Starting my New Zealand series with Queenstown….the adventure sports capital of the world. Staggering natural beauty and heart pumping thrills await you at this great destination.
A short Overview on New Zealand
New Zealand … an island nation consists principally of two main islands, The North Island and The South Island.
New Zealand is an awesome country, extremely beautiful and is a storehouse of tourist attractions. Fjords, Sounds, Geothermal phenomenon, unique wild life etc combine to make it a tourist’s dream destination.
The Maoris were the original inhabitants of this land. Even today, they keep up their traditions and put up cultural shows for the tourists.
The people are extremely friendly and treat tourists very specially. Preference is given to tourists at all places. This has to be seen to be believed. I will narrate our experiences as I write along.
Drive anywhere in New Zealand and your eyes will spot some white balls moving around the lush green meadows. These are sheep and they are an integral part of New Zealand’s economy.
Bio safety regulations at New Zealand airports are very strict. Being an island nation, they have unique flora and fauna and are very careful in retaining them as it is. No vegetable or fruit matter is allowed into New Zealand. The idea being that scattered seeds from fruits and vegetables brought from elsewhere may grow in NZ and over take their local produce. This shows how strict they are in such matters. So much so, baggages are sniffed by sniffer dogs much like drug detection.
They are also very strict in the road safety protocols they follow. Any repair or maintenance work on the road, there are warning signs from almost a kilometer away and the police oversee the entire process. It might seem very strange to us but I felt it was very good. Just shows the value attached to human lives!!!
Our Air New Zealand flight from Melbourne to Queenstown was indeed a dramatic one. Queenstown being a centre of adventure tourism , I was prepared for that….but….I did not know that our adventure tourism activities would start from the flight itself!!!!
Landing in Queenstown, we were thrown into some real bad weather and the flight kept circling Queenstown. The captain announced that the earlier flight had been hit by lightning and so we were diverted to Christchurch. After landing in Christchurch, we were told that depending on the weather situation in Queenstown, we would either refuel and fly or offload at Christchurch and head to Queenstown by road. Luckily for us, the weather cleared up. Soon the flight was refueled and we flew back to Queenstown.
The landing in Queenstown is spectacular. You fly in between the snow capped Southern Alps (much alike the views of our own Gulmarg ) with the beautiful Lake Wakatipu and the trees in fall colours.
After landing we drove to the hotel as we were already late. The Rydges Hotel was beautiful with views overlooking the Lake Wakatipu. The lake with the trees along the shores reminded me a lot about Dal Lake in our very own Kashmir. After a long and tumultuous flight, we crashed for the day.
The next day was a bright and sunny day much to our respite.
Queenstown is a beautiful city lying on the shores of Lake Wakatipu against the backdrop of the Southern Alps. It is highly tourist centric and the quaint streets are lined with bars, pubs, restaurants, gift shops and tour companies. Some pictures….
A typical Queenstown street
Lake Wakatipu, an inland lake in the South Island is renown for its scenic beauty. Queenstown is located on its northern border. The beauty of this lake is essentially the essence of Queenstown. It drains into the Kawarau River which is the venue of many of the adventure sport activities held here. Bordered by The Remarkables mountains,it is also an important winter sports destination. A vintage ship TSS Earnslaw regularly plies on this lake enabling tourists to enjoy the beauty of the lake and mix it with some history too! A large wine producing area also thrives along its edges.
Sunset over Wakatipu
Lake Wakatipu on a less cloudy day
The Vintage ship on Lake Wakatipu
Being an adventure tourism destination, lot of tour companies promoting adventure tourism are seen dotting the quaint streets of this great resort town.
Why is Queenstown known as the adventure sport capital of the world?
Well, it is the birthplace of commercial bungy, has the highest cliff jump, the world’s steepest zip line, the world’s biggest human catapult and has one of the largest giant swings in the world. Tandem skydiving and paragliding started here. Whitewater rafting and jet boat rides on the Kawarau river started commercially here.
We visited the A J Hackett Bungy centre. They are the pioneers in commercial bungy jumping. Here they have short video shows on bungy jumping. One can register here and then they take you to Kawarau Gorge where the actual jump takes place. We visited the Kawarau gorge which is about 20 minutes bus ride from Queenstown.
The Kawarau Gorge
Bungy centre entrance
The bungy jumping platform
A jumper takes off from the platform
A live bungy jump….(click on the video)
We saw some of the tourists indulge in these great jumps and other adventure sport activities. Some pictures….
Jet Boat Riding
White water rafting
Skyline Queenstown is the gondola that takes one to Bob’s Peak on top of the Ben Lomond mountain. It gives great views of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu as it takes one up the peak. There is a restaurant on the peak from where there are beautiful views.Some pictures…
The Skyline Queenstown
The restaurant at Bob’s Peak
Apart from Queenstown being a resort town in itself, it is also the starting point for many of the beautiful sightseeing locations in South island. Fjorland National Park and its main attraction…The Milford Sound can be reached from Queenstown. The beautiful small town of Te Anau which is famous for its Glowworm caves is also easily accessible from here.
Since the drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound may be too long, we decided to halt at Te Anau and do the Sound from there. Our next destination was a total contrast from the live and bubbly Queenstown. Te Anau is a small peaceful, quiet resort town…a sleepy town infact. But we were awe struck by its natural beauty. See you next week at beautiful Te Anau…
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