I'd heard Queenstown was New Zealand's adventure and nightlife capital, so I was imagining a bustling city filled with neon lights and dodgy back alleys. I should have expected a surprise from this country. Queenstown is the most happening village in the world. It's made up of maybe five main streets, and is nestled in a narrow strip of flat land by a pristine blue lake under fantastic mountain scenery.
And it did not fail to disappoint. I went out on four of the six nights I was there, and three of them were in a row. That's a first for me, but Queenstown is the place to do it. There are bars for every taste. As part of a bar crawl I did we went to one of the two Ice Bars there, where everything down to the floor, chairs, tables and glasses were made of ice. We went to Cowboys, a Western-themed bar with a bull. I'm still nursing a spectacular bruise on my leg from giving that a go. But my favourite place to end the night was Winnie's. There was a good dancefloor, which is basically all I need for a night out. Every Thursday they do a competition night for prizes provided by Peter Pan's. I forced my friend Laura into the dancing contest, and we won! We got a two for one paraglide from the top of Queenstown gondola. (Which for various reasons, mainly the incompetency of the company, we weren't able to do). And our friend Michelle won a two for one skydive as well. All in all it was a successful night.
Queenstown is also home to Fergburger, where they'll make you a burger as big as your head. And they taste so good. We went there four times. (I just ate a vegetable stir fry before writing this post, cooked with no oil. That's how hard Queenstown hit me).
Aside from all the bungy jumping, skydiving, luging, jet boating, hiking, canyon swings, and whatever else you could ever want to do, the gondola ride up to the top of a mountain overlooking the town and the lake is well worth doing. We used it to break up the cycle of drunk-hungover-repeat we found ourselves in. And we did some luging while we were there, just for good measure.
Just as an aside, you'll find some amazing deals for activities on bookme.co.nz, which beat pretty much everything you'll find on the high street.
After a few days in Queenstown, Laura and I embarked on the Deep South section of the Kiwi Experience. We took in Dunedin, and saw the world's steepest street and Cadbury World NZ. We went to the Catlins and saw sealions and the world's rarest type of penguin on a beach made of petrified Jurassic forest. We spent the night in Invercargill, the world's southernmost city, and then on the third day - Milford Sound.
Milford Sound is a fjord on the Tasman Sea, and has been unofficially named the Eighth Wonder of the World. You can do it in a long day trip from Queenstown, or stay closer to it, in places like Te Anau.
Now... I don't want to put a downer on it, because it is beautiful. But honestly I didn't think it deserved all the hype. It was a cloudy day when I was there, so it might be different when the water reflects a clear blue sky, but I've seen photos of Scandinavian fjords that were more impressive. However, I would still recommend going. The boat cruise we did onto the fjord was beautiful, and even the drive there through the Fiordland National Park was full of stunning scenery. It's got to the point where your average perfect reflections in crystal clear lakes of snowy mountains rising above rich pine forests is nothing special. I have to keep reminding myself what I'm surrounded by.
I already miss Queenstown, and I've only been away for two nights. I had great friends there, who have now left New Zealand, so I'm back to travelling north solo. And every day was full of new things, activities, and great sights. It was just the best time. I was on top of the world, at the bottom of the world.
If you come to New Zealand, you have to include Queenstown in your itinerary. It may be tiny, but it packs a punch.