Heading into Queenstown, I did not really know what to expect. All I knew was it is one of the most touristy spots in South New Zealand and is famous for its extreme sports.
Why was it so touristy? Well, I didn’t get that far.
But the moment we arrived in Queenstown and I took in the view surrounding the city, I immediately knew why. It is truly beautiful!
Set in a valley surrounded by incredible mountains and a huge turquoise lake, this trendy town has it all. Amazing restaurants, awesome shops, and unlimited activities to explore the town and its surroundings.
Like I have said before, some places are touristy for a reason.
The first bit of fun we were about to have when we arrived was surprising Kevin’s friend Andrew. While they were in Africa together last year, Kevin told Andrew that he would see him in New Zealand this February. So Kevin and Andrew’s wife, Annie, secretly organized us meeting up in Queenstown for Andrew’s birthday. It just so happened that we would be in Queenstown the weekend they would be there.
It could not have worked out better.
Actually, it could…
When we arrived, we headed down to the boardwalk along the water to check things out before meeting up with Andrew and Annie. It just so happened as we were walking around, Kevin spotted Andrew on his own looking out at the lake. Kevin saw his opportunity and went for it!
Kevin strolled right up next to Andrew and looked out the lake as well. Behind the two of them, I could see Andrew slowly recognize Kevin. Clearly confused, he stared at him and slowly lifted his hand to tap him on the shoulder to see if it was true. It was awesome. He did not see this coming. As Andrew is not on Facebook, he had no idea that Kevin was even in New Zealand! It was such a wonderful surprise.
Our plan for the weekend was to stay with Andrew and Annie, and their two kids at a holiday home with the most magnificent view of Lake Wakatipu. I was definitely not sad to leave the campervan for a couple of days and soak in this view. The place was perfect.
Over the next couple of days, we caught up with Andrew and Annie, had a couple of amazing dinners and even got to witness Annie’s gift to Andrew for his birthday – bungee jumping!
I mean, we were in Queenstown right?
While Kevin and I did not bungee jump, we did have fun on the luge track with Andrew and the kids.
Overall, it was an awesome couple of days. So great that we are planning to come back to New Zealand next year to visit Andrew and Annie’s sheep farm near Queenstown. We are going to work on the farm with Andrew and learn the ins and outs of sheep farming!
While we felt like we had experienced the best of New Zealand, we definitely felt like we were missing out when it came to the sheep.
So, we will resolve that next year!
After we said goodbye to Andrew and Annie, Kevin and I set out on our own adventure to explore the beauty of Queenstown and the nearby Fiordlands with a flight and cruise through the Milford Sound!
The flight and cruise combo was a four hour adventure including a flight from Queenstown to the Milford Sound, a cruise through the Milford Sound and then a flight back to Queenstown.
We were really excited!
After a quick introduction at the airport, we loaded into our tiny plane.
The last time I was in a plane this small with Kevin, we were in Cape Town when I jumped out of it…
This ride should be much more relaxing, I thought…
The views from the plane were incredible! I thought New Zealand was beautiful from the ground but this took it to a whole new level. Kevin and I were snapping our cameras as fast as we could trying to capture every view.
After about an hour, we arrived in the Milford Sound and transferred onto the boat for the next part of our tour.
It just kept getting better. Also, we could not have been more lucky with the weather. It was literally a perfect day!
Let me explain that more. The Milford Sound has a mean annual rainfall of 6,813mm on 182 days per year. It is known as the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand and one of the wettest in the world. Rainfall can reach 250 mm during a span of 24 hours.
So yes, we were extremely lucky to have a day out there with barely a cloud in the sky.
The views along the water were amazing! The blue water, endless waterfalls and even the odd dolphin made for an incredible afternoon. But it was not quite over yet.
After the cruise, we got back into the plane heading back to Queenstown. As expected, the magnificent views continued along the way.
Overall, it was an amazing day exploring the Milford Sound. The flight portion of the trip allowed us to see the city and the area from a perspective we otherwise would have missed. I was so grateful for the opportunity we had, along with every other opportunity we have had over the last year.
We do not take moments like these for granted!
As if the day couldn’t get any better, that night we headed to Rata for dinner.
Rata is New Zealand Masterchef Judge, Josh Emett’s, restaurant in Queenstown. Oddly enough, we met one of his wife’s friends on the plane to Christchurch and she recommended we go there. Josh trained under Gordon Ramsay, and earned himself a Michelin star at Savoy Grill in London as Gordon Ramsay’s head chef. Since then, he opened Rata in Queenstown and has continued to receive rave reviews for the restaurant.
Even better, Rata is fine dining with a casual atmosphere. We walked in there with our jeans and rain jackets on and were not even close to being out of place.
My kind of restaurant!
It was difficult to choose our meals for dinner. Everything sounded AMAZING!
We ordered a couple of starters, two amazing mains and then dessert.
Now, I have to talk a little bit about these macaroons.
If I go into a sweet shop, I never have my eye on macaroons. They are okay but in general I find them highly overrated. These were not overrated. These were the most flavourful, delicious, amazing macaroons I have ever had in my life.
They stole the show that night.
I knew we were coming back. I needed to try far more on that menu, and eat those macaroons again.
The next day we explored around Queenstown and got organized for our next adventure – our 3 day 2 night hike on the Routeburn!
It was our second and last Great Walk of New Zealand to conquer. It was bittersweet. While we had been anxiously waiting for the experience, it signalled the end of our trip to this magnificent country.
Luckily, I had a feeling it wouldn’t disappoint.