Wanaka, Arrowtown and Queenstown
Trip Start Nov 16, 2005
36Trip End Apr 11, 2006
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Where I stayed
Our destination for Sunday night was Queenstown so we set off on Sunday morning to walk to the Franz Joseph Glacier - it was about an hour return walk but was well worth it. This is one of the most accessible of the glaciers in NZ. We could have gone with a trained guide and walked up the glacier but the alpine guide said my knee would not take it - what a shame - I felt I could run up there!! We could also have flown by helicopter there but it was 180 dollars each for a short flight, so we opted for the walk. Our next stop was the Fox Glacier which we also went to see. These glaciers are unique because they can survive normal temperatures and do not melt. We preferred Fox as a place to stop - not as touristy as Franz Joseph. After coffee at Fox glacier we took a detour and had a walk around Lake Matheson - we took a photo of the snow-capped mountain mirrored in the lake - it was amaziing.
We then continued on to Haast, going over the longest bridge (732 metres) on the West Coast of NZ. we climbed 450 metres in 3 km to go through the Gates of Haast Gorge where the river crashes over the rocks and boulders below - we saw Thunder Creek Falls off this road. After the Haast Pass we made our way to Wanaka via Lake Wanaka - this whole route is something I would have no hesitation in doing again because there is so much to take in.
Wanaka was really busy and overcrowded because it was the week-end of a public holiday called Waitangi Day (a Maori festival) held on 6th Feb. It was a pity as Wanaka is a really pretty place - it lies on the lake and is near to Mt. Aspiring National Park - and we would have enjoyed staying there under normal circumstances. There is great skiing here in the winter so it is a year-round destination.
We could find nowhere to stay in either Wanaka or Arrowtown so had to make for Queenstown. There was also a wine and music festival in Arrowtown, with an opera concert, with picnics(a bit like Glyndebourne) in the grounds of the Peregrine Wine Estate in Arrowtown. Arrowtown has a thriving wine business - there are many estates here worth visiting - notably, Chard Farm Winery and Gibbston Valley Winery which has the largest underground wine cellar in NZ - it also has a superb restaurant which you have to book in advance. We liked the lovely cottages and village athmosphere in Arrowtown - the least commercialised of the three towns.
We finally made our way to Queenstown where, thanks to a really helpful girl in Hippo Lodge (which was full) we managed to find accomm. in Queenstown Lodge hotel - it was excellent with fantastic views of Lake Wakatipu from our bedroom and the dining room. There are lots of things to do in Queenstown but, again the place was heaving due to the public holiday week-end. The strain of finding somewhere to stay dampened our enthuasism for "doing" the town! We had dinner there and had an early night as it had been a very long day and we had seen so many things we were mentally overloaded!
Queenstown is a place I would like to return to and do some of the suggested "must do" things - a jet boat ride on a funyak - a cruise on Lake Wakatipu - ride the Kingston Flyer steam train and take a Gondola to Bob's Peak for the views - c'est la vie!