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The Silk Route - World Travel: New Zealand: Queenstown
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New Zealand: Queenstown
February 2017

En Route from Fox Queenstown Bungee Jumpers & LOTR Pillars of the Kings Arrowtown Lake Hayes & Akarua Winery
Queenstown, New Zealand, from Bob's Peak


On beautiful Lake Wakatipu, backed by the jagged mountain range known as the Remarkables, Queenstown has one of the most spectacular locations in New Zealand. We had some lovely walks around and about with some top class food and wine.

En Route from Fox

Fantail Falls
Fantail Falls
Blue Pools
Blue Pools

We left Fox quite early to drive to Queenstown, stopping on the way at one or two places the motel owner had recommended. We counted fifteen dead possum on the road - all on our side - as we followed the road south along the coast.

Knight's Point was cloudy with fog far out to sea and no sign of whales. We stopped at Fantail Falls which we didn't find particularly spectacular - and disliked all the piles of stones on the river banks!

Blue Pools
Blue Pools

The Blue Pools, however, are beautiful and fully live up to their name. The pools lie just off Highway 6, north of Lake Wanaka in Mount Aspiring National Park.

Blue Pools
Blue Pools

We continued on the Haast Pass road passing on the east side of Lake Wanaka and the west side of Lake Hawea.

Lake Hawea
Lake Hawea
Lake Hawea
Lake Hawea
Lake Hawea
Lake Hawea
Cadrona Hotel

 

Cadrona Hotel

 

From the beautiful lakes we continued south toward Queenstown, stopping at the Cardrona Hotel for lunch. Immense portions of sausage and mash, and blue cod and chips meant that we didn't eat anything else for the rest of the day - apart from ice cream!

An easy drive down the Alpine Road with some nice hairpins nearer Queenstown and a first glimpse of Wakatipu on whose northern shore Queenstown is built.

Approaching Queenstown
Approaching Queenstown.

 

 

We were staying at the Dairy Hotel - actually a reasonably luxurious B&B, but un an excellent location in the centre of town, very close to the gondola which we headed to after checking in. Up to the top of Bob's Peak with fabulous views over the city and Lake Wakatipu.

Queenstown
From Bob's Peak.

 

Queenstown

Queenstown
Patagonia Ice Creamery
Queenstown
Lake Wakatipu

 

Our first stop was the highly-recommended Patagonia Ice Creamery where we rather rashly had two scoops of dark chocolate in a cone, one would certainly have been enough - we still haven't got the hang of giant New Zealand portions!

It was another hot day so we kept in the shade walking around the lake and sat on rocks watching all the activities: speed boats, paragliders towed by boats, and a guy using a jet pack - it took him a while and a few dunkings to master it but he managed!

Queenstown

 

Queenstown

 

Queenstown
Queenstown

We stayed only one night as we were off to Te Anau on the following day. Later we had two further nights in Queenstown towards the end of our holiday. This time we stayed at the Rees Hotel on the lakeside. Unfortunately the building work in front of the hotel hadn't been completed as they had anticipated before our stay. After a little wait they upgraded us to a very luxurious 6th floor room.

Queenstown
View from the Rees Hotel. The Remarkables are the jagged peaks behind.

The hotel is named after William Gilbert Rees, a Welsh explorer who founded Queensland. The hotel website has a lot of information about him, including the fact that he and many members of his extended family were first class cricketers, most famously his cousin W.G.Grace.

The views from the hotel across Lake Wakatipu to the Remarkables are fabulous.

After we'd finally got into our room we took the free hotel shuttle into the city - fortunately we'd reserved places as it was full! On the way the driver stopped at a fabulous viewpoint over the lake.

Queenstown
Another fine view across Lake Wakatipu.
wine tasting queensland

 

We headed for The Winery for a little wine tasting.

wine tasting queensland

 

Queenstown
Queenstown

The system is that you get a small card from the counter which you insert into the individual slot for each wine dispenser. There are three amounts for each wine, different prices of course, and you pay for what you drink.

There are very comfortable chairs to sit and a selection of snacks to buy too.

Queenstown

We stuck to Pinot Noirs and tasted half a dozen. A 2015 Q from the Waitaki at $57.99 a bottle (me), and a 2015 Supernanny from Nanny Goat Vineyards in Central Otago at $67.49 a bottle (Andrew) were the favourites.

We went back to Patagonia - this time having just one scoop of ice cream each! - before walking back to the hotel around Queenstown Gardens and by the lake shore.

