Queenstown
Travel

The Top Spots of Queenstown, New Zealand

Things to do in Queenstown

Queenstown’s idyllic waterside location means you are spoilt for choice of things to do and its compact size means you are never far from the spectacular lake, which is fringed by snow-capped peaks for much of the year.

Take a wine tour, cruise the lake, stroll through beautiful gardens, visit historic Arrowtown or take full advantages of some of the free attractions in the city.

Shopping in Queenstown

If you have spent an exhausting day skiing up at the Remarkables, rejuvenating your tired muscles with a bit of retail therapy may be in order for the following day.

Queenstown can be a fun town to sip coffee, eat, browse sassy shops and classy fashion stores, but you might have to pay at classy prices too. We succumbed to buying some travel souvenirs which were bound to be gifts, including one interesting wind-up ‘rude-finger,’ toy and were not sufficiently tempted by what we saw as somewhat over-inflated prices.

History of Queenstown and Maori Legends

Maori first inhabited this area, of New Zealand, in a search for food, greenstone, and the flightless Moa bird. Legends state that the giant Matau was burnt to death in his sleep after he abducted a chief’s daughter, burning a massive hole in the ground and melting the ice and snow of the surrounding mountains. This became Queenstown’s Lake Wakatipu. The lake is a large “S” shape, exactly like a giant, curled up and sleeping on its side.

Queenstown
Lake Wakatipu

Lake Wakatipu

The lake is a beautiful place to take a short cruise or easy stroll. You could even see the ducks that line the foreshore near the shopping precinct, angling for some crumbs of bread from passing tourists.

One of Wakatipu’s mysteries is the rise and fall of the lake by about 12cm (5″) every five minutes. Legend states that a Giant’s heart is impossible to destroy, and causes this rise and fall, while science says this is due to fluctuating atmospheric pressures. Across the lake from Queenstown, below Cecil Peak, a little island is visible only from a certain angle. Some say this hidden Island is the still-beating heart of the Giant Matua.

Facts about Lake Wakatipu

  • Max depth: 380 m
  • Area: 291 km²
  • Length: 80 km
  • Average depth: 230 metres (750 ft)

15,000 years ago during the last ice age, a huge glacier moving from the north-west carved out what is now Lake Wakatipu. The lake is relatively thin, but the mountains run straight into the lake, forming a deep canyon, 399m at its deepest point.
Lake Wakatipu is the second largest lake in the Southern Lakes District, covering 290 square km. At its widest point, Lake Wakatipu is five kilometres wide, and the total length is 84km. 

Wiki

Tourist Adventure Activities in Queenstown

Besides the tourist drawcards of skiing at Coronet Peak, Cardrona or The Remarkables which we had already ticked off our holiday bucket list, there is a list of high-intensity things to do in Queenstown. Ziplining, Bungee jumping and the Jetboat ride on the Shotover River is high on the thrill seeker’s list. None of which I am qualified to comment on. A thrill-seeker I am not. However, there is plenty of information about it on the net if you are interested.

The Shotover River flows from the Southern Alps and runs through Skippers Canyon and flows into the Kawarau River, just east of Queenstown. The best way to experience the Shotover River is on the famous Queenstown jet boat ride.

https://www.theurbanlist.com/nz/a-list/things-to-do-queenstown

New Zealand was brought to the forefront of adventure sport when AJ Hackett opened the first commercial Bungy jump from the Kawarau Bridge, 43 metres (141 feet), over the Kawarau River, just outside the Queenstown area.

Queenstown Skyline Gondola and Restaurant

The shopping precinct at Queenstown is small enough to walk around in a few hours, and if you take it in one afternoon, you can then walk to the Restaurant complex located up the very prominent hill, a short walk from town. There is only one hill in the town itself, which you can’t fail but see and it is not too far for most people to walk.

At the base of the hill is the Skyline Gondola which takes you to a mountain-top restaurant. Adjacent to the Gondola’s entry, is an Animal education centre where you can learn more about the flightless bird, the Kiwi. Spend around 30 minutes or so here learning about this elusive and rare creature.

http://www.skyline.co.nz/en/queenstown/dining/

Take the scenic ride up to Bob’s Peak to take in the scenic, panoramic views. You’ll be carried 450 metres above Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu. Settle in for dinner at Stratosfare Restaurant.

There’s also the Skyline Stargazing experience, where stargazing guides lead you up Bob’s Peak where with telescopes, you’ll take in sights not visible to the naked eye.

https://www.theurbanlist.com/nz/a-list/things-to-do-queenstown

Inside the Gondola’s capsule, we chatted to a couple who were revisiting the Gondola after their first visit 40 years ago. And it is little wonder. The views from there are mind-blowing. This activity is an iconic must-do, when you visit Queenstown.

