Travel: Serene and welcoming Queenstown

By Mike Yardley

.As the season of mellow fruitfulness starts to take hold, with the promise of crisper days and blazing leaf displays, our great adventure capital of Queenstown is good to go. The southern skifields are still several months away from opening, but the first flush of snowfall on the Remarkables is nigh, which dramatically accentuates the panoramic splendour of the resort town.

Taking top billing in my book is the Skyline Gondola, transporting you high above the town, and unfurling the most sublime vista imaginable. Schedule your ascent for a lip-smacking clear day and treat your eyes to the visual spectacle.

A recent innovation that is proving popular is the twice-nightly stargazing experience. So after being enthralled by the view below you, set your sights on the galaxies twinkling above, and enjoy a guided tour of the southern sky. A purpose-built stargazing viewing platform has been constructed on Bob's Peak, equipped with top-quality telescopes that will take you deep into space. The tour ends with a toasty hot chocolate in the Skyline Bar.

A deliciously satisfying excursion is a ride on the legendary lady of Lake Wakatipu, the TSS Earnslaw steamship, which has just celebrated its centenary.

I always enjoy hearing the warm blast of her horn, the rumble of her steam engines and watching the stokers fuelling the fireboxes. There are a variety of cruises to choose from.

For the ultimate Kiwiana experience, the Walter Peak High Country excursion is a cracker, comprising a winning blend of awe-inspiring scenery, farm demonstrations, heritage insights and hearty country-style cuisine.

Otago is a premium wine-growing region and the plaudits are lavished on the local pinot noir, which I adore. But my favourite way to discover the wealth of local wines in the shortest possible time is to visit Wine Tastes, a one-stop-tasting shop in the heart of Queenstown. You can taste more than 80 wines, including 24 fabulous pinot noirs, at the touch of a button and at your own pace.

Speaking of the pleasures of the palate, Queenstown's signature hospitality venues huddle around the picturesque lakefront creating a colourful, vibrant precinct.

If you fancy a night cap and cheerful live entertainment, you can't beat the atmosphere of Queenstown's original Irish pub, Pog Mahones.


- Hamilton News

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