Queenstown is a ski resort in the winter and the town has a similar atmosphere as Whistler or Jackson Hole. There are plenty of restaurants, bars, and a charming lakefront area. We really enjoyed the savory pies at Fergburgers Bakery.
The town is also the unofficial extreme sport capital of the world. Bungee jumping, skydiving, and swinging through a canyon are just some of the options. We aren’t really adrenaline junkies so we decided to do some hiking, luging, and a unique boat ride called the Shotover Jet.
We hiked up the main ski mountain instead of taking the gondola. It was a great decision because along the way we saw great views of the clear blue lake and a woodcarving artist working with his chainsaw on sculptures of animals and making chairs from the stumps of falling trees. We also crossed paths with extreme mountain bikers flying down their designated trail which we accidentally wound up on for part of our hike.
At the top, there is a paved luging track which only exist in New Zealand and Canada. Luging down the slope was a blast! You ride a chairlift to the top, then, you ride down a windy path overlooking the scenery of Queenstown.
You can go as slow or as fast as you’d like, we chose to go really fast and almost tipped over on some of the turns.
Our second adventure was Shotover Jet. It is a custom build speed boat to go really fast and make sharp turns in water as shallow as a few inches. Shotover is the name of the small canyon in the river leading down to the lake. Similar to an amusement ride, it’s a twenty minute experience filled with 360 turns, splashing water, but the bonus is incredible views of the clearest turquoise water.
Though expensive, the Shotover Jet is a very unique experience which we have not encountered anywhere else on our travels. The company is also the only one with a license to operate in this area which allows them to speed and make 360s without worrying about encountering other boats.
At the end of our ride, we were offered free tickets to a special Christmas concert the company was sponsoring back in Queenstown. This was exciting because we had seen them setting up a big stage, speakers, and a fence around the venue. They also encouraged BYOB which is unheard of in the US for a concert. We arrived at the venue later that night with a packed dinner and a bottle of wine. We set up and began eating when we realized that we were watching all the local school children perform songs and dances they practiced at school and their families cheering them on. Although we felt out of place, there was no point in scrapping a perfectly good picnic. In the end, the evening wasn’t a waste at all as we learned some New Zealand Christmas songs, quite different from the ones we hear in the US. We also noticed different Christmas songs on the radio, most of them alcohol and barbecue themed.