24 hours in Queenstown

Beautiful Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown.

Beautiful Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown.

The beauty of New Zealand’s South Island was captured earlier this year in Jane Campion’s unrelentingly depressing mini-series Top of the Lake. Filmed mostly in Glenorchy (which became the fictional Lake Top), the subject matter might have been bleak but contrasted with the metallic hued Lake Wakatipu lapping up against the pebbled foreshore and looming mountains, the effect was mesmerising.  It’s almost impossible not to exclaim dramatically, your breath escaping in excited puffs when looking out at the lake, especially when the mountains are capped in snow.

Queenstown is the South adventure sports capital.  The first bungy jump in the world was established here and you can do everything from para-sailing to cycling, as well as skiing and snowboarding in the winter. But for those less inclined to adrenaline pumping, Queenstown has plenty of great places to eat, drink and be awfully merry.

Here’s a guide on how to spend 24 hours in Queenstown well- no Kathmandu gear required.

8 am – Wake up in The Spire’s dreamy cocoon of a bed. The ten-room, award winning boutique hotel is run by sisters Lucy and Zoe Gain who have an eye for detail. Snuggle into the Eames chair by the gas fire, have a bath using all of the Loccitane products and flick through the well chosen magazines (Tatler! Fashion Quarterly!) in the lounge.


9am – Breakfast at Vudu Larder. This bustling, kitschy cafe is a bit like Frankie Magazine has come to life with its vintage spoons and trays of delicious sweet things on display. They do a great creamy Allpress coffee (albeit served in enormous latte glasses). Try the blackberry and blueberry pancakes with honeycomb and lemon butter, and definitely pick up a nut studded brownie for later.

11am – It’s 11am, must be time for some adventure sports. For those not keen on the bungy jump or other Queenstown extreme sports, jet boating is a less intense, but still pulse quickening option. Don a life jacket and be prepared to scream as an alarmingly laidback driver take you careening down the canyons of the Shotover river. Fun fact, Sir Ian McKellan, AKA Gandalf, is one of many famous faces to have braved the rapids. 

1pm – Calm the nerves with a hot, flaky pie from the Ferg Baker. It’s a worthy alternative to the rather famous Fergburger next door, (which of course you must try).

2pm – At this point you should probably go for a walk, yeah?  You could combine it with some shopping. Pop into Angel Divine for great Kiwi designers such as Karen Walker, Stolen Girlfriend’s Club and Zambesi. The Remarkables lolly shop sells homemade fudge, you should go there too.

Another surprisingly fun, if slightly (ok, very) daggy, thing to do is mini golf in Queenstown’s quite elaborate, 18-hole Caddy Shack put put centre. Best to try and squash the unseemly competitiveness that mini-golf tends to bring to the surface. 

 3pm – Queenstown is surrounded by some great wine wineries, especially in the Gibbston Valley region. Hopping on a wine tour is an excellent way to make the most of them (and, er, have a designated driver). Companies such as Queenstown Wine Trail offer group and private tours, or you could posh it up with a  Black ZQN chauffeur, which ensures you’re quaffing where you want to quaff.

For some lovely pinot noir (the region’s specialty) the beautiful Chard Farm vineyard, complete with a French style building is one to try, as is the smaller, appointment only Coal Pit.

7pm – Finish up your day with an excellent dinner. Former Masterchef NZ judge and Michelin starred Josh Emmet’s Rata restaurant is worth a splurge with its focus on seasonal, slow cooked and local food. Definitely leave room for dessert.

Getting there: Queenstown is just a three hour flight from Sydney, and Air New Zealand flies there direct. For more details and to book go to www.airnewzealand.com.au 

For more information on Queenstown and New Zealand go to www.newzealand.com

Annie Stevens was a guest of Tourism New Zealand