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Queenstown is the perfect place for a summer holiday and visitors have been discovering this for themselves for over 120 years.
Visitors have been flocking to Queenstown since the 1860s when gold was first discovered in the Shotover River. When the gold finally ran out some years later many of those early prospectors decided to stay, captivated by the beauty of the surrounding mountains and rivers.
Around the turn of the century, it was the region’s many walking trails and tracks which first brought visitors to the region. People would come from around New Zealand and other parts of the world during the summer months to experience the magnificent walks, including the Milford, the Routeburn and the Hollyford Tracks. Milford Sound also became known in England as one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
In 1947, Sir Henry Wigley, of the Mount Cook Group, showed the foresight he was famous for by opening a commercial ski area at Coronet Peak. The addition of the skifield gave Queenstown year-round appeal.
Queenstown's first real taste real innovation came with the establishment of commercial jet boating in 1960. The jet boat, a kiwi invention, had just been developed by South Island high country farmer Bill Hamilton and before long two jet boating companies had established thrilling rides taking visitors up the rivers and through the narrow canyons of the Shotover River.
White water rafting was to follow quickly on the heels of jet boating, starting New Zealand’s first commercial rafting in 1974. The two nearby rivers the Shotover and the Kawarau were ideal for giving visitors a taste of the thrills and spills of this new activity.
1988 saw the arrival in town of two entrepreneurs by the name of AJ Hackett and Henry Van Asch. AJ had received worldwide publicity some months beforehand with his daring jump in the early hours of the morning from the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Now, AJ and Henry’s plan was to use the historic Kawarau Bridge (43m above the river) on the outskirts of Queenstown as the location for the world's first ever commercial bungy jumping site... and so the bungy phenomenon was born!
Other innovators and entrepreneurs have followed in the wake of these early pioneers and Queenstown now offers a huge range of adventures from skydiving, hang-gliding, river surfing, and canyoning to abseiling, ziplining, luging and horseriding.
A short history:
• Coronet Peak ski area 1947
• Kawarau Jet 1960
• Skyline Gondola 1968
• TSS Earnslaw (1912) begins scenic cruises 1969
• First incarnation of Shotover Jet 1970
• Kon Tiki Rafting 1974
• Cardrona ski field 1978
• The Remarkables ski field 1985
• AJ Hackett Bungy 1988
• Serious Fun River Surfing 1989
• NZONE Skydiving 1990
Visit www.queenstownNZ.co.nz for more information about visiting Queenstown this summer and experiencing the town's pioneering spirit first-hand.
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