It was surreal being back in Queenstown after six years. So many business had changed since I lived here, but it still had the same feel to the town that I loved. I was really excited to show Chris everything! When we got into town we still had some time on our rental car so we drove up to the hotel at the base of Coronet Peak where I used to work. Then we drove an hour out to Glenorchy. It's a beautiful drive that follows the edge of Lake Wakatipu and there's a lookout point about halfway that could be our favorite in NZ. Glenorchy is a cute small town right on the edge of Paradise, a privately owned land trust where parts of Lord of the Rings is filmed.
After giving Chris a quick tour, we headed back to Queenstown to return our rental car and explore all my old hangouts. We walked around the Botanical Gardens, stopped by Patagonia Chocolates for some ice cream, and went to Fergburger for dinner. Fergburger has become very famous in Queenstown and usually has an insanely long line (30+ mins to order then 30+ mins waiting for food). Since we were there in a shoulder season, we managed to hit it at a low wait time before the dinner rush hit. While they aren't my absolute favorite burgers in the world, they are a food experience you have to try if you are in the Queenstown area.
The next day we returned to Glenorchy to go horseback riding. We found a discounted tour on Bookme.co.nz (great discounts on attractions for all of NZ). It ended up not being in Paradise so it didn't have as much information on the Lord of the Rings movies being filmed there, but it still offered amazing views! We had an awesome 2.5 hours of riding around the Reese River, and even got to trot a couple times! Once back in Queenstown we grabbed some hot cocoa from Patagonia Chocolates to help keep us warm while walked around the lake. It was a sunny day and we had a perfect view Remarkable Mountains. We grabbed a late lunch at my favorite pizza place- Winnie's. I love their Montonara pizza. I have probably told Chris about it every time I eat pizza, so he was happy to finally see what all the fuss was about. Sadly he was a bit unimpressed, but I still loved it! After lunch we went to a wine tasting room called The Winery. It offers a ton of samples of New Zealand wines. It's great if you don't have time or don't want to spend time going to the many, many vineyards in NZ.
There is a mountaintop above Queenstown with a lookout, restaurant, and plenty of tourist activities. On our last day we went up to do the Luge. You can pay for the gondola to the top, but we opted for the free hike up instead. It took about an hour and was a bit steeper than I remembered! The view of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu is incredible though. The luge is at the top of the gondola and is a lot of fun. After racing down the luge course a few times we hiked up to the Ben Lomond Saddle. It's about a 3 hour round trip walk from the gondola. The trail goes constantly uphill. It quickly made us aware of how out of shape we had become since our hiked in Patagonia! The view of the snow-capped Remarkables Mountain Range from the saddle made it worth the climb though! The trail continues another 2 hours up to Ben Lomond Peak, but we decided to not push it too much and hiked back down to the gondola. Once there, Chris decided he needed to do something extreme since we were in the adventure capital of the world. Paragliding seemed like a much better option than a bungee, so he strapped himself to a tiny French lady with a parachute and ran off the cliff.
I'm pretty sure I was way more nervous watching him than he was doing it. It was cool once he was in the air with the parachute open to see him floating through the air. I had decided trotting on a horse and climbing Ben Lomond was enough of an adventure for me so I rode the gondola down. I met Chris at an Irish pub down by the water to celebrate his survival. I'm not going to lie, he was shaking a bit when we first reunited but it was very clear he enjoyed the adrenaline rush! Once the rush wore off we capped off our stay with some green lipped mussels for dinner and more Patagonia Chocolates ice cream for dessert. It was really hard to say goodbye to Queenstown the next morning. We walked around the lake and got breakfast at Patagonia one last time (on this trip) then headed north onto Wanaka to explore some areas I haven't been to yet.
Chris & Taylor
Read our travel blog as we visit three continents in 2017.