Day 5: Heading to Queenstown

6 September, 2016

Simply breathtaking.

That’s how I would describe the route, via State Highway 8, we took to get to our next destination – Queenstown. The most memorable sight along that stretch of highway was that of Lake Pukaki. The turquoise hues of the glacial lake and the craggy alpine landforms that bordered the lake made a picture that you would remember for a long time (or not, depending on when dementia will kick in). As you gazed at the scene before you, you’d forget the world for a while, even when a tour bus came and threatened to unload a horde of noisy tourists. This area was the setting for ‘Lake-town’ in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

We couldn’t possibly drive by without stopping to take pictures or just take in this sight. You’ll reach this point after driving for about half an hour from Tekapo. There are directions to this pitstop and here you’ll find a visitor centre that sells a small range of NZ-made products, one of them being salmon sashimi that comes from the nearby farm. It claimed to the best salmon sashimi you would have ever tasted and boy, did it live up to its claim! Don’t leave this place without trying some!

Another spectacular part of the route is the Lindis Pass which links the Mackenzie Basin with Central Otago. At an altitude of 971 m above sea level, it snows for many months of the year. We were lucky to be able to see the contrasting faces of the mountains during this trip. The picture below shows how the tussock-covered mountains look in fair weather.

Before we reached Hilton, where we had booked for the stay in Queenstown, we dropped by the Remarkables Park Town Centre, an outdoor mall, to grab some more groceries. I got some salmon fillet at the supermarket and the boys got some snacks. The salmon, which I baked after marinating it in soya sauce and thai chili sauce, was AMAZING! Never had I had salmon that succulent. The boys heaped praises and I gave some of my share to them.

The Hilton at Kawarau Village sits on the shore of Lake Wakatipu. I had booked the 2-bedroom apartment with lake view. The apartment turned out better than I had expected (sorry the photos are rubbish!). I loved it so much that I’d rather stay in than explore the town! 😛

The firm mattress promised a good night’s sleep.

The view from the balcony was nothing short of stunning, be it on a clear or snowy day.

The service at Hilton was top-notch. The staff is made up of an international group of well-trained people. The only complaint I had about this hotel was that the floor heating in the bathroom was not working. Because they could not fix the problem immediately, they offered us a bottle of champagne as an apology. Unfortunately, we do not take alcohol.

We drove to the town centre in the evening after our early dinner in the room. Hilton provides a shuttle service to the town centre but you have to make reservations so that you don’t have to fight for seats. The town centre was bustling. Parking is expensive here and can be hard to find during the day so you might want to consider leaving your car at the hotel and take the shuttle service. If you prefer to live in the centre of the town, there are several hotels you can choose from. We didn’t spend much time walking around the town centre. We were tired and it was getting too cold – the temperature had dipped below 5 degrees. On top of that, we were not too keen on shopping. We bumped into Brian Richmond and his family here. Hubby noticed him first and waved at him and he waved back though he had no idea who we were. 🙂

The main attraction in Queenstown is Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables, a mountain range and ski field. The mountain range is visible from the city. During the winter months, The Remarkables is a popular spot for skiing and other winter activities. We weren’t keen on doing snow-related activities, at least not on this trip as we only had 2 days here. If you aren’t keen on those too, there are many other activities to do here – bungy jumping, jet boating, skydiving and etc. Queenstown is not only for adrenaline junkies; there are ‘gentle’ activities you can do such as cruises, a walk or hike, museum visits and etc. There’s something for everyone to do here.

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