. It is crammed full of things to do, things to see, places to eat and it has a pumping nightlife scene. Queenstown is truly beautiful in every season. In summer, I love enjoying an ice cream from Patagonia and dipping my toes in the lake but come winter, there’s nothing like sipping a mulled wine and admiring the view from beside the fire at Eichardt’s Bar.
Technically in the town, this burger joint is such a Queenstown icon, I’m giving it a point of its own! Although I’m still a bit sceptical about the “Best burger joint in New Zealand? Or the planet?” kind of hype - you can’t come to Queenstown and not try one. You certainly won’t miss this jam-packed shop because the queue shoots down Shotover street 21 hours a day. Many people try to find ways to cut or avoid the notorious line but I think it’s part of the experience. You’ll make friends with funky accents as you wait to get your frozen fingers on one of their delicious burgers. Not only will you get a taste of Kiwi burgers, but the local humour too. The burgers have hysterical names like “Bun Laden” and “Sweet Bambi”.
ARROWTOWN, OF COURSE
Just a short and scenic drive from Queenstown, this charming gold rush village is always a “must-do” when I’m in the Central Otago area. Amidst the mountainous landscape, you’ll find this leafy town tucked away, on the banks of the Arrow River. The streets of this historic settlement are lined with cute cottages, calm cafés and some world-class restaurants and bars, frequented by the rich and famous.
On the southern end of the crystal-clear Lake Wanaka, surrounded by mountains, this lively and adventurous town is a breath of fresh air. Within the town itself, there are boutique shops, awesome art galleries and restaurants and cafes serving up the food made from quality local ingredients. In the areas surrounding the town, there are endless opportunities for exploration! Whether you’re into snow sports, water sports, hiking through stunning scenery or capturing the sweeping views on camera - you’ll be spoilt for choice!
CROWN RANGE PASS
There are two ways to drive between Queenstown and Wanaka but this one is, by far, the most spectacular! The road spirals through the mountains of the Crown Range with views fit for royalty. You can see out to the rivers and valleys below, with pretty little Arrowtown in sight too.
LOVELY LAKE HAYES
This still and stunning lake is just a 15 minute drive from Queenstown. It’s as reflective as a mirror and surrounded by mountains, hills, trees and all kinds of earthy tones - a tranquil haven and a photographer’s heaven.
One of the highlights of my time in Queenstown was taking a ride up the Skyline Gondola to zip-line down through the forest. As well as encouraging us to take part in challenges, such as riding upside down and falling backwards and letting the harness catch you, this guided tour also taught us a bit about sustainability and the local environment. The views of the mountains and Lake Wakatipu as we zip-lined through the trees were as thrilling as the experience itself.
KIDS IN A CANDY STORE
The Remarkables Sweet Shop is a bit of a local legend and hundreds of sweet-toothed travellers flock into the Queenstown and Arrowtown stores to get their fix each day. Here, you can do a tasting of their famous Remarkable Fudge, take your pick from their selection of beautiful chocolates or feast your eyes on the shelves packed full of nostalgic and international sweets. My younger cousins absolutely loved spending their coins on candy in this lovely little lolly shop, but I think the adults found it just as sweet too!
BANTER AT THE BOAT SHED
Nothing compares to Kiwi coffee. New Zealand is home to some brilliantly roasted beans, skilful baristas, flawless flat whites and the dairy is unbelievably fresh and creamy. The culture around coffee here is just as outstanding as the coffee itself. Kiwis will sit around for hours chatting away while sipping on a perfectly poured cup of the good stuff. The Boat Shed Café and Bistro, in a rustic shed on the shore of Lake Wakatipu, was some of the best coffee I’ve had in Queenstown. What made it even better though, was the company. I loved spending time chatting away with my family in this picturesque little café.
FESTIVITIES AT FLAME
To celebrate our incredible Pa, the whole family headed out to Flame Bar & Grill in the heart of Queenstown for a celebratory 70th birthday dinner. The smell of this South African BBQ restaurant lingered in the frosty air and heightened our appetites before we’d even walked through the door. We devoured our ribs, steaks, polenta fries and cheesy garlic bread from this cosy upstairs restaurant with views out to the mountains.
Looking at hitting up Queenstown? Check out my other Queenstown posts here.