New Zealand > South Island > Exquisite Queenstown

Thursday, 7th Aug 2008

After a good night’s rest at the warm and comfy Youth Hostel in Twizel, we are ready to leave for another day’s adventure. The morning is bitterly cold and everything is frosted over. Just my type of weather. Twizel is 290km from Christchurch and today our aim is to reach famous Queenstown, a further 200km to the southwest.

Twizel is small town of 1000 people, founded in 1968 to service a major hydro scheme. But when the project was completed, the town refused to die but transformed into a tourist centre. Even our Youth Hostel dorm above was a former project site office.

We continue westwards along Route 8, and begin to appreciate the tourism value of this area. There are more wonderful sceneries, more ski fields …

… and more beautiful lakes.

On a still cold winter morning, icy Lake Ruataniwha becomes a mirror.

25km down the road, we stop at an even smaller town than Twizel, a place called Omarama, but world famous for gliding. We are having brekky.

Just sandwiches and flat white coffee for us.

And flipping through the wrinkled local paper … hey, hey, hey, a Malaysian lass talking about religion in Dunedin.

Leaving Omarama we get into some serious countryside.

We are passing another plain before crossing the next mountain range. I’m beginning to get tired of snowy mountains. This is Lindis Pass.

We then enter Lindis Valley. Notwithstanding the road, are we in Middle Earth?

This valley is another spot susceptible to heavy snow which can block the road altogether.

Later, another section of Lindis Pass at a lower altitude, hence the lack of snow.

After the rugged Lindis Valley, we arrive at peaceful Cromwell. Yes, you guess it, another tourist spot.

We are in Central Otago, and just outside Cromwell along Highway 6 to Queenstown, we spot a fruit shop. And we love fruits!

We duly park our car alongside the others.

“Keep Your Grubby Hands Off!” … yes, the first thing I see is this multilingual reminder. In Chinese, Korean and Japanese? I did spot busloads of Koreans during the drive yesterday and today (based on the signs in Korean pasted on the buses’ windscreens). Even the cashier in this fruiterer is Japanese.

Apart from fruits, we find other goodies: dried fruits, nuts, chocs, of all shapes and hues.

A few km away, we come to Kawarau Gorge, where there’s a famous old gold mine …

… just across the gorge.

This place is a centre for adventure sports such as jetboating, white-water rafting and bungy-jumping. The first ever commercial bungy-jumping site is in the neighbourhood, over this very river. Downstream, I see moored jetboats …

… and on the other side, the Kawarau River cuts its way through spectacular cliffs. Btw the water looks turquoise, just like the two glacial lakes we saw yesterday. The water comes from glacial Lake Wakatipu where Queenstown is.

Half an hour later we enter the Queenstown area, and we have our first sight of The Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu. Man, I’m beginning to fall in love with Queenstown.

We drive straight into town, and realise that our lodge is somewhere up there on that hill.

We make our way to the Hippo Lodge, which is indeed on high ground.

The view from our room is fantastic – we can see right up the main street of Queenstown down below. And of course Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables.

We decide to leave our car at the lodge and walk to town. It’s a steep easy downhill stroll all the way, and I’m beginning to dread to return uphill walk to the lodge.

In downtown Queenstown, this modernist clock tower is a landmark. With just 10,000+ people, it is the largest town in Central Otago.

They say Queenstown is the capital of adventure sports in NZ, and hence by default, the world. I won’t argue.

The streets are full of adventure sports purveyors, you will be spoilt for choice on how to try to kill yourself creatively, for a fee of course.

It’s common to see young folks swaggering down the streets with skis and snowboards on their shoulders.

And ma’am falls in love with this shop – it sells quality knitting wools. We come all the way to the adventure sports capital of the world and we go shopping for wools?

Nearby, a notice about some flaming winter gig. Too much curry, mate?

A money-changer quotes Malaysian Ringgit. Maybe Mr VK Lingam has made Queenstown popular to Malaysians? ๐Ÿ˜€

Needless to say it is a bitterly cold day in Queenstown today, and a pub is always a great place to thaw oneself.

