The photo above is one of my favourite photos of my whole tour.
When I got off the TSS Earnslaw I walked around to the Queenstown Gardens. I started walking along the gravel path on the lake front. You can see across to the main part of town. It’s a popular walk; I past a lot of people. The main part of the gardens are higher than the path around the lake. I walked up to the top and got a surprise. Whereas the lower path was more rustic, the higher sections are very manicured. I loved the selection of plants and the sculptures up there. At the exit I found a metal sculpture of a silver fern. It was beautiful.
By this time I was getting tired so I walked back to the cafe and bought a hot chocolate then went to bus stop outside the visitor centre. I had to wait for what seemed like ages for the next bus. It eventually arrived and I got back to the hotel at around 4pm. I sat on the bed and looked out the window. The view was so beautiful. The water was so blue and contrasted with the dryness of the mountains. The view was framed beautifully by the window frame. I had about an hour or a little longer before I had to get ready for our night out. We were going up to Bob’s Peak to the Skyline restaurant for dinner and to see the Kiwi Haka Show. I had never seen a Haka before so was really looking forward to it.
I woke up feeling nice and refreshed, knowing I had the whole day to myself. I had put my name down to do a day tour but, as I was the only one who wanted to do it, it got cancelled. My parents have been to Queenstown and told me about some things I could do in and around the town.
After breakfast I caught the bus down the hill into the main area of town. This is where you find the bars, cafes and tourist attractions. First stop was the Visitor Centre to book my ticket for the steamship TSS Earnslaw cruise to Walter Peak Farm http://www.realjourneys.co.nz/Main/TSSEarnslaw/. The cruise is a 1.5hr return journey to Walter Peak Farm. The Earnslaw turns 100 in October 2012 and it will hold a week of celebrations in that month. It is known as ‘the lady on the lake’. It was slightly windy on land which translated into a very windy day on the steamship. It was nice and sunny though so I really enjoyed the trip to the farm. The view of the mountains is a lot different to when you see them on land. When I’m on a boat or ship I love being outdoors. For one, you get the best photos and you get the whole experience, including the wind blowing through your hair.
I stayed on board once we reached Walter Peak Farm. There are 3 levels to this cruise. One is the cruise I did where we just cruise there then come back, the second is where you can get off the ship and walk around and the third is take part in a bbq lunch and a tour of the farm. I had other things to do so just did the basic cruise.
After travelling for around 200kms in 8 hours we finally arrived in Queenstown and went straight to our hotel. I fell in love with Queenstown the moment we drove in to the town. The streets have a great feeling. I don’t know if it was the shops, cafes or the views. Actually it was probably the views. There are gigantic mountains surrounding the town that is built on the banks of Lake Wakatipu. When driving up Stanley St we were heading straight for Bob’s Peak. Sitting atop Bob’s Peak is the Skyline Restaurant where we would be going for dinner tomorrow night.
We drove through the town and up the steep hill where the views became even more spectacular. Our hotel was the Mercure Queenstown Resort. By this time it was around 6.30pm. We checked in and went to our rooms. I opened my room and thought WOW, the room was large and spacious. I was so glad I was staying here for two nights. When I put my cases down I went to the window and had another WOW moment. The view over Lake Wakitpu to The Remarkables was amazing. The sun was setting across the top of the mountains and the colours were magnificent.
Carol, Bec, Brad and I met for dinner. Once again we were overlooking Lake Wakatipu. It seems that you get the most amazing view from most rooms, bars and restaurants in the hotel. After that I went to my room and relaxed and watched tv. It was hard to believe this was only the second day of the tour. We had travelled so far and seen so much.
After our short stop at Lake Wanaka which was really just to take photos we headed for Arrowtown. We made just one more stop at a farm shop. They have a huge array of fruit and vegies that I believe were grown on the farm. We all stocked up on them because we hadn’t had access to any fresh fruits and vegies since the tour started. I bought stone fruit and strawberries.
We arrived in Arrowtown at around 5.15pm and were only given 45 mins to walk around the town. Our first reaction is that there wasn’t much to see, just the main street. I’ve since researched the town and realised how big it is and how much there is to do. I want to go back one day.
The town is an old gold-mining town from and in the 1860’s was a rich source of gold. The buildings in the main street (the only part of town we really got to see) have been kept intact and transformed into the shops, some of which reflect their heritage. There is a lolly shop, cafes, an old post office, the Coachman’s Hall and other buildings. The Remarkable Sweet Shop was my favourite because they sold freshly made fudge. I discovered a flavour I’d never tried before: Lemon Meringue Pie fudge. I’d never heard of it but a few fudge experts ie friends have told me that it’s not a new flavour. Since then I’ve tried it whenever I see it and it’s always delicious.
Unfortunately some of the shops/cafes had already closed. We were lucky we got to the Sweet Shop when we did because they were about to close but stayed open a little longer. After a quick lap of the main street I headed back to the coach to continue our drive to Queenstown for the first of our two nights there. It was our only two night stay so it was going to be great not having to pack up tomorrow to move to our next destination.
When you are driving through Haast you are driving through and beside steep mountains and rainforests. As you get closer to Makarora and Lake Wanaka you see the land begin to flatten out and get a bit browner. The trees are also different as you move out of the rainforest. We stopped at Makarora Country Cafe for lunch. It’s a grand name for what is really just a roadhouse but it’s well-appointed and has a friendly atmosphere and staff. We were finding we had to queue up everywhere we go which was getting a bit annoying but was something we would have to get used to. When I got to the counter I was disappointed to find there were lots of pre-made sandwiches. I hate pre-made sandwiches. I decided to ask if they sold dim sims. The man behind the counter laughed at me and said “you can only get them in a Chinese restaurant” It was my turn to laugh at him. I told him that at home we can buy them at this sort of place. I suggested he might like to sell them. I’m sure he would find they were a best seller, especially amongst Aussie visitors.I bought a pie and sat down with Carol, Bec and Brad to eat it. There is a beautiful brand of ice cream that is sold by the scoop in cafes. We tried it and loved it. Across the road, sheep and deer were roaming a paddock. It was the first time we’d seen deer. Venison is a popular meat on menus in NZ.
From Makarora we drove to Lake Wanaka. We were only stopping briefly here but it is a beautiful lake with more spectacular scenery. Families come from miles to stay here, sometimes only a few miles in fact. Clarke told us that people that live in Queenstown often come to stay here just to escape their busy home town. You can just relax or join in some of the more adventurous activities such as water-skiing, snow boarding, mountain biking.
Haast has some of the most beautiful countryside I’ve seen. And that’s saying something for New Zealand. It’s on the west coast with a lot of the area being completely inaccessible. In fact our tour guide told us that when planes crash (and unfortunately there have been a few) the plane is often never sighted again. The forest is so dense. The population of the area is also very low. Our first stop in Haast was where the ‘gentle’ jet boat cruise was going to start. Our guide had warned us that Queenstown (where we were going that night) is very popular in Summer so he couldn’t guarantee we would be able to go on the more adventurous jet boat rides. He suggested we go on this one instead. I wasn’t interested but a lot of people on our bus were, including some of the older people on the tour because it was considered safer than some of the other similar cruises.
The office of the company is located just off the side of the road and beside the longest single lane bridge in New Zealand. We didn’t realise it at the time but we were dropping those people off then going to the Haast Visitor Centre then on to pick them up at their destination.
one of the many single-lane bridges in NZ, this one is so long there are bays on the sides where you can allow cars to pass you if you don’t have right of way
area surrounding the Haast Visitor Centre…..this was once just land, now it’s been turned into beautiful wetlands