After a couple of days in the Wanaka area, me and my friend, Karen headed to Queenstown. Karen would be going back home soon and I would be heading on to the Great Walks. But I didn’t want Karen to leave before checking out Milford Sound, one of the most visited and photographed locations in New Zealand. To beat the crowds, we took an early morning bus from Queenstown in order to catch one of the first ferries in to the sound. Jucy Cruizes offer very affordable tours to Milford sound with really informative and funny bus drivers and a very efficient tour. Plus, the early morning tours are even cheaper thus giving you a double advantage.
The cruise itself is amazing. You get to see 3000ft mountain cliffs rise out of the Tasman Sea, with waterfalls pouring down them at every turn. We were lucky to have a beautiful, sunny day and got a perfect morning of blue seas and green mountains but if you do go there in the rains (which I did as well) you can see a lot of hanging clouds and many more waterfalls giving the place a very lost world-esque vibe. Either way, you cannot go wrong there. This is almost a 12-hour tour, so be prepared for a long day if you are going from Queenstown.
Queenstown goes by many names – Adrenaline Capital, Adventure Central, Party Town, Gateway to the Alps, etc. and it lives up to all those names. Like most other resort towns, Queenstown is located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, encased between several high mountain ranges, the most remarkable of which is coincidentally called The Remarkables. The town caters to every type of tourist, from cheap dirtbags to 21-year olds on a thrill trip to families looking for an easy and safe tour to see some mountains. Accommodation and food ranges from very cheap to extravagantly costly and everything in between. The range of activities one can do in Queenstown is almost absurd. You can do some tame activities like wine tours and boating on the lake or get a little more action with para-gliding, kite-surfing or fly-fishing or do something more adrenaline inducing like bungee jumping, sky-diving, jet-boat riding, or even try more obscure things like Luge and fly-boarding (where they strap a jetpack on your back). If you don’t want to spend money on these activities, there are a number of trails that can be hiked or biked which provide amazing views of the surrounding area, like Ben Lomond Peak or Queenstown Hill for example. You can also check out a few locations where outdoor scenes of Lord of the Rings were filmed (I haven’t referenced LOTR at all yet because there is so much more to NZ than just that).
Karen left the next day, but not before we managed to eat the famous Fergburger burgers, a Queenstown institution. The place usually has lines around the block and a 1-hour wait for their burgers and apparently is a must-try when in Queenstown. Locals have suggested calling ahead to order rather than wait in line but the phones are always disconnected. Anyway, after a long day of hiking/sight-seeing/bungee-jumping, it feels great to chow down on a Fergburger. For the early-risers, Fergbakery, an awesome bakery next door also serves great breakfast items.
After Karen left, I continued eating my way around Queenstown and gathering supplies for my upcoming hikes. The plan was to do the Routeburn track, the Milford Track and the Kepler Track, almost back to back. The next day, I would leave for Glenorchy to start the Routeburn Track and if all went to plan, would not be seeing a big town for the next 11 days.