The resort town of Queenstown is one of the most popular attractions in New Zealand, with its stunning location on the shore of the vast Lake Wakatipu, and surrounded by the Southern Alps. It is also commonly referred to as the adventure capital of the world, and offers endless opportunities to try almost every thrill-seeking activity you could possibly think of.
Given the town’s reputation, it only seemed right that we began our visit with something adventurous, and we therefore arranged a tandem paraglide flight with G Force Paragliding. This was paid for using the very generous Christmas presents from both my parents and brother.
The flights take off from the top of the Skyline Gondola, which is located on Bob’s Peak at an elevation of 790m, and towers over the town below. Having decided to book an early morning flight, rather than taking the gondola we climbed the 45 minute trail to the top of the Skyline.
Once we had arrived and checked in, we were both introduced to our pilots before being led to the nearby launch site. After helping to unfold the gliders, we were each strapped into a harness and prepared for takeoff. This essentially involved running towards the edge of the hill as fast as possible, before being quickly swept up into air just in time.
Having successfully launched off the hill, each of the gliders gradually swung around towards the lake, giving us chance to admire the beautiful scenery around us. The town below seemed small when compared to the surrounding lake and towering mountain ranges to either side. The flight was incredibly smooth as we gradually descended, and our pilots explained that we were lucky enough to have picked a day with perfect wind conditions.
Up to this point, we had been able to sit back, relax and enjoy the view, however as we reached 500ft above the town, each of our pilots asked if we would like to make the flight more interesting. After both of us had nervously agreed, we were given a demonstration of what these nimble gliders are capable of, with our pilots launching into a series of acrobatic manoeuvres.
With our heart’s racing, we were glad to slow down and begin the final section of the descent, before a very smooth landing in the playing fields of a nearby school. It was a fantastic experience, one which we will definitely be doing again in the future, and a perfect introduction to Queenstown.
After a more relaxing few hours wandering around the town it was time for our next adventure, a jet boat ride along the Shotover River.
A uniquely Kiwi experience, jet boating was invented by farmer Bill Hamilton in the 1950’s, and has since become a hugely popular tourist attraction. Shotover Jet is the most well known of the Queenstown operators, and count Prince William and Kate Middleton among their previous guests.
Their base is located on a small beach along the banks of the Shotover River, just a short drive outside of Queenstown. After checking in, we were provided with a waterproof poncho and a lifejacket before boarding the boat. Our driver Jeremy introduced himself, and after a very short safety briefing we were on our way.
The boat was soon up to speed, practically flying under the Edith Cavell Bridge and into the steep canyon beyond. It was incredible how close we were to the walls of the narrow canyon, with both of us instinctively ducking at several points as we awaited the impact that never came.
Travelling at speeds of up to 95km/h, we continued along the river, and as the canyon widened we were told to hold on tight while the driver performed several 360 degree spins. After travelling along the river for 7km, we came to the halfway point of the trip. With a few minutes to catch our breathe, Jeremy explained some of the impressive features of the 700hp boat, as well as the intensive training program that all drivers must complete.
Given the all clear to return through the canyon, we were quickly speeding back the way we came, with several more spins and close shaves to keep us on the edge of our seats.
After such an action-packed day neither of us fancied cooking, and we instead decided to visit Fergburger. Seemingly the only show in town from a culinary perspective, Fergburger comes highly recommended with Ed Sheeran among many others that claim their burgers are the best in the world.
All this hype does mean that you have to wait for your food, and we joined the almost round the clock queue outside the small venue before ordering our food. After waiting for nearly an hour, we finally received our burgers and found a perfect spot overlooking the lake to enjoy them. We quickly understood why Ferburger is so popular, and we had soon demolished ours.
The following day we were back to the top of the Skyline, this time taking the more relaxing option of a scenic ride on the Gondola. The short and steep climb soon had us at the top, where we jumped onto a shorter chairlift to take us to the top of the Luge track.
Yet another of Queenstown’s popular adventure activities, the Luge allows riders to race down the mountainside in small carts. There are two different tracks, with one for beginners and the faster Red Track for those wanted more of an adrenaline rush. Our ticket included five rides, and after starting on the easier track we felt ready to take on the harder track.
We were soon hurtling down the steep and winding track, racing each other to the finish. As expected it became very competitive, and I even managed to fall out of my cart while chasing Rachael down in one of the races. Fortunately I got my revenge in the next race, crashing into her cart and causing her to spin. However this still wasn’t enough to claim victory with Rachael eventually winning 3-2.
Probably the activity most synonymous with Queenstown is bungy jumping, with the world’s first commercial jump opened just outside of the town in 1988 by AJ Hackett who popularised the sport.
This original site over the Kawara Gorge is still in operation and is now one of three jumps on offer in Queenstown. Although neither of us were overly keen to try it ourselves, we decided to visit and watch from the safety of the viewing platform. We looked on as several people jumped from the 43m bridge, briefly touching the water before springing back into the air.
We did manage to briefly escape the fast paced nature of Queenstown, visiting several of the wineries in the nearby Gibbston Valley. Our favourite of these was Chard Farm, and it was great to sample some of their wines while also admiring the stunning vineyard and its surroundings.
Returning to the town, we wandered around the lakeside Queenstown Gardens, before joining the crowds awaiting the sunset on the beach. We found the perfect spot for a picnic, enjoying a takeaway pizza and some drinks, while watching as the sun slowly dipped behind the mountains and the light began to fade.
We had an amazing, action-packed few days in Queenstown, and we were both in need of a rest afterwards. With such a stunning location, and huge range of activities on offer, it is no wonder the town is such a popular year-round holiday destination!