All too quickly our final day in Queenstown was upon us and I didn’t want to waste a single second of it – especially now I was full of the joys of Spring having slept away any lingering hangover.
In startling contrast to the day before, the sun was blazing and it was blissfully warm. Hallelujah. Having spent almost every waking (and sleeping) minute surrounded by people, I was keen to have some me-time. Luckily Holly and Sophie and basically every other person on the Contiki tour was taking advantage of clear skies by jumping out of a plane thousands of feet up in the air, or swinging through a canyon or plunging head-first off an enormous bridge; which, as I’m sure you’ve gathered, is not my bag. I’d booked myself onto a Contiki-optional horse trek for later in the morning, so decided to take a solitary walk down from our hotel into Queenstown. The walk was only a couple of km or so and completely down hill, but provided stunning views out over Q Town and Lake Wakatipu. Seeing things from a coach/car/train window is fine, but I always feel like the best way to truly take a place in is to have a simple stroll and go at a pace that gives you the time to really appreciate the beauty. Walking by myself, sun shining overhead, breath-taking views all round and nothing more taxing to do with my day than simply have fun – it was wonderful.
Real Journeys (the guys who run the Milford Tours) also run trips over to Walter Peak Farm, across Lake Wakatipu, where you can experience a number of things – including farm tours, BBQ lunches and horse-trekking. To get over to Walter Peak you take the TSS Earnslaw, a 103 year old steam ship whose maiden voyage was all the way back in October 1912. I have to say, as a major history nerd, this experience was frigging awesome. Everything on the boat has been painstakingly restored by Real Journeys to how it would have been over 100 years ago; it’s so cool. During the journey across the lake (which takes about an hour and a half) you can go down to the engine room to see the steam engines at work (yes there are actual people down there shoveling coal into the furnaces!), you can indulge in a tasty snack or beverage at the bar, you can sing-a-long with the pianist who plays classic tunes for the whole journey (people actually did do this whilst I was on the boat and it’s so nice to see people just letting go of their inhibitions and having a jolly good sing-song), or you can brave the wind and go out onto the top deck to take in the outstandingly beautiful views on the lake. I did all this (barring singing) and also had a little mosey around the onboard museum. But mostly I just either stood on the deck or, when it got too cold, went back inside, and stared in awe at how bloody gorgeous New Zealand is when you’re in the middle of Lake Wakatipu. Seriously. It’s picture postcard perfect and, even if I had been on a leaky dingy rather than a glorious steam ship, I still would have been in seventh heaven being surrounded by such beautiful nature.
The trip on the TSS Earnslaw is included in the price of the horse-trekking excursion; which, at $115, I think is an absolute bargain – especially when you take into account that we were treated to a scrumptious afternoon tea as well. The horse tour guide met us off the boat and took us to get matched up with our horses before we embarked on our ride. I wouldn’t recommend this particular horse-trek for anyone who has experience of riding horses and likes to go at a fast pace. The tour is very inclusive and offers people who have never ridden a horse the chance to give it a go; the trek then goes at the pace of the slowest person. The horses were very calm and friendly and, as an inexperienced rider myself, I was instantly put at ease by both the welcoming manner of the guide and the docility of the horses. The trek is short – only 40 minutes – but the guide leads you up above Walter Peak Farm and there’s some stunning scenery to be seen. The guide even pauses to take individual photos on people’s cameras of themselves and the group, which I thought was a nice added touch for the tourist in me. Personally, I would have liked the ride to go on a bit longer and been a bit faster (a ride I did with my brother later in my trip was much more my style and you will hear about that in one of the coming weeks). However, for a beginner wanting a taste of horse-riding, combined with excellent views, this is the perfect trek. And, to be honest, because the Earnslaw ride was so fabulous and Walter Peak itself is very picturesque, getting to ride a horse was kind of just an added bonus of that day. I would recommend wholeheartedly taking a trip over to WP but if you’re a more experienced rider there are other horse-trekking excursions available around Queenstown, mostly in the Glenorchy area, so I would shop around. One trek, which Holly did, even takes in lots of Lord of the Rings scenery, so, for all those Frodo fans out there, definitely check that out.
After the horse-riding, you’re treated to a wonderful afternoon tea complete with lots of different cakes and a spectacular view over the Lake. Our horse guide even offered to then take us on a tour of the farm, which some of my Contiki tour mates decided to take him up on. I can’t recommend going over to Walter Peak enough. With the scenery, the history and all the wonderful added-extras, I was super happy that I’d chosen to spend my last day in Queenstown on the WP excursion. Money well spent.
Rested, relaxed, and refreshed, I headed back to the hotel (via a return journey on the Earnslaw) and was reunited with my adrenaline seeking room mates, who were on a massive high having done what they deemed as ‘incredible’ sky dives, bungee jumps and what have you, but what I dub as ‘sheer madness’. I mean, how could they have missed out on a tame boat trip and horse-ride to indulge in their death-defying, endorphin-inducing, insane activities? They’re mad. Anyway, as it was our last night in Queenstown and, because we’d all had such awesome days, we were determined to have a cracking evening out on the town. That night was one of our Contiki included meals at Winnie’s – a gourmet pizza bar. A trip to Winnie’s is a definite must when visiting Q Town. I mean, check out their menu – it was some of the most delicious pizza I have ever eaten. And the best thing? They just kept on bringing it out – pizza after pizza after pizza, until we could eat no more. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have drunk the best part of a bottle of wine back at the hotel whilst we were getting ready – pre-drinking before an all-you-can-eat meal is never a good idea. After we’d stuffed ourselves sick with pizza (this state of affairs didn’t stop us getting a dodgy Maccy D’s like 2 hours later), we hit the town. As mentioned, Q Town is awash with bars, pubs and clubs and we essentially embarked upon a ‘crawl’ of any of these fine establishments we stumbled across, in search of a good time. Sadly, our last night in Queenstown fell on a Sunday and the city that never sleeps it ain’t – it’s sleepy AF on a Sunday night. We tried in vain to find a happening place but, by about 10pm everywhere was winding down so, we headed back to the hotel to create our own party. Queenstown is famed for its nightlife but don’t expect to be pressed sweaty body to sweaty body in a club on a Sunday. Let’s just say the places we went to you could swing your arms (and the proverbial cat) quite freely around the dance floor.
My time in Queenstown was majestic from start to finish and if I could do it all again exactly the same, I would (yes, even the hungover Milford trip). I’m really glad the Contiki tour allotted 4 nights in Q Town but I’m sure you could probably spend a hell of a lot longer there. I would go to Queenstown again in a heartbeat – I’ve never been anywhere quite like it and I defy anyone to find a town that rivals it for sheer beauty, great dining and drinking and a huge range of activities on offer to suit every single taste (even scaredy-cats like me!). I urge you to go and experience it for yourself!
I hope you loved reading about my time in the adrenaline capital of the world. Next time, check in to find out about the one thing I actually did that could be deemed as an exciting activity and my 45 minutes locked in a brewery bar with unlimited cider/beer.
See y’all next week.
P.S. Check out the links below if you’ve missed any installments