Known for Adventure
By far my favorite city in New Zealand was Queenstown, commonly known as an adventure capital of the world. Situated on Lake Wakatipu between towering jagged mountains known as The Remarkables, the town is quaint and lively, full of every type of tourist from backpackers to businesspeople to the luxury goers. We stayed at the Hotel St. Moritz and though the hotel property itself was nice, the level of service was so egregious that I would barely give it one star. If you're heading to Queenstown, definitely stay somewhere else. One of the biggest things I'd wanted to do while in New Zealand was to skydive and Queenstown was the place to do it, so on our first day there we booked a jump with the NZone Skydive. Well, despite sunny blue skies, it was cancelled due to high winds. So we rescheduled for a few days later.... This time, all seemed hopeful. I signed in at the office, we were all briefed with a safety video and our hearts were pounding as we waiting for the bus to come take us to the drop site... And they got a call from the drop site saying, what else -- there were suddenly high winds and they would need to cancel all the jumps that day. This is the third time in my life I have had a skydive canceled due to high winds, first in Florida last year, now twice in New Zealand. Some people might take it as a sign but I am still determined to jump out of a plane, so I'll just have to go somewhere else.
Since I was in the mode to do something thrilling, I decided to go along with my mom's idea of the Shotover Jet Boat ride, which I hadn't wanted to do because I am afraid of boats. Ironic, I know, that I'll jump out of a perfectly good plane but I'm scared of a fast moving boat -- but statistically, the jet boat is actually much more dangerous. It is essentially driving a speedboat super fast through a narrow gorge, skimming over water that is barley a foot high in most places, doing some crazy spins, and getting soaking wet in the process. So we did the freaking jet boat and it was fine, but I would much rather have gone skydiving.
While wandering around Queenstown, we did some of the typical tourist things like taking the cablecar up to the top for photos. I would also recommend the luge if you're going to take the cable car up, though unfortunately I was not dressed accordingly that day (you can't luge in a dress) so we just took in the view and headed back into town. We stopped at Bespoke Kitchen for lunch, a delicious and trendy little cafe near the cablecar station. Here we actually ran into a couple we had met earlier in the trip at Hokitika Gorge. The craziest thing about the whole trip was how many people we actually ran into multiple times, I think because there are only so many main things to see and people tend to do similar itineraries. Before dinner at Sasso we explored the waterfront a little bit, including the Queenstown Gardens, ate some ice cream at the infamous Patagonia Chocolates, grabbed some donuts at Balls and Bangles, and shopped around at some of the souvenir shops and boutiques. After dinner we grabbed a drink at Little Blackwood, a really trendy place with live music and great cocktails.
Another great activity around Queenstown is driving around the lake. When we drove to Te Anau, we drove next to Lake Wakatipu, along a famous section of road called The Devil's Staircase, known for the windy switchbacks along the edge of the water. This is also the route that takes you to Milford Sound, if you drive, and definitely worth a trek.
After Queenstown, it was time to head home, back to Florida... We flew from Queenstown to Auckland to San Francisco to Houston then on to Tampa. However, our flight in Auckland was so delayed that we were two hours late to San Francisco and then missed our connection, were able to make another flight to Houston, but had to stay the night in Houston before finally making it to Tampa the next morning. The travel time, plus the international date line time change, was so exhausting and I was ready to sleep for a week when I got back... Which is almost entirely what I did...