A Qantas special earlier this year was offering flights for half the usual Frequent Flyer points, so The Thirsty Travellers snapped up two return tickets to Queenstown.
Ginger had never visited New Zealand before, other than spending a day in Auckland on a cruise many years ago, so she was thrilled to finally make it to the South Island at age 51.
And it’s such a quick and easy destination to visit, at only three hours away from Sydney.
We kicked off our trip with mimosas in the Qantas lounge before heading to Queenstown, which has the most picturesquely situated airport we’ve ever seen.
We collected our hire car and drove straight to the Skyline Gondola for a ride up the hill/mountain, with its breath taking views of Coronet Peak, The Remarkables mountain range and across Lake Wakatipu to Cecil and Walter Peak.
The Skyline complex also features the Stratosfare Bar, where we toasted our arrival with delicious glasses of New Zealand wine while taking in the spectacular view.
We immediately started fantasising about having a holiday house in Queenstown and excitedly Googled real estate.
We loved how everything from the scenery to the architecture looks like a cross between Colorado and Switzerland, except everyone has thick NZ accents.
(Although a later trip into town revealed the centre is a little too touristy for our liking, crammed with souvenir shops and backpackers.)
We stayed at the Queenstown Hilton, which is a little out of town, but offers water taxi transfers to the city centre and has a famed Pinot Pit with an open fire – it’s the perfect spot for admiring the view with a glass of something luscious in your hand.
The hotel had gorgeous views of the lake and our room was very well appointed, with its own fireplace surrounded by comfy couches and a picturesque balcony. The king-sized bed was up a few carpeted steps and looked out at the scenery.
On our second day in Queenstown we went on a day trip to Wanaka via Arrowtown for breakfast.
Arrowtown is so picturesque that it looks like a film set. The Main Street is filled with historic buildings, set against a backdrop of verdant hills.
We’d read a rave review of a cafe down a laneway called Chop House. It lived up to the hype – we shared a plate of huevos rancheros and sipped fabulous coffee in funky surrounds.
It was so good we returned a few days later for another incredibly delicious breakfast.
Then it was time to head over the mountains to Wanaka, a resort town set on the southern end of its namesake lake with views of snowcapped mountains.
After strolling along the lakeside and gazing at the amazing views, we headed to a casual spot called the Big Fig for lunch.
It’s a really clever concept – you choose a small, medium or large plate and then the staff load it up with delicious hot and cold food. We dined on slow cooked lamb with a cheesy kumara bake, pumpkin salad and an apple and cabbage slaw. Delicious!
We skipped getting a deep fried kiwi fruit for dessert from the takeaway place around the corner and grabbed a block of Whittaker’s white chocolate with gingerbread pieces from a convenience store instead. Mmmmmm!
Then we hit the road through the valleys back to Queenstown, stopping at the Gibbston Valley winery along the way to try a couple of tasting flights.
Back in Queenstown, we’d been tipped off by a former colleague of Ginger’s to try Perky’s – a floating bar on the lake. But the water was pretty choppy, so we decided not to risk sea sickness and did our sipping on dry land – with half a dozen oysters kilpatrick – after a quick scenic drive around part of the lake.
We’d have liked longer to explore the more remote parts of the lake – the scenery was sublime – but night was quickly falling.
And so was our time in this gorgeous part of the world – we can’t wait to return and explore the region again soon.