Queenstown: what is so special about it?

Queenstown: what is so special about it?

Queenstown is a very interesting town: it is located in Otago, along Wanaka and Dunedin and although is not the most populated town in the region it is a world capital of extreme sports. It was fascinating for me when I drove into the city center and for the first time since I rented a campervan I had troubled with finding a parking space. Needless to say I paid a fine for parking in a space that was labeled as 2 hours limit but more fascinating than a parking ticket was the difference between these two towns: Wanaka and Queenstown.

Queenstown harbor

Queenstown harbor

Similar in size, having a large lake and yet so different! Queenstown is buzzing with excitement, full of crowds, laugh, noise and colors. Wanaka – on the contrary – peaceful, quiet and picturesque. I didn’t go into details why these two closely located towns are so different but I suspect it is related to this whole ‘extreme’ stuff. Twenty years ago – I would imagine – Queenstown was also a sleepy and boring place, with breathtaking panorama – that’s true! – but with no tourism whatsoever. Perhaps someday I’ll find an expert to find out the answer but before I do let me tell you a little bit about Queenstown today.

Attractions

Leaving high adrenaline sports aside, as it was previously discussed in details, I found Queenstown fascinating. It is relatively small, which is the reason I use word ‘town’ instead of ‘city’ in this case. Everything is in walking distance and so I left camper and walked to Kiwi Birdlife Park first. This park is a private venture and was created few years ago on a urban landfill site. To be honest watching birds in a park closed in cages is not my favorite thing but I was very happy to do 2 things here: kiwi feeding and Conservation Show.

Conservation Show in Birdlife Park

Conservation Show in Birdlife Park

Kiwi birds – a national symbol of New Zealand – are nocturnal animals which makes almost impossible to watch them in nature. I was told that the majority of New Zealanders have never seen a kiwi bird in their life! So the staff of this wildlife park switched day and night cycle (like in a different time zone), and in specially constructed nocturnal houses you can actually see the kiwi birds. It was really cool: the birds were actually much bigger than I expected. Amazing creatures! No surprise the Department of Conservation do its best to keep them alive.

The conservation show was the second thing that the park was worth to pay a visit. Local experts explain the most fascinating things in details. I got known few surprising things, like there were no mammals on New Zealand island before white people came. Rats and dogs came along and started to threat the birds population. As previously there was no need to protect themselves from natural predators many native birds can’t fly (the majority of birds’ species are endemic, which means they live only in NZ and nowhere else). If the birds can’t fly they cannot escape if a dog chase them. Their nests are on the ground which make it really easy for rats and opossums to eat their eggs. It looks like kiwi birds are struggling for survival from the moment white people arrived.

Good Food

After a short visit in Kiwi Birdlife Park I went back to the center. Vudu Cafe was called ‘Excellent’ on FourSquare so I wanted to check this out. Just before I jumped off the cliff at Canyon Swing I ate a delicious muffin with vanilla ice cream. When this snack was brought to me the muffin was still warm! And the ice creams were covered with fresh raspberries. It really made my day!

Easy to overlook best cafe in town

Easy to overlook best cafe in town

The place is awesome because you can enter from two different sides of the building. One door is located just next to the lake and another in the main street. Interior is narrow and long but ingeniously decorated. This place is SO busy it’s hard to get a table. But I love it! It guarantees that food is fresh and tasty. And it was.

Queenstown lake: Wakatipu

Queenstown lake: Wakatipu

Accommodation

I didn’t want to stay in Queenstown for the night as I thought it is quite busy and noise until late. So I went a bit further – towards Arrowtown – to stay at Willowbrook. At first I had huge problems with finding it: I passed by at least 3 times before I found it but eventually arrived safely to this charming place.

Willowbrook

Willowbrook

For me the best thing about it was surrounding and the view on the mountains. The house was of wooden construction and it reminded me a classic British cottages, which was really nice. The silence, lovely views and New Zealand sheep next to my bedroom made my stay very pleasant. If you are in Queenstown I would highly recommend a short visit in Arrowtown – a small village of gold rush heritage. Old post, wooden houses and a creek nearby makes it very nice place for a walk.

Arrowtown - golden rush village

Arrowtown – golden rush village

All in all, you visit Wanaka and Queenstown for completely different things. If you’re tired with crowd and noise of Queenstown you simple drive north and relax in quiet village on a lake. Which is great! I was really happy to discover both towns and enjoy such a variety!

Peaceful Wanaka at dusk

Peaceful Wanaka at dusk

Disclosure: Kiwi Birdlife Park and Willowbrook B&B offered a generous discount for their services which I am grateful for.

About the author

I get easily fascinated with people and places. I am passionately curious. I get often seduced with the beauty of nature. Blue sky, pure water, white snow and endless horizon seams to be enough to make me happy.

View all articles by Agata Mleczko
  • I love that kiwi bird! I’ve never seen one before! That must have been a treat to see one in person!

    • Kiwi birds are sweet! Tough survivors, that’s what they are!

  • Ania

    I would love to see a kiwi bird!

  • Still on my list ! I love that second picture, it looks so peaceful

    • Then it is deceptive ;-) This city is buzzing with energy!

  • Had no idea kiwi birds are nocturnal. That last photo really drew me in.

    • They are! They have also nostrils up until the very end of their beaks. In fact, beak is their nose. And they have whiskers too. Amazing creatures!

    • eemusings (NZMuse)

      Yeah, and very endangered so you’ll be lucky to spot one! I got to see some at a reserve when they were releasing some from captitivity into nature.

  • jeff Titelius

    I am blown away by the scenery my friend! Love that top photograph of the tube. Is that the entrance to the park? Having four parrots, I would have loved the Kiwi exhibit!!

    • Yes, the tube is the entrance and I think it is so cool! I can’t believe you’ve got 4 parrots! It must be very loud. Can day speak, like dirty words? I always imagine pirates and old ships when thinking about parrots. Oh, you would love kiwis!

  • eemusings (NZMuse)

    Wanaka is like the calmer, quieter, grownup version of Queenstown. For grownups. It’s more chilled out. Arrowtown is also a nice change of pace.