Our last stop in New Zealand is the southern island town of Queenstown. Unfortunately, due to a large amount of rain, our plane from Rotorua couldn’t land in Queenstown and we were diverted to Invercargill and were then bussed to Queenstown which added another 3.5 hours to the trip. Not ideal, but not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.
Our ride to the hotel met us at the airport and took us for a little tour through the core of Queenstown pointing out some good places to eat.
Our home for our stay is the Copthorne Hotel & Resort Lakefront. It’s conveniently located being about a 10 minute walk from downtown.
Our driver suggested Fergburger for a spot to eat. It’s always busy with over two hour lineups in the summer. It was still raining pretty good when we headed out but Deanna had her trusty umbrella so we opted to wait. The line moves pretty quickly and we had our food within 20 minutes or so. We snagged one of the few tables and tucked into a very tasty burger, fries and onion rings. A good choice. Not sure it would be worth a two hour wait, but still a very tasty burger.
We have a couple of long days planned over the course of the trip. This is one of the. Midford Sound is a fjord in the south west of the island and round trip from Queenstown makes for about a 13 hour day. We boarded a bus with some other folks (including 11 children) and headed out. It was a long ride, but the scenery is great. Travelling through farmland, along lakes and finally into Fiordland National park. We did stop a couple of times along the way including a stop at Te Anau for a restroom and coffee break. I bought a sweater made from New Zealand wool. It’s a bit cooler here than we were expecting and having another layer isn’t a bad thing.
One of the photo stops included getting a visit from one of the local birds called a Kea. These are large birds, about the size of a parrot. They were very interested in all the people and cars at our photo spot. They didn’t seem too fussed about anything. Interesting birds with lots of personality.
Fortunately, the rain from yesterday had moved on and we had sunny skies with temperatures in the low teens.
The primary way to see Midford sound is by boat. We boarded a decent sized boat for the two hour trip cruising around the sound. A picnic lunch was included so we munched as we sailed throughout the sound. Commentary was provided, pointing out interesting facts and history.
The trip back was fine, the last half being in the dark. Deanna suggested we bring our headphones along which was a great idea. It allowed us to pass the time. I’m re-listening to the Lord or the Rings, which is very appropriate given that the movies were shot in part in New Zealand.
All in all a very long day. Interesting and stunning scenery to be sure. Not sure it’s worth the time it takes to do the trip from Queenstown.
Deanna had a hankering for pizza so we stopped at Winnies for supper.
Dart River Rafting and Wilderness Walk
After the epic day from yesterday, the plan for today is a little less ambitious but still packed. Dart River Adventures operates a Jet Boat excursion on the Dart River which is about 30 minutes outside of Queensland. It combines a fast trip down the river in a jet boat along with a gentle walk in the Mt. Aspiring National Park. As it was a bit ‘fresh’ outside, the temperature still in the low teens, the tour company provided hats and ponchos that kept us mostly dry. The skill of the fellow driving the boat was impressive. The river is in a state of constant change. They had a significant amount of rain a couple of weeks ago and the guide pointed out a number of places where new channels were created, old ones disappeared etc.
We boarded some four wheel drive busses for the trip back to town. We stopped for a little walk in the forest where some of the local flora and fauna were pointed out. A number of scenes from Lord or the Rings were shot in the area too which the guide pointed out as we went along.
We had the bus drop us off downtown. We grabbed a couple of meat pies for lunch before heading back to the hotel for a short break.
Gondola Dinner and Star Gazing
Dinner tonight is at the Queenstown Skyline Gondola. It’s a short but quite steep ride to the top. Dinner was buffet style again, but I have to say that this was one of the most impressive buffet setups I’ve seen, rivalling what I’ve experienced at the Banff Spring hotel. Any buffet that has it’s own mussels and fry station, along with artisan cheeses, noodle station and dozens of other options is pretty good in my books.
After eating our weight at the buffet, we joined about 20 other people for a guided star gazing talk. Fortunately the weather was perfectly clear, which wasn’t the case for the past few nights. As it was cool, we were all provided with toasty warm jackets (Canada Goose jackets nonetheless) and walked 10 minutes up the hill to a platform where two large telescopes were found. Our guide spent about an hour talking about the night sky, pointing out various elements in the sky and reorienting the telescopes to observe things as she went. It was great.
Our flight to Melbourne isn’t until 2:00 P.M. so we had a bit of time before being picked up for the airport.
Having a couple of early mornings and long days, we slept in a bit before grabbing breakfast, packing up and leaving our bags at the hotel. The Queenstown Gardens is a short walk from the hotel. It’s very picturesque with lots of flowers, ornamental trees, ponds and more awesome views. We strolled around a couple of times, fed some ducks and generally passed a quiet morning before heading to the airport.