After parking at the Man Street carpark, we were led by our noses down the steps on the side of the hill to Shotover Street. There were plenty of shops and restaurants but we followed our olfactory senses to the Boliwood restaurant. The place was small, but the food was appetising. Of course, we were a hungry bunch.
We wandered about a bit, noting that a lot of the activities had their ticketing offices on Shotover Street, before stopping at the i-SITE center on Camp Street. The lady there was very helpful. She helped us book tickets to the Skyline Gondola and the Luge. In addition, we got tickets for Shotover jet for the 10 am ride on Wednesday morning. After collecting several maps and our tickets, we headed back to the carpark, grabbed our Go Pro and small camera, jackets and headed up the road to Skyline Queenstown.
A word about i-SITE centers, first though. These centers are located in every major tourist city, are well staffed, very informative with handy local and regional information. At all centers, we found the staff to be courteous and eager to help with a smile, many of them calling up different attractions or activities providers for us. They took their time to help with no sense of hurry. I would recommend stopping at an i-SITE upon reaching a town/ city to help iron out itineraries.
Skyline is set on the picturesque Ben Lomond Scenic Reserve, on the slopes of Bob’s Peak. A short walk from the Queenstown center, the complex offers a variety of activities including the Gondola ride, the Luge, restaurants, stargazing, Maori cultural shows and tracks for walking and mountain biking. Since our time in Queenstown was very limited, we did the ride and the Luge. Family tickets for the Gondola are available. Skyline has another complex in Rotorua on the North island but the views of Queenstown and its environs are amazing from the top. I wouldnt miss it for the world!
We hopped onto the Gondola cars, with our customary photo snapped at the base of the hill. Several others hopped on before us with their mountain bikes loaded onto the car. They would get off at the top of the hill and ride the Queenstown biking park tracks. We saw a dad with two young boys do this. What a great activity to enjoy with the kids, fun and family bonding!
The viewing deck at the top offers amazing views of the Queenstown Bay, the town, the golf course, Lake Wakatipu and the Double Cone, the highest point of the Remarkables mountain range. A lake with a tide, Lake Wakatipu‘s immense size and beauty are well appreciated from the Skyline deck. A glacier carved lake, its waters cast a magic spell on you, making you want to slow down and appreciate nature.
We headed to the Skyline Luge area where we donned helmets and took the chairlift to the start of the track. Everyone has to take the slower, more scenic track the first time, subsequent rides can be on the faster track. The Luge is a gravity driven ride, downhill, on a three wheeled cart, with a braking and steering system. Children 44″ and taller can ride tandem with an adult and over 54″ on their own. The staff first gives a safety briefing explaining the concept of working the luge carts and then you are off.
The scenic track was slower with gentler bends and curves and was, in reality, well designed with lupins along the way and scenic vistas as well. Now the kids and Mr. JJ, of course, saw no such thing. All they saw was the track and wondered how fast they could get across it. Lupins? Whoever thought of looking for lupins along the track?
The Luge is easy to handle and a lot of fun. I have to admit the scenic track seemed a bit tame after experiencing the faster track with more steep curves, and bumps. I was the last to finish both times but oh! what a fun ride it was! As they say at the Luge, once is never enough!
Skyline also offers paragliding via Gforce paragliding from the top of the Gondola. Our initial plan had been to make our way to the Gondola hill first thing in the morning to do the paragliding, weather permitting. But that was not to be, on this trip. There is an AJ Hackett Bungy center as well for the stout of heart,
With the Luge out of the way and with the day slowly winding down, we made our way down to the town center. There is a small Kiwi birdpark just outside of the Skyline but we didn’t make it in there. From Queenstown, we set course for Te Anau, stopping at the Remarkables Park Town Center for some groceries. I was happy to see fresh fruits, fresh veggies and even some mouthwatering crispy Murukku, locally made. With some snacks, fruits, juices, bread for toast and jam and Nutella in hand, we headed out.
Te Anau was our rest stop for that night and the next while we cruised the Fiordland Sounds. Located about 170 kms from Queenstown, we drove about 2 hrs to get there. Part of the way, we followed the waters of Lake Wakatipu, glistening like a million diamonds in the lowering sunshine. There were plenty of rest areas with picnic benches but not many with toilets. There was no dearth of sheep or cow, however. In fact, we passed so many sheep that evening, yet barely another car or two. What was startling was the number of deer farms that we saw. Apparently, in this part of NZ, deer farming is a strong industry for venison export.
We reached the Arran Motel, our home for the next two days, just before 9 pm. The long summer days were a boon to us as we crossed this island. Our host, Rennie, was very gracious and got us settled immediately. Our one bedroom unit was quite spacious with a small kitchen, dining nook, living area with a bed and a divan. There was a laundry room with washer/ dryer on the premises.
After a meal of leftovers, as the sun went to bed, we got our camera and electronics ready for our morning cruise and settled down for the day. The weather was crispy cool, the rose bushes outside our window were glowing slightly in the moonlight, large buds in different shades, the night sounds a beautiful accompaniment to our sleep. Finally, we were in New Zealand. The adventure had begun.