a short week in Central Otago
At the beginning of the month Mum and I dashed off to my favourite place in all of NZ- Queenstown. I don’t know whether it’s the buzz, the food or the cold- but the town has captured my heart.
I’ve been at LEAST once a year since I started high school, with my most memorable New Years holiday being with my family as we divulged in every single tourist activity available to us (bungy included…)
It’s the food and wine capital of NZ (if you ask me) and the most transient wee town, meaning no two days are ever the same, which purely adds to the beauty of the place (metaphorically and literally).
So with that, enjoy a few of my favourite places, things and views—
First up, this trip we stayed at Kamana Lakehouse. It’s a beautiful boutique-style accommodation up on Fernhill. Not recommended if you don’t have access to a car (that hill is a killer) but if you drove or rented, it’s worth the extra 5 minutes. Whether you stay in the Lakehouse itself or in the upmarket motel styled rooms to the rear, you’re in for a super comfy bed, beautifully designed interiors and the most breathtaking view from the restaurant, Nest.
I’ve previously stayed at The Heritage (also on Fernhill, but within (drunk) walking distance) which was beautiful and ticked all the basic boxes. I would stay again if that’s what my budget allowed (especially in summer because it has a pool).
If you’re in for the long-haul and looking for budget friendly accommodation but aren’t quite willing to backpack, I loved my night at Jucy Snooze. I had a double room so some privacy and an en-suite, but the team were welcoming, the room was warm, not too loud and it’s a bloody good spot if you’re in for a boozy one.
Next up on my list of places to stay (I don’t tend to stay somewhere more than once.. where’s the fun in that) is the Hilton, QT & the new Holiday Inn once’s it’s finished!
The majority of this post will come at you from a ‘local-but-not-a-local’ point of view. I’ve done all the tourist traps and you really only need to do them once, but for those who are yet to, I’d recommend spending the money and booking a package. When I went with the family we booked an incredible deal that included a helicopter ride, gondola, luge, bungy and jetboat. We saved over $300 and got all the adrenaline fun out of the way (and some INSANE photos).
The one thing I do WITHOUT fail every time I visit is the Onsen Hot Pools. Locals would consider it a tourist trap also, but I simply can’t get away. They’re private Hot Pools situated at the top of the Shotover River- with stunning views as the sun moves across the mountains. These book incredibly far in advance and are on the pricier side (considering you’re sitting outside in a spa pool) but elevate each trip to a level of zen I couldn’t achieve otherwise. Mum and I did the Ultimate Relaxation Package this time, which included a 1-hour full body massage. Talk to you when I’m off cloud 9.
If you fail to get into Onsen Hot Pools then the Spa at Nugget Point is your next best option. They offer an hourly rate to visit the hotel pool facilities which boast a pool, spa, Grecian style bath, probably something like 6 different showers all tiled with roses (I know), a sauna and a steam room. You can even add on a platter delivered pool side, or book in for a beauty treatment.
Staying in the realm of beauty and pampering, Mum and I were treated to a signature facial at Ivy Clinic, and WOW. This would be such a beautiful way to finish a holiday, with fresh and plump skin. The team are so knowledgeable and I personally can’t think of much better.
In terms of activities, I’ve personally loved walking (which is horrifying because I hate a walk) around areas like Bob’s Cove, Queenstown Hill and Kelvin Heights. There’s so much to explore if you just go for a walk.
Day trips I love are to Glenorchy (so cute so so cute), Jacks Point (good for food!!) and over to Walter Peak Farm where you can get a tour and *apparently* enjoy a ‘pretty f***ing epic buffet’ (quote my Dad).
Once you get outside Queenstown it just gets better. Take a day and head to Arrowtown- less than 20 minutes away by car you can stroll down the old town streets and visit the cutest boutique stores, get a pie or cozy on the front deck at Postmasters. Honourable mention goes to Slow Cuts and the Chop Shop Food Merchants while we’re on the food chat too.
Wanaka is a whole other story- but I’ll add this in here too. If you’ve got QT on your itinerary I’d highly recommend a day trip to Wanaka (actually I’d recommend you stay a night). Explore the Lavender Fields and go berry picking in the summer, or book a bach with a fire and snuggle up with a book. If you didn’t while you were a kid, make sure Puzzling World and the Maze are on the agenda! The Wanaka Tree, Roy’s Peak and Mt Iron are all hot spots (I’m never doing Roy’s Peak but I’ve witnessed the snapchats lol) and Kika, Gin & Raspberry and Federal Diner are your top spot eateries.
And finally (this crosses over into the next category), explore the vines! Central Otago is FULL of amazing wineries which have unbelievable restaurants attached to them, so even if you’re not a huge wine and dine’r (me), you can still enjoy a day out!
BRUNCH & LUNCH |
Akarua Wines and Kitchen by Artisan was to die for. Easily the best brunch we had, plus you could make a morning of this and explore the winery too. Such a good spot to take the family.
Franks Eatery is a good quick lunch spot (and loved by locals). They have the usual menu food but also boast impressive drinks and cabinet selections too. I find myself here if I need to sit down and work for a bit, with good break-out style areas around the venue.
Halo Forbidden Bite has always been a firm QT fav, with a very classic brunch menu and in a good central location.
Bespoke Kitchen or Vudu Larder are both great options for brunch or lunch if you’re more health conscious. They’re co-owned and both in exceptional locations (including one waterfront) however are ALWAYS packed so be wary of when you visit.
Yonder is probably my favourite QT eatery, not only do they do dinner too, but the french toast is SENSATIONAL and the service is always something to write home about. There’s always something on at Yonder too, with majority of Queenstown stopping in for a live event or to use their co-working space.
White + Wongs is a must do if you love a bit of Asian Fusion. Their flavours are as big as their meals and the atmosphere is cozy and fun! I love grabbing a bunch of share plates here and making the most of trying new dishes.
Bazaar at the QT Hotel describes itself as a ‘interactive marketplace’ because buffet does no justice. It’s such an amazing experience and there’s zero chance of you leaving without the top button of your jeans needing to be popped.
Miss Lucy’s is a cute rooftop bar located above Jucy Snooze, so VERY central. Their Mac n Cheese is off the ‘charts’ and is the perfect place to stop in with friends for pizza.
Taco Medic is located in one of the many alleyways QT central boasts, and is the perfect stop in for a taco and some local yarns. These guys work their butts off and are SO friendly, which makes the food taste even better (I am sure of it).
Madam Woo is a sure fire, and particularly good for a bigger group (altho they don’t love splitting a bill lol). I rate their hawker rolls to no end.
Nest is the earlier mentioned restaurant at Kamana Lakehouse, and because it’s part of the hotel I admittedly did not have high hopes. I was SO WRONG. This, for me and Mum in particular, was one of the top meals we had. We sat round a wee fire on some cozy loungers and nibbled on tapas galore: the fish tacos and croquettes being something we would 11/10 order again.
My biggest tip for eating out in Queenstown (or anywhere), is to book your table in advance using First Table. By dining in an earlier seating, you get 50% off food for up to 4 people. All you have to do is pay $10 to secure your table. Food is even better when it’s half price, trust me ;)
SO all in all, Queenstown is a place you have to visit more than once. If the food doesn’t draw you back, the views will.
Have the BEST time.