New Zealand

Queenstown & Central Otago

After our Lord of the Rings adventures from the day before, we finally arrived in the Queenstown area.

Queenstown itself is quite a large city and busy both in the winter and the summer. In winter it is a ski paradise and during the summer it is the starting point for every kind of imaginable outdoor activity (bungee jumping, skydiving, paddling, canoe etc.). This means that the city centre is full of adventure booking agencies and outdoor stores. If you are not willing to risk your life for a couple of seconds of thrill (like us), there is actually not that much to do. And expensive to book a room. Next to Sydney this was the most expensive location we stayed in so far I think. As a matter of fact: we ended up not staying there at all. We found a vacation home right next to an orchard in Bannockburn in the middle of the wine region Central Otago, and only a 45-minute drive away from Queenstown. So instead of making Queenstown our base for the next few days, we made it a day trip.

Since there weren’t a lot of sights in Queenstown, we slept in and arrived late in the morning. Thankfully we had checked online where to park, because in contrast to most of our destinations so far, there is not a lot of parking space. Although we had to pay, the cost wasn’t enormous and at least it saved us from driving around for hours to find a spot somewhere on the street. After that we strolled along the shopping streets, had lunch in the Botanical Gardens overlooking Lake Wakatipu and after that mr. Scientist got a haircut.

On top of most must do’s of Queenstown was to take the skyline and enjoy the view, so that is right where we went. And yes, the view was very pretty and we even got to see mountain goats.

Although I think it is a nice city to live in, largely due to the many activities you can do around there and the fantastic scenery all around, it wasn’t that exciting for a city trip. But, no worries! Like I wrote before, Central Otago lies right next to Queenstown and is one of New Zealand’s most famous wine regions.

The thing with both Australia and New Zealand is that the countries are (at least to Europeans) huge and the distances betweens things are large. The same goes for most wine regions. Although the wineries may seem to be very close to each other on the map, in fact the distances between them can easily be a couple of kilometres up to 40 or so. This means that you usually need a designated driver and in our case that is mr. Scientist. (Big shoutout to mr. Scientist for taking this role upon himself!) This time we got lucky with our accommodation that had several recommended wineries within walking distance!

Central Otago is most famous for its Pinot Noir. The region was formerly used for farming and growing fruit, but in order to build the Clyde Dam many of these orchards had to be relocated because they would fall within the newly formed lake Dunstan. At the same time, soil research that was done at the time showed that the region was in fact very suited for viticulture. And now this is the world’s southernmost wine region!

Our first destination was Mount Difficulty winery. This was the winery furthest away on our list, about 5km from our stay. (Yes, we were smart and did the most walking in the beginning.) Named after Mount Difficulty, which is a pretty cool mountain that holds most of the rain back. I want a mountain like that in my future backyard! We got a warm welcome and were told a lot about the region and the winery. Although the sommelier did tell us we were crazy for walking up there. She understood the not drinking and driving part, but wondered why we didn’t hire a bicycle, so I tried to explain to her that as Dutch people we do usually cycle everywhere – just not over hills. The wines there were very good! In fact: they make a very large selection of different wines for their own restaurant in order to serve their own wines with whatever food they serve. So although this is pinot noir country and they had some lovely varieties, I ended up buying a bottle of Chenin blanc – one of my very favourite wines.

The next winery was almost all the way back, Akarua wines with only about 1 km from our place. So by that time we had already walked about 9km! Unfortunately Mount Difficulty wasn’t able to hold all the rain back, but that didn’t discourage us!

Last stop was the Carrick winery, almost immediately on the opposite side of the street. So that was easy peasy in the rain! By the time we arrived, the rain had even stopped. Like the first two wineries, this place has a restaurant as well and stunning views over their own vineyard. Our sommelier was a young women who had just finished her studies, but missed the region so much she came straight home after her degree. I think that says it all about how nice it is – even when it’s rainy!

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