10 Things You Should Know When Traveling to Queenstown

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Ah. Queenstown. One of God’s beautiful scenic creations and I can’t get enough of it. Once you’ve been there, you know it’s a place you’ll come back to over and over again. Queenstown is the titleholder of the “Adventure Capital of the World” and every adrenaline-junkie knows this is their death-defying playground.

road, alps
Snow-capped peaks and lush trees. View from Camp Street, Queenstown.
I’ve only been there for four days and really, that’s way too short of a time to explore Queenstown fully. Nevertheless, my experience will help you plan for your trip to New Zealand’s must-see destination. Now before you embark on an exciting journey to the world’s adventure capital, here are 10 things you should know when traveling to Queenstown.


1. Wherever you are in the world, prepare for a long journey to Queenstown.

To say that Queenstown is far is an understatement. From Auckland Airport, you need to transfer to the domestic terminal either by free shuttle bus or on foot. You’ll get to Queenstown after 1 hour and 50 minutes of flying time, provided that weather conditions are favorable. From Manila, you can have options to travel to New Zealand with a layover in Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, or Bangkok depending on which airline you choose (Philippine Airlines will begin direct flight service from Manila to Auckland starting December 7, 2017).

From Bangkok, flying time to Auckland is approximately 11 hours or so. We met a couple and their baby at Suvarnabhumi Airport during a 3.5-hour layover and they said they had been traveling for 20 hours from Germany. When you arrive at Queenstown, give yourself at least a day to relax before doing any activity.

sunshine, outdoor mall
An afternoon of cool breeze and sunshine after a morning of dark clouds and rain.

2. Pack for all seasons and all occasions.

Packing for Queenstown can be tricky. First, you’ll be facing CRAZY ass weather. And when I say crazy, it’s crazier than a woman PMS-ing! There’s no use to check weather conditions on a daily basis – you have to do it every hour if you must. So just pack for all seasons because even last summer, people experience snowfall in Queenstown (according to two tour guides).

Second, determine what activities you’ll be doing in Queenstown. Will you be hiking snowy mountains? Are you exploring glaciers and valleys? Will you be high up in the sky for some skydiving or paragliding? If you’re in for extreme adventure, make sure to bring outdoor shoes and clothing with you. Down jackets, quick dry pants, hiking shoes, gloves, and a head gear should be your staple. Oh and don’t be surprised if you get there on a freezing day with the sun high above the sky while it’s raining. That’s a normal Queenstown weather: four seasons in a day!


3. You can book your tours and adventures on the spot or just a day in advance.

Because Queenstown’s weather is soooo unpredictable, there’s a chance a tour can get cancelled. If you’ve been following my IG account, you would know our Dart River tour got cancelled because of adverse weather conditions. Despite this concern, you can always pick whatever floats your boat on a particular day, at the exact moment. Many tour companies around downtown Queenstown can accommodate your interest and adventure level and they’d be happy to recommend you tons of activities to choose from.

clothes shop
Huge Lululemon store in Queesntown.

4. Queenstown is expensive.

Well, the rest of New Zealand is. The cost of living is 110% more expensive than in Manila. And even though it’s slightly inexpensive than Paris, downtown Queenstown has limited choices when it comes to food carts and kiosks. I only saw one street vendor selling nuts (I guess) at the city center. Your cheapest food option would be the supermarket and sushi places. To give you an idea (1 NZ$ = 36 Php), an O-nigiri or triangle sushi costs NZ$ 4 (Php 144), a clubhouse sandwich at NZ$ 6 (Php 216), four pieces large bananas at NZ$ 3.50 (Php 126), and a 750 ml water bottle at NZ$ 2.60 (Php 93.60).

For women, bring your toiletries such as feminine napkins or panty liners because the range in Queenstown is triple to quadruple the Manila price. Better to over-pack your outdoor essentials, unless you want to spend Php 12,000-15,000 on “sale” down jackets from Kathmandu, Macpac, or North Face. In my opinion, the affordable snacks you can find in Queenstown and the rest of NZ is their chocolates.

sunny afternoon queenstown, street musician
shops, tables and chairs at outdoor mall


5. Despite being expensive, there are several things you can still do for free or for a cheap price.

Walk around the outdoor Queenstown Mall and you get free wifi. Listen to a street musician along Queenstown Trail. Relax on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and enjoy the view of snow-capped mountains. Follow or stroll along Beach St. and Lake Esplanade and enjoy the sunset. Jog along the foot track alongside Glenorchy-Queenstown Road and embrace the breathtaking views of towering mountains and vast lake. Picnic along Saint Omer Park and use the free grilling stations for your barbecue. Spot for free camping locations. Hike mountains by following walk-friendly trails. The list is endless for the restless wanderer.


