Why we chose Queenstown?

Initially, we had thought of far locations like Hawaii and Santorini for our honeymoon. But both of us had leave constraints at the time and going to the other side of the world just wasn’t practical. We wanted to keep it close to save ourselves from the jet lag and long flying times. We were down to two options, Fiji or New Zealand. We ruled Fiji out after learning about the cyclone season in Fiji during summer, and decided we would visit Fiji another time.

 

A bit about our trip

Where we stayed:

Day 1-6: Hilton Queenstown Resort and Spa

Day 7: Peppers Bluewater Resort, Lake Tekapo

Day 8: Rydges Lakeland Resort, Queenstown

 

Places visited- highlights

  • Shotover Jet
  • Queenstown Gardens
  • Queenstown Hills
  • Walters Peak
  • Heli Tours
  • Skyline Gondola
  • Milford Sound
  • Lake Pukaki
  • Lake Tekapo

Where we ate:

  • Stacks Pub (Part of Hilton)
  • Mee Chinese (Part of Hilton)
  • Wakatipu Grill (Part of Hilton)
  • Toro Bar
  • The Ballarat Trading Co
  • Minus 5 Ice Bar
  • Heineken Bar
  • The Grill
  • The Lake Island Café (Part of Hilton)
  • Minamei Jujisei Japanese Restaurant
  • Walter Peak gourmet BBQ dinner
  • Skyline Gondola buffet dinner
  • Poppies Cafe, Twizel
  • Kohan restaurant, Lake Tekapo
  • Pier 19
  • Finz Seafood and Grill
  • Saigon Kingdom Vietnamese Restaurant
  • Patagonia Chocolates

 

Day 1

We were super excited as we landed at Queenstown airport. I will never forget how thrilled we were seeing the beautiful view of mountains as our plane descended! The airport was small and I loved how it just opened up to nature, I really appreciated the beauty of this airport coming from a busy, chaotic city airport like Sydney.

We had organised a car and drove our way to the Hilton Queenstown Resort. On our way, we could not stop appreciating how beautiful everything was looking. It was pretty as a picture! We got to our hotel room and we were even more amazed at the fabulous views our room had from both sides.  We had lunch at Stacks Pub and dine outside and enjoy the view, but it was starting to get a little chilly. We started to realise that maybe Queenstown wasn’t going to be that warm after all.

Fell in love with the mountains even before we landed!
Our first meal

Later that afternoon, we explored our way around the Hilton and walked around trying not to get lost! We were still in awe at how beautiful our surroundings were. The heavy pasta lunch was overly satisfying and carb-loaded so I wasn’t very hungry for dinner.

Day 2

We had to be up super early for our Shotover Jetboat ride which was located outside of the city. We had a very quick breakfast at Wakatipu Grill and left early to allow ourselves plenty of time to get there. Shotover jet was freezing with the cold morning wind but it was absolutely the most incredible thrilling ride ever! I highly recommend this one- there are other jet boating places but Shotover Jet is said to be ‘New Zealand’s most thrilling boat ride’.

Early morning view

 

We made it!

And off we go!

As much as I loved the experience, but I was freezing from the cold-water splashes and wind. We decided it was time to hit the shops for lunch and clothes-hunting. We made our way to the Queenstown CBD, we were expecting a huge mall coming from a big city like Sydney. I had a very interesting dish for lunch which was salmon ceviche. It was great, but I just wish I had something warm because I was still freezing inside from the Shotover Jet.

Off to explore the city
Queenstown Gardens
Salmon ceviche

We explored Queenstown Gardens in the afternoon which was located very much in the heart of the CBD. It was pretty scenic and we both enjoyed the walk. After having a very satisfying dinner at Ballarat Co. We went to Minus Five Degrees Ice Bar. Thankfully, they had hoodies and gloves for us to wear before we enter the ice. It was fascinating to hear that all furniture (tables, chairs) were made from ice, even the glasses cocktail/ mocktails were served in! It was nice to be able to experience a cold temperature I had never been in previously, we lasted about 25 mins.

