Queenstown, New Zealand

We left Te Anau in the morning expecting to make several stops on the way to Queenstown. Much of the first part of the drive is not particularly scenic – like the Dunedin-to-Catlins route, think English countryside rather than the impressive mountains and fiords. After coffee and food in Athol, a few more miles north and crossing back into Otago, Lake Wakatipu comes into view, lined by mountains either side. It’s an incredible approach to a town.

After several stops on the way for the view, we make it to our accommodation – an awesome little place around five miles outside of Queenstown in what felt like the middle of nowhere. That was chosen for the peace and quiet but in hindsight turned out to be a good idea to stay outside of Queenstown.


With the weather at the start of the visit being somewhat dismal and not the best for being out and about, we spent a bit of time in Queenstown itself. This included going out for food and drinks, a couple of escape games (another record for a room set, and the 100% escape rate retained), a wander around, some food shopping and some beer shopping. The weather meant it wasn’t even worth going up in the cable car. I’ve had enough obscured-by-clouds views in Scotland.

Queenstown has an atmosphere that I found it hard to take to. The gold prospectors are long gone and have been replaced by tourists – everywhere. It’s entirely touristy, entirely geared towards tourists. It feels like every single person there is a tourist, and it feels like there is very little about Queenstown that is authentic. Oddly, though, I’d liken it to Waikiki in that sense, since it only seems to exist for tourists, and doesn’t seem to be true to the region or country/state it’s part of in any way, yet for some reason I do like Waikiki.


Some places do that well, and, even here, Queenstown appears to thrive on it. It’s the gap year location. It’s where you come to have a great time. You have to have a great time. Maybe in my younger days I would have taken to it more but it wasn’t for me. The crowds, the noise, the in-your-face tourism of it. It almost felt like a place where you’re meant to come and do a few prescribed things and leave having had the best time, and I found that a bit dull, or at least certainly not for me. To be honest, I find it hard to put into words why I didn’t take to Queenstown and it may be better summed up by saying that I get miserable around crowds and prefer the peace and quiet. And this place has crowds.

Despite what I’ve said above, it wasn’t a total downer in Queenstown, and for scenery and what I’m looking for it is superb. In particular, the road to Glenorchy is awesome.


We were due to be leaving Queenstown after a couple of nights in the area, and although it was a cloudy morning, we took a drive around the coast. Turning the corner north towards Glenorchy and the sky opened up and it was perfect sunshine and blue sky. It’s one of the most scenic trips, and the village at the end is great to spend a few hours. What’s more, despite it being not that far from Queenstown, the feel and atmosphere couldn’t be more different. As an aside, the Routeburn track finishes a bit north of the village and is a long walking trail which connects this area with the road to Milford Sound – noted for a future New Zealand trip.

I’ll stop bashing Queenstown now. It comes across as one of those places that you’re meant to say you loved, where you have to have the best time, and I’m quite happy to say that it isn’t a place for me. However, the time we had there based a little outside of the town was wonderful, the scenery is incredible and despite the weather not always being spot on, it was an enjoyable stopover. I expect most people who go there do it very differently and have a blast.


As an aside, during the trip we got into the habit of working through the cryptic crossword from the regional ‘paper each day as we had a coffee or a beer in the sun. That also worked well in the miserable weather in Queenstown, where we picked away at the puzzles for a bit longer over coffee. Here are some of my favourites:

  • Odd traits may be special: true, one repeatedly makes them (13)
  • Something shocking about first corn in an open shoe (7)
  • Noble lady noses around a saloon first (8)
  • Posh man’s strip design with a sense of fair play (13)

Next stop: Wanaka.

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