Queenstown is a beautiful town with a population of about 28,000. It was first settled by Irish immigrants and was a mining area. It now is a year-round area for sports and outdoor fun: 220 adventure tourism activities were listed in 2012. There is skiing in winter, and in summer there are Skagway tours, paragliding, parasailing, sky diving, river rafting, tubing, hiking, fishing, and so much more.
The first thing I chose do was take a gondola ride up to a lookout high above the town. Below are homes on the slopes of the many hills, and the downtown area is on the shore of Lake Wakatipu. There were people paragliding and people strolling in the park. It was a place for relaxing in a setting of awesome beauty.
The Maori came first to New Zealand. In the building with the gondola platform above the town, a Haka cultural performance is performed by the Maoris. Haka means hello and welcome. Each Polynesian Island Maori greets visitors; they have similar characteristics, yet they are all different. The facial expression of the New Zealand Maori is unique: their eyes bug out and the tongue is stuck out as a fearsome gesture, unlike any other native culture I have ever seen portrayed. It would have been scary to meet them a century or two ago.
The large city park runs along the shore of the lake. I walked along the well-manicured gardens and admired the beautiful rose garden. Skagway groups came along the path, and in another area, people were playing tennis. All throughout are the grand old trees from around the world, some of which were planted when the park first opened many years ago. There is a large carved rock memorial to George Shackleton and his crew, commemorating his feat in Antarctica. New Zealand was the take-off place for Antarctica expeditions.
Milford Sound is just one great place to see. I planned to fly there, but people drive or take tour buses from Queenstown. The Milford Track is considered one of the most gorgeous hikes in the world. It is 53 kilometers, beginning at Lake Te Anau, and it takes several days. Hikers stay in huts, as no camping is allowed along this track. There are many tracks in New Zealand: Kepler, Rakiura, and Tasman Coast Track, just to name a few.
While I was in Queenstown, it was Christmas time, but there were few decorations and no festive street lights. Despite the Christian heritage here, the people don’t make a big deal of Christmas like in the United States. Boxing Day, after Christmas, is a day of celebrating.
One afternoon, I decided to wait in the usual long line for a famous Fergburger. It was worth the wait! It was a giant hamburger—great tasting food at reasonable price. The town is small, with only a few streets with stores, shops, and restaurants. Yet Queenstown is alive with young active people, coming and going from daily adventures, sky diving, fishing, boating, and hiking. What fun to enjoy this beautiful place!
(posted May 10, 2016)