Queenstown - New Zealand

February 4, 2024 Travel

Beware the Bloopers

The 4.15am taxi eventually arrived at 4.25 lucky we booked it for 15 minutes early. Adelaide airport is quite busy at that hour of the day. Qantas co-share with NZA to Melbourne on time. Arriving in Melbourne we had no idea where to go but eventually made our way out of domestic and into the International Terminal where serious Blooper #1 was discovered ... Cookie and Bazz sailed through checkout however I was taken aside to "talk to" Border Security!!  Seems I had ticked the wrong box on Criminal History and said that I had been convicted of an offence carrying more than 12 months in gaol.  Lucky the Border Security guys believed it was an error and resolved it in time for us to catch our slightly delayed flight. Blooper #2 was discovered on the flight where everyone else was served breakfast...we had all missed the requirement to request a meal when you do the booking.  

Arriving at Queenstown I had an ever ready bunny in the seat next to me in the form of Cookie jumping up and down to see the mountains until the hostess reminded her to buckle up. What a magnificent sight that is flying in to snow capped mountains in late January. The taxi driver on the way in gave us a lesson in how expensive it is to live here...$2.80/ltr for fuel and he says that's cheap. Blooper #3 Bazz left his camera bag in the taxi and we had to ring him to return it. That had the potential to be very expensive.  Our little BnB is perfect so after checking in we hit the shops for some last minute items and dinner. Blooper #4 all three forgot to pay and had to run back much to the relief of the waitress! We are all thankful our flights to arrive here were less than 6 hours all up not the days and days required to leave for Antarctica from South America.

Tourist and Adventure Mecca

In winter its base for several nearby snowfields but in Summer the excitement doesn't stop. There are jet boats, paragliders, fully enclosed jet ski things in the shape of sharks and dolphins and thankfully for me quite a few birds on the Lake.

We took a tour with RealNZ on Lake Wakatipu which was a fantastic way to see the lake - its 380m deep at the deepest point and averages 200m so not many yachts....anchoring would be a nightmare and the wind bullets off those mountains not much fun. We have been very lucky to have exceptional weather and the lake and surrounding mountains were stunning. The boat was not at all crowded so there was plenty of room to move around for some photography.

In the late afternoon the tour buses return and the backpackers come out to play. Shops stay open, there are street markets, buskers and musicians lining the lake and this afternoon lots of people soaking up the sun. Definitely a city with a great fun vibe.

Milford Sound

You know that thing when you have an alarm set for 5.30am and you wake up at 3.30am and that's it for sleep?? That was us last night.  We had a 6.30 pick up for a trip to Milford Sound. I know we read that it was a 3-4 hour trip but somehow that didn't really compute. Cheeky Kea Tours did a great job of timing loo stops and photo opportunities to break up the drive. My absolute favourite was a car park stop to photograph some Kea's (bird) that were intent on dismantling the rubber on a couple of cars parked there. Our guide was super interesting and I was pleased to hear that Department for Conservation in NZ are intent on riding the Country of all feral mammals by 2050.

It rained from before pick up until we arrived at the car park at Milford Sound which doesn't sound ideal but in fact it was because the Mountains on the way into the Sound came to life with hundreds of waterfalls that are only there for an hour or two after a rain.

We arrived at Milford Sound in time for a quick lunch and then onto our small boat tour of the Sound.  While there are normally only two permanent waterfalls today there were cascades everywhere. The tour went along one side of the Sound to the mouth and almost out into the Tasman Sea before turning and travelling back the other side. It certainly is a stunning location and we felt lucky to see it in the conditions today.

Dinner was pizza and wine home delivered after a long day.

Remarkable Imagery Photography Tour

I am so glad I booked today’s private photography tour. The tour with Martin from Remarkable Imagery was absolutely fantastic.  We were collected from our accommodation in a comfortable all wheel drive. First stop was from the lookout in Queenstown for views down on to Queenstown and out to the Lake. Continuing in the theme of the weather being perfect for the activity planned this morning there was a light dusting of snow on the peaks - how awesome!!   This was also time to chat about what we wanted from the day and therefore which locations Martin would take us to. We opted for wild and we were not disappointed.

On our boat tour a couple of days ago we were thrilled to see snow on the mountain tops near Glenorchy so when Martin suggested we head that way we agreed readily. We stopped at a couple of road side pull overs but the real treat was from Bennetts Bluff look out where the views down the valley and the views across the lake were equally stunning. The vantage only spoilt by the Asian Family who thought the safety rails did not apply to them and were placing all members of the family out on the edge on various rocks for the perfect “selfie” one at a time completely oblivious to the fact that we were trying to photograph from behind the fence to get the view.

Next stop was a sheep station to visit Moke Lake - like Australia the stations here are leased not owned and the property has a public access road to the lake. There is glamping and camping near the Lake and the views up and down the valley are beautiful....let’s face it there really is a photo around every corner here.  I managed to get a photo of the Paradise Shelduck, the New Zealand Scaup and a European Greenfinch along this stretch of road as well.  

Leaving the Lake we drove back across Queenstown to Skippers Canyon near the Coronet Peak which is one of the ski slopes in Winter. The road to the Canyon is literally a one lane windy track with traffic in both directions and it is also a Mountain Bike Track!!  Everyone must be super fit here there is so much activity on offer and everyone seems to be busy engaged in some sort of death defying adventure.  

Photographic opportunities abound in the Canyon there are so many layers in the landscape with foreground, mid ground and back ground interest.  The weather was kind with interest in the cloud formations but light on parts of the landscape.  We stopped several times with Martin suggesting good vantage points - absolutely the benefit of having a guide when you only get one chance to visit.  

Martin was generous with his time going over our booking time to make sure we got to the valley floor to photograph the Shotover River and for a coffee stop.

Back in Town we tried Mrs Ferg’s Bakery for a pie - yes they also rate highly - mine was lamb and potato and it was delicious.

Dinner tonight was at the recommendation of Martin, this morning’s guide at the Saigon Kingdom and it was worth the recommendation. Late afternoon and evening and the waterfront is again a hive of activity. Last nights fire twirler has been replaced by a young guy on piano but still very entertaining.