Our drinks in came in disposable ice glasses

Day 3

We took our time getting out of bed this morning as there was no booking to rush to. We started our day with a very big breakfast in the city (to fuel our hike at Queenstown Hills).

Pre-hike brekkie
About to start our hike

Neither of us expected it to be as intensive as it was because we are both pretty good when it comes to walking flat surfaces. The hike itself was not a long duration so we did not expect it to be super intensive. However, what we didn’t realise was that it demanded medium to high level fitness due to steep and uphill surfaces, as we discovered. It was incredibly challenging but overly rewarding because the views got better and better as we hiked up. I do like to call myself as being ‘pretty fit’ so I wasn’t going to give up so easily. We were determined to push our way up and made it to the top! We had each other and the view that kept us going and we loved the stunning view once we got to the top, we felt it was worth it. Luckily, the descend was much easier, we were able to do it in 35 mins (going up took over thrice the time). On our way back, I convinced the hubby that we would hike more this year and work on improving our fitness.

Breathtaking view, almost near the top
Soaking up the view 🙂
We did it!

By the time we got back, most restaurants were starting to close or had closed. We were able to find one which was still open and it served perfect as a post-hike meal. We were pretty exhausted so we headed back to the hotel and relaxed for the rest of the night. We had dinner at Hilton’s Wakatipu Grill which was pretty fancy, as you would expect.

Post-hike lunch

 

Day 4

We started our day late as our heli tour wasn’t until about 11am. The heli tour had spectacular views, and also came with a surprise (snow landing). We didn’t think there was going be a snow landing so we were absolutely freezing in those few minutes. But the view was probably worth the cold.

About to step out into the snow!

View from the heli tour

We headed to the CBD afterwards for lunch. Unfortunately, it had started to rain so we didn’t get to walk around to explore a lunch place. We settled for what was closest to us which happened to be Japanese. The only Japanese food I have eaten a million times is sushi so I was excited to try other varieties in this cuisine. I absolutely loved the sashimi salmon don.

For the afternoon, we had booked for Walter’s Peak cruise and BBQ dinner after someone local had recommended it to us. It was still raining so it wasn’t very much cruise mood. They took us a to a lovely countryside place for buffet dinner which was pretty nice and we watched an hour of lamb shearing after dinner. It was a great to learn about how it’s done but we both felt the duration could have been shorter. The cruise itself was pretty uneventful, but we made some special memories that night so it’s going to be a cruise we will remember and cherish.

Walter’s Peak Cruise
Walter’s Peak
Loading up on seafood

Day 5

Today was Valentine’s Day. Hubs had planned a Skyline dinner for us ages ago; he made sure he booked well in advance and secured us a spot. We had nothing on until the afternoon so we took our time getting out of bed. We did not want to drive all the way into the city for brekkie so we went for the buffet breakfast at Wakatipu grill again. In our attempt to burn it off, we went for a short hike following the Queenstown trail to increase our capacity for the buffet.  We also opted for a light soup lunch because we wanted to save space for our big buffet Skyline dinner.

Saving space for dinner

We took the Gondola up to get to the restaurant. The view from up there was absolutely breathtaking. It was however very cold and windy, so we found it hard to be outdoors for long. The buffet dinner itself was outstanding; I don’t think I can think of a time in my life where I had eaten so much! They had a huge variety and covered many cuisines, I tried to make sure I covered most of them. We were absolutely stuffed by the end  and in food coma #thestrugglewasreal.

 

View from Skyline Restaurant

Day 6

We had an early start this morning because today was our Milford Sound tour. We were very much excited to be seeing the 8th wonder of the world, but did not like the idea of spending 12 hours on the bus. I had planned on staying awake to watch the scenery but we both fell asleep multiple times. The driver made sure to stop at the scenic spots and gave us time to hop off and take photos.

We were told the water seeps through as there’s no topsoil here!
Isn’t it pretty amazing how it just continues to flow?

Can you spot the seal?
And then we saw a few more!

