Activities to do in Queenstown, NZ in August

Mar 11th, 2009, 03:27 PM
  #1  
PE
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Activities to do in Queenstown, NZ in August

My 18 year old son and I will be spending 3 1/2 days in Queenstown, NZ the last week of August. Neither of us are skiers. What kind of activities are there to do that time of year? I'm just not sure how cold it will be, or how much snow there could be on the ground. We will definitely spend 1 day doing a day trip to Milford Sound (probably a fly/coach combination). Any other good day trips (with organized tours) that time of year? I know Queenstown is the adventure capital...would it be too cold to do a jet boat trip? We would be interested in a LOTR tour, if there are any recommended ones. Thank you! Pam
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Mar 11th, 2009, 04:13 PM
  #2  
 
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Check out Nomad Safaris tours. We did their tour of Skipper's Canyon (with a wonderful tour guide named Fran) that was FANTASTIC. (It includes some of the LOTR sights.) They also do an actual LOTR tour.

Take the gondola for fantastic views and walking trails.

When you go to Milford Sound be sure to choose a tour that stops at Mirror Lakes en route. We liked it even better than Milford Sound.

It's sooooo beautiful in Queenstown in the winter. I'm jealous But it will be cold.
Songdoc is online now  
Mar 11th, 2009, 04:44 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Hi PE!

It will be cold on the jet boat, but it's totally worth it! Take gloves, cuz gripping the bar as you spin will freeze your fingers right to it! Layer and wear a hat.

Agree with Songdoc on Nomad Safaris - a great company with fantastic tours; the gondola's a must do as well as Song says. If you're interested in experiencing some Maori culture, you can check out the Kiwi Haka show in the theater at Bob's Peak. A very good show, not overly long as some are, and the performers will walk out to the front doors after the performance and pose for pictures and answer questions, which is great and a wonderful memory/photo op.

Hope this is helpful!

Regards,

Melodie
Certified Kiwi Specialist
wlzmatilida is offline  
Mar 12th, 2009, 03:10 AM
  #4  
PE
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Thanks for the great suggestions so far! Is there a company anyone would or would not recommend for the trip to Milford Sound?
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Mar 12th, 2009, 09:49 AM
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I've pasted in an excerpt of my trip report that might be helpful:

So, back to Queenstown … we both had the lunch special at Tatler—a chicken breast and mash w/beverages ($28 NZ total). Very tasty! Strolled among the shops and bought some gloves; it was getting COLD, but we didn’t mind because we were so grateful for our eighth consecutive day of gorgeous, sunny skies. Walked back in awe of the views from the wharf, then through the very pleasant gardens, and back to our hotel where we ate dinner, looking at that hard-to-believe view as the sunset, cradled the snow-crowned mountains in a soft pink glow.

With another day of perfect weather forecast, we were picked up at 7 AM to begin our journey to Milford Sound with “Real Journeys.” It was still mostly dark by 8 AM, so we didn’t have much scenery until we reached Lake Wakatipo. The views would have been better had we sat on the “right” side (facing front). But later on, other views were better on the left. Parts of the drive were utterly spectacular. We stopped for a photo op at Mirror Lakes and it was incredible, reflecting snow covered mountain peaks on the surface of the water. A few minutes later we stopped at a much larger lake where (hard to believe) the views went to a whole next level. There were several additional photo stops including a stop at the “swinging bridge”—each one practically evoking gasps from the sheer awe inspiring beauty.

At a stop in Te Anau, we bought scarves—and were grateful to have them during the next few days. But because the cruise went quite slowly, it wasn’t as windy or cold as I’d feared.

To be honest … we both felt the cruise itself was very nice and the scenery was beautiful—but not as impressive as the scenery en route. If I were not comparing it to some of the majestic scenery imaginable, I’d probably be raving about Milford Sound. In addition to the views, we saw one little fur seal lounging on a rock, and numerous bottlenose dolphins, who put on quite a show, leaping from the water to the delight of those on our boat. There was also an up close and personal visit to a lovely waterfall. The buffet lunch ($29 per person—but included as part of the “winter special” price” of $219 for the coach and boat tour) was adequate, but nothing special. Coffee and tea were available at no charge throughout the cruise.

FYI, there’s NO way I’d want to drive to Milford Sound on my own. Much of the way, the roads were narrow, constantly twisting mountain passes, with no guard rails—and I wanted to concentrate on the magnificent scenery—not on keeping my rental car on the road. There were several slick icy areas that would have made me very nervous. I’d say this trip should not be missed—but it wasn’t for the reasons I expected!

