Hello Queenstown! You magnificent beauty, brimming with the wonder of snow-kissed mountain peaks and cascading waterfalls, amidst an array of speckled starlight behind those famous ‘long white clouds’. The wind whistles through the corridors of mountainous ranges freshly kissing our faces and filling our lungs with fresh, pure alpine air.
Queenstown is heaven. There is something here that photography just can’t capture. A vibe in the air, a certain je ne sais quoi – the stuff dreams are made of. There are so many travel websites that boast the ‘perfect’ 3-day itinerary, but they’re often filled with a few cheeky ‘fillers’. A couple of activities or experiences that don’t quite hit the spot. This is only the crème de la crème of recommendations, and I’m going to squeeze it into one long, jam-packed, brilliant day for you.
Arriving fresh off the plane in the early morning, grab your hire car & head straight into town to Bespoke Kitchen for a breakfast to fill your heart and soul (as well as your belly). While you’re sitting by the open fire, watching the sunlight shift over ‘The Remarkables’ (Queenstown’s mountain range) and enjoying your feast – stock up on sugar-free treats and a takeaway lunch for the hike ahead. We particularly adored the falafel wraps and the raspberry squares. How can these be sugar-free!
After luxuriating at your new favourite alpine gourmet breakfast haunt, park your car near the gondola base and enjoy your first taste of the views as you travel up the mountain in your little carriage. Witness the beauty of Queenstown in all her glory, from the sky. Once you arrive at the top, you will see a sign toward the Ben Lomond Track. Get ready! You’re about to experience the most magnificent hike Queenstown has to offer (in my humble hiking opinion!).
Be prepared, though – it isn’t easy. We came across three groups of hikers on our ascent warning us that it was “too snowy”, “too hard” and “too long”. But you can do it if you’re prepared and the conditions are right. Conditions are optimal in the summer because if there’s too much snow you’ll need heavy duty hiking equipment (something that I don’t have lying around!).
I would suggest visiting Queenstown in May, if you’re not planning on skiing, because you might just be able to catch the best of both seasons. We arrived just as the first lot of snow had freshly fallen so we could hike in the sunshine and have our breath seized by the beauty of the snow-capped mountains too. TIP for this hike: Take lip balm – your lips will freeze over like mine did. Pack tissues and sunglasses too – trust me you’ll need them.
You’ll reach various little ‘mini peaks’ with outlooks that will capture your heart before eventually arriving at the ‘saddle’. If you’re game to trek the last little bit, be prepared for steep ascents, rocky tracks, snow and lots of calf-burning. Tuck into your treats right about now to get you to the top – you’ll need the energy.
If you do make it up the little rocky goat track (and if the weather is nice), you may get a CRAZY cold shock on the tippy top – it’s icy! But, you’ll be rewarded with views that make your heart beat faster. Pretty darn magical! I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
This hike was the highlight of my little hiking ‘career’. Absolutely without a doubt. The weather was perfect which is something that is super important otherwise you may spend 3-4 hours hiking uphill to reach a cloudy summit with no views. So check your weather app and make sure it’s safe. When you get down head from the summit, make your way over to your hotel for check-in. If you would like the most beautiful, luxe experience I HIGHLY recommend Eichardt’s Private Hotel, right on the lake.
When lunch time calls head straight to The Sherwood Kitchen for lunch (a 10-minute drive from Queenstown). We fell in love with The Sherwood’s ethos: clean, simple, comforting and grown on site. Look out for the big ‘Be Here Now’ sign at the turn-off and get ready for healthy, hearty and delicious cuisine with a strong wine list. Our vibe to a tee. Highly recommend the polenta as a side (complete with cream, butter and parmesan to replenish your energy sources!). As a side note: if you find yourself in town on a Sunday, the $25 roast is always right on point! These guys also host yoga classes upstairs if you need to stretch out those hiking muscles… but I have an even better option for you (more to come on that after dinner!).
For an afternoon drive head over to the closest town called ‘Paradise’, it’s a 45-50 minute drive to ‘Glenorchy‘ and then onto Paradise. This drive is spectacular – said to be the most scenic in Queenstown. Enjoy windy cliff roads with views of the snow-kissed mountains and aqua waters. Wear thermals – it’s mighty nippy out.
If you’re feeling a little travel sick from the windy roads, pop into The General Store in Glenorchy. I really recommend the kid’s ‘no-motion-sickness’ lollypops. Once you get into town (which is super tiny and gorgeous), head down to the jetty for incredible views that will blow your mind. After you’ve sated your shutterbug impulses continue on to ‘Paradise’, a further 15-minutes into the mountains. The landscape in ‘Paradise’ is beautiful but not much to see unless you have your hiking boots with you.
After dinner at Ferg Burger (the most incredible burgers on the planet!) pop your relaxation hat on because we’re going to bring things right down to a Zen level. The most blissful end to a perfect day in paradise. Go and soak your adventure legs in an outdoor tub at The Onset Hot Pools. I was almost about to pass on this. I was sure that the hype was just an exaggerated array of customer reviews – but I was so wrong. It’s incredible! Looking at millions of stars from a bubbling private hot tub, with a retractable wall and roof is bliss – made all the more dreamy with candles dotted throughout your private room. Your muscles and mind will thank you. Reconnect with the natural surroundings and get ready for a darn good sleep after soaking for an hour. Enjoy the magic of Queenstown!