Queenstown is famous for being the adrenaline capital of New Zealand, and let’s face it, even the world! From speedboats to bungee, to skydiving, skiing, and swings; Queenstown is a parade of active outdoor sports that will fix-up over and over any adrenaline junky (including me).
But, what makes Queenstown such a special place is the setting in which all of this happens; an incredibly beautiful lake surrounded by snow capped mountains and pine-green hills. Seriously, Queenstown is that stunning.
I fell in love with Queenstown the moment we arrived. The town, which has a population of less than 12,000, is delicately set at the base of the sloping green hills, nestled between Lake Wakatipu, Ben Lomong Scenic Reserve, and Queenstown Hill.
As soon as our Stray Travel bus dropped us in our hotel, we made sure to make the most of our three days in Queenstown and of our sudden break from the pouring winter rains we had the past few days. Without thinking much about it, Leo and I headed out to walk around the town and along the lakeshore. We quickly familiarized ourselves with the town, which was swarming with skiers and snowboarders at the moment. On the lake, we saw the spectacle of a few speedboats taking tourists for a thrill with a few speedy tricks and turns. Queenstown was living up to its fame.
Next on our agenda? Bungee jump! We actually had the option to bungee jump just before entering Queenstown, at the Karawau Bridge, which is the world home of bungee. This is the first commercial bungee in the world, created by the bungee leaders and masters, AJ Hackett Bungy. Instead, we opted for a bungee jump with a much better view – the Ledge Bungee on top of the Ben Lomond Scenic Reserve (also by AJ Hackett).
To reach the bungee location, we opted to hike up the trails in the Ben Lomond Reserve, instead of paying the $30 round-trip of the gondola/cable car. The 1-hour hike was easy, but the most rewarding part of the hike was, beyond saving money, the views we got of The Remarkable Mountains, Lake Wakatipu, and the town itself. The higher we went, the more beautiful the view got.
I took this sunset shot right after doing my bungee jump as we hiked down the same trail. Isn’t it beautiful?
But, back to the bungee jump! This was not my first bungee, but I was really excited about it for a few reasons: I was jumping in Queenstown with the “fathers” of bungee, the drop was 47 meters free-fall, and it was set 400 meters above Queenstown – so the jumping view was UH-MA-ZING!
Can I do a Karate Kid jump? You can sort of see that!
The following day we opted to hike another hill we were recommended to do – Queenstown Hill. The trail of this hill, while longer at 2.5 hours return, is easier and in my opinion much more beautiful than the previous one.
There’s one thing I have to say about this hikes. The trail is full of pine trees, so every now and then I got a faint Christmas smell. Along the hike I was taken back several times to my childhood when my mom used to place a real Christmas tree in the living room, perfuming the entire space for several weeks.
The views along the hike were similar to the previous, but the great difference came when we reached the top (where The Basket sculpture is located), which allowed us to see further along the lake. It is simply breathtaking scenery. But then, we continued even higher, hiking in the opposite direction of the lake to see what was behind the hill.
We were astonished by the magnificence of the view.
At that moment, we really understood why Peter Jackson decided to film The Lord of the Rings in New Zealand. We could see nature at its best for miles and miles. Mountains, green hills, and snow-capped mountains; all in one setting, with no human intervention in it.
We stayed there for a good while, admiring both sides of the view; the lakeside and the mountainside. We didn’t want to leave. It was truly moving the fact we could witness nature like this.
A note to you: Please, don’t miss doing this hike. Please, please, please.
Queenstown has several more hikes that I’m sure are just as good, so feel free to roam around and explore.
What I just shared is but a small portion of our time in Queenstown. There is much more to it, but I’ll share those other experiences in upcoming posts. But here’s a hint of one of them…
I felt like I was in Middle-earth!
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We stayed at Base Queenstown (dorm for $28 NZD per bed) and The Pinewood Lodge (double room for $70 NZD a night). Both are recommended. Pinewood is a bit outside the center, but very comfortable and still walking distance (Queenstown is really small). Base is right at the center and is geared more towards backpackers. There’s more of a social environment there.
AJ Hackett has three bungee locations in Queenstown. All three are different, unique, and with different rates. The Ledge, which is the one I did, costs $180 NZD. Different from the other jumps, the bungee cord is not attached to your feet; instead, you’re harnessed to your chest, which gives you the freedom to jump creatively! Karate Kid, anyone?
You must be at least 10 years old to jump and weigh between 35kg and 127kg. Pictures of the jump are sold separately. They also do night jumps during winter. Have in mind that to reach the bungee platform you must either pay the Gondola/cable car ($30 NZD) or hike up the hill like we did.
Finally, I recommend eating at Fergburger to taste one of the best burgers in New Zealand, and (maybe) the world! Seriously, they are that good! Expect some queue there since they are really popular.
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Thanks to AJ Hackett for providing me with a complimentary jump. They didn’t request a favorable review, and as always, all opinions and expressions in this post are my own.
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