Queenstown and Milford Sound (the most famous fjord in New Zealand) had been on my plan from the very beginning. Glaciers and fjords were my main interest in the South island. However, when I arrived to Wanaka, I did not want to go there anymore.
The truth is: I was exhausted. The days in Franz Josef and Fox glaciers had tired me in both physical and psychological ways. By then I knew that rain and bad weather were normal in that side of the island, so I wanted to move to the less rainy east coast.
‘But… you have to go to Queenstown! Skip Milford Sound, but you must visit Queenstown’, told me my friend H who had lived in New Zealand.
In Wanaka I took rest. I did short walks. The weather improved. I got back my energy and optimism and decided to go to Queenstown. So optimistic, that I even booked the Milford Sound tour!
And my friend was right: Queenstown was worth a visit and I enjoyed my stay there. As for Milford Sound… well, that is a story for the next post.
Nowadays Queenstown is not the town of the queen but the capital of adventure sports. Climbing? Rafting? Bungy jumping? Skydiving? Jetboating? Everything is possible in Queenstown, and the breathtaking landscape surely adds to the experience.
Queenstown is settled between mountains and lake Wakatipu. The small colorful houses are constructed on steep streets. The shore gives great views on the lake and the surrounding mountains. In addition to this, it is a very lively town, the dream of a lot of working holiday visa holders.
But it is not necessary to do high adrenaline sports or party in the night to enjoy the town. For me it was enough to walk around, hike one of the hills, and eat the best burger ever (actually two!).
Due to the high cost I hardly ever ate outside in New Zealand, cooking in the hostels’ kitchens, but in Queenstown I did an exception to try the famous Fergburger. And they are famous for a reason: they are huge, and so tasty! I had to queue for more than half an hour, but it was worth the wait, and on my last day I went there a second time. Tasty memories!
To burn the calories of the burgers I hiked the hill where the Skyline Gondola is. It was a short hike, but so steep that I had to stop several times to catch my breath. Ok, I confess… I am not in good physical shape!
When I reached the top, though, I forgot about the hike. It was worth. It was… just… wonderful! The view of the lake was spectacular. The town looked so small at the base of the hill! With the mountains around the long lake, it looked a bit fjord-like. And the low sun and the ever present clouds created an interesting atmosphere.
So yes, Queenstown was great. And there was a nearby place that I liked even more: Glenorchy.
Since I was traveling by bus, Glenorchy was not on my plan. What is interesting there is all the nature that surrounds the small village and that is best explored by car. I had the opportunity to go there thanks to an Argentinian guy that I met in the hostel.
‘Tomorrow I’m going to Glenorchy, there are two locations where The Lord of the Rings was filmed. Would anyone like to join?’, he asked us (the people in the dorm).
The Lord of the Rings? With another LOTR fan? I’m in!
The drive to Glenorchy along the Wakatipu lake was so scenic that I even forgot to take pictures (I took some on the way back). We stopped in the village to get a map in the tourist office, and then, we moved to Middle Earth.
There was no border but the moment we entered Lothlorien everything felt different, like we had traveled far away. It was silent. It was solitary (of course, elves do not like to be seen). It smelled forest. It was cold. It was ancient. (ok, I might have been a bit geek here).
We came back to New Zealand and continued the drive in search of the second LOTR location: Isengard. Even if I had not been a fan of Tolkien the excursion would have been fantastic: the landscapes were so beautiful! It was Paradise.
After Paradise things got complicated. Where was Isengard? Do we take the blue road in the map? How do we get there? The map was not clear. We crossed a door that was closed but not locked and followed a road that might not be a road. Mmmmm no, that was not a road… we were next to a river, driving over white stones.
Later on we concluded that the blue line in the map was not a road but the river itself, and that Isengard might be somewhere on the white stones. I should see the film again.
After that we went back to Glenorchy and Queenstown. The water of the lake was quite still so the mountains were reflecting on the water. The sun was getting low so the sky and the clouds were changing colors as we drove back. It was stunning! A perfect way to end a great day in Queenstown, Glenorchy, Paradise and Middle Earth.
GOOD TO KNOW
- Queenstown Skyline Gondola:
NZD$20 down only (one way, from the top)
- Fergburger: NZD$11 – 17
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