We left franz Josef and traveled back through the mountain ranges towards Queenstown. With snow and fog we were scared the pass would be closed – but we made it in a nick of time. The landscape was again filled with idyllic vistas – the road wound through the mountains and alongside a number of lakes before beginning the descent into Queenstown.
We could see Queenstown long before we arrived, houses tucked into the hillside on the northern side of lake Wakatipu. We checked into our hotel and immediately went to check the view from the balcony.
For dinner, we booked into the Skyline restaurant (www.skyline.co.nz/queenstown/restaurant), situated up on a cliff overlooking Queenstown. To get there, you needed to take a gondola up the hill, again making the most of the views (though I spent most of the time watching the insane mountain biking trails under the gondola). We had some time to kill before dinner so we decided to go luging – the track was fast and you can even get air from some of the humps!
Exhilarated after luging, we headed into the bar and grabbed some drinks before dinner.
Imagine the biggest buffet you have ever seen – and triple it. Skyline restaurant has so much food it was impossible to choose what to have – I ended up with just a bite of everything. There were at least 15 different desserts!
Queenstown is known as a big adventure travel spot – with tons of extreme sports from white water rafting to bungee jumping. We picked something in between – Queenstown is home to the worlds biggest swing (www.bungy.co.nz/the-nevis/the-nevis-swing) – a 210 foot free fall with a 900 foot arc over a huge gorge. Taking a bus from Queenstown the thrills start before you even arrive at the gorge – the bus ride is up a steep cliff side road with nothing between the bus and a 150 foot drop. The bus driver had done it a few times as he negotiated the track with ease. As if that wasn’t enough – we went and watched the bungee jumpers chicken out or scream their lungs out before they take us to the swing. The swing platform is suspended from either side of the gorge with a see through walkway extending out to give access. I went for the tandem swing – aussie boy with the video and as something to cling on to. No countdown – the operator dropped us in the middle of asking us where we were headed for lunch.
While it was absolutely terrifying getting there and hanging before the drop – it was a huge rush and definitely something I will never forget.
We drove from Queenstown to the little town of Te Anau – we were taking a day trip from there to Milford sound (which is actually a fjord). The bus had a long and winding road (if I ever have to drive on that many winding roads again it will be too soon) through the mountains. On the way, we stopped off at the Mirror Lakes, a still body of water with a picture perfect reflection of the surrounding mountains.
We arrived at the dock and took a cruise ship out into the sound. Towering 4000 foot cliffs surround on all sides, with numerous waterfalls cascading down the cliffs creating rainbows. It was mesmerizing – easy to see why people call it one of the must do tourist attractions in New Zealand.
We were even lucky enough to sea some fur seals sunning themselves on the rocks and some tiny little crested fiord land penguins shaking their booty to dry off.
Next Stop: Dunedin, Mount Cook and Christchurch