BY SIMONE FROM GREATFUN4KIDS
If you have kids I don't have to tell most of you how rare and precious is that thing we like to call "grown-up time". A night out. An uninterrupted lunch. But the biggest and rarest prize of all?? A weekend away. Without the kids. Can you think of the last time you had a full night's sleep? A lie-in? A leisurely breakfast in beautiful surroundings?
If it's been too long, feel free to live vicariously through me as I share my blissful tale... (and then go and find someone you can bribe to take your kids for a couple nights and go copy us and escape to Queenstown...)
For our tenth wedding anniversary we managed to find a pair of brave souls willing to have our three kids for the weekend. We booked cheap flights to Queenstown, a place I (a native Kiwi) have never been, but my (English) hubby has been to at least twice. I used Wotif.com to find us an accommodation deal for the dates we needed.
Look where we ended up...
Distinction Nugget Point, 4.5 star luxury Boutiqueness, overlooking the Shotover River. Half price rooms with full breakfast. Woohoo. When we arrived they were super-quiet so they upgraded us to a Superior River View Room. What a blessing! Oh that view. Mountains upon mountains stacked up as far as the eye could see, a river running past below. It felt like Northern Italy or somewhere totally exotic.
After a leisurely spa bath and some chillaxing in the hotel Library we meandered back to Queenstown proper and checked out the famous Gondola. Oh my. This Gondola makes Rotorua's one look teensy. You swing your way up a nearly vertical cliff, the view of lakes and mountains spreading out like a carpet... and then shock horror... when you think you have nearly left earth's atmosphere you spot the Bungy jumping tower. Eek!! Who does that?
We were after romance and relaxing so we declined to fling ourselves off the cliff, but if you were that way inclined this would be the place to do it! We also declined to race down the mountain on the luges. Did you know they have luges in Queenstown? I didn't! The kids would have loved it. We briefly considered it... and then carried on relaxing..., enjoying a drink overlooking the best view in the world.
Queenstown is a wonderful place. So many great pubs, restaurants, cafes. The service is great wherever you go because they are so focused on tourism there. ALL the wait staff and shopkeepers we ran across were super-helpful, super friendly and super-pumped to be working in such a beautiful place where people come from everywhere for adventure and escape.
And the scenery?!! Mountains, lakes, incredible views. Everywhere you look another vista.
If you want to fit in I recommend taking a pair of sturdy walking shoes, some pants with plenty of pockets, a polar fleece jacket and a Backpack. High fashion in Queenstown this outfit. Forget about classy duds and think Kathmandu.
On Saturday needing a little adrenalin hit, we had a go on the Shotover Jet. Wow. Serious fun. I am not a natural thrill seeker; I hate all but the gentlest theme park rides and squeeze my eyes shut on windy roads... but this?
This was pure excitement and fun; not sick-making at all. I laughed the whole way and didn't close my eyes once. Not even when we did those wild 360o spins, or seemed to shoot so close to the rocks we were sure to crash... nope I totally loved every minute of it. Shotover Jet have been operating for over forty years. They used to transport picnickers upriver. These days it's all about adrenaline. We were impressed with the staff; they train to double the industry standard before they are allowed to take passengers. You can tell they all love their job. At $119 per person it's a bit pricey but worth it. It's one of those things you can say, "I did it!" Like going to Venice and forking out for a gondolier to pole you down the canals. Something you can't do anywhere else.
Later that day we drove twenty minutes to gorgeous historic Arrowtown... meandering through quaint shops, saying to each other, "Your mum would love this..."; finding the cutest little cafe with home baking tucked in an alley... stretching out on the grass reading companionably... bliss. This is history-lovers paradise. Quaint and gorgeous. It has a holiday atmosphere, but at a lovely pace. Totally worth a visit.
It was rather hard to leave paradise and head back to reality. We sat out on the balcony overlooking heaven... and I just breathed in the beauty. Those mountains. That serenity. Sigh.
Queenstown totally lives up to the hype. A jewel in the crown. Every second person we met was American. Or Australian. (We spotted what we thought was a protest march; a crowd of Koreans being led by flags... oops nope, just a tour group!) People flock here from every corner of the world, and rave about it. I felt so proud. Loved hearing all the foreigners extol New Zealand's beauties.
We live in a truly beautiful country, but it took me forty years to visit there?!! I kept thinking of that old 80's NZ Tourism ad, "Don't leave town til you've seen the country..."
Sure there are lots of great places overseas. But Queenstown, with it's loads of things to do and its unsurpassed scenery... it has to be on your Places to Visit list. It's as good as anywhere else in the world. Better even.
Queenstown, I love you. And We'll be back.