Perfect Queenstown Day

img_0082What makes the perfect holiday day? OK it’s different for everyone, I know, but I’ll throw out a few of my personal favourites and you shout ‘snap’ if you get a match.

  • Waking up to a blue sky
  • Plenty of options but no set plans
  • Stunning mountain vistas
  • A refreshing dip
  • A little bit of exertion
  • A few refreshing beers, made all the more rewarding after that little bit of exertion

Well this day didn’t quite start out as the perfect holiday day. Our first night in the motorhome was, at best, restless as the 3 of us lay there rigid and wide-eyed in the dark. Every movement made the motorhome shake. In that very British way we each stayed defiantly uncomfortable and very much awake until someone broke all the rules and went for a pee in the chemical toilet. As they noisily crept back to bed there came a passive-aggressive ‘I am awake you know?’ from the back.

‘Me too’.

At 3.30am this collective ‘outing’ was cathartic and within minutes we were all blissfully asleep.

Even in summer Queenstown’s morning air is bracing, though sunlight streaming through the curtains promised an exciting day ahead. This is the Adventure Capital of New Zealand, famous for its bungee jumps and white water rafting, but I was looking to start on something a little more tame. 20 minutes later and we were standing at the top of Queenstown Skyline, the gondola that whisks you up the mountain for absurdly spectacular vistas of the city, the azure lake and the Remarkables mountain range beyond.

Pull your eyes away from the view for a moment and you’ll see something that I’ve not witnessed anywhere else in the world: a dry luge. Dinky little plastic cars, powered only by gravity and the tourists upon them, zip erratically down the side of the hill before their riders are taken back up on a chairlift. Queuing up at the start the gimmick looks laughable! Grown adults slowly negotiating corners on plastic toys while children bump along around them. Once you’re in command though, oh boy, it’s a different story. Close to the ground, tight on the corners and forgetting if brake is push-forward or pull-back: this is adrenalin-stirring stuff. When you buy your tickets you’ll think 1 ride will be enough, but you’ll get 3 for the deal. You’ll leave wishing you’d got 5.

Working my way down the mountain it seemed only right to explore the shores of Lake Wakatipu. A number of operations will hire you a bike in Queenstown and there’s no better way to explore the gently undulating lakeside trail. About an hour’s ride away there was a quiet little cove and a tumbledown jetty – perfect for a little cooling off. Turns out there is no such thing as ‘a little cooling off’ in a glacial mountain lake, it was colder than the depths of space and after 3 or 4 panicked strokes I shot back out onto dry land. Worth it though.

Before you start thinking: this ‘perfect holiday day’ is missing one crucial thing… don’t worry, I won’t let you down. Queenstown sits in New Zealand’s Otago region, a place renowned for its fantastic wines and where glacial water and volcanic soil will grow pretty much anything. Great beers are never too hard to find. We started things off in the grungy Smith’s Craft Beer House where a whopping 21 taps can be enjoyed by the flight on a balcony overlooking the centre of town. It was just what my sunburnt face needed and this beer menu pulled in everything, from a refreshing red IPA by Altitude to a warming 11% Russian Imperial Stout by Tuatara.

When you’re suitably warmed / refreshed (delete depending upon how long you spent in the lake) head on to Atlas. At a time when everyone else is doing steak and red wine, this place does what the world has needed all along: sumptuously well cooked steaks and a very well chosen selection of beer. It’s popular and all served in a space not much bigger than your living room, yet it works.

So there you have it: my perfect holiday day in Queenstown. And do you want to know the best bit about this day? After a few more pints in Atlas I would be able to sleep anywhere, but actually my makeshift motorhome bed seems quite tempting. Night night.

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