Road Trip South Island: Queenstown, Take 1

Queenstown: the end of the road. Well, almost.

We arrived in Queenstown on Saturday the 11th and had to drop off the car on Tuesday the 14th, so we decided to do one final trip to Milford Sound on Sunday-Monday. So we experienced Queenstown twice: pre-Milford tourist Saturday and post-Milford hang out together because we don’t want to the road trip to be over time.

When we went to Queenstown I had to remind myself how much people liked it. We were already a day late because we were having too good of a time in Wanaka, but we had to keep moving, so I tried to have a positive attitude as we wound our way down the roller coaster mountain pass into Queenstown. The approach was gorgeous and the town looked like a lively ski town, so I was initially into it.

We embraced the touristy-ness of Queenstown that Saturday. We wandered around town, in and out of shops, tasted some fudge (which we would do two more times during our stay there), and stumbled onto a market at the waterfront park. After hanging around outside for a bit we went full tourist and took the Skyline Gondola up to the luge.

The view from the top is really great – it looks over all of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu, and The Remarkables mountain range (modest, eh?) – but we were skeptical about the luge. Luge is a bit of an exaggeration; you ride a kind of scooter with steering abilities down a winding concrete road. In the summer in Vermont when there was no snow on the mountains they had something called the Alpine Slide. As a kid I used to ride this all the time. There were a few track options and they had similar luge-like apparatuses that you rode down on (although much less sophisticated), but these narrow slides actually looked like smaller luge tracks and went down an entire mountain side, vertical enough to get some air on jumps or go sideways up a sharp turn. They also lasted probably 5-10 minutes each. Having grown up with those I have to admit, this luge was a bit disappointing. It was pretty short, less than 2 minutes, and not nearly as exciting. But ignoring the comparison it still made for a fun afternoon, especially when I passed Frank (ha ha).

Back at the hostel we reunited with Josi and planned our Milford Sound adventure. Then we decided it was time to finally go out. We had had some relaxed beer and wine nights along the way, but none of us had really experienced much nightlife in New Zealand. Queenstown seemed like the place for it. We started with dinner at the famous Fergburger, the burger joint that everyone kept telling us we had to go to. I’m sorry to be a burger-snob American but what is the big deal with this place? Overrated. Just because it’s huge doesn’t mean it’s a good burger. For starters it’s really just the bun that is large (and not very good), and the thin patty was cooked too well. Unless you got it loaded with so much crap that it barely resembled a burger anymore it just wasn’t worth talking about. Sorry if that offends some people. Come to SF, I’ll get you a real burger.

We spent the rest of the night barhopping from one drink special to the next and saw the range of nightlife options in the quiet season of Queenstown: from the start of the Stray bar crawl to an underground punk rock show to the top 40’s if it was 2010 dance club (where we all felt a bit too old) to the bar that hands out marshmallows to roast over their indoor fire pit. Conclusion? Meh, ok. Maybe our impression was skewed because it was in between seasons so town was a little quiet, or maybe it just wasn’t for us, but none of us came away feeling like Queenstown nightlife was all that impressive.

I feel like I’m hating on Queenstown too much right now. It’s not like there’s anything wrong with Queenstown, I think maybe I just expected too much and my first day there was a bit of a let down. So we got away for two days and came back on Monday night. I swear, it gets better.




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