Queenstown: The adventure capital of the world, the jewel of New Zealand, the most beautiful place in the world.*
*These are all phrases that others described the town as – not me. Just being honest here…
Hell, even when I had the chance to ask Sean Astin for advice on where to go in New Zealand (pre-move), he raved endlessly about Queenstown, Queenstown, Queenstown. “It’s way down south, but definitely worth it. So many people don’t go. You have to go. Trust me. Go to Queenstown.”
Right. Okay. “THIS PLACE MUST BE LIKE HEAVEN ON EARTH,” I thought.
My expectations were set WAY too high for this small place. We stayed two nights in Queenstown, but by the third day, I was worn out and ready to leave. I didn’t understand why it was so hyped up in the first place.
Yes, Queenstown is beautiful. It has mountains, beautiful lakes, great bars, eateries, tiny shops, and virtually every activity you could dream of (whether water, air, ground – everything except space). And if there’s one place to bungee, canyon swing, skydive, paraglide, hangglide, jetboat, kayak, cycle, fly a helicopter, or hike, it would be there.
However, it’s a tourist destination. This means: (1) Everything is extremely overpriced compared to the rest of the already-pricey New Zealand, and (2) tourists are unavoidable – it’s tough to meet friendly locals here. I don’t blame them for not wanting to live here.
I think of it as Lake Tahoe on steroids when it comes to beauty, but much smaller. Central Queenstown consists of about two main streets – and while the nightlife is rampant and “amazing” to others, I wasn’t keen on it. It was like college, round two, with a crapton of expats and the obnoxious travelers I usually avoid.
There are, of course, lots of things to keep one busy if they’re only visiting for a few days. But to live there? I just couldn’t picture myself being happy (hence why I attempted living in Wanaka instead, for a hot second).
I did have quite a few adventures on my own, notably wandering the Queenstown Botanical Gardens, a walk around the lake, wandering into Frankton along the coastal trail, mountain biking (on the most uncomfortable bike seat ever), eating the best ice cream (Patagonia Chocolates), exploring the Ben Lomond Track, and finding the entrance to Glenorchy (where I would love to go horse trekking, eventually).
We also went luging below the gondola, which yielded spectacular aerial views of the lake.
Queenstown, you were good to me, but I could go on for ages about why Wellington trumps you any day. To all others: by all means, visit Queenstown and experience it. But I assure you, there are heaps more serene, beautiful places than Queenstown in New Zealand – ask any local, and I’m sure they’d rightfully agree. Queenstown’s neighbors, Wanaka and Arrowtown, are far more enjoyable, especially since you won’t be bothered by endless amounts of tourists.