Queenstown is a picturesque city that many Kiwis and Ozzys visit for holiday, and it’s very easy to see why. The flight from Auckland was a 2 hour direct flight that deplaned directly on the tarmac. The American equivalent city would be Aspen or Vail since it’s very popular for winter sport activities, but also beautiful to hike in the non-winter months. There are mountains surrounding you everywhere with mirrored lakes and post card worthy scenery. Keep in mind that since New Zealand is south of the equator, their seasons are opposite of ours. April is spring for North Americans, but Fall season for countries below the equator. Pack accordingly! Plus, the further south you go, the colder it gets.
We arrived in Queenstown at 9am and counted our first day as a full day of sightseeing. We stayed at the Pounamu hotel apartments which was very comfortable with mountain and lake views. The hotel itself wasn’t right in the city, but it was a quick 10 minute walk with the perfect balance of nature and convenience.
Transportation– the airport is very small and easy to navigate. The taxi ride to the Pounamu was about $40 NZD (roughly about $28 USD) mainly because they charge you this ‘airport’ surcharge when you leave. **I did notice that we weren’t charged that when we went back to the airport for our departure.** The taxi ride lasted about 15 mins, and would have been an extra 5 minutes if you stay in town.
Tip- If you don’t feel like walking back to the hotel from town, you can catch a bus that charges $9 NZD for 2 people. It’s about $10-12 NZD if you take a taxi, so if you are traveling with more than 2, this is probably the most economical route.
Hotel Accommodations- Pounamu Hotels (5 stars)
For the location and price, I felt that this hotel was a mix of clean, modern decor and was a great value overall. We traveled with my husband’s parents, so there was plenty of space for 4 people with separate rooms on either ends of the apartment.
Enjoying the beautiful unobstructed views with the fireplace going and warm tea
Day 1– We walked 10 minutes to town, went shopping, enjoyed some dessert, sat by the lake people watching, and took a gondola up to dinner at Skyline Queenstown
Tip- Lunch at Skyline Queenstown. We did the dinner option at Skyline. I do not recommend this because it’s dark, and you can’t see any views from the gondola or restaurant. Go for lunch for the views and it’s cheaper.
Scenic 10 minute walk from the hotel
Grab a cookie and ice snack and take it down to the lake
Go during the day. You can’t see anything at night
Day 2– Milford Sound Tour
The Milford Sound Tour is a must see if you are visiting New Zealand. It is a national park that is about 4-5 hours away if you are driving direct by car. If you don’t feel comfortable driving, then there are many tours that you can take.
Tip- **Bring motion sickness medicine, just in case. There are lots of windy roads up the mountains, and choppy water during the ‘ocean’ part of the cruise tour**
- This is an entire day tour that will pick you up at around 7am, and drop off is around 7pm.
- The first leg took 2 hours to Te Anu, NZ with a rest stop to pick up others and use the restrooms/toilets ($2 NZD).
- Then, it’s a 3 hour drive into the mountains with plenty of stops to get off the bus and take photos along the way.
- The final stop is a cruise ride of the Milford Sound that can last anywhere b/w 1.5 hours to 3 hours depending on which boat tour you pick.
- Note that if you take the shorter cruise, you will still have to wait for the others to get back. Everyone on the bus takes the same trip back regardless of length of cruise.
- The trip back is 4 hours total with only one stop in Te Anu for drop off and restroom break.
7 am sunrise while we waited for the tour bus from hotel
One of the stops along the way
There were waterfalls everywhere because of the rain
Milford Sound from cruise boat
Day 3– Take a stroll in Queenstown Gardens, afternoon snack and beer lakeside, sunset dinner at Rees Hotel
Dinner at Rees Hotel about 30 minute walk from city
Tip- Make sure to book a reservation before sundown to catch the views
Separate menus for men and women :/
Panko crusted salmon
Lamb tenderloin with garden veggies
Queenstown was the perfect blend of relaxation and adventure. It is definitely somewhere that I recommend everyone visit at least once.