Queenstown is the most visited destination in New Zealand. Most reviews of the region have you expecting to race from bungy jump to Shotover jet in a quest for ever increasing thrills. But what if that’s not you? What do you do in Queenstown if you are a bit of a Nana?
Let me tell you. I started by staying not in Queenstown itself, but the boutique gold-rush era village of Arrowtown. There’s a huge range of accommodation options there, from campgrounds to private houses for rent, or rooms in the historic New Orleans hotel. I chose the Willowbrook Bed and Breakfast, about 4 kilometres from Arrowtown in Malaghan’s Road. This is the same road as luxury golf resort and spa, Millbrook. The drive there took me around 15 minutes from Queenstown Airport, in my zippy Holden Barina, provided by Europcar, and booked through VroomVroomVroom’s website .
Arrowtown is known for fine food; for years the place to go has been ‘The Stables’, an atmospheric eatery in a low ceilinged stone building. They specialise in local and seasonal dishes; I had rabbit pie, with a fine flaky crust; followed by marmalade bread and butter pudding on my visit. This was helped along with a Central Otago Pinot Noir, so plentiful in this region that is was supplied on tap. The word on the street, or more correctly, from the lady who sat next to me on the plane from Auckland, was that ‘The Chop Shop’ was the right place for breakfasts, and the newest eating sensation in town was Spanish style, tapas-serving ‘La Rumbla.’ Fine dining Saffron has been selected as one of the world’s top 100 tables by Conde Nast Traveller.
The next morning I had a mission to complete, ideally between erratic spring showers. As part of New Zealand’s cycleways project, The Queenstown Trail is 120 kms of world class walking and cycling tracks. The section I was keen to tackle was the Arrow River Bridges Ride. This 17 kilometre track starts right in Arrowtown, and finishes in the Gibbston Valley wine country. Bike hire companies offer a transfer from any of the wineries back to Arrowtown at the end of the outing.
Queenstown Bike Tours have an office and bikes available at Dundee cottage, near the original Chinese village in Arrowtown. In no time I was fitted onto a hybrid comfort bike, and was zipping along the well-formed track. The bonus of riding in the Arrowtown to Gibbston direction, is that the gradient is mostly downhill. There are suspension bridges crossing the river, a cleverly designed bridge under a bridge below the main highway, a comfort stop at ‘the loo with a view’ and finally the famous Kawarau Bridge, where I watched bungy jumpers preparing for their long drop.
Over the Kawerau Bridge, the Gibbston Valley begins. My timing was perfect, the first drops of rain began to fall as I entered the fire-warmed tasting room at pioneering Gibbston Valley Wines. A fitting reward for the effort expended on the ride, was a wine tasting with the knowledgeable cellar door staff, followed by a great lunch in their restaurant. Cheers!