Almost two million people visit Queenstown every year – we know this, because we tried to buy a Fergburger at 11 o’clock one Saturday night and most of them were in the line ahead of us. Queenstown during peak season is not your typical, quiet lakeside town: it’s absolutely cranking. Think of it as New Zealand’s Las Vegas, but with less fat American families.
If you’re keen on something a little more tranquil, there’s so much in the Southern Lakes Region to love. Lake Wakatipu, with the mountains behind it, is probably the most beautifully scenic lake in New Zealand, and you can choose the speed you enjoy it: perfectly still while fishing for trout, moving slowly in a hire kayak, chuffing along on the Earnslaw steamship or blasting along full pace just up the river on the Shotover jet. Feel that pulsing sensation in your blood? It’s called adrenaline, and it’s a good way to get high without risking jail time or driving around dodgy suburbs looking for sneakers on powerlines.
Peak season is, of course, based around the snow season, which is meant to go from June until about October. Some years it starts a bit late though – if this ever happens, we find that sitting at your computer on one of the snow report websites and hitting ‘refresh’ every 30 seconds is very helpful.
If you prefer activities which involve sitting pretty much motionless while people bring you food and drink, you’re also in the right place. There are 75 wineries near Queenstown, including those of the famous Gibbston Valley. Pick one of them to visit, taste a few wines, then either purchase a bottle or do that little post-tasting dance: “yes, well, they’re all good … must come back and buy a couple of cases … gotta scoot right now though, um, my car is on fire”.
Other key destinations you can get to from here include Arrowtown (historic, charming), Glenorchy (serene, picturesque) and Fiordland (majestic, Lord-of-the-Ringsy). Yes, there’s so much more to this place than doing Jagermeister shots and singing along to ‘Come on Eileen’. But that’d a perfectly fine way to start.