Lower Southwestern South Island
You can fly into Queenstown from Christchurch and, certain times of the year, from Australia. You can drive here from Christchurch or the west coast as described in the Central South Island section.
Some travel guidebooks give this fantastic small city a bum rap, saying it is touristy. But seriously, only the most jaded traveler can fail to be stunned by the mountain and lake setting of Queenstown. Even the joy of flying or driving into town is breathtaking!
From the air, the plane drops down through the clouds past snow-capped peaks. Drivers coming over the Crown Range Road gradually see Lake Wakitipu emerge between towering peaks. If the sun is shining on the Remarkable Ranges by the lake, the vision is imprinted in your memory.
Queenstown is known as the “adventure capitol” of New Zealand, for its thrilling jetboating, white water rafting, and of course the famous A J Hackett Bridge where bunjy jumping started. Even if you dare not try that jump it is a hoot to watch other people scream like banshees when they take the leap from the bridge to foaming waters in the gorge below.
Some of our favorite short tours are backcountry jetboating, Lord of the Rings tours, 4WD excursions into remote mountain areas, horseback riding, and taking the old paddleboat across the lake to a working sheep station. There is excellent craft shopping and dining in the old gold mining village of Arrowtown. Stroll in lovely private and public gardens, play some great golf (we can get you tee time). We have taken all the tours and visited dozens of hotels, and can advise you based on our personal experience.
Queenstown also has some of the best dining in New Zealand. And for travelers who want a break from dining out, we often book a serviced apartment where you can relax from the pace of the trip. Take the gondola up Bob’s Peak at dusk, then come down by luge. Or remain at the top for a sunset dinner followed by star gazing. We have a great guide to the Central Otago vineyards for a full or half day tour. Do “day one” of the Routeburn Track, or take one of the dozens of hikes in the area.
Te Anau, Milford & Doubtful Sounds
Throngs of people take a daytrip to Milford Sound, or Doubtful, while based in Queenstown. We think that is a big mistake unless you are extremely short on time. Why? Because the sounds are stunning when the sun shines on them, and mind boggling when pouring rain turns the sheer walls into countless misty waterfalls. The only way to have it both ways, is for us to book you on an overnight cruise. There are choices of boats so we pick what matches your druthers.
The overnight can be done by coach from Queenstown. But if you have the time, we love to have people drive at least as far as Te Anau (about half way there) and enjoy this beautiful village by the South Island’s largest lake, Lake Te Anau. More walking trails, a small movie theater where you can see a film shot in remote parts of the World Heritage Fiordland National Park – places where no human has trod. You can visit glowworm caves, go trout fishing, or just relax in a luxury lodge or simple B&B. Many of our clients do “day one” of the famous Milford track here – a guided daytrip.