Queenstown

Later, as we sat into the hotel bar with our cocktails, we were treated to a lovely sunset on the Remarkables.

Queenstown

 

Bungee Jumpers & LOTR Pillars of the Kings

Bungy jump
Bungy jump

Early the following morning we headed up to Kawarau Bridge for breakfast at A J Hacket (excellent bacon butties) and to watch the bungee jumpers - a mad activity if ever there was one! The instructors making sure everyone was safe before they jumped obviously told them to dive head first, but still quite a few jumped feet first to be pulled up very sharply!

Bungy jump
Pillars of the Kings - KarawauGorge
Kawarau Gorge
Pillars of the Kings - KarawauGorge
Pillars of the Kings - KarawauGorge
Pillars of the Kings - KarawauGorge
Pillars of the Kings - KarawauGorge

 

Across the main road from the Kawarau Bridge is a narrow road leading to Chard Farm vineyard. It also provides access for views of the location of the Pillars of the Kings in the Lord of the Rings film The Fellowship of the Ring, the first part of the trilogy. They serve as the gates of Argonath, enormous statues of Isildur and his brother Anarion on either side of the River Anduin. In reality the river is the Karawau which at this point flows through a steep gorge, though sadly, the enormous statues were added later digitally.

Pillars of the Kings - KarawauGorge

Pillars of the Kings - KarawauGorge
Kawarau River heading to Lake Wakatipu.

As we drove out, heading for Arrowtown, we stopped at another lovely viewpoint over the river. Further west, at Queenstown, the Kawarau drains into Lake Wakatipu.

 

Arrowtown

Arrowtown
Arrowtown

 

 

Arrowtown is a preserved historic village a short distance from Queenstown. The 1860s gold rush brought fortune hunters from around the world when "Maori Jack" Tewa found gold in the Arrow River in 1862.

Arrowtown

The village grew up to serve the fifteen hundred miners who came to try their luck. Many were Chinese and they had their own village nearby.

The end of the gold rush saw a decline in the village, which remained unchanged until emergence as a heritage tourist destination in the 1950s.

It's a pretty spot but very crowded with tourists. We had a look down the main street then, after a very good beer at Fork & Tap we headed out to walk along the river. Arrowtown is also a location of a couple of key scenes from the LOTR movies.

Arrowtown
Arrow River

The Gladden Fields were an area of marshland on the banks of the Gladden River. It was here that Isildur lost the One Ring in the river trying to escape Orcs. Isildur and his companions are shown riding through a forest on the banks of the river - the location is here at the side of the Arrow River.

Arrowtown
Arrowtown
Invasive lupins are a problem in New Zealand.

A second location is where Arwen rides with Frodo to escape the Black Riders, crossing the Ford of Bruinen to reach Rivendell.

Arrowtown
Arrowtown
Ah Lum's store.

The Chinese settlement is very interesting. The men initially lived communally, but there were some single dwellings, small but usually with a fireplace. By 1885 there were ten huts built from combinations of mud brick, wood, stone, canvas and corrugated iron.1 There was also a large social hall, at least two stores and an extensive cultivation area.

Arrowtown
Chinese settlement.

Ah Lum's store was the last to close with his death in 1925, the community essentially dying with it. As well as selling a wide variety of goods, including imported Chinese tea, rice, ginger and opium, it acted as bank and community meeting place.

Arrowtown
Arrowtown
Door handle fashioned from the branch of a tree.


Arrowtown

 

Lake Hayes & Akarua Winery

Lake Hayes
Lake Hayes
Akarua
Central Otago lamb oyster shoulder.

 

We headed back towards Queenstown planning to have lunch at Amisfield Winery, just south of Lake Hayes. They were fully booked which was a disappointment at the time but they recommended the Akarua Winery just up the road and we had a fantastic lunch, one of the best meals we've had anywhere.

akarua winery
Akarua

We started with beef short rib sliders, which were excellent, served with a chipotle mayonnaise. But the main course of Central Otago lamb oyster shoulder was nothing less than spectacular. Accompanied by a first rate Akarua pinot noir. Since having the meal and writing this account we have had some excellent lamb but nothing comes close to this. It was so succulent, full of taste, falling off the bone, and I doubt it can be beaten. A great final meal in New Zealand, for the following day we were to begin our long journey home to Switzerland.

Lake Hayes

 

References

  1. Department of Conservation: Arrowtown Chinese Settlement