First a word of warning - don't take a rental car along this road. Your insurance will not be honoured if you have an accident or damage the car. The road is gravel, mostly one-way with very steep drops and tight turns. Tours are run with specialised 4 wheel drive vehicles. You can drive as far as Skippers Lookout for stunning views over the valley.
Skippers Canyon is a historic gorge which was the site of the gold rush in the Queenstown area. The gorge is about 22km long and has some rugged but beautiful scenery. Charlestown was, at the height of the gold rush, a settlement of some 100 people. As the gold disappeared so did the people until there is now nothing left to mark the spot but some crumbling chimney stacks.
At the end of the gorge is a small settlement on the historic site of Skippers Point. I didn't get that far as the jet boating site is only half way in.
There is certainly some fantastic scenery around the township of Glenorchy but there are equally spectacular view to be had on the drive there from Queenstown. The 45km drive follows the eastern shore of Lake Wakatipu to its northern end where the Dart River enters the lake near Glenorchy.
Near the head of the lake are Pigeon and Pig Islands. On a sunny day you can see through the clear waters. To the west you can see Walter Peak and Mount Nicholas; and Mount Earnslaw sits as a backdrop when looking to the north.
Glenorchy is a small township located at the northern end of Lake Wakatipu and is about 45 km away from Queestown. It is thought to be named after Glen Orchy in Scotland.
Surrounded by magnificent scenery Glenorchy is a popular tourist spot and close to many hiking and walking tracks. It lies near the borders of Mount Aspiring National Park and Fiordland National Park and the mountain skyline is dominated by Mount Earnslaw.
The area around Glenorchy has been made famous by movies such as Lord of the Rings, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. More movies are due to be filmed there. In fact a film crew was present on the day of my visit.
Hall Arm is one of the three main arms to branch from Doubtful Sound. It travels to the south from the main sound. It is quite protected and some wonderful reflections canbe seen. The skipper of our cruise boat turned off the engines - the stillness was incredible!
Lake Wanaka lies at the heart of the Otago Lakes in between Lake Ohau to the north and Lake Wakatipu to the south. The township of Wanaka is situated at the south end of the lake. Glendhu Bay is a popular place for visitors. Magnificent Lake Hawea is only 15 minutes away.
Wanaka is the gateway town to Mt Aspiring National Park and is only a short drive away from Queenstown through the Cardrona Valley.
It is also the start of the journey to the west coast travelling along Lakes Hawea and Wanaka to Makarora and the Haast Pass.
Even cloudy days can't dim the beauty of Lake Wanaka.
Lake Hayes is a small lake between the towns of Arrowtown and Queenstown.
The lake was originally known as Hays Lake after D. Hay, an Australian who came to the district looking for sheep country in 1859. Its name gradually changed to Lake Hayes, as its discovery was credited erroneously to Captain "Bully" Hayes, an early local character of the district. (Wikipedia)
Apart from great scenery there are walking trails to explore and wineries to discover.
The historic goldmining town of Arrowtown is popular for more than just well preserved buildings. It holds an annual Autmn Festival. Unfortunately I missed the festival by a week but the colours were still brilliant.
Arrowtown is a historic gold mining town near Queenstown. It is located on the banks of the Arrow River. At the height of the gold rush Arrowtown was the centre of the mining area and boasted a population of over 7,000. This was as low as 200 in the 1960's but by 2006 had reach a healthy 2,150.
In spite of this growth Arrowtown has lost none of its charm due to strict covenants htat are in place. Many well preserved buildings flank the main street and there is an excellent museum.
Named Doubtful Harbour in 1770 by Captain James Cook Doubtful Sound is in fact a fjord and is the second largest in New Zealnd's Fiordland. It is three times as long and ten times as large as Milford Sound. It has three large arms all branching off to the south. Hall Arm is quite protected and shows the visitor some amazing reflections.
The sound is home to fur seals, bottle-nosed dolphins, blue penguins and a variety of seabirds such as the gannet. The mountains are covered with thick temperate rainforest and waterfalls abound - especially after rain.
I prefer Doubtful Sound to Milford Sound.
Doubtful Sound can only be accessed by sea or by the road from the Manapouri Power Station over the Wilmott Pass. You first have to cross Lake Manapouri on a passenger boat - no vehicles - and take all you need for the day as there are no shops past Manapouri township.
Day trips are available from Queenstown.
This is one of New Zealand's loveliest parks. Not only does it have an impressive collection of native trees and flowers, but also fine views of the town, Lake Wakatipu, and the Remarkables. It's also free. Great place to walk and enjoy nature. There are also facilities for skating, lawn bowling, and more.
The Kingston Fllyer is a steam train that constists of two locomotives built in 1927 and 1925. It operates on 14 km of track between Kingston and Fairlight, about 1hrs drive out of Queenstown. It leaves Kingston at 10.00am and 1.30pm daily.
Prices Adult $40
A shuttle form Queenstown including the trains leaves Queenstown at 9.00am daily and costs
Heading on way to Cromwell from Queenstown, we followed the Kawarau Gorge for a way. It is at Kawarau Bridge where they do Bungy jumping from the bridge This was the first commercial bungy jump.
We stopped here and watched the brave souls jump over the side and plunge 43 metres over the Kawarau river.
The price to have this experience in 2010 is $150, not for me!
A little further on was 'Roaring Meg" a small, fast running waterfall.
Evidently, there is a company that will take you river surfing over this 6 km section of continuous whitewater, graded 2-3 because of its fast flowing, mind-blowing intensity. We didn't see anybody, a pity, would have liked to!
The water in the Gorge is raging over many rapids, fast and angry, quite a sight to look at!
If you can time it right, and depending on the year, try to visit Queenstown during the WINTER FESTIVAL. For several days there are festivities and fun organised at various spots around town and on the skifields. Here you can see the incredible Icecarvings in the downtown area, the year I visited. These things amaze me, firstly for their intricities and also because as the sun warms them and they begin to melt, they get a crystal-like clear perfect sheen to them and really sparkle and become translucent.
Probably the most fun event held in the town is the "Birdman Contest" where contestants construct birdlike machines, run as fast as they can along the wharf and jump off into the icy cold water. Naturally they are attempting to fly :-) This is held at Steamer's Wharf, downtown Queenstown.
Another unique event during the festival is the Dog Derby where the High Country Sheep farmers race from the top of the hill at Coronet Peak, in the snow, to the base with their sheep dogs. It's quite mayhem with barking dogs, and whistle blowing farmers sliding down and then trying to reunite at the bottom. Well worth watching! This is usually followed by the Dog Barking contest (sheep/working dogs) back in town. Barking is a broad term, with some of them howling and yelping. I love the big deep barks of the Huntaway dogs.
This festival is usually around June or July, but check the year you come.
2010 dates: 25Jun - 4 July 2010.
The Minus 5 Ice Longe is a sub-zero vodka bar experience.
You are kitted out in Eskimo like ice gear which includes insulated jackets, gloves and sheepskin-lined boots.
Everything in the ice lounge is made from ice from the walls, to the seats and even the glasses that you sip the vodka based cocktails from.
Because of the cold temperatures, you are limited to 3 cocktails for the 30 minute duration of your ice bound experience.
As we had to leave for Te Anau and the further distanced Milford Sound, we left our motel at about 6.30am. The sky was grey but there was enough light for safe driving. We were taken aback with the pure air that seemed to refresh our lungs and the magnificant view of the low clouds hanging below the mountains. Totally awe-inspiring.
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