Queenstown, New Zealand – a royal experience 🙂
Left our B&B early a.m. and with packs on back, grabbed a green, healthy smoothie at Ruby’s (delicious spinach, avocado, and fresh coconut and coconut water, topped with cinnamon) and hiked to the train at Bondi Junction, heading to the airport for our Virgin Australia flight to Queenstown, New Zealand.
Recommendation: get a window seat; flying over the mountains is spectacular. After touching down, we were ushered into Customs, and along the way, we were all corralled through the duty free shop, with numerous selections of NZ wine and spirits – we suggest the Pinot Noir.
The NZ customs officers run a tight ship. Addressing each person with direct eye contact, it was obvious that it is best to err on the side of caution, fully disclosing anything you might have brought in. They especially look for plants and products that might harm the natural habitat. Janice thought the little Snoopy dog was sooo cute until things turned ugly. His good sniffer picked up the scent of the orange she had enjoyed on the plane, and when the officer asked her to put her backpack on the ground, a further search revealed the contraband…… a dime-sized piece of orange peel. Yes, the cute little beagle ratted us out! The officer asked for Janice’s passport number and jotted it down in the book of warnings. We got a stern reprimand, and Snoopy got plenty of treats for his exemplary investigation work.
Tip: Be careful to obey the rules and to not to carry any food or other restricted items into NZ. We appreciate their vigilance in protecting the native habitat.
After renting a car with the steering wheel on the right, we took off on the left side of the road into downtown Queenstown. We received a very cheerful welcome upon checking in to the Nomads hostel (awesome place even for those over 50, although the general age looked to be around 18-25). When offered tickets to the pub crawl the same evening, we couldn’t resist. Note: hostels generally offer large bunk style rooms for many persons; here we reserved a queen bed room with a balcony and private bathroom with stall shower. The balcony offered a view of your choice: either mountains and ocean in the distance, or the numerous watering holes on the street below. Our favorite spot on the pub crawl was the 5 Below ice bar, tiny room, but plenty of beautiful ice sculptures for photo opportunities.
Favorite eateries while in Queenstown:
- Cookie Time – Coffee specials each morning with great wi-fi and warm cookies in the afternoon. Cute postcard cookie boxes to send home.
- Caribe Latin Kitchen in main hub – warm Carnitas burrito amazing in combination with a crisp cold cabbage/carrot salad (very casual)
- Morrison’s Irish pub – big hardwood bar and comfy setting. Also great wi-fi connection, which is not offered everywhere you dine
- Breakfast on bay at The Bathhouse Café, Bar and Restaurant – a very picturesque café “King George” style, right on the beach.
- Joes Garage – big healthy breakfasts served by friendly, helpful wait staff, including delicious fruit crumble and wonderful flat whites. Had the fastest Wi-Fi we found in town.
- Fergburger – not a place for vegetarians, but the rest of the tourists are in line here perpetually to try these famous burgers! And they are worth the wait.
- For a quick healthy bite, Pita Pit; take it across the street to the little park on the stream that runs through town.
Favorite activities in Queenstown:
- Nicknamed by some “the adrenaline capital of the world,” there are a plethora of thrilling activities to experience. We missed the last gondola ride to the top of the skyline along with the mountain luge ride down, but it is on our list for our next visit.
- A drive to Glenorchy, a tiny town with a lovely walking trail bedecked with beautiful Lupine flowers (ala Miss Rhufius, a favorite book we used to read to our children). The drive itself was perhaps the true treasure, with unbelievably gorgeous vistas that were captured in many scenes of “Lord of the Rings.” It seemed we were forever stopping the car, pulling to the side for an “even more beautiful” vista.
- No shortage of sheep here in the lovely green rolling pastures, as throughout much of southern NZ.
- Morning walks thru the lovely town park and trail that runs along the waterfront.
- Shopping in the many little shops offering wool and cashmere products, the indigenous blue Paua shell jewelry, and little stuffed sheep toys – very tempting.
Next stop – Milford Sound.