These two posts on Queenstown cover five days, which, in keeping with the previous posts, would be days 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 of my trip. If you were sticking with the standard Stray bus schedule, you’d normally only get two nights in Queenstown, but most people seem to take extra time here.
I had given myself three extra days thinking I would do the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s “9 Great Walks. With bad weather and a lack of transportation infrastructure during the winter season, this was more hassle than it seemed to be worth so I did a few other things instead.
Queenstown Part 1 focused on our trip there from Makarora, and covered a few aspects of the town including a few sleeping options, Fergburger and the vibe of the city as a whole. Queenstown Part 2 will focuses on the various activities available and goes into detail on what I got up to while in Queenstown.
Queenstown Part 2
In the last post, I tried to touch on different aspects of my experience but left out the activities. Queenstown is the most activity-rich city in all of New Zealand, and possibly all of Australasia. The most popular activities for those on my stray bus were skiing, snowboarding and, of course, the bungy jumps and canyon swing. Other possible activities include skydiving, river rafting, a steamboat lake tour, and local walks.
There are many spots to do skydiving around the country, but I waited until Queenstown to throw myself out of a perfectly good plane. I’m not all that big on heights, but I’ve learned to deal with it over the years. I knew I’d want to jump while in New Zealand and the recommendation by one of my guides was to do it as soon as the weather allowed for it.
I had a couple of opportunities prior to Queenstown but for one reason or another ended up waiting. On my second full day there, I headed out to do a 12,000-foot jump. 12,000 feet gives you 45 seconds of freefall, with the other options at Nzone! being 9,000 feet for 30 seconds of freefall or 15,000 feet for 65 seconds of free fall.
I felt strangely calm the ride there and waiting to suit up. Even getting in the jumpsuit and harness didn’t really bug me. I remember the walk to the plane feeling like the ticking of the rollercoaster heading up that first rise. Reality hit as the plane took off and we continued to climb to our jump height. I kept chatting with my tandem partner and following instruction until, before I knew it, the door opened up and the first pair scooted up and out of the plane.
We were next and scooted into position. The photographer jumping with us hung out on the wing and we all went as a group. The only thing I really had to worry about on the way down was making sure I looked into the camera during freefall. Forty-five seconds later our shoot opened and we had about 7 minutes to take in The Remarkables, a range of mountains and ski slopes next to Queenstown, as we floated back down to earth.
Everything went very smoothly and I wasn’t ever concerned about the safety aspects of what I was doing, which is a credit to NZone! Skydiving. They have a an area right at the drop zone where you can watch people landing while waiting for your group to suit up, and there are plenty of staff around to answer any questions you may have. If you haven’t jumped by the time you get to Queenstown, this is the place to do it.
Queenstown is famous as being the home of the first bungy jump. AJ Hackett now maintains the original bridge and helps what must be a few hundred people jump 43 meters on a daily basis. They also operate two other bungy jumps out of Queenstown, including a 134 meter jump called the Nevis, and a new spin on bungy jumping called the Nevis Swing.
I came into Queenstown not knowing if I’d actually do a bungy and so wasn’t mentally prepared when we pulled into the Karawau Bridge jump center before we arrived in the city. However, I returned the day before we left Queenstown, signed up and waited my turn while watching from the bridge.
For some it comes easy, but jumping from that ledge was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I know it’s a bit silly because they’ve got a 100% safety rate so you know everything will be fine but, unlike the sky dive, you’re the one that has to jump. The only help they can offer is some encouraging words and a countdown. I encourage everyone to get up to that ledge and see if you can make the jump.
Skiing and Snowboarding
People come from all over the world to ski and snowboard along Queenstown’s four major mountain skifields – Cardona Alpine Resort, Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Treble Cone. A good portion of our bus went up for at least a day, with some people staying much longer to get more time on the mountains. As I have access to great resorts back home, I opted out of it this trip to save some money.
During a winter Stray trip, Skydiving, Bungy Jumping and Skiing or Snowboarding seem to be the activities Stray passengers most often opt for. Other popular activities include river rafting, mountain biking, tramping and fly fishing. You can even hop on a 100-year-old steamship called the TSS Earnslaw and take a trip along the lake.
You can also look beyond the beat and path for some unusual activities. On our last night out, half a dozen of us decided to go curling at the ice skating rink. We had a short wait while others finished their round and then split into two teams for 90 minutes of some hardcore curling action. None of us really knew what we were doing, but we had a blast doing it and isn’t that what it’s all about anyhow?
I imagine some activities wain during a summer trip while others become much more popular, but it’s clear that Queenstown is worth some extra time off the bus so you can experience what this adventure tourism capital has to offer. Throw in a few bar crawls which you’ll likely partake in and your time there will pass much faster than you expect.
The above is posted from the road during the middle of a month long trip through New Zealand with Stray. If you don’t know who stray is, read the intro to the trip with stray or check out their website.
In an attempt to give you an idea of what the trip is like I’ll be posting like I was writing a journal, but with some practical information in case you want to follow in my footsteps.
NOTE: SOME PICTURES ABOVE WERE PROVIDED BY, AND USED WITH PERMISSION FROM NZONE SKYDIVE AND AJ HACKETT BUNGY.
DISCLOSURE: I HAVE RECEIVED A DISCOUNTED TOUR PACKAGE WITH STRAY BUT WILL MAINTAIN AN HONEST OUTLOOK AND PASS ALONG BOTH THE GOOD AND THE BAD AS ACCURATELY AS I CAN.