So I’ve now returned from our epic trip to Queenstown in New Zealand and I had an absolute whale of a time (although saw no whales, sadly). I didn’t really have any expectations of what Queenstown would be like, so just in case you’re planning a visit there and want to be a little more prepared than I, here are some things I wish I’d known before I took the trip.
It’s as beautiful as you’ve been told ¦¦ The scenery around Queenstown is nothing short of magical. It’s like it’s not even real. It looks like someone has painted a really great stage backdrop and hung it from somewhere in the sky – all around town. It’s just.that.pretty.
Photos don’t do it justice, and even though I tried, it’s one of those places that you just have to see with your eyes.
Oh and also the town itself isn’t that pretty. Sorry. There’s nothing wrong with it, but if you plonked it down anywhere else nobody would visit. That said, the mountains unexpectedly peeking out from over rooftops and lakeside glimpses between alleys was pretty cool.
It gets dark really late ¦¦ Apparently I’m now totally used to Australian evenings that get dark pretty promptly and pretty early, even in summer. So the fact that it was barely dark at 9pm really messed with my head. Think you can’t get jet lag from a mere 2 hour time difference? Add in some long evenings and see how confused your body gets.
It’s super dry ¦¦ And no I’m not talking about trendy outdoors gear although there’s plenty of that around too. To demonstrate this point I refer to my husband, who is fundamentally opposed to moisturising yet by halfway through our trip was begging for some – any – moisturising cream. I normally have dry skin so was already practically bathing in the stuff, but even that wasn’t enough. I actually used up all the moisturiser I’d brought with me so we had to do an emergency Nivea run. #notspon.
The strong sun plus altitude makes for some distressed skin. You have been warned.
It’s very expensive ¦¦ I thought Sydney was expensive… I had no idea. Queenstown suffers from the unholy trinity of inaccessibility/limited resources, high tourism influence, and popularity. We spent an unreasonable amount of money there – you could easily blow $30 on lunch in a fairly nondescript cafe or pub. Groceries were also exorbitant, just in case you were hoping to self cater. Nothing is cheap. Petrol was NZD$2.30 per litre (approx AUD$2.10), compared to the AUD$1.17 I just paid at the pump in Sydney.
I mean, there’s a reason people come anyway. Just be prepared.
It’s not just for backpackers ¦¦ You may have heard of Queenstown talked about on the backpacker circuit, if you run in those kinds of circles. Yes, it is popular with travellers and yes there are a few hostels in town (and big green buses zooming around the mountains), but there are also some extremely chi chi accommodations right on the lake and there are a plethora of good restaurants to choose from.
You may still see streakers from time to time but just put on your designer sunglasses and look the other way.
It’s not just for adventure junkies ¦¦ Similarly, you may have heard Queenstown described as Adventure Junky Paradise. Well, yes it can be, but it doesn’t have to be. If joy riding boats and bungee jumps don’t sound your thing, you can choose to go on civilised wine and cheese tours, day drives in endless mountain scenery…
…spot some unique birdlife, or just eat yourself to a standstill by a warm fire and a killer view.
You’ll rarely hear a kiwi accent ¦¦ I’ll be honest here. I can count the number of actual kiwis we met or overheard on the fingers of both hands. And that’s including birds… and fruit. Servers, tour guides, cinema patrons, even just people on the street. It was such a rarity to hear a kiwi accent that we actually noticed it when we did. I’m not going to go into a big social or political discussion about the situation because frankly I’m not well informed enough, but all I can say is it was certainly surreal to hear your 15th variation on a British accent of the day whilst admiring a country on the absolute other side of the world.
Folk are friendly ¦¦ Perhaps due to the prevalence of backpackers, tour group atmosphere definitely prevails. People are in general very cheery and chatty, regardless of weather or other contributing factors. This one I am not complaining about. When you’re surrounded by so much beauty and great things to do, how can you not be cheerful?
Local produce is plentiful and amazing ¦¦ New Zealand is a beautiful place that produces beautiful food. Highlights include lamb, venison, Manuka honey, anything dairy related (including but not limited to cheese and fudge), anything wine related. I highly recommend trying as much as you can, as close to the source as you can.
The weather is changeable ¦¦ We’re not talking Melbourne 4-seasons-in-a-day here, but we went from 25°C on arrival to 9°C and snowy on departure. That’s fine, and the forecasts were pretty accurate so we were warned. The fluctuation in temperature wasn’t necessarily the problem, but the rain was. As it turns out, most things to do in Queenstown rely on dry weather. There is one cinema in town, with about 50 seats in its one screen, and on our rainiest day the place was packed out.
So there are the 10 things I learned over the 10 days I spent in Queenstown. One thing a day is perfectly reasonable, right!?
Have you ever been to Queenstown? Anything you’d add to the list?