Queenstown: Wine and Adventure, 007-Style

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February 24th 2010
Published: March 21st 2010
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Watching the clouds from our deck in Queenstown.
There is something about being around danger (bungy jumping, sky diving, paraglding, etc) that makes you crave a martini. Fortunately, The Bunker, a hip little bar in Queenstown, makes an excellent lychee martini (one of Angelique's favorite memories of SE Asia) and quite a good Manhattan (Adrian's signature drink).

Our three weeks in the Queenstown/Fiordland area have been simply amazing, some of the best weeks of our entire trip. In our fantasy world we'd spend a month or two here every year (during the summer or fall only; Angelique is a terrible skier and Adrian doesn't exactly love snow either). Who knows, maybe we can make that fantasy a reality when we are a bit older.

The hiking opportunities here are unparalled. We've spent most of our time since arriving in Queenstown on trails. We've had access to some of the most exquisite alpine wilderrness that we've ever seen - usually a short drive from our apartment. There are even some trails at the end of our street that climb for miles.

About 30 minutes north of Queenstown is cute little Arrowtown, where gold miners once panned the Arrow River. If you're up for a real adventure, you can rent mountain bikes or an ATV (or, for the true explorers, go on foot) in Arrowtown and make the ~10 km (6 mile) journey to Macetown, a historic gold mining ghost town. The journey is not for the weak kneed: the two-way road is a narrow single lane and you must ford the Arrow River 22 times.

Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland, is about 2 hours southwest of Queenstown and offers up a dizzying number of hiking opportunities. We spent one gorgeous day on the Kepler track (another Great Walk; 4 days for the full hike) enjoying a shadey beech forest.

About an hour or so north of Queenstown is Wanaka, a town that we think might be an even better base than Queestown for exploring the region. Also situated on the shores of a stunning lake, Wanaka is quieter with fewer high-end resorts but also fewer backpackers and bungy tour operators. Wanaka serves as the gateway to the magnificent Mt. Aspiring National Park and also has several excellent mountain bike trails close to town.

And when you're too sore from hiking up mountains, the Central Otago wine region beckons. For our Pinot Noir-loving friends out there (you know who you are), this is one wine region to watch. Our favorite winery is Amisfield; Robert Parker fancies Felton Road and Rippon. Everyone we talked with agreed that 07 vintage in the Central Otago wine region was excellent but - keep this hush-hush - 09 might be one of the best yet. Surprisingly, several excellent dry Rieslings are also on offer.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of our three weeks in Queenstown has been meeting so many people from all over the world - and all with a similar story. These people have put happiness and quality of life ahead of title, salary and perks and every single one of them is happy with their decision. Certainly has given us a lot to think about.

It is our last night in Queenstown and we are enjoying cocktails at the Bunker. They are playing Sinatra songs inside and, on the brick wall outside, they are projecting old James Bond films. Very cool.


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