When people ask me, “what’s your favorite place?” I always ask them, “for what?” because I have favorite places for different activities. And if they answer, “for adventure,” then Queenstown, New Zealand, is at the top of the list. They call Queenstown the “adventure capital of the world” and believe me, they’re telling the truth. You can go bungee jumping from the original bridge it was invented on, jet-boating on the Shotover River doing 360’s just inches from a rock wall, heli-skiing in July, ballooning, para-gliding, para-penting, para-sailing…I even saw bungee jumping from a para-sail! Basically, if you can think of it, you can probably find it in Queenstown!
Located on the shores of beautiful Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown is surrounded by the majestic mountains they call “the Remarkables,” in the center of New Zealand’s South Island. So named, because “it was fit for Queen Victoria,” Queenstown is now recognized as New Zealand’s top travel destination.
Located “down under”, the seasons are reversed here…exactly opposite from the U. S.! So check the calendar before you go as you wouldn’t want to show up in shorts when it’s snowing in July, now do you? Whether it’s the long summer twilights from December to March, the brilliant autumn colors in April and May or some of the world’s best skiing and snowboarding conditions from June to September, Queenstown is definitely the action and adventure capital of New Zealand! Some say, the world!
Queenstown really has it all. You really can go jetboating down the Shotover River doing 80 km per hour, doing 360 spins next to rock faces in less than five inches of water! It’s a thrilling ride at top speed! You’ll be dressed in a life jacket and rain poncho, but bring a croakie for your glasses or they’ll be lost forever!
I discovered Queenstown is really the home of bungee-jumping! Invented right here by New Zealander A.J. Hackett in 1988, bungee jumping is just another example of Kiwi ingenuity. It’s kind of like flying ––So free –So fun –So frightening! So forget it! All that stands between you and the river is a thick elastic cord…and a lot of bravery. Your harness is attached to the bungee cord, you jump (or get pushed) off…you bounce once…twice…three times or more…then hang upside down while you’re lowered slowly into the rowboat that’s waiting to retrieve you. If you can handle that, you can handle anything!
The beauty of New Zealand was captured on film when Peter Jackson shot the Lord of The Rings trilogy here. Several “Lord of the Rings Tours” take you to filming locations in a variety of vehicles…from helicopters to off road jeepsl For a down-to-earth visit to “Middle Earth”, Nomad Safaris has been conducting 4-Wheel Drive tours in the heart of the New Zealand High Country for over 15 years. With the success of the “Lord of The Rings” films, Nomad Safaris found a new niche…off-road tours of the rugged and dramatic countryside that were the natural backdrops featured in the films. You’ll recognize the different locations as you drive through amazing scenery, stop at a historic mining town and even pan for gold!
In Queenstown, you can do three or four adventures in a single day, not only making the most of your time, but your budget as well….but you have to leave the planning to the pros!
The company I used is called Queenstown Combos, a company that helps you organize your time to incorporate all the activities you’d like to do in order to get the most out of your visit. This company does combination packages of jet-boating, white water rafting, roller coasting, helicopter flights, river surfing, canyon swings, you name it, they do it all. Whether you’re coming to Queenstown for passive adventure or a full-on adrenaline rush, they can handle all ages and fitness abilities. The original “Queenstown Combo” package consists of a morning jet-boat ride, followed by a helicopter sightseeing flight that drops you at the top of the tram, where you can luge a downhill track before hopping on a gondola to ride the rest of the way down, before going bungee jumping! What a great day!
Visitors have been known to refer to Queenstown as a “natural theme park” because of the incredible variety of outdoor adventures to choose from. It’s this unique setting that’s made Queenstown famous the world over! Where else in the world can you find mountains, lakes, rivers, forests, and historic sites all within a short distance of each other?
The wonderful thing about Queenstown is, the town itself is only about three blocks square, with several hotels, restaurants, museums, coffee bars, tour operators and shops. Lots of shops! And the main shopping street is a pedestrian-only zone so you can trust me when I say, you won’t need a car, especially when the adventure outfitters will come and pick you up.
Know what else New Zealand’s famous for? It’s wine. New Zealand wines have won awards all over the world. The vineyards and wineries here are a little different than in other parts of the world. I learned that the North Island is volcanic, and good for growing grapes for white wines. In the South Island, the soil is glacial…and that makes for a terrific red…specifically the Pinot Noir. So hang on while I go look for a corkscrew!
After a few days in Queenstown, I can tell you I was pooped! I don’t think I’ve ever been so tired having so much fun in my entire life! If you’re an adventure junkie, or just want to give it a try, where better to kick it up than in Queenstown, New Zealand!