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72 Hours in Queenstown

Published 30 March 2016

Sarah May Hayes

Last year, New Zealand was named the “Best Country in the World” after 90,000 travellers voted in the Telegraph Travel Awards, and it’s really not hard to see why.

I left New Zealand (or Aotearoa as the Maori call it) at the beginning of December 2014, and I’ve never been so sad to leave a place. Never have I been to a country that offers so much, in such a relatively small space. You want miles of green walks? You’ve got them. You want snow-capped mountains, covered in rolling fog? You’ve got them too. Ice blue lakes, towering glaciers, natural hot springs; there is a postcard-perfect view available wherever you look in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

Cityscape of Queenstown

I was in New Zealand for six weeks and spent lots of time in Queenstown. The South Island city is a microcosm of everything New Zealand has to offer; stunning scenery, great food and drink and only a short trip away from the beautiful Fiordland National Park in the South West. Queenstown was one of my favorite destinations in New Zealand, and if you’re short on time you can easily fit in some of the best things the city has to offer in just three days.

Here’s what I’d do if I had just 72 hours in Queenstown:

Brilliant bungy

The AJ Hackett crew is full of professionals who’ll put you at ease – not to mention they’ve had people as young as 14 and as old as 78 jump into the canyon, so you really have no excuse.

I felt completely safe the whole time, though the vertiginous journey over to where you jump is something I will never forget. My advice? Try not to look down.

If you feel the bungy may just be a little too much for your heart to handle, AJ Hackett also offers the Nevis Swing; this is the world’s biggest adventure swing and, seeing as I was there already, I did this one too. Being suspended over a 160-metre canyon floor is a good way to conquer your fear of heights and, when you’re catapulted to the other side of the valley at 120mph, you’ll feel invincible and capable of anything and everything.

FergBurger feeding frenzy

After all that excitement, you’ll probably want something to eat. A visit to Queenstown is not complete until you’ve eaten at the famous FergBurger in Shotover Street; travellers come from far and wide to taste these delicious morsels and it’s no exaggeration to say it’s the best burger I’ve ever had.

FergBurger Queenstown

You can now also pop next door to the FergBaker, where one of New Zealand’s favourite dishes, the pie, is on sale. Here you can taste culinary delights such as deer, red wine and Portobello mushroom pie or, if you want something a little sweeter, I recommend giving the lemon meringue pie a go.

Fantastic Fiordland

To combat all those FergBurger calories, you might be interested in a few of the hikes Queenstown has to offer. The flora and fauna in Queenstown is unlike any other and, whatever your fitness level, there will be something for you. There are a number of short scenic walks that start right from the city centre, or you can visit the iconic Fiordland and Mount Aspiring National Parks which are only a short car journey away.

Milford Sound

I spent a day visiting Milford Sound, within Fiordland National Park, and the Te Wahipounamu UNESCO World Heritage site. Milford is the only fiord that can be accessed by road. There are a number of ways to explore it, but I opted for a cruise.

The boat slices through the waters and either side of you are the towering mountains and snowy peaks. At the pinnacle of Milford Sound is the Mitre Peak; standing proud 1,692-metres above sea level, it is certainly worth the three-hour drive from Queenstown. You also don’t have to look far to see Milford Sound’s wonderful wildlife – from penguins to seals. When floating through this majestic, prehistoric and almost otherworldly dimension, you’ll suddenly understand why it’s often named the eighth wonder of the world.

Getting acquainted with Queenstown

Once you’re back in Queenstown, there are still numerous things to see and do. If you want a shot of the whole city, jump on the Queenstown Skyline Gondola. Once you’ve taken in the view, you can eat at the Gondola Stratosfare Restaurant and Bar, or watch Kiwi Haka Maori performances from the comfort of your table.

Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu

If the bungy jump wasn’t enough excitement for you, you can also get back down into the city by luging; taking your own little go-cart and riding it all the way back down the hill. The Skyline Gondola also offers access to other walking tracks and mountain bike trails, as well as a beautiful stargazing tour. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that you won’t see stars like this anywhere else in the world.

Visiting Queenstown is a once in a lifetime experience. If the food, the adrenaline rush or the friendly Kiwi hospitality isn’t enough for you, simply sitting next to Lake Wakatipu with a pint in your hand and the Remarkable Mountains in your sightline should satisfy even the pickiest traveller.

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