Queenstown: Adventures & Adrenaline

February 9, 2013

There’s a reason Queenstown, New Zealand is known as the adventure capital of the world.

The town is situated on the glistening blue waters of Lake Wakatipu, backed dramatically by the rugged Remarkables mountain range, but the scenery features far more exciting sights than that.

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Skydivers dot the skies high above, their parachutes merely blips in the deep blue. The gondola carves a path up the steep slope of the mountain, from which riders can board an open-air chairlift and then rocket downhill on the luge track. Bungee jumpers throw themselves off of various platforms or bridges, freefalling a staggering 8-15 seconds – too fast for screams to resound. And paragliders flutter down from the lofty heights of Coronet Peak, their colorful wings sometimes spinning in the thermals and attracting the attention of street walkers far below.

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And that’s not all. Adrenaline junkies also rocket down river rapids in turbo-charged jet boats, swing through canyon gorges on a harness and rope, or, in the winter, soar off the various jumps of the Remarkables ski fields.

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It’s a town full of elevated heartrates and rapid pulses, that’s for sure, but at the end of the day, after the adventures and sunbathing are over, the town does anything but slow down. As the sun sinks behind the mountain horizon, locals and tourists alike flock to the many pubs, bars, and nightclubs for a night of fun, frivolity, and alcohol-fueled mayhem. A popular choice is Queenstown’s Minus 5 Ice Bar – where below-zero temps and an interior made entirely of ice keep attendees cool. Literally.

Still, if parties, drinking, and thrill-seeking adventure are not your cup of tea, Queenstown can deliver. Romp around the Botanic Gardens, filled with native flora and plenty of Douglas firs, before heading out to the lakeside trails that lead down the Frankton arm extension of Lake Wakatipu.

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Board the old steamboat that, for over 100 years, has carted visitors out onto the lake and back, for a cruise tour of the surrounding nature. Play a round of frisbee golf, a unique Kiwi sport that involves tossing a flying disc into a vertical basket with chains.

For adventure of the cuisine persuasion, don’t miss a stop at the famous Fergburger on Shotover Street – with burgers massive enough to rival super-sized American food, and a line that files out the door all day every day, it’s a must in Queenstown. Order one of nearly a dozen choices of burger – you even get to choose your meat – and slap down the $11-18 for a meal fit for a king.

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If you can possibly muster it, stop at Patagonia Chocolates later on in the day for a double scoop of the kiwi classic, hokey pokey ice cream (vanilla with balls of honeycomb toffee) – best enjoyed while lounging in the sun on the lakeside beaches.

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You could also venture out of the city center for wine tasting in the surrounding valley, horseback riding through the rugged foothills of the Remarkables, or a side trip to the little old gold mining village of Arrowtown.

There is no excuse for boredom in Queenstown. If you’re bored, you’re not trying. And really, you don’t have to try.

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The town’s population is primarily comprised of tourists, but the locals are easy to spot. And with such a heavy focus on adventure, backpackers trekking through New Zealand always make their way here – and many stay on to work for awhile. They can hardly be blamed: who wouldn’t want to stay and work in a small town with a big city feel, a Bohemian lakeside resort ambience, an array of activities permanently at your fingertips, and a thriving nightlife?

Yeah, I thought so.

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