Surprisingly, we noticed a flock of sheep grazing underfoot, as we travelled upwards. But it was the view that again and again captured our attention. It got better and better with each passing second.

Stratasfare Restaurant Dining Experience

Our dinner package included a complimentary drink on the terrace where the full spectacle of the snow-capped range, that is The Remarkables, can be viewed.

Queenstown
Queenstown

Being winter, the weather was closing in and longer views of The Remarkables had to wait as the mountain range snuck in behind the incoming snow cloud. Thus, we had to be quick with photographs before they disappeared completely for the evening.

The buffet experience, which may well now be modified due to Covid, was in a word, spectacular. The very best seafood, salads, hot and cold meats, desserts and fine boutique wines accompanied the splendid and vast array of food. And you can of course, eat as much as you like. I seem to remember I did over-indulge.

*Check with the restaurant for the new Covid arrangements. The buffet may be full service.

Tourist should also note that you need to be prepared to wait a long while for the taxi cab back to your hotel on a Saturday night after returning below via the Gondola. There are few Queenstown Taxis and we jumped in a share ride after waiting 45 minutes with a very tired, young child.

Queenstown Bungee

Most people know by now that Bungy jumping (also known as bungee jumping), is where a long elastic cord is attached to the ankles or harness, and the person jumps off a large height into NOTHINGNESS.

The Bungee jump at the Gondola Peak starts 400m, that’s 1300ft, over the city, and you can choose to jump normally, or swing over the township, night or day. Not my choice, but it might be your dream. Or you can skydive!

Skydiving over Queenstown

The Queenstown area actually houses three different Bungy operations. Apparently the jumping-off platform, at the top of the Gondola, was moved around further on the mountain due to it being previously positioned above a graveyard. The inappropriate screaming of Bungee jumpers were rather disconcerting during burials occurring below!

Fun fact:
Bungy jumping was inspired by David Attenborough’s 1950’s footage of the land divers of Pentecost Island Vanuatu, who tied vines to their ankles and jumped off tall platforms as a religious ceremony to bring a good harvest.

Queenstown Luge Ride

More appropriate and adrenalin-packed enough for me was the Luge ride, which is really a modified go-cart, hurtling slowly down a pre-defined track. We had pre-paid for this activity and it was a little underwhelming even for my ten-year-old child. In addition, tourists should beware the Luge rides close at 5pm, so if you plan to do the Luge with your kids before dinner, arrive early or you may face long queues at the buffet restaurant.

Accommodation:
Mercure Hotel – Queenstown
This hotel is located out of the main shopping area, a long walk from the town centre, but wonderfully located right on the lake and includes some really pretty views out from the Dining Room window. The shame is that this dining room is only used at nighttime, when you won’t see much, except black water and a few nightlights!

Location

You will have to taxi to and from the main shopping and town centre, but the desk staff are helpful and the views are wonderful. Amenities include a gym, (with a stunning view), sauna and swimming pool which on account of the prevalence of rain in Queenstown, is often underutilized.

Dining

If you stay at the Mercure and want meals after hours, you can eat at the bar which offers light adult-orientated snacks or alternatively, order Room Service. I chose the cheapest item on the Room Service menu, which was Garlic bread and it came covered with a stainless steel warmer cover, that unfortunately had congealed tomato sauce, on the inner side.

This was reported it to the kitchen staff and on my departure, an error on the bill where I was charged incorrectly for two garlic bread opened the discussion for the congealed tomato sauce. The fee was promptly waived by Reception staff. This goes a long way to making a happy customer. Well done, Mercure.

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Christmas markets Europe
Photography

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge – Christmas Preparations

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Hello Everyone!

StPA is finally back after a month offline that was largely spent packing up and unpacking box after box of ‘stuff.’ Stuff that I’ve accumulated through the bulk of my adult life that needed to be moved to a new house. Much of the extraneous stuff has been sold, given away or donated to charity, and so it feels like a new chapter and beginning for me and the MOTH, in our new Home by the Sea.

Meanwhile, on returning to work, I was greeted with the launching of a Christmas room decorating challenge which seems to have brought out a competitive streak in all the staff.

From doorways and even ‘Ralph,’ the skeleton, enhanced with tinsel and Christmas gift wrap, to desks and computers decorated with baubles and Admin staff bedecked with reindeer antler headpieces, some decorations were quirky, funny, pretty and yes, over the top too! A bit like the lady I met in New Zealand, whose home was filled with all kinds of Christmas trees in her own passion for Christmas preparations.