But the jewel of Queenstown must be Lake Wakatipu with The Remarkables as backdrop.

Wakatipu is NZ’s 3rd largest lake. At an altitude of 300m and with max depth of 400m, which means the deepest part of the lake is 100m below sea level. This glacial lake is virtually a deep 80km-long, 5km-wide trench.

A paraglider soars past Cecil Peak at 1974m.

A local denizen, not bothered by the freezing temp one single bit.

I hear a horn and to my amazement, a smokey steamer appears.

Making a u-turn right infront of me, the Earnslaw, a NZ icon, has been working since 1912.

Next to me, an unattended business because the CEO is out fishing. I want his job!

Curious Chinese kids flock around a street, or should I say, a lake artist.

My first encounter with a kiwi.

On a lakeside lawn, a stage is being set up, maybe for the flaming concert? And HUMMEN?

We leave downtown and come across this interesting contraption. A place to gather courage for your bungy as long as you do not exceed 100kg, and it’s full of kids. They do start them young!

Queenstown has a cable car, and I’m a fan of cable cars, so here we go. Note the Malaysian flag. Thanks, VK. :mrgreen:

The system is from Austria, from the same contractor which did the Langkawi Cable Car, but the ride up the mountain is harmless, no way as scary as Langkawi’s.

And soon we reach the top.

The view from the station at the top is fantastic. Queenstown at bottom left as Lake Wakatipu turns southwards.

Lake Wakatipu to the west. We are indeed lucky to have such great winter weather.

At the station, one can still take the lift to the peak.

A view of downtown Queenstown, with a bungy platform in the foreground.

Yes, there’s never a shortage of suckers tourists trying bungy-jumping, esp. in Queenstown.

We descend as the sun sets, and time to look for dinner. A halal kebab outlet, what a welcoming sight! And the lamb kebab never tastes better.

This is quite a nice part of Queenstown – restaurants and the odd casino thrown in. Surely this must be tourists’ heaven.

We finally make our way to our lodge for a well-earned rest. And if you ever spot this minibus, just tail it. I’m sure you’ll have a great time! ๐Ÿ˜€


For orientation of the above spots, please CLICK HERE.



20 Responses to “New Zealand > South Island > Exquisite Queenstown”

  1. fara on 30 Aug 2008 at 2044 #

    A picture says a thousand words, but some can render one speechless!!…And I miss going on cable cars (with y’all that is!!) ๐Ÿ˜‰


  2. naim on 31 Aug 2008 at 2345 #

    Sure, Fara, but nothing beats being there personally. The actual cable car ride was disappointing, esp. after having esperienced the awesome but scary Langkawi one. :mrgreen:

  3. Din on 22 Jun 2010 at 1451 #

    Naim, as always you are a master story teller !

  4. che wan badrul alias on 24 Nov 2010 at 2122 #

    Salam. saya Che Wan repoter Berita harian. saya ingin dapatkan maklumat lanjut berhubung perjalanan anda ke New Zealand. kesemua diari perjalanan ini sangat menarik dan saya berminat untuk melihat menggunakannya untuk paparan di Kolum Pengembaraan Berita Harian. sila hubungi saya menerusi e-mail saya.

  5. mariyam on 15 Feb 2011 at 1735 #


    saya mariyam dari penang. boleh bagi sedikit info tentang nz. saya dan kawan hendak kesana 1/3/2011-sampai 16/3/2011. sekarang saya tengah survey tentang halal restaurant.tempat di lawati auckland.wellington,rotorua,christhurch and queenstown.klu boleh sila jawab melalui email saya.terima kasih.

  6. naim on 15 Feb 2011 at 2034 #

    Mariyam, we only searched for halal restaurants in Queenstown, as per my blog story. At other places, we just ate seafood at normal restaurants, which are plentiful & good. You can always google for halal outlets, try for e.g.

    Have a great trip!

