Queenstown and we begin our time on New Zealand’s South Island

Lake Wakatipu from the Harbor View Walk, Queenstown

Our flight on New Zealand air from Auckland to Queenstown went off without a hitch and offered us some great views of the two islands en route. We picked up the rent car that would be our transportation for the next weeks (sadly, now substantially more expensive than a similar car had been pre-pandemic) and headed to our hotel. The route we followed on the South Island was as follows:

Our roadtrip through New Zealand’s South Island. At Picton, we took the ferry and continued
back to Auckland via Wellington and Rotorua, a total trip of more than 2000 miles.

We took our rent car on the ferry from to Wellington and continued driving across the North Island and back to Auckland from where we’d fly back to the States. We were really happy with our itinerary and I’ll cover the entire trip including fjords, hot spring spas, wineries, geysers, Maori settlements, a glowworm cave and more in coming posts.

Queenstown sits in a gorgeous location on Lake Wakatipu. [See top photo and below.] The city promotes itself as an adventure sports destination with bungee jumping, hang gliding, a wheeled “slalom” course and more promoted everywhere. We were in New Zealand for the natural beauty and culture, however, so I’d only booked us a night in town, eager to get on to Fiordland National Park and beyond. I used 15,000 Wyndham points to book us at the uninspiring but perfectly nice and conveniently located Ramada by Wyndham Queenstown Central. (Wyndham is a chain I seldom use, but I had scored the points during a promotion so was happy to be able to use them.)

With limited time, we dropped off our luggage and headed back out to explore the lakeside park and Queenstown center. A long walk along the lake let us admire the lake, mountains, and the TSS Earnslaw, a 1912 Edwardian twin screw steamer that regularly plies the lake. We enjoyed a beer and fries break at the Pub on Wharf in the quaint old harborfront, sitting outside on a crisp, sunny day.

T he TSS Earnslaw coming into the Queenstown wharf

I’d booked dinner at The Bunker restaurant (They’ve got a cool-looking upstairs bar, too.) and we looked forward to a true New Zealand meal in a cozy atmosphere. We enjoyed a meal of a yellowfin tuna tartare with coconut “caviar” starter and a venison main, but the cozy atmosphere, complete with wood-burning fireplace, was a little diminished by the gathering smoke in the room. Oh well, we left satisfied and ready for an early start the next morning. Up next: Eglinton Valley Camp and Milford Sound!

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