Taking the coach to Milford; cruising; and then returning by coach with Real Journeys was $219 (NZ) pp. To fly back would have added an additional $270 pp. The majority of those on our bus did indeed fly back and I’m sure the views must have been spectacular—but we opted for the coach, because we’d already seen similar views from the air when we flew in—and because $978 (for two) for a one-day tour would have unnecessarily burdened our budget.

One of the best unexpected treats came as the sun set on that beautiful landscape, when the sky overflowed with more stars than I’d ever seen in my life. It was utterly mesmerizing to see hundreds of bright stars stretched from the very bottom of the horizon, across virtually every inch of that black backdrop. By the time we pulled back into Queenstown, the lights of the city had erased most of those stars, but I felt very fortunate to have experienced that bit of magic.

We were now officially in love with this part of New Zealand, but there was more to cinch the deal. I was in NZ to present a series of songwriting seminars, and to promote the events on TV and radio shows. Well, as luck would have it, the organizer’s sister (Fran) is a professional tour guide with Nomad Safaris, one of the leading tour companies. She insisted on giving us her best tour on her day off. She borrowed one of the company’s land rovers and proceeded to show us scenery that was nothing short of incredible. There’s too much to even begin to describe—and I don’t know all the names of the places she took us.

Skippers Canyon (where some Lord of the Rings scenes had been filmed) would have to be a highlight among highlights. I don’t know what it would look like in summer, but with the mountains covered in snow, we were gasping at the views. FYI, I would NOT recommend driving these roads in a rental car (or any other car, for that matter!) —even if they had not been icy or muddy. They were extremely narrow winding, and when a grader needed to pass, I surely would have had a heart attack, backing up a long distance—with no guard rails. Knowing that Fran has been doing this safely, every day for years, I was relaxed and trusted we’d be fine.

Views of the Shotover River were “WOW,” and she brought us down to a beach where our camera got quite a workout. She’d brought thermoses filled with hot coffee, tea, and hot chocolate, as well as an array of goodies—and it was an astoundingly beautiful spot to picnic. In addition to the scenic views, we enjoyed the interesting, colored smooth rocks along the shore.

We made a stop at a lookout near the Chard Winery that afforded amazing views of the bungee bridge; another bridge and more of that scenery (that’s beginning to require new superlatives—maybe “super-superlatives”!)

We lunched on delicious meat pies and roast vegetables at Café Mondo ($64 for three) in charming Arrowtown. It was nice strolling down the main street and browsing in the shops, as a break from gawking at scenery. But then we continued on to yet another lookout, high above the city where I took picture after picture of the lake, with those gorgeous snow-capped mountains behind it. By the end of the day, I’d taken more than a hundred pictures! Some of them came out great—but it was hard to capture the grandeur of the scenery, without the inclusion of people or cars, to give perspective. The “Remarkables” were well named  .

I’d strongly urge taking the Nomad tour. It was the highlight of our trip. We could never have seen these places on our own—and Fran was the consummate tour guide; intuitively knowing every time I even thought about stopping to take a picture—and we appreciated that her commentary was loud, clear, and easy to understand.

Our final day in Queenstown, we walked the lake trail back to town and it seemed that this time, the views were even more beautiful; it must have been the light. Lunch was at a little juice bar that had been recommended. It’s on the wharf directly across from the Earnshaw Steamship wharf. We had fantastic soups and sandwiches.

We strolled the pleasant Botanical gardens (nothing very special) to the gondola. I thought I’d have been immune to views by now, but the views from the lookout were simply incredible. We took a thirty minute walk along the “loop trail” which we enjoyed, but it was mostly within heavily forested areas, not affording many views. At one point, paragliders were flying so close to us, we could talk to them as they flew by! I wished I’d had time to do the luge—but by the time I’d decided that it looked like safe fun, we needed to be going. Maybe next time, I’ll try both of those activities.

We bid a sad farewell to one of the most beautiful places on earth, as we took the forty minute flight to Christchurch, where I’d be teaching a two-day workshop. Arriving in Christchurch, we took Royal shuttle service ($25 for both of us) to the Hotel Grand Chancellor. We’d booked a special deal through their website for $119/nt (NZ) including a very good continental breakfast. The hotel was excellent—and well located, and we’d definitely recommend it.
Songdoc is online now  
Mar 12th, 2009, 01:53 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,283
ah..Songdoc, thanks for reminding me about the Luge! I don't know how I forgot!

PE, you and your son will love it -- a 2 minute "instruction" is given and you have the "Beginner" course and the "Advanced". After one run on beginner I was off to the Advanced - lots of fun, very very easy.

Regards,

Melodie
Certified Kiwi Specialist
wlzmatilida is offline  

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