10 things I learned about Queenstown

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?


Linking up with Van, Marcella, Lauren and Isabel for Wanderful Wednesday. 

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  1. Chris
    13th November 2017 / 19:16

    Dear Rachel

    What fab scenery and to think that your photos didn’t do it justice

    Do you know which queen inspired the name? New Zealand seems to have so much going for it. I’m not sure we’ll ever make it this side of heaven but if we weren’t so far away, it would be on my list.

  2. 13th November 2017 / 21:16

    You’re one of a few people I know who have recently visited Queenstown and my FOMO is real! Thanks for all your insider tips, I loved following along via your on Instagram and especially on the stories. We must catch up in real life soon for a debrief!

  3. Jen
    14th November 2017 / 05:27

    Dry climates can really take a toll on your skin! Growing up in a dry climate was the worst and I was constantly moisturizing.

  4. 14th November 2017 / 11:15

    This is stunning. Bummer about being expensive though! A mix of good and bad but worth the trip I think!

  5. 14th November 2017 / 12:57

    Ahhh! So pretty!

    And YES to the getting dark late. That totally messed with us. We stayed in places with skylights whilst in NZ and had to block them up because even at 11pm (in January) it was still light out. It totally ruined my plans of staying in the country and admiring the stars because we’d be fast asleep by the time they were visible haha!

    New Zealand was definitely expensive too and we definitely experienced a wide range of weather in the time we were there. My tip when I find out friends are travelling to NZ is to always bring an umbrella or rain proof gear because it’s guaranteed to rain at least once 😛

  6. 14th November 2017 / 21:18

    Queenstown is seriously a living postcard. Its just so beautiful. We pretty much found all of the same things to be true when we visited a couple years ago.

  7. 15th November 2017 / 06:48

    i saw a whale! not in queenstown. but in auckland. so.. it counts. but you are right about everything else. and seriously, it is the most beautiful place i’ve ever been. no question.

  8. 15th November 2017 / 07:13

    I can’t wait to hear more about your trip to Queensland! It looks absolutely beautiful and I can’t believe you really didn’t hear Kiwi accents while you were there. I’m so used to the humidity in Texas that I probably would be bathing in moisturizer as well!

  9. 15th November 2017 / 19:49

    Oh, this sounds good (although the fact that it’s even more expensive than Sydney is downright scary!!), I’d like to know more about your trip too!

  10. 15th November 2017 / 20:45

    Those pictures look so awesome! I hope I’ll be able to finally make it to New Zealand next year! #WanderfulWednesday

  11. 15th November 2017 / 22:54

    These are good tips to know. If I ever travel to Queenstown I will be sure to pack extra moisturizer because my skin gets really dry as well. The area looks gorgeous even if the town is not. #wanderfulwednesday

  12. 16th November 2017 / 04:09

    Oooh I didn’t realize how expensive Queenstown is, actually! I had a friend working as an Aupair in NZ and loved all her photos – yours are so gorgeous and blue as well. Hopefully someday soon I can pay a visit!

  13. 16th November 2017 / 07:03

    Would love to explore Australia one day but may have to skip this region due to its extreme prices! That or I’ll have to starve to save money! It certainly is pretty though! May have to just suck it up! #WanderfulWednesday

  14. 16th November 2017 / 12:41

    One day… one day I’ll get myself to NZ and go see this beautiful place!! Glad you had an amazing time!!

  15. 16th November 2017 / 14:15

    This was an interesting read since it took me to some places I have visited (recently). I am surprised by the description of your prices. That sounds like Iceland. Are other parts of the country like that? I would like to visit but the prices are a turn off (I would like to go but need to be realistic). The other interesting thing is your comment about the not being able to find the kiwi accent. I wonder if other popular destinations are moving towards something similar. #WanderfulWednesday

  16. 20th November 2017 / 22:20

    I’d loooove to visit Queenstown!!! It looks super stunning! If only I had the money… those prices sound worse than Norway even…

  17. 26th November 2017 / 11:55

    This is one of those places that doesn’t even seem real to me… because it is so remote and seemingly unaffected. Does that make sense? Obviously, it is affected (somehow) because petrol gets there.. but it just seems like a mythical place with beautiful scenery in my mind. Two hour time changes can certainly cause jet lag. I went through that in California last week, particularly because the time change had just happened.

  18. kelly
    10th December 2017 / 09:10

    so happy that you enjoyed New Zealand!
    We are heading down to Queenstown over Easter; using our ing points to stay in the Crowne Plaza rather than paying $500 a night…eek!
    I did laugh as when I went home the last time in Auckland, all I could hear were Irish accents. You’ve made me excited about my trip…the last time I visited was way back in 1994.

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