new zealand

Nomad Safaris, Queenstown, New Zealand

What a day trip! I had such fun on a half day from Queenstown to Glenorchy.

I’ll say it once so listen up: you don’t have to be a Lord of the Rings buff to take a trip with Nomad Safaris. But it really helps.

The tour guides have so much specific knowledge about the area. They have film stills and cast anecdotes and movie secrets that’ll put you into information overload.

We had Badger as our guide and he took us to the forest to go LARPing (live action role playing). Who can resist donning a cloak and wielding a sword when it’s put in front of you? Morning tea was included and I had the best time.

If you’re not a cinema extraordinaire, the tour is still worth it for the landscape alone. Nomad Safaris take you off the beaten track to the most unbelievable vistas and your holiday snaps will be all the better for it.

I cannot recommend this tour highly enough.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

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Million Dollar Cruise, Queenstown, New Zealand

Honestly, all anyone ever talks about in Queenstown is the Earnslaw, an old and still-functioning steam vessel. It’s expensive, it gets booked out fast, and it ties you into package deals like pat a sheep, eat a sheep and whatever.

I wanted a lake cruise but I didn’t want to pay a million dollars. Ironically, Million Dollar Cruises was the next option. A small, family run business, this cruise costs about half the going rate and takes the same amount of time.

You’re shown around Lake Wakitipu and provided with an open bar and personalised commentary on the local sights. There’s a lot of history, of the Maori legends, the gold rush era and the current demographics. I learnt a fair bit to be honest. I can’t recommend this cruise highly enough; great value, stunning location, engaging commentary and a competitive price.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Fergburger, Queenstown, New Zealand

Fergburger is a viral sensation. And for good reason.

The first thing you’ll notice when you hit the most famous burger joint in the southern hemisphere is the queue that extends all the way down the street, at all hours of the day.

The question is; are the burgers worth the wait?

You’ll have to try one for yourself.

We waited until the perfect moment (some random hour between lunch and dinner) to skip the queue and grab our burgers. There’s a huge range, but the Fergburger Deluxe is the traditional option.

Look, there’s nothing new. A burger is a burger. But this one had all the right elements, tangy chutneys, oozing cheese, sweet tomato. You know it’s good, it’s all locally sourced and flipped over an open flame.

Do it. At least once. Be patient and wait for the right moment.

For a taste comparison, we went to the rival burger shop to compare the difference. There’s no doubt, Fergburger is The One. And they have a sister gelateria and bakery as well, so if you don’t feel like a gourmet meal, you can pick up a sweet snack.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Milford Sound, New Zealand

Milford Sound is utterly breathtaking. I was drawn to this place because it featured as a “must-do” on my world scratch-map, and because the legends of its natural beauty precede it.

Although one of the most tourist-flogged natural wonders in New Zealand, Milford Sound remains serene. The Sound is majestic grandeur. It towers up all around you, encompasses you, surrounds you. All is quiet as ancient forces push the very earth upwards and forwards and create chasms and forests. It was formed by a glacier, which technically makes it a fjord, but nonetheless humbling.

Just out of Te Anau, Milford Sound is a fair ways out of Queenstown. Make the drive if you can, otherwise catch a day tour from Queenstown (keep in mind a return trip from Queenstown will be about 12hours).

Perks of self-driving: you can manage your pit stops through the national park, stop off at the waterfalls and take time in the little shops along the way.

Perks of taking a tour: some tours offer a boat cruise through the Sound (and some cruises offer lunch). The driver will have helpful factoids about the area and will stop and secret attractions like the Kea birds. The driver knows the route as if it were the back of their hand, which is important because the roads are windy and hard to pass, especially in wet weather, which is most of the time.

Blue skies are rare at Milford Sound. I had mystical rain which amplified the waterfalls and shrouded the fjord in a solemn mist. I found it truly awe inspiring.

A boat cruise through the Sound will showcase pods of dolphins and take you out to the mouth of the Tasman Sea. I cannot recommend this trip highly enough. You will be humbled, you will be inspired and you will feel connected to something larger than us, something much older.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Oaks Club Resort, Queenstown, New Zealand

I had a strange stay here. There were several really positive experiences and a few negative ones.

We stayed for about a week at Oaks Club in Queenstown.

The hotel offers a shuttle service to the city Centre, however we didn’t make as much use of it as we would have liked to is it came on the hour, didn’t run through the middle of the day and was often fully booked.

We also had a day tour booked (through an external agency) who tried to contact us that there were complications. The resort did not leave any messages on our room phone, no notes under the door- nothing to notify us of this. So, we sat in the foyer for over an hour waiting for the tour pick-up, and the receptionist said nothing to us. A simple conversation would have saved a lot of grief.

Our last concern is that it’s so far removed from the city centre that dinner is an issue for late international arrivals. There was no one to greet us when we checked in, and we had a lot of trouble trying to find dinner after a long day of travel. The partner restaurant, Shores, had closed for the evening and we didn’t have our bearings yet, so we had to figure out how to order a pizza. Thank goodness for delivery!

On a lighter note, the room was spectacular. The views were really special, the living area was spacious and the beds heated. There’s a lovely walk along the lake that takes you to the city and is absolutely worth the stroll. The vista from our balcony was truly breathtaking. Waking up to views of Lake Wakitipu every morning really made up for all our woes. Autumn is the best time to go. Golden leaves pepper the waterline and the Remarkables are lightly dusted with snow.

I don’t think you should be scared by our stories- by no means are our accounts ‘traveler horror stories’. Just a reflection of the undertraining of a transient staff, an issue I hear occurs often in Queenstown.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Speights Alehouse, Queenstown, NEW ZEALAND

Speights Alehouse is modern gourmet pub food for the discerning customer. We were drawn in by the lunch specials and the tantalising menu. They offer information about providence, where the lamb came from, how the fish was caught, sustainable farming, gate to plate produce.

And the food tasted good. Really good. Tender, succulent, rich, simple. We ate here several times through our week in Queenstown and discovered that you should come early in the evening as it becomes quite popular later on. It’s a family venue celebrating history all over its walls. (And free wifi-!)

Bangers and mash, catch of the day, roast lamb and potatoes. Treat yourself to a hearty, locally sourced meal.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Queenstown Skyline, New Zealand

Queenstown is stunning, there’s no doubt about that. It’s a beautiful landscape, it’s a sight to behold. Taking the skyline up to the top of Queenstown is worth it for a fun gondola ride and picturesque views.

However, that’s where my admiration ends, unfortunately.

There’s a lot of activities you can pay to do at the top- bungy jumping, luge, giant swing, mountain bike down to the bottom, buffet dining. The cafĂ© fills the gap, but that’s about it. It feels very commercialised and a bit of a tourist trap, compared with the gondola at Christchurch, which has a 360 degrees panorama of the whole region, information about the local area and cultural history.

I think the spectacular view of Queenstown could be achieved through less expensive means, like trail walking for example. But for those who just want to zip up and appreciate the beauty, it’s there and it’s worthwhile.