Queenstown, New Zealand is one of the most picturesque towns you will ever visit. Just a short flight across the pond, it is located at the bottom of the South Island, making it home to some of the best skiing in the world. The town itself is a skiers dream, small enough to have a quaint, village feel but big enough to boast a plethora of spots to wine, dine and mostly importantly, après. Consider Queenstown a central hub from which there is no end to the adventuring one can do. With a main street that is a hive of activity, most notably around the infamous Fergburger, this cute little town is indeed fit for royalty. And if landing between snow-capped mountains doesn’t take your breath away, the view from the lake looking back up at them will.
Our favourite hotel is perched on the edge of Lake Wakatipu with postcard perfect vistas from every room. The Rees offers chic apartment-style living that is ideal if you’re in town for a week of skiing. The rooms are light and spacious with luxe additions such as remote control fire places, spa baths and heated floor tiles, all a wonderful welcome home after a long day on the slopes.
Between June and September, Queenstown becomes a veritable winter playground with not one but four ski resorts accessible only by car. The closest is Coronet Peak, just a short 25 minute drive away. Well set up with fabulous groomed runs as well as fun off-piste action, Coronet is a great place to start if you’re new to Queenstown. Also close by is The Remarkables, a smaller valley where all the runs lead down to one central point. Because of the geography, ‘Remarks’ as it is affectionately known, is often plagued by high cloud, but with cloud comes snow and the Shadow Basin runs are what it’s all about after a fresh dump of powder.
A little further afield is Cardrona, a 45 minute drive, and Treble Cone, one and a half hours away, two entirely different mountains and experiences. We’re not going to lie, Treble Cone is for hard-core skiers only. With limited infrastructure and just one lift leaving base camp, this resort suits those after serious adventure. Excellent intermediate to expert skiers will love the advanced terrain and stunning views back to the tiny town of Wanaka. Cardrona on the other hand is a family friendly, multi-level resort offering some of the most fun and cruisy runs of the entire region. Well set up and able to cater for larger crowds this is the perfect beginners mountain.
And when you’re done skiing and are ready to rest those weary limbs, go directly to Onsen Hot Pools where six private outdoor hot tubs await. Overlook turquoise blue rapids against a backdrop of snowy mountains and tree lined valleys whilst swilling cold champagne, and indulge in a massage afterwards for a complete, immersive experience. Just be sure to book well ahead of your holiday.
A trip to Queenstown would not be complete without an excursion to nearby Arrowtown. As impossibly cute as you can imagine, this is the place to go on your day off from skiing. Divine shops and restaurants line the main street but don’t miss The Chop Shop, a café well-hidden down a little laneway, around a corner and up some stairs. A warm, disco vibe greets you the second you’re ushered inside and staff dance around taking orders for incredible coffee, to-die-for hotcakes and their ‘soup of the day’, Bloody Mary.
When it comes to après ski, there are some must-see spots in and around Queenstown. At the bottom of Cardrona is the iconic Cardrona Hotel home to roaring open fires, comfy leather lounge suites and the most delicious mulled wine you’ve ever tasted. You cannot ski Cardrona without making a stop at this iconic pub on the way home. Back in Queenstown is relative new comer The Lodge, a chic lakeside bar with fur rugs, cosy corners and an authentic ski chalet vibe. Pop in for a drink pre or post dinner but don’t leave without trying the Snapper Ceviche with Coconut. If you’re after some Central Otago wine tasting, head directly to Wet Jacket. A boutique winery that has set up a cellar door and cheese tasting room inside a hundred year old shearing shed just out of town. While the surrounds are super cute, it’s the edited list of wines that will really dazzle.
When it comes to dining, the phrase ‘spoilt for choice’ comes to mind. With a brilliant variety of options from super high end to street fun casual, Queenstown is bursting with restaurants. Our favourites, and in order, include;
Botswana Butchery – fine dining fabulous, this restaurant is a Queenstown institution offering incredible service, as the name suggests all manner of meat and what we really go to Queenstown for, 1.5 pages of Pinot Noir.
Amisfield – this iconic winery twenty minutes out of town is a true destination. Pop into the cellar door for a wine flight or indulge in the degustation dinner as the sun goes down over the mountains. From multi snack courses to house made bread with three types of butter, make sure you save room at the end for their famous and truly outstanding Pinot Noir macaroons.
Kappa – upstairs off the main pedestrian street in Queenstown is this little ‘hole-in-the-wall’ restaurant that offers the most delicious and affordable Japanese. Able to seat only a handful of customers at a time, the open kitchen is busy all nights of the week.
Rata – book well ahead for dinner at one of Queenstown’s most well-known restaurants. Start with a champagne at the bar, be sure to try the octopus, you must have the curly kale but do not leave without ordering the salted caramels for dessert, the chocolates to end all chocolates.
Bespoke Kitchen – if it’s brunch you’re after then this is the place to be. Along with the rest of Queenstown, so prepare yourself for a long wait by ordering coffee quickly. Well worth it, especially if you opt for the berries, beats and banana smoothie bowl, or double up with their signature breakfast platter that offers the best of both worlds, poached eggs on sourdough and muesli, raspberries and yoghurt.