Milford Sound was very beautiful; the photos I took honestly don’t do justice to how it looks in real life. The ferry ride was very chilly, I tried to spend some of it indoors and be out for some time to take photos. It was a very exhaustive ride back. We got dropped off at a far location from our hotel, we just decided to walk there instead (probably was about 3km). We got back to our hotel just before 9:30pm and packed our bags as our stay at Hilton had come to an end.

Day 7

We started our journey to Lake Tekapo which is located 250 km from Queenstown. Unfortunately, our navigator decided to take us on a detour and took us to a private road which is sometimes closed off (we realised something was fishy when it landed us at a salmon fishery!) But at least we were able to enjoy the lookout stops on the way and had lunch in a little town called Twizel.

En route to Lake Tekapo, stopped at Roaring Meg lookout
Lunch at Twizel

My favourite stop was Lake Pukaki, the colour of the water was absolutely breathtaking. I was expecting to see some beautiful scenary but I had no idea it was going to be in my favourite colour teal, which made it even better.

Lake Pukaki
Taking sneaky shots of bae
Accidentally matching in my favourite colour 😉

We checked into our resort in the afternoon which ended up being a two-bedroom townhouse with multiple living areas. I found it quite hard to adjust despite having a much bigger space, perhaps because we had the Hilton Standard in our minds. Since we did not have long here, we wanted to make sure we have dinner at a well rated restaurant. We ended up going to Kohan restaurant which is rated #1 in the region on TripAdvisor. There was a bit of a wait to get a table, but the food was so worth it. The teriyaki salmon I had was very flavoursome. I wasn’t feeling too well (possibly fatigue and adjusting from the luxury at Hilton), so we headed home for an early night.

Lake Tekapo
One of the best Jap I ever had

Day 8

We started our day with buffet breakfast at the Bluewater Resort. Again, we thought the variety of food choices weren’t enough, but they had pancakes on the menu which kept us pretty happy (both of love pancakes). After fuelling ourselves with brekkie, it was time to hit the road to Queenstown again. We made an effort to stop at the lookouts again, this time Lindis Pass being my favourite.

Lindis Pass

After reaching Queenstown, we looked around to find a relatively fancy place that was still open for lunch. I decided to be little adventurous than usual and tried Paua shell which is a native food. We checked in to our last hotel at Rydges and took a long nap to recover from the drive- this was one of the best naps I’ve ever had.

Back at Queenstown

For dinner, we explored options on TripAdvisor for a well-rated seafood restaurant. I decided to try something a little different and went for pan-seared tuna which was delicious. To celebrate our last night, we went to a very popular patisserie that we had been eyeing for some time now. The passionfruit cheesecake we had was deeply satisfying and it nice to end our last night on a sweet note.

Pan seared tuna and veggies
Cheesecake from Patagonia

Day 9

There was one place on our list where we really wanted to have breakfast. We tried coming here twice before but at the wrong hour. Unfortunately, the brekkie was quite pricey and did not end up tasting as good as I had hoped for. After breakfast, we had a quick look for souvenirs and headed back to our hotel and checked out for the final time. We wanted to leave us enough time to fuel up and return the car.

Last brekkie

We got to the airport and had plenty of time so we decided to have lunch before we board. We treated ourselves with burger and pancakes. The compote was very sweet but both of us love pancakes so we didn’t mind. We had a final stop at the airport souvenir shop and caught our plane back to Sydney thinking about when the next getaway would be.

Leaving Queenstown on a sweet note
Goodbye!
Hello again, Sydney!

Final thoughts

Queenstown is such a beautiful place and I will never forget how I felt when I first the majestic mountains. While our honeymoon ended up being more exploratory than the usual kind, we absolutely loved every bit of it. Also, glad to see our destination made it to top 10 honeymoon locations on Bruised Passport’s blog who happen to be one of my favourite travel bloggers. I’d definitely recommended travelling during summer months (November-February), unless you want to experience the freezing cold 😛

From Queenstown, with love.

 

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