Some of Dianne’s Xmas Trees

It was with this Dianne in mind, that I decided the prompt this week’s Friendly Friday prompt would be:

Christmas Preparations

Your preparations might be packing for a long awaited camping trip, or cooking up a storm of food, or it might be a well earned rest at the beach with a good book or two, (that’s me), or even a walk amongst the Christmas lights or markets with a warming cup of Gluhwein.

happy girl
German Christmas Markets

Whatever your preparations are, I’d love to see and hear about it here at Friendly Friday. Here is how to join in:

Joining the Friendly Friday Photo Challenge

  • Write a ‘Friendly Friday-Christmas Preparations,’ post and include a URL link to this post, tagging the post, ‘Friendly Friday.’
  • Add the Photo Challenge logo, too, if you wish.
  • Copy the published url into the comments below, so other readers can visit your blog.
  • Visit other Friendly Friday entries by following their links. It’s fun!
  • Follow the host blogs to see future FF prompts in 2020.

Remember to post a comment in this post, so we can find you if the pingback doesn’t work.

Christmas gift
Suspicious Santa

Friendly Friday 2020

As Christmas is usually a busy time for most of us, I wish to announce that this is the very last Friendly Friday Challenge for 2019, as the challenge will be in recess over Christmas and New Year.

Friendly Friday

Friendly Friday Challenges WILL begin again from January 31st, 2020, here at Something to Ponder About and the following week we will welcome our new challenge host, Sandy from The Sandy Chronicles. I do hope you will continue to enjoy and post along with us, on Friendly Fridays.

Snow and I have so enjoyed getting to know such a rich and diverse group of fabulous photographers and bloggers. Maybe we should call it Fabulous Friday!

A huge thanks goes to Manja from Manja Mexi Mexcessive for keeping the Friendly Friday Seat warm for the my hosting weeks in the past month and for being a fabulous backup for both Snow and I. Manja has done a magnificient job and I am very lucky to have a great back up host. Her photos are diverse and enthralling and captions legendary.

Christmas Preparations

Is it beginning to look a lot like Christmas in your place?

I must admit that I am pretty low key with decorations this year. I think it is something to do with moving overload !! Which leaves more time for relaxing in our steamy summer weather. And also for some Christmas music. My Christmas is always accompanied by the mellow tones of Bing….

Merry Christmas from Amanda at Something to Ponder About

Community

Heavenly Gardens of Shinjuku Gyoen – Japan

Bolstered by the large and eventful breakfast, which I wrote about here, and visiting Tokyo in Crimson Leaves Season, we were keen to explore a traditional garden, on our first day in Japan. At the top of our list was the Gyoen National Garden, a green oasis that is completely amidst the busiest commercial district in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

Garden
Gyoen National Garden, Shinjuku, Tokyo

Background of Gyoen

Originally a residence for one of Japan’s feudal Lord during the Edo period, the Gyoen National Garden fell under the control of the Imperial family in the twentieth century. Although much of the garden was then destroyed during World War II; you would never know it, as Gyoen is nothing short of a tranquil, well tended masterpiece of Japanese horticulture.

Traditional Japanese Garden Design at Gyoen

With the NTT Docomo building towering stoically above Gyoen’s tree line like an old world Imperial Guard, it is easy to remember the Shinjuku-Shibuya metropolis is never far away. However, the hard concrete lines of modernity are significantly softened by the more natural lines of the leafy foliage and traditional Japanese garden fixtures.

Very photogenic.

NTT Docomo Building from Gyoen

The Gyoen Guide Map offers us the chance to fully comprehend the scale of the park and orientates ourselves to ensure we see all the individual gardens and differing botanical features contained therein. Entrance, (with guide map in English), costs 200 Japanese Yen.

We don’t want to miss anything!

Gyoen’s Shinjuku Entrance Gate

chrysanthemum shows

The small fee we pay to enter the garden is truly value for money, as the day we visit there is also a special floral display of cultivated chrysanthemums, which attracts the attention of many Japanese citizens.

How glorious are these?

Light rain only enhances the organic beauty around us, as the raindrops linger on the leaves. This delights my daughter as it makes for excellent photographic opportunities.

And we have the ubiquitous, clear-plastic umbrella to shield us. Very Japanese.


“Maple trees can be seen in large numbers around the Japanese garden and Momijiyama (maple mountain) on the [Gyoen] park’s eastern side. The colors typically appear from mid November to mid December. “

Tokyo Tourist Guide
One small Maple tree showed its Crimson coat. In a few weeks time, the others would too.

Our arrival is a week or so early to see the majority of crimson leaves in Tokyo, for the temperatures are unusually warm. Despite this, I find the trees are magical and remind me of a medieval Northern forest, or a scene from a Lord of the Rings novel.

The leaves are still golden and green, but soon to be crimson red.

Pavilion

Each path within the garden invites in us, a different mood, vista and experience.
You can see hanging bouquets of chrysanthemums in the display in the background.
Despite the overcast conditions, the Pavilion was a place of tranquility and reflection, in more ways than one.

