Every year 2 million tourists make the trip to the stunning Southern Lakes region of New Zealand’s South Island. Born, raised and living in NZ for the past 23 years, I envy the people enjoying this area for the first time as it truly is an idyllic piece of the amazing world we live in. There are three areas that make up this particular region; Queenstown, Fiordland and Wanaka, all offering something different to cater to everyone’s needs,
Queenstown is the tourism capital of NZ and the adventure capital of the world. Surrounded by the high peaks of the Southern Alps and framed by the endless lakes that lie at the bottom of them, this is truly one of the most beautiful places to see on your travels.
The town itself is growing at a steady pace and is always filled with people from all over the globe. Before you visit, check this website for voucher discounts on popular activities: www.bookme.co.nz/bookings/queenstown/home
If you can snatch up one of the $1.00 Shotover Jet trips you have done extremely well. A trip up the gondola can also offer you views out over the town with bungy jumping and a luge available at the summit.
It is a popular place to live and work for young travellers so boasts an enjoyable nightlife and restaurant scene as well. Whether it’s after a night out at the bars, or just grabbing a bite to eat after a long day of activities, Fergburger is the place to go. It is down the main strip and easy to find as there is always a queue of people out the door. The burgers here are very large and extremely tasty with a good variety of fillings ranging from venison, chicken, pork and steak, to fish and tofu. There is something for everyone and I would definitely recommend eating here at least once on your stay. You can check out the full menu here: www.fergburger.com.
Depending on when you visit will heavily determine your choice of activities. For those of you enjoying the wonderful scenery in the summer months (normally November till mid May), there are plenty of things to see and do during your stay. I would recommend taking the trip to see Milford Sound if you are there for long enough. Once voted by TripAdvisor users as worlds top travel destination on the globe, I can tell you from first hand experience that you will not be disappointed. You can do the Sound in a day if you are staying in Queenstown but I would seriously recommend staying overnight. You can stay at the sound itself or at the half waypoint in Te Anu. The drive can be dangerous but it also boasts some impressive scenery, which even had me in amazement. Take your time and enjoy the views and ensure you top up petrol and food in Te Anu as there is no shops or petrol stations between there and the Sound. Prices vary depending on the season but a rental car between four is probably the best option due to price, travel time and flexibility. Go on one of the boat cruises to get a really good perspective on the sound, with the potentially accompaniment of dolphins and seals along the way.
For those of you travelling in the winter months (Late May to September) it is a skier’s paradise. There are 4 main ski fields to choose from, 2 located in Queenstown itself, and 2 within a 2-hour drive. Cardrona is my mountain of choice as it suits all skill levels and is where I grew up learning to ski. It is located half way between Queenstown and Wanaka and I would allow roughly an hour and a half from Queenstown to the top. Coronet Peak and The Remarkables are a lot closer, but the snow quality is not always as good. Skiing in NZ is a bit more expensive than it can be in Europe with a day pass costing around $99nzd (50gpb or 60euros). Depending on how long you plan on staying however, you can get season passes for as little as $599gbp (300gbp or 370euros). That entitles you to unlimited skiing for the whole season and is the best price if you are there for 2 weeks or more. (photo)
Wanaka is my favourite place in NZ bar none. It is smaller and not as built up as Queenstown and the scenery is just as stunning. It is a lovely lakeside town where the locals are friendly and life is relaxed. There is plenty of day walks to do around the town and the nearby Matukituki Valley offers a variety of picnic spots along with a riverside walk nestled amongst the mountains.
For those with less time or limited access to a car, a walk up Mt. Iron offers panoramic views of Wanaka and is located just to the east of the town centre. If you are unlucky enough to have bad weather then I would highly recommend you see a movie at the local cinema, Paridiso. Not your conventional cinema, the seats are a mismatch of sofas, armchairs, airplane seats, beanbags and even an old beetle with the roof cut off. Not only that but each movie has a half time interval where you can purchase fresh homemade cookies to keep you going through the entire film. A lovely place to go which makes you feel at home while sitting through a flick on the big screen.
No matter how long you plan on spending here, there is something for everyone. For me, I would recommend around a week to really enjoy New Zealand’s most picturesque regions. Don’t forget to treat the land and wildlife with respect, as it can be dangerous. Check weather forecasts in advance and pack according to the temperatures and conditions. Remember it is always better to have something and not need it, than need it and not have something. Keep NZ green and beautiful by disposing of your rubbish in the correct way, as nearly all of the national parks will not have rubbish bins, the best option is to take it with you if possible.
Further information can be found at: www.southernlakes.org