6. Fergburger is an institution. 

Lining up at Fergburger is an adventure itself, for you will have to spend some time waiting for your order. Kiwis and tourists alike adore Fergburger and trying it once isn’t enough. It’s a high-end burger joint, for the first one in the menu (called The Fergburger) already costs NZ$ 11.90 (Php 428.40). However, if you’re used to the regular, small burger sizes here in the Philippines, the burgers in Ferg’s can already be shared by two.

burger

During the day, it’s going to take a while for you to get your order – and when I mean a while, it means 45 minutes or more even for just a single burger. But like they always say, it’s worth the wait! Tip: call in advance and just pick-up your order. Let me reiterate – Fergburger is a MUST because you only got one shot of it only in Queenstown.

people, bakery, gelato store
People outside of Fergburger waiting for their orders. The gelato and bakery are also by Ferg.

7. You’ll find everything you need at downtown Queenstown.

Pubs, pharmacy, Asian cuisine, supermarket, souvenir shops, clothing stores, dessert places, fastfood chains, money exchange, photography accessories – whatever you can think of, they’re available at the city center. Downtown Queenstown is only a small area so you can access every nook on foot. Unlike in Manila, shops in Queenstown close early (7:00 PM or earlier), but many food establishments open until late at night.

shops, alpine view
restaurant


8. The views are stunning from your accommodation.

Whether you stay at a hotel, an apartment, lodge, or at a camp site, the views all around Queenstown are stunning. Imagine waking up to a double rainbow over the alps or to black-billed gulls flocking to the lake. Stay at the city center if you like easy access to your everyday needs. But if you like to be in tune with nature and prefer serene views (and don’t mind the long walk), find a place to stay somewhere along Frankton Road (area in between the airport and city center) or at the Glenorchy-Queenstown Road (after city center). You will find hotels and lodges outside downtown that look like a country barn house which I find very cool. Queenstown is a very beautiful city and the Kiwis are generally kind and helpful so wherever you stay, you’ll always find yourself having a great time.

people, lake, birds, and trees
People chillin' at Lake Wakatipu and feeding black-billed gulls in a sunny afternoon.
trees, hills, houses
These hotels and houses on the hills have magnificent view of snowy peaks and massive lake.

9. Queenstown is a jump off point for tours in New Zealand’s South Island.

There are many things to do in the South Island of New Zealand and most of the time, the jump off point for tourists starts at the heart of Queenstown. Depending on where you’re going, the drive to destinations can take as little as 45 minutes to as much as four hours. Jet boating, kayaking, river surfing, Milford Sound cruise – they’re all done outside of downtown Queenstown. But no worries. Tour companies will take you to the location of your chosen activity.


10. Queenstown is the adventure capital of the world because of...

Skydiving. Bungy jumping. Rafting. Canyoning. Paragliding. Handgliding. Funyak. Heli flight. Zip line. Jet boating. The list goes on! If you’re familiar with AJ Hackett bungy jump in Macau Tower, that’s the same company that launched the first commercial bungy jump business in Queenstown. The first and original bungy jump happens at the Kawarau Bridge which is 43 meters high.
chalkboard with prices
Adventure menu and corresponding prices from one of the tour companies in Queenstown. All in NZ$.
Don’t worry if you can’t imagine doing any of these. You can still enjoy a little bit of thrill even with kids at Skyline Queenstown. There’s a gondola ride up the mountain peak, luge rides the kids can also enjoy, stargazing, and even mountain biking. You can also ride a steam boat going to Walter Peak station (#TheWanForAnne). But if you want the OG adventure tour, you can always do walking trails, mountain hikes, and skiing during winter.
steamship on lake
TSS Earnslaw Vintage Steamship on Lake Wakatipu. This will bring you to Walter Peak Station.
trees, mountain, peak
Skyline Queenstown at the top of the mountain.
Here's a short clip of our Dart River adventure with the jump off point in Glenorchy. Even my 60-year old mother can do it!



Are you excited to visit Queenstown? Add more tips in the comment section for future travelers!

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