Slowing down in Queenstown – the Adventure Capital of the World

Relaxing in Queenstown -- before the snow arrives.

This has been the most unusual winter for Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world. We’re past the shortest day of the year and still no snow for skiing on Coronet Peak, Cardrona or the Remarkables.

Queenstown was ranked among the top 25 destinations in the world on Trip Advisor, with skiing clearly being a big part of the attraction.

But as a non-skier, it didn’t worry me a jot spending a few days relaxing in a Queenstown without snow! The bustling alpine resort was last year named No. 1 Outdoor and Adventure Destination in the World by Trip Advisor.

For a starter, I booked a table at Amisfield by Lake Hayes and had a tasty 'trust the chef' lunch. Wine in the sunshine is never a hardship. This has to be my favourite place to dine and drink in Central Otago and you have a choice of about 150 restaurants around here. The Amisfield building and grounds are something out of Tuscany.

With 177 wineries in the area, I thought of drinking more, especially the world renowned Central Otago pinot noir. But with about 220 activities and attractions in Queenstown I wanted to feel the adrenalin rush.

I drew up a list of some possibilities: skydiving, paragliding, rafting, hang gliding, jetboating, bungy jumping, canyoning, horse trekking, mountain biking, water skiing, sailing, deer hunting, canoeing, mountain climbing, kayaking, fly fishing, ice skating, luge and river surfing. I feel giddy at the thought.  I get seasick in a bath so that cut out the water activities. I only fly big jets so that cut out anything in the air. I cross out anything with speed, so the list narrows.

This adrenalin-junkie, sexy, love-making capital of the world is so seductive for activity-lovers who are embrace the staggering beauty of the Remarkables and the ampi-theatre of mountains in this wild destination. I felt instantly seduced.

Suddenly, a light bulb glows above my head: I decide to go ice-skating – it’s dangerous; it’s icy, it’s tiring.  So I head to the squash courts determined to beat former All Black Justin Marshall but he beats me to a pulp. My appetite returns and I wolf down a crispy-based vegetarian pizza from Bellacucina who make the best pizzas in the world, south of latitude 45. 

My head spins as I drift off to sleep. Dawn greets the glistening lake, the grand old steamer SS Earnslaw – which made its maiden voyage the same year as the Titanic sunk - is berthed Steamer Wharf ready to chug over to Walter Peak. This seems like living life on the edge, my style. I amble toward the wharf through the open air malls, feeling invigorated by the snow-free alpine-air. Sexy couples stroll arm in arm in designer jackets. I make a mental note to buy the t-shirt ‘I bungy-jumped’ or some other sign of to show off my fake bravado.

Out on Lake Wakatipu life aboard the old Earnslaw slows to a stand-still. All my anxieties are washed up as I consider a gondola ride, or maybe soaking in the hot pools, or book into a spa to have a massage; a drive to picture-postcard Arrowtown; watch others go hot air ballooning; maybe golf, or wine tasting – no, be strong, rule that out!

Back on shore, I head to the highly regarded Nugget Pt spa, which has had great reports and brilliant great views of Shotover River and mountains. What I thought was cool was its mosaic marble plunge pools, spa bath, rose mosaic rain showers along with sauna, steam room, wave pool, manicure room, private treatment room. Jackie gave me the best massage and suddenly life got a lot slower in the Adventure Capital of the World. Nugget Pt is THE best spa in the region and well worth a visit.

The next day I thought of hitting the fast lane for a taste of adventure for a 43km high speed jet boat thrill-a-second ride on the big yellow Kawarau Jet. This is adrenalin-addiction heaven, without jumping off a bridge on a bungy rope but exciting enough. But to me the loud noise of the jet boat destroys this peaceful environment which I so treasure – so I had to turn away from a world flashing before my eyes while belting over the water.

On my last day I tour the town’s string of art galleries Toi o Tahuna and Artbay the best of them. Paragliders appear out of the air all day landing on a field close to town. Every second shop has something to eat or drink a tourist outlet to go wild on. I saw the irony in one thrill-seeking tourist operator having their Christmas office party at the sedate local croquet club.   

The setting sun cast a rosy tint over the famous snow-dusted Remarkables on my final night. I curl up in bed like a hot little possum gazing out on the dramatic landscape with its raw and rugged beauty. This picture-postcard resort destination, a Mecca for people with a lust for high-octane excitement, is also a place to die for, without doing much at all.

- Kip Brook, Word of Mouth Media NZ

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