Greg and I had an amazing opportunity to travel to New Zealand for a close friends wedding. It was a once in a life time chance, and we really didn’t have to think too long about it before we booked our trip. The planning of the trip took months and months. Thankfully I wasn’t too busy at work, and I meticulously planned the trip, down to the last second of every day. Trust me, the Itinerary was 25 pages. I spent hours researching the reviews of restaurants, hostels, hotels, beaches, what to do, what not to do, tourist traps. I strongly considered opening my own travel company afterwards, since I loved the process, and our trip had no unexpected bumps. Everything was better than I imagined it to be. It was truly one of the most memorable trips of our lives.
For the sake of my elaborations, I will break our trip up into a few posts. Probably many posts. Today’s focus? Queenstown. Day 1. We did a lot in day one. Well, we did a lot every day.
We took off at a 6:09 AM from Boston, and had a direct 6.5 hour flight to San Fran… we had a 10 hour layover in San Fran, and we took full advantage of our leisure time to explore the city. We used Freshen Up to clean up.. which wast probably the smartest thing we did. Then we got on our 13 hour flight to Auckland. In Auckland, we had a 40 minute layover ( I was extremely stressed… we had to get our luggage, take a shuttle to the domestic airport, check in, go through security, AND board). In the states, this NEVER would have been possible. Because New Zealand only has about 1 murder every 10 years, lets just say their secuirty is a bit light. We were able to do all this, and have time to spare. We got on NZ Air, and took off for another 1.5 Hour flight to Queenstown. At this point, we were not really tired since we were so excited to finally be here. I was able to sleep on/off for about 7 hours, and greg had gotten about 10.
We got a rental car from Jucy (and became obsessed with them), and we went to explore town. The airport was about 10 minutes from downtown. Greg had a few issues at first when learning to use the car, and took a couple roundabouts and wrong turns to get adjusted. I offered to drive, but we all know how that would have turned out.
We arrived at 9:00 am on the first day, and went right downtown to get Fergberger by 10:00am. Fergburger was worth the wait just for the experience of eating there. This is an absolute must. It is the truly “locals” spot and will give you the atmosphere of the entire town. The burger itself is to die for. One of the best that I have ever had, and probably because the meat is so local and fresh. We sat at the park by the water, laid in the sun, and took a deep breath of NZ air.
Queenstown reminds me of Burlington Vermont. Everyone is barefoot, mostly shirtless or in jerseys, walking with alcohol or smoking. Mary Jane. The atmosphere is so laid back. It is truly an extremists’ paradise with the mountains for bikers, boarders, skiiers, the bungeers, speed boating, kayaks, trekkers, hang gliders, sky diving, anything outdoorsy you want to do, Queenstown has. Life moves at a much slower pace. There is no concern for time, money, or worries. The only thing that matters, is this moment. This vibe is everywhere, and it is contagious. It is impossible to not appreciate the moment you are in, and nothing else. Every flower, every blade of grass, every color is 1000x more vivid. It truly is not like anywhere that I have ever been, nor that I even thought existed.
After walking around town, checking out our hotel, and resting a bit, we took the water taxi into town (mostly just to see the lake that we were on) and walked to the Skyline Gondola . It was really hard in planning our trip, given the limited amount of time for what was worth our time and money. Probably because I did a little too much research, but we were perfectly happy with everything that we did. For example, their was another skyline gondola in another town (Rotorua) that we were going too.. .but it had no mountains, and only overlooked a lake. I am very pleased with
our decision my decision to do the one here. Let’s be honest… Greg had NO idea what we were doing, or when we were doing it. Some may see it as apathy, but it truly made for an enjoyable, nonstressful trip. He didn’t care what we did, and was a trooper. He “trusted” my choices in planning. He probably regretted this later on… but it allowed me the freedom to really create a packed, interesting, and fun itinerary.
The Gondola offers not only the most amazing views of the town, but probably that I have ever seen. It was a little pricy, but we got a glass of wine at the top and soaked in the views. I had originally made dinner reservations at the top, and cancelled them since we had limited time to try the meals downtown, and there were so many places that looked good. We also did the luge which seemed ridiculously dangerous. Winding down a mountain at very high speeds, in small plastic go-karts? Greg was like a little kid, a bundle of nerves on take off. It was a blast, and had some of the most breath-taking views that I have ever seen. It is worth every bit of time, and every penny, just to see the lay of the land. It is a must for Queenstown.
We went to dinner at The Cow which was one of the coolest restaurants I have ever been to. The history of the location and the story behind the restaurant could be a whole novel itself. I strongly encourage you to read it, and to also go here (if you know, you are in NZ). The vibe is very authentic, rustic, and old. You feel like you are on a farm, and the decor is extremely unique. We ended up meeting a couple at the bar while waiting for a table, and ended up sitting next to them and chatting the night away with them. They were on their honeymoon from Australia! I will put this in writing, that I have never had a garlic bread better than the one here. The pizza also was cooked perfectly. At this point in the trip, we had reached our tired stage.. we had been up way too many hours, already done way too many things, and drinken a few too many glasses of vino. When we left, it was downpouring. Downpouring.
We stayed at Hilton Queenstown for 4 nights in an amazing suite right on the water. It is beautiful, isolated, romantic and quiet. It is 20 minutes outside of town, which is a bit of a pain if you do not have a car. Fortunately we did. The drive is so beautiful, majestic and enchanting, that the location is not a problem. They also offer shuttles and water taxis to get into town. We mistakenly took a taxi back one night, and it cost $45! The water taxi si $20 round trip/person.. so either way these are not cheap alternatives. If you want to save money it is certainly worth renting a car. The hotel has every ammenity you can imagine… a beautiful spa, a 5 star resturaunt, 3 or 4 smaller resturaunts/bars, a small cafe, an indoor pool/hottub, parking garage, a dock to jump into the water. It also is right on the waterfront walkway, which you can follow north to the mouth of the lake, riding a bike or walking for over 5-6 miles. We did it while waiting to check in to our room and it was beautiful! We saw NZ wildlife (birds), the most interesting flowers (see below), and lots of nooks and small beaches. It was very serene, peaceful. It also took us through neighborhoods, so we were able to see the more upscale, but also local part of the town.
The coolest thing about New Zealand is that it stays light out until 11:30 in the summer. Everynight, as we were in bed by 11:00, we felt like we were just going down for a nap! The first day was long, and exhausting. But I am so glad that we did all that we did- and it wouldn’t of happened had we not crammed it in. For we are in New Zealand to explore.. not relax. But at this point, I think Greg was wishing he signed up for the other “relaxation” trip!
5 Words to describe this day: Exhausting, Exciting, Curious, Relaxing, Stunning