The carp pond

No Japanese garden could be complete without a Carp pond – and Gyoen has one.

Again the city reminds you it’s not far too away.

Carp pond – Gyoen National Garden
A serene spot to reflect, meditate and rejuvenate in Gyoen. Lucky Carp fish.

Autumn avenue awesomeness

However, for this sub-tropical Australian resident, the ultimate heavenly experience is yet to come when I discover the avenue of Sycamore trees, a feast for local photographers. It is such a delight for me. I truly am in awe of these trees and their burst of colour.

Photography
What photographer wouldn’t want to capture this?

This is Autumnal earth, resplendent in shades of sienna, brown, rust, bright yellow and green, all coalescing in an intense and harmonious collection of wholesome organic beauty.

The child in me wanted to run and kick up the fallen leaves, throw them in the air, rake them into a pile and jump on top of them. An Autumnal experience that exists only in my dreams.

Gyoen national park is a Japanese treasure, particularly if you visit at Crimson Leaf Season
Stunningly picturesque

Never before had I seen an avenue of trees that captivated me in such a way and I didn’t want to leave. [You have to remember we don’t have such deciduous trees in my home zone, so I’m super excited.]

sendagaya gate

Reluctantly, after several hours exploring and a gazillion photographs taken, we walk towards the park’s Sendagaya gate and find yet another magical path through the trees.

There is a special light through here. It is hard to define and see in the photo, but it is there.

Gyoen National Garden – A perfect spot to sit and ‘Ponder About Something.’

Linking to Friendly friday photo walk a challenge hosted by me and Snowmeltssomewhere

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 #aroundtheworldWP

Community

Last Minute Christmas Ideas

Decorations are in the shops from August in some places, carols are playing over the speakers in shopping centres, and Christmas comes earlier and becomes more commercialized every year.

Even kids are organized early, these days. When my children were younger, a lengthy Christmas wish list of various items ranging in price from in expensive to earth shattering out of my budget, expensive, would appear on my bedroom wall, about a month before Christmas Day. Just in case I was unsure of what exactly to buy for them for Xmas. 

Kids growing expectations of Christmas gifts

There is expectations around gift giving now. Mind you, can’t really blame the kids for trying, even if the follow through does not reach such dizzying heights.

Humbling was the child from a family, at school, who said, when asked what they got from Santa, “A new lunchbox for school.”  Did this pull at my heart strings?  Oh yes, indeed. Makes me think of many possible alternative options for low cost or free activities, as gifts, that one can request and give for Christmas.

(Write these up onto pretty gift cards, placed in a “surprise bag” and could be pulled out by each child/ adult, as a kind of lucky dip/Christmas game)
* A warm and cosy evening/day spent doing whatever each child wishes, one on one, without disturbances from computer, phone, mobile phone or Ipod, Ipad etc etc.  It might be a board game, cocoa and a chat, playing games, like hide n seek, or pictionary/ monopoly.

* A Christmas themed movie or power-point presentation for Grandparents and/or extended family

* Building a cubby house, go cart, or raft together. This can be as complex or as simple as you like: the full wooden hammer and nails bit, or a large cardboard box.

* Sewing or embroidering a calico/reusable plain shopping bags, with permanent markers or paint

*Make low cost decorations for the tree with pre-printed felt, ribbon and glue.

Embroidery star decoration
Simple – cut out printed felt or embroider and glue to make low cost decorations

* Making the Christmas cake/ lolly or cookie jars to give to others.

* Setting out tea light candles all along your street and letterbox dropping others on surrounding streets to do the same. We do this and call it ‘Santa’s highway’.

Tivoli

* Making a card or memory album for Grandma

* Constructing a year in my family chronicle to give out to family members at Xmas with recipes, funny stories, and photos.

* Challenge the kids to present a puppet show or play to family members on Christmas Day. Make a video to give to them when they are older

* A talent quest for family members with a Christmas theme

(Chocolate Prizes for all entrants)

* Swimming or running races or even Trampoline competitions if you have one

* A Forest hike

* A walk or play on the beach, perhaps with the promise of ice cream afterwards.

* If the kids are into books, a trip to the library or bookstore or book exchange

Lucerne christmas

There are plenty more ideas available on the net or in books, so these are just a few that came to me, off the top of my head. This kind of experience will stay in a child’s memory for longer than the short lived joy of getting a cheap plastic toy that may be broken/forgotten in a few months time.

Christmas need not be super expensive. Be creative and have fun, and still be giving a priceless gift that has the bonus of being environmentally friendly.

These activities will surely be something kids might ponder about when they reminisce about Christmas past.

Ways to save money this Christmas and still have fun with the family.

How do you manage Christmas spending?

Have you got a way to save money and still have fun with the children?