Three nights in Queenstown and there’s no shortage of things to do. This place is known for adventure-seeking (think bungy jumping and sky diving), but it’s hard to be surrounded by mountains and not want to climb them!
Day One – Touring Vineyards on a Bicycle
After ten days in my hiking boots, my feet are ready for a break. I opt for a self-guided winery tour by bike in Gibbston Valley. I used Around the Basin, but there are at least a dozen places around town to rent (‘hire’) bicycles from. These guys drove me to the bungy jump bridge (bonus!) and the ride started there. The trail is clearly marked. I did opt for the ‘Grade 5’ option for ‘experienced mountain bikers only’ (of which I am not one).
On my last winery bike tour, I got caught up in the biking and nearly forgot the wineries – so, here I made a point of stopping at two: Brennan winery and Kinross. Both had great wine tasting flights and friendly, wine-smart staff.
Day Two – Ben Lomond Summit
Summit indeed! I walked from my lakefront hotel to the top of this ‘hill’ – although at 5,700+ feet, it was feeling more like a mountain. You can take the gondola up to shave off about one hour, but it didn’t open until 10:00 and I wanted to get an earlier start. It’s fully exposed (no New Zealand ‘bush’ here) – so plan for whatever the weather may bring. And bring plenty of water. You’ll find the ‘Tiki Trail’ head clearly marked at the end of Brecon street just on the edge of town.
While I’m not big on the ‘chaos’ of towns like Queenstown, I’m glad I stopped on my way back down at the top of the gondola. Not only do they have a cafe where I grabbed a Gatorade, but it was fun to see all the families taking helicopter rides, paragliding and getting ready to mountain bike down the hill. A bonus of walking the rest of the way? Passing the three (or so) zip line stations along the way.
Day Three – Queenstown Trail Walk
I needed to head to the airport around 1:00, so I really only had the morning. I played it safe and opted for the Queenstown Hill Trail Walk. It was a good mellow walk for the last day of my trip – a nicely paved trail and a slower climb up the hill. It was also cool to see how they have wound trails into the neighborhoods. If the weather cooperates, it’s a nice payoff at the top with amazing views of the town and the lake.
You may be wondering: Is it safe?
Incredibly. New Zealand is consistently recognized as one of the safest places to travel in the world. A small thing: when I rented the bike, they didn’t even give me a lock. I’ve rented lots of bikes when traveling and that’s never happened!
What surprised me?
The number of ‘No Drones’ signs. You need a permit to use a drone in the national parks (which I think is just a way to say ‘leave your annoying drone at home’), but I did see one guy in particular, over-droning (if you will). 15 minutes or so taking what he must have thought was ‘must see’ footage in an otherwise serene setting.