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Queenstown - New Zealand

What can I say about Queenstown? Well it's certainly one of the more beautiful places in New Zealand, with lots of activities to do. The downside of this is the amount of tourists and backpackers it attracts, although I understand why some people would consider this to be positive.

Personally I much prefer meeting locals to learn more about a country and culture. Yes it's nice to meet fellow travellers from time to time, and for most solo travellers this is essential, but I feel it makes it harder to meet the locals and really embrace the culture.

One thing I struggled with in Queenstown was the nightlife. There were plenty of options, but it was hard finding locals or even like minded travellers.

I wouldn't really class myself as a backpacker, as I think I hunger different experiences during my travellers. I like to think of myself more as an adventurer.

Quite often I've met backpackers and striked up interesting conversation and even made friendships, but this wasn't the case in Queenstown. For myself I found it hard to make new connections. Maybe it was due to it being the new year, so the bars were less busy and it meant there were less of a variety of people for me to meet.

There's a Kiwi I know who lives in Riga, and his stance on Queenstown is that it's too touristy, so he avoids the area. He often suggests visiting less touristy areas, which although I agree with him, I would still suggest visiting Queenstown to most people, simply as there's so much to do here and it would suit most foreign travellers.

The surrounding landscapes are stunning, and there are plenty of hikes you can go on to really explore.

If you're looking for more fast paced action, then Queenstown is famed for it. There are plenty of things to do for adrenaline junkies, high speed activities, sky dives, climbing and bungee jumps.

Did I need longer in Queenstown? Yes, at least a few days more. However there were also so many other parts of New Zealand I'd love to have ventured to. I think Queenstown is a good place to visit, especially if you're new to travelling, but there are many more places in New Zealand to explore.



Queenstown Hill

One of the most popular and easier hikes in Queenstown is Queenstown Hill. At times it's a steep incline but it should only take about 45 minutes to reach the summit. The terrain varies a little, from forested areas to more open rocky areas, which I feel adds to the scenery and atmosphere.

Towards the summit you'll pass "The Basket of Dreams", an art installation which serves as a good spot to rest, meet friends or even as the name suggests, a good place to dream.

Once at the top there are some beautiful views of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables, a stunning mountain range which overlooks Queenstown.



Skyline

Skyline is a great place to visit for some fun leisure activities. There are two ways to reach Skyline, either by the Gondola, which takes a few minutes, or the Tiki Trail.

The Tiki Trail is a fun and slightly challenging hike which shouldn't take longer than an hour, most of which will be through wooded areas with a several steep inclines.

Once at Skyline there are several other treks, biking trails, zip-lines and a cafe. But the most fun thing to do at the top is luging. A luge is a small sledge/car type contraption which rolls down a downhill track at high speeds.

There are two tracks here, one for beginners which you have to ride first, and you can then try the second slightly more advanced track. I only took two rides, one for each track, but I could quite easily have spent hours here.



Ben Lomond

At 1748m, Ben Lomond is one of the longer and more challenging hikes in Queenstown.

You can either hike the Tiki Trail to Skyline and then continue the hike to Ben Lomond, or take the gondola to Skyline to save time and then start the hike.

It can take anywhere between six to eight hours there and back. There are beautiful views all the way up, but it gets steeper and more challenging towards the summit.

On a clear day you'll have the most amazing views and you'll be able to spot Mount Earnslaw.



Fergburger

A gourmet burger restaurant, which is extremely popular! Depending on what time of day you visit, you could be waiting for a couple of hours until you get your order. There are usually huge queues along the street outside, all waiting to order a delicious burger.

I have to admit, in all my travels I've never seen such a queue for a restaurant, so this place must be amazing, right?

Well, I had three different burgers during my time in Queenstown, a traditional beef, lamb and venison, all of which were very tasty. Were they the best burgers I'd ever tasted? It's hard to say, but quite possibly.

Is it worth waiting two hours? In my opinion no, but I think it's worth waiting for half an hour or so.

There are vegetarian and vegan options available, so the menu should have something for most people.

There's also a competitor "Devil Burger", which I didn't try myself, but there are different opinions to which is better. I think Ferburger wins though, judging by the huge numbers queuing each day.



Lord of the Rings Tour

Any Lord of the Rings fan will know that the movies were shot in New Zealand. Therefore all over the country you will find famous locations from the movies. Queenstown has quite a few of these locations used in the movies, and several tours are available. If you enjoy the movies then I recommend joining a tour. Personally I had a bit of a problem on mine with the family in my group, they wanted to see AJ Jackett Bungy, but they ended up doing activities there, ordering coffees which took forever, and wasted a lot of my time which should have been spent on the tour. My guide kept apologising, but I think he should have stepped up and told them there was a strict schedule to adhere to. I lost about an hour of the 4 hour tour waiting around.

The half day tour I joined was not quite as amazing as I assumed it would be, but I got to see a lot of the beautiful places near Queenstown. If you have time then I think it may be worth going on the full day tour, as you'll get a lot more out of it.

When it comes to all of the Lord of the Rings filming locations I saw in New Zealand, Hobbiton (which is closer to Auckland) was my personal favourite.



AJ Hackett Bungy

The first commercial bungy jump can be found in Queenstown over Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge. I've never been a fan of huge drops or jumps, but something in me really wanted to give this a go, maybe due to the beautiful scenery, it's hard to say.

Due to time I didn't take the opportunity, but it's the first time in my life I've ever really considered doing such an activity. If I return to Queenstown there is a good chance I'll go ahead and try it.

If you're a thrill seeker, you won't want to miss this, and even if you're not so keen on such thrills, it's worth having a look as it's the most beautiful bungee jump I've ever seen. Plus who knows, you may feel a rush of confidence and decide to try it.

As well as the bungy jump there's also a zip swing here, which may be more suited to those too scared to jump off the bridge.



Milford Sound

Unfortunately my trip to Milford Sound was cancelled. Due to my short time in Queenstown and the length of time it takes via bus there and back, I opted to go by helicopter. The helicopter tour was very expensive at around £500. I would have landed at Milford Sound, then be taken on the boat tour, and on the way back I would land on a glacier. This all sounded amazing! But alas, due to cloudy weather the helicopter couldn't take off, so I had to miss out.

The cheaper way is to go via part of a tour, which takes roughly 4 hours each way.

So what's all the fuss about Milford Sound? It's a beautiful spot in New Zealand, with a beautiful lake, mountains, waterfalls and rainforests.

I believe that the boat ride here actually goes underneath the waterfall, and although the boat is sheltered for the most part, it's your choice if you decide to go onto the deck and get drenched.

There's also a huge variety of wildlife here including dolphins, seals and penguins. If I return to New Zealand, this will be on the top of my list of places to visit.



Shotover Jet

An activity I didn't have time for, and wasn't too fussed about at the time. However now I wish it was something I had tried to fit in, but I think realistically I didn't have enough time.

You'll be taken on a high speed jet boat through Shotover Canyon. The canyon is narrow and full of tight turns, but the expert driver will ensure you survive unscathed in a thrilling ride through the canyon.

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