  7. Amir on 20 Apr 2011 at 1052 #

    As salam,

    I am thrilled to read your blog as my family and I will be leaving for NZ (Southern Island) next month for our annual vacation. Its gonna be our first trip to NZ we’re so excited about it esp after see all those beautiful pics posted in your blog. Do you have any tips esp on the clothing? Its gonna be fall season early may but I was told the weather there can be quite unpredictable. Tqvm.

  8. naim on 22 Apr 2011 at 2230 #

    Clothing in May? Go to and check historical to see how weather had been in the past for your selected location. Yes, NZ has unpredictable weather with high precipitation in the cold season. So dress up for a cold winter outing (sub-10C) — headcover (esp. beanies) & gloves important also. Don’t forget to enjoy yourselves! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. zulaikha on 22 May 2011 at 1301 #

    one day i will reach queenstown, insyaAllah.

  10. naim on 25 May 2011 at 1052 #

    You’ll get there one day, now with easier and cheaper access.

  11. amal on 25 Jun 2011 at 1913 #

    I am going to new zealend on the 26/6/2011 and it is going to be so much fun.

  12. mat on 02 Oct 2011 at 0423 #

    Salam Naim, what beautiful sights, after looking at your photos, I must plan a trip to nz one day. I noted your stay at YH and at Hippo Lodge, do you pre-book these lodging, or walk-in, are they reasonably comfortable for couples.

  13. yatiwa on 04 Oct 2011 at 1410 #

    InsyaAllah our trip will be next year in September, 2012. Can’t wait to reach there. Can we bring any dry foods from Malaysia to NZ? Did you rent a car and drive or was your trip arranged by a travel agent?

  14. naim on 05 Oct 2011 at 1256 #

    Food into NZ is as tough as into Australia. See here for details:
    Car rental is DIY, but book it before you arrive to ensure you get the model that you want with minimal hassle. There’re plenty of car rentals online on the web.

  15. naim on 05 Oct 2011 at 1300 #

    Thanks, preferably pre-book via the web. These sort of lodges are normally small and popular, so rooms can run out quickly. They are pretty decent for couples, no problem.

  16. hanes on 18 Oct 2011 at 1018 #

    thanks heaps for staying at our place ( hippo lodge ).

  17. Dian on 21 Dec 2011 at 1529 #

    Salam, im pretty excited to see your photos in here! InsyaAllah me & hubby will be leaving for a vacation to South Island on Feb 2012. So its summer time, is it worth to go at this time or winter time?
    We’re planning to drive from Christchurch to Queenstown, what do you think? Is the journey way too long for self-drive and costly? The whole trip route is Christchurch-Queenstown-Te Anau-Milford Sound-Wanaka-Franz Josef-Greymouth (TranzAlpine Scenic Train) back to Christchurch. Got my tips mostly from a travel program on 8tv- “Now Everyone Can Fly to NZ”/ Book-Lonely Planet NZ. Any ideas for great activities/ info? Tq!

  18. naim on 22 Dec 2011 at 1520 #

    Thanks, Dian, in summer weather is more stable. Winter can be bitterly cold with snowstorms blocking the roads linking eastern and western South Island. But then I think the place looks really pretty with more snow, so maybe late fall or early winter? You have to do more research on which season is more amenable you. You itinerary is good, almost similar to mine, and the driving in NZ is a pleasure — possibly the best country I’ve driven in, though the highway are only 2 lanes, and many bridges are 1 lane — which means in summer traffic could be heavy. You need to break your Christchurch-Queenstown drive … take it easy, loads of scenery to take in.

  19. Zubaidah on 31 Oct 2012 at 1134 #

    Salam Sister Naim

    Lovely pictures..
    My family plans to go to NZ…but our concern is halal food…I heard its not easy to access halal food. I dont plan to cook there.

    Please advice.


  20. naim on 31 Oct 2012 at 1256 #

    Thanks, Zubaidah. For our travels, we always rely on for halal tips — look up NZ.
    Otherwise just opt for seafood — NZ has abundant fresh and tasty seafood.
    Halal kebab outlets are also available in major towns.

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