Saturday, March 17, 2012

Queenstown - New Zealand's Adventure Capital

Queenstown, New Zealand, is nestled on the shores of Lake Wakitipu and lies in the shadow of the the Remarkable Ranges. We were in Queenstown for a family Christmas holiday and our accommodation was at Peppers Beacon. As we walked into our spacious three bedroom apartment, our senses were assailed by the aroma of freshly baked bread and the breathtaking view of Lake Wakitipu. What better way to start our holiday then sitting on the balcony, looking out over this amazing view and eating freshly baked bread with butter and jam!
We had been told about the amazing food and wine from this region of New Zealand and couldn't wait to try it. Our first foray out into the vineyards was to Gibbston Valley Winery for lunch. There were eleven of us and after some banter with our very friendly "Kiwi" hostess we let her have free rein in the ordering department. We were definitely not disappointed. We started with an array of tapas style entrees that we shared and then we had amazing main meals followed by equally delicious desserts. When it came to the wines we had a private tasting at our table then settled on the chilled rose, a sauvignon blanc and an amazing pinot gris. What a way to while away the afternoon. A tour of the cellar topped off a very enjoyable day.

Queenstown calls itself the adventure capital of the world and when you see the amount of sporting activities on offer you can understand why - jet boating, white water rafting, paragliding, parasailing, snow skiing and, of course, the thing that New Zealand is most noted for - bungee jumping. So how many of them did I do? None, I'm afraid to say but we really were going to do the tandem paragliding from the  Skyline Gondola, however, the weather changed and became too dangerous to attempt - oh well - next time! Our eldest son, Ryan did attempt the bungee jump and the Jet boating - two things off his bucket list.

What we did do when we went up the Skyline Gondola was to have lunch in the restaurant with the best view of Queenstown. It was Christmas Day and we had a very enjoyable lunch - we didn't have to cook or clean up or drive home - and there was even two complementary rides on a luge - I did do that. Although not quite as thrilling as, or with the adrenaline rush of, a bungee jump or paragliding, it was still enjoyable. A very relaxing way to spend Christmas with all the family.
Coffee, or should I say, a good cup of coffee, can be very hard to find. We have found the best way to get a good cup is to ask the locals. We were directed to two places - Vudu Cafe and Joe's garage. Both of these hit the mark and Joe's Garage served an amazing breakfast, which was really appreciated before our long drive to Milford Sound.
For our final night in Queenstown, we decided to have dinner at a rather unusual sounding restaurant - Botswana Butchery. The name conjures up all sorts of images but the reality was that it is, apparently, one of the best restaurants in New Zealand. Situated on the shores of Lake Wakitipu, this two storey dwelling offered various areas depending on the type of evening you wanted - outdoor barbecue areas, trendy bars and private dining rooms. We were all totally impressed with the menu, which did seem a little on the expensive side, but then it was in New Zealand dollars so, with that 30% discount, it wasn't so bad. My rabbit risotto followed by Eton Mess was amazing. One of the best meals I have had in quite a while. A perfect way to end the Queenstown part of our holiday.
One of the best things about Queenstown is that it is a good stepping stone to quite a lot of other attractions. From here you can do a day trip to Milford Sound to view the amazing Mitre Peak and cruise on the fiord, drive into Wanaka - some would say even more beautiful than Queenstown- and Lake Hawea, or drive out to Glenorchy and Paradise where parts of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit were filmed, and if you're feeling like a long drive you can go to Dunedin to the Chocolate factory. It is quite easy to fill a week to 10 days in the Queenstown area and feel like you have had a real holiday at the end of it.

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