Kia ora: Queenstown

Elisabeth Easther explores our own adventure capital.

Coronet Peak skifield in the South Island. Photo / Miles Holden
Coronet Peak skifield in the South Island. Photo / Miles Holden

Origin of name:
There are several explanations, the most popular version being that a local gold-digger declared the town "fit for Queen Victoria".

Population:
29,200 (2012 estimate).

Where is it:
On the shores of Lake Whakatipu, in the Central Otago region, 282km from Dunedin.

The town slogan:
Adventure Capital of the World.

The town's mascot:
The Remarkable Mountains. Also the giant stone moa in Earnslaw Park that's built to scale. There's a larger-than-life kiwi there, too.

Best reason to stop:
It's one of New Zealand's finest tourist destinations with mountains, lakes and more gorgeousness than you can shake a stick at.

Best place to take the kids:
The Kiwi Birdlife Park for fine-feathered fun. Or a trip on the old steamer, The TSS Earnslaw. Or ice-skating at Queenstown Ice Arena.

The Kingston Flyer is also amazing - and these are just the tip of the iceberg.

Best drink:
Atlas Beer Cafe, down on Steamer Wharf or Vknow for splash of wine on Fernhill Rd.

Best food:
There are a squillion different food and drink options, but Ferg Burger is famous - and perfect if you fancy something unpretentious.

Most famous local(s):
Internationally famous actor Sam Neill calls Queenstown home.

Big business:
Tourism. It's all about the tourists, and it's even busier in summer than in winter.

Best flat whites:
Moto Grill on Shotover St and Vudu Cafe on Beach St are both spoken of highly.

Best bakery:
Arrowtown Bakery does world-famous pies. Julia Gillard was there the other day.

Source of pride:
The clean mountain air and its reputation for great adventures.

Best museum:
The Arrowtown Museum, 20 minutes away, presents an authentic picture of life in the pre-colonial times through to the gold-rush era of the 1880s.

Best walk:
For a pleasant and not too demanding stroll, go from 12 Mile Delta to Bob's Cove - it takes about an hour each way around Lake Wakatipu. For something more strenuous, check out the Ben Lamond.

A fine thrill:
Go downhill mountain biking at Queenstown Bike Park using the Skyline Gondola assisted bike lift. Enjoy 12 big downhill tracks without having to put in any effort going up. Genius.

The town competitions:
Winter Fest in June is huge, the Bird Man being particularly good for spectators. The Glenorchy Races in January are an experience with local farmers and horse-trekking people vying for big prizes.

Best view:
The top of Coronet Peak is pretty flash.

Best place to pull over:
Bennett's Bluff on the road to Glenorchy.

Best facilities:
The Lav-hoff-tory at the Canyon Swing, a long-drop that doubles as a shrine to David Hasselhoff.

Best playground:
The one in Wanaka beats all the Queenstown ones, we're told. An hour's drive away, the 30-year-old dinosaur slide is a winner.

Here for a short time?
Take a walk round Queenstown Gardens. They also have tennis, skating and bowls.

Best swim:
Lake Hayes, on the way to Arrowtown. Nippy at times, but swims are all about cooling off.

Most fabulous item of wildlife:
It would have been the moa, extinction stinks.

Regional park:
There are lots of DoC spots, but Moke Lake is a particularly lovely reserve.

Locals say:
"The only reason to leave is so you can come back again."

Visitors say:
"Wait till I tell the folks back home."

* Thanks to Matt Hollyer from Canyon Swing for sharing these secrets.

- NZ Herald

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