Queenstown, nestled along the Wakatipu lake and surrounded by the Remarkables mountains seems to be a perfect seasonal city. This city is not very big but there is a lot to do there. Enclosed by a lake, this city makes me thing about Annecy in Francne except that in Queenstown everything is bigger. A bigger lake, more dramatic mountains, more sensational activities, more shops… Queenstown is a superlative city located in the centre of the south island. However Queenstown miss something that Annecy has. I am not talking about a really good savoyard restaurant even if I must admit that I feel hungry just to write it! What Queenstown miss is a bit a charm and personality. Come on! Even if I think it miss a bit of character this city is really amazing so let’s go! Follow me for a visit. The sunset worth it by itself!
Queenstown, the city of thrills
Do you miss a good adrenaline jolt? You want to be scared? Queenstown is the perfect place. Rafting, paragliding, buggy jumping, jet boat : there is something for everyone. Whether you are a hothead or a bit less audacious you will find an activity that suits you. For those who don’t really like thrills it is still possible to do sledging (even during the summer), skiing or canoeing.
As for me I chose to go for a jet boat tour the day after our arrival. Let’s have a good night of sleep first. Sadly, nature decided otherwise as during this night a huge earthquake happened in New Zealand: the 7.8 magnitude Kaikoura earthquake of the 14th of novembre 2016. In Queenstown we were more than 500 kilometres away from the epicentre so I felt it lightly and it didn’t wake up Franck and Dimitri who were sleeping. Despite everything, it was a longer earthquake than usual so I had a look on geonet, a New Zealand website taking an inventory of earthquakes. I understood the extend of the phenomenon. Apparently Wellington was very shaken. I reached my flatmate to be sure that everybody was fine; They were all good. There were just a few material damages : a glass and the TV broke, the washing machine and the water heater moved a bit from their places. Nothing too bad. During this time, the news already reached France and our families were worried for us. I reassure them and I went to bed. Unfortunately my flatmates were not able to do the same: many aftershocks hit them in the following hours and days.
Let’s get back in the subject. After a short night, some thrills are waiting for us this morning in Queenstown. Let’s go for a jet boat tour to gently wake up:
Jet boats are located several metres further down the entrance building after going down by many steps. Staff offers to drop me off near the landing stage using one the compagnie vehicle. Once I put on life jacket and a raincoat, I am ready to board. To embark you will need to transfer in the jet boat as a wheelchair can not fit in it. So let’s go for half an hour brushing past the gorges cliff and doing U-turns at top speed! That was really fun! We had a really good time. Don’t worry there is nothing to be afraid of. For Dimitri is was even just a foretaste before buggy jumping! I really don’t want to try this. I am sure I was more afraid than him to see him jumping in the void. He didn’t seem to be afraid at all! He just rush forward in one go!
Quietly exploring Queenstown
Even if Queenstown is the city of thrills you can still choose to discover it quietly. You can start by a walk in Queenstown gardens. they are located in a kind of peninsula surrounded by the lake. You can use different pathway to stroll in them but you are a wheelchair user you will have to walk the one following the lake going around the gardens. Indeed, the path crossing the park in the middle is not wheelchair accessible as there are some steps. Otherwise, the ground is even most of the time but there are some humps because of the trees roots. There are some benches in the park if you want to rest or to settle to enjoy the view at the mountains and lake.
The gardens are also a good place to have a picnic watching the aquatic activities on the lake : jet boat, parapente, canoe or a more traditional boat cruise.
Taking the gondola to reach the view point is also a must do. Despite of the expensive cost of it (NZ$33 return for an adult), I think it’s good to do it once. The view is fantastic and from this place you will be able to try sledge, buggy jumping or paragliding. Doing paragliding here is impossible for the disabled as you have to clim a while to reach the top of the mountain from where the paragliding fly away. Nevertheless you can contact Makingtrax and they will put you in contact with Queenstown paragliding school which has adapted equipment and will be able to make you fly.
There are some disabled car park in front of the gondola building entrance but you might not be able to go in it with your own wheelchair as gondolas are too small. For instance my wheelchair is 84cm depth and 60cm width and it doesn’t fit in the gondola. I set in one and my wheelchair was put in the following one. The staff stop the lift, the time for me to enter in the gondola and sit correctly and I got back my wheelchair once I arrived at the top. However the gondola team has two wheelchair fitted gondolas and you can ask for one of them if you want. If so you will be transferred into this wheelchair and take the gondola while in it. You will have back your own wheelchair once you will reach the arrival. All the rest of the site is fully wheelchair accessible, including the toilets.
A lot of good places for the food lovers
I don’t know for you I am fond of good food! I love to try new places where I can savour an ice-cream, drink an aperitif or bolt a burger. So here are some places I tried during my stay in Queenstown:
- Devil Burger : 5/11 Church Street. Burger are good but I found the meat not thick enough. The restaurant was really loud the evening we were there. A lot of people were there and a young men was totally drunk and was making a huge noise. He even spilt his beer on others customers. He stopped when he finally fall asleep in a bench. I was very surprised that nobody tried to stop him, even not a staff member. I don’t know if it is all the time this way in New Zealand but in France this guy would have been kick out for a long time! The restaurant is fully accessible included the toilets.
- Ferg Burger : 42 Shotover Street. A well-known must-do for burgers fans. As it is really famous you will have to wait at least half to hour to be able to order and then going near the lake to eat it. Burgers are big so they will be enough to fill you without fries or onions rings.
- Ferg Baker : 42 Shotover Street. Ferg also makes bakery! It is not as good as French croissants but almost! This is really good and generous. Pies are very good too.
- Red Rock Bar Cafe : 48 Camp Street. My favourite place for a savoury breakfast. You can have a copious breakfast for NZ$10 and that is quite cheap in New Zealand! You will have to order your drink separately. Tea for two is NZ$5 for example. I really liked the American pub atmosphere with numberplates on the walls. The restaurant is accessible but the toilets are not.
- Patagonia Chocolates : 50 Beach Street. Really good ice-cream and chocolate in every shapes. If you want more of that there is another store in Wanaka, a great city that you would like to visit.
If you come to Queenstown by driving you have to know that thre is a disabled parking place at 50 Beach Street. It is free and every time I needed it, it was available. I hope you will be as lucky as me! A few metres from there you will also find accessible toilets.
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