Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Best for adventures

executive summary by darmansjah

FRESH off a quick one-hour domestic flight into Queenstown, we bundle into our rental Toyota Aurion and head down town. Tucked amongst surrounding mountains and adorned by the stunning Lake Wakatipu – New Zealand’s second-largest lake – my Kiwi guide Shona informs us that Queenstown is known to be an adventure capital, confirmed by the numerous signs selling ‘extreme green rafting!’ and ‘the world’s most exciting jet boat ride!’ as we drive towards the town centre.

A vibrant winter playground for skiers and perfect adventures host all year round, this top tourist town offers thrill seekers options ranging from paragliding, skydiving, canyon swinging, zip trekking, two-wheel dirt biking, bungy jumping, river surfing and white-water rafting – the possibilities are endless. Despite the gloomy weather, buses packed with tourists joint the queues for water adventures in the Shotover River, Kawaru River and the Landsborough River, with excited peals of laughter and squeals echoing off the canyon. What’s coming to New Zealand without attempting a bungy jump? For the best jump-off location in town, head straight to the Skyline Complex. Accessible from central Queenstown via a scenic gondola ride 450 metres up to Bob’s Peak where clouds drift dreamly, nature’s wonder simply takes your breath away as you admire the vistas of ski-paradise Cornote Peak and the Remarkables mountain range with its stunning deep blues and turquoise across Lake Wakatipu and Walter Peaks to the southwest. Before leaving, be sure to catch one of the Kiwi Haka performances – a fascinating 30-minutes cultural showcase of the Maori people, New Zealand’s earliest settlers since nearly 1,000 years ago.

Back down to earth, we zip back into the bustling heart of town, spending an hour loading up on food an shopping, the buzzing area spanning a good mix of fashion and adventure wear, ski gears shops, tourist stops, cozy cafes, fast food giants and eateries, quirky gift stores, companies selling two-wheel drive packages and even a small casino. Shops are neatly arranged into clear lanes for easy navigation, with popular brand names the likes of Global Culture, Hallensteins, Glassons, Witchery and even a Louis Vuitton duplex amongst them.

Flushed from the cold mountain air and slight drizzle, we take a slow 10 minute drive towards the nearby Onsen Hot Pools, where a crowd of post-skiers, hikers and weary urbanites are already signing in to get their robes and keys to their pool room. Pre-booking allow the flexibility of having the staff adjust waters to bubble at your preferred temperature, and after soaking in comfortably, you can adjust the retractable roof for glorious, unhindered views of the mountains.

With an increase in the number of tourist seeking luxury services in New Zealand, I decide to indulge in one my self, signing up for a private wine tour with Black ZQN. Armed with a fleet of all-black European luxury vehicles spanning the gamut from Bentleys, Rolls-Royce, Range Rovers and Mercedes to Jaguar rides, the choice is yours for a photography expedition along the various Lord of the Rings trilogy shooting locations, art tour s and even customizing a white wedding journey among the snow-capped mountains. Today we are slotted in for a two-hour winery tour with our private chauffeur cum guide Frank Anderson, who is all suited up behind the wheel of a Volkswagen Caravelle.

Driving along the Central Otago region known for its continental-style climate and at 45 degrees South also one of the southernmost wine regions in the world, Frank fondly recounts how former journalist Alan Brady from Northern Ireland had given up his career in his prime despite public sceptisim, planting some of Gibbston Valley’s first grape vines in 1981. With the first bottle capped six years later, what had begun as a liability has now become Brady’s asset in just 25 years, also propelling the region’s winemaking industry. Our first stop begins at Chard Farm, where I part with just US$31 for my bottle of Vipers Vineyard Riesling 2010, an intensely aromatic white with its sweetness derived from apricots and honey. We lunch next at the unlikeliest of spots – a former Presbyterian Church from Wangaloa on the South Otago coast, relocated and now used as a tasting room operated by Waitiri Greek. Sitting at the eastern side of the picturesque Gibbston flats, our charming and highly knowledgeable Waitiri manager, Jason takes us through the wines harvested here, individual wine compositions and recommended pairings. The menu is simple but deliciously divine – mussels swimming in generous portions of liquid coconut and tossed chilli, while our platter of Whitestone cheese and meats went brilliantly with our Pinot Gris. I marvel at Frank’s self-restraint from the delicious wines, then laugh when I realize he has already arranged for a carton of his favourite reds to be shipped home the very next day.

Where to eat FERGBURGER It’s impossible to miss the store front, distinguishable by the snaking queues and a prominent tagine ‘in Ferg We Trust’. Originally whipped up as a staple to thlep famished drunken souls, the burgers are unusually large – the bun is as large as a grown adult’s face. Burgers are cooked on the spot as you place orders, with choices of chicken, beef and even a vegetarian option (Holier than Thou). Or conquer the ultimate Big Al – double beef patties, ‘lashings of bacon, a whole lotta cheese, two eggs’ and typical toppings of onions and tomato relish (from US$9).

Families travelling with children can pop into the Wakatipu Toy Library near central Queenstown, where toys are available for loan during your stay.

Reservations for Onsen Hot Pools are required, with free hourly shuttle service from the Station Building, central Queenstown.

A 20-minute drive from Queenstown brings you to the Kawarau Bungy Centre, where the world’s first commercial bungy jump was initiated in 1988

For more information on Queenstown, log on to Queenstownnz.co.nz.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post on Beautiful Places in New Zealand. I am very happy to know and too visit these kinds of places. As we know that New Zealand is naturally beautiful places in the world. This place is full of nature’s beauty. Thank you for sharing with us.