World class golf courses, intimate cafes, epic scenery and variety of adventure sports defines this compact town in Central Otago. You can enjoy tranquility of the nature or pump your adrenaline by indulging in luge, kayaking, jet skiing, hiking within a few Kilometers of Queenstown.
Day 1: Mt. Nicholas Farm Experience Tour
We started our drive from Te Anau at about 8:45 PM. Remember, it was winters and driving any time earlier than that can be risky due to black ice formation. Driving 10 minutes out of Te Anau, the weather was nice and sunny.
Do get the fuel tank full from here as there aren’t many fueling stations on the way.
This landscape appeared very different in early morning than that in late afternoon when we came to Te Anau. It was almost impossible to believe that it was the same highway. The trees and grasslands were shielded with ice crystals as though it was protecting them. I couldn’t resist but to stop and feel the fresh air on my face and touch these crystals on the wild grass.
The road trip in New Zealand is no fun if you don’t stop over at random locations and behold nature. We budgeted the time for it and made it in time to Queenstown for the 1 PM Mt. Nicholas Farm Experience tour with Southern Discoveries. The tour starts at 110 Beach street and includes a cruise ride along the Lake Wakatipu. As we left the shore, it was intriguing to see how Queenstown was such a compact town. We saw this perfectly manicured town transitioning into the gigantic “Remarkables” ski field and the southern alps towards Glenorchy.
Though the farm is just about 30 mins away, the temperature is lower by a few degrees than Queenstown and the views are more serene. We were told that Lake Wakatipu’s water is over 99% pure apart from the duck poop that goes in there. Haha…
At Mt. Nicholas Farm we were greeted by a sheep called ‘Barbie’ along with our guide. She was absolutely adorable and followed us throughout the tour. You can see the farm animals up close and feed sheep and horses as you walk across the farm. You also learn how these animals are bred on the farms while absorbing the ocean of natural beauty around Mt Nicholas. The guide walks you through the entire sheep sheering process and explains how Merino wool manufacturing process is built using sustainable means. This is the most expensive variety of wool which is insanely warm and is exported in large volumes across the globe. The tour also includes a short bus ride to the top of the mountain and you can see over 15000 sheep grazing as you pass by. Once you reach the top, you get to see Walter’s Peak. You have good 15-20 minutes here to relax, get pictures and just enjoy. End the tour with coffee and tea here and do check out the souvenir shop. We requested our tour guide for some pictures with ‘Barbie’ the sheep and the horse and he very kindly obliged. Looking back, I really enjoyed experiencing what it is like to have a farm or be in a farm. I have never seen or done that done so for someone like me, I highly recommend it. It costs about 70 NZD per person and is absolutely worth it. Click here to book.
The cruise returns at about 5:00 PM. The town center is fairly small in area but is bustling with shops to meet the needs of travelers and locals. It has variety of eating options, supermarkets, sports gear and accessories rentals and souvenir shops to suffice all kind of requirements.
Day 2: Glenorchy
The drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy along lake Wakatipu is recorded as one of the best road trips in the world. This 45 Kms drive has panoramic alpine views; the road running parallel to lake Wakatipu and the snow capped southern alps in the backdrop. This makes it a very enjoying outing by car.
Start the day early if you can, as there is lots of scenic spots to see on the way and beyond Glenorchy. We stopped at multiple lookouts on the way. The drive has signs marked for the scenic lookouts which are quite safe to stop by and are indeed worth your time. We reached Glenorchy Wharf around 12 Noon and spend the next couple of hours here enjoying the bright sunny day. Photography enthusiasts would spend quite a few hours here to get the perfect shots. The town centre has about 5-10 shops with few restaurants. Nothing fancy but does feed your stomach. We decided to have coffee and muffin at ‘The Trading Post’ which has award winning organic Fairtrade coffee. It was really amazing and gave me the caffeine I needed.
Continue further up from Glenorchy to see Diamond Creek, Diamond Lake, Mt Alfred & Routeburn Flats. The location near Mt. Alfred is where Isengard of Lord of the Rings was shot! My wife is a Lord of the rings fan and this was an absolute treasure for her eyes. I have never seen her going this crazy on a vacation as this one!
Once you are back to Queenstown, keep some time for Luge. It is super fun activity.
Over and beyond, if you have extra days, do not forget the nature trails of Queenstown which spreads over 110 Kms by foot or cycle. You can do short trails or longer ones depending on how much time you have. The longer trails are more rewarding. No pains, no gains remember. 🙂 🙂
Hope you do get a chance to see this wonderland and a natural theater that did not fail to surprise us on any given day.