Photo Diary: Adventures in Queenstown

Photo Diary: Adventures in Queenstown

Welcome to the adventure capital of New Zealand – Queenstown!

My boyfriend bought us flights from Auckland to Queenstown in the South Island and our plan was to pick up a rental car (that we got for FREE!) and we would road trip it all the way back up to Auckland in the North Island. And that was about it. We hadn’t really planned anything else, except to meet up with some friends who were also on holiday in New Zealand.

We flew into Queenstown in the morning and I was immediately greeted by my friend Leá who ran up from behind yelling “BABY!” and gave me a huge hug. Lea was my study abroad “buddy” in college, and we became really good friends after some fun little misadventures at a wedding in Mexico hehe. Who knew we would be reunited 3 years later halfway across the world in New Zealand?! It was so good to see her, and to meet her boyfriend Geoff. We tried to go on a hike but changed our mind and got lunch at Caribe Latin Kitchen and coffee at Starbucks before walking around and dipping our toes in Lake Wakatipu.

Summer season in Queenstown means it’s bustling with tourists for the holidays. And that in turn means accommodations would be expensive. Lucky for us, we found a spot–literally a parking spot and tent site–at the Lakeview Holiday Park which was reasonably priced for our backpacker budget (about $50 NZD for a non-powered site).

Typical holiday park in New Zealand
This was BEFORE everyone showed up to our holiday park, so just imagine this but 10x more full.

Hey neighbor, want to go on an adventure?!

We explored the town and made plans to meet up with our other friends, who also happen to be our neighbors back in American Samoa, Mark and Alice. We grabbed drinks by the wharf and went back to their camper van named “Bernie” and they told us that they were gonna go paragliding the next day. Now I knew that Queenstown was popular for extreme sports but I honestly didn’t think about participating in any adrenaline pumping events until that very night. I had already tried skydiving two summers ago in Phoenix (which I loved) and isn’t paragliding a step down?  The next morning Ian and I woke up in our tiny tent in packed-like-sardines-land and I was on my way to the bathroom when I looked up and saw a big parachute with a guy attached to it. I took a photo and added it to my Instagram story with the caption “Looks like fun”… next thing you know, I’m booking two paragliding tickets for the highest jump off of Coronet Peak.

We picked up our free rental car (did I mention it was free?) and grabbed brunch at the acclaimed “best burger joint on the planet”, Fergberger’s. We tried eating here the day before but the line was literally out the door and ’round the corner for who knew how long… we didn’t bother to check. But it was still pretty early so the line wasn’t so bad. After a 30 minute wait, I can officially say I agree, best burger I ever had!

Manuia! Mark and Alice in New Zealand
Cozy camper van in New Zealand

Why Paragliding was just okay

I wasn’t nervous about paragliding at all. I was however nervous about the windy shuttle ride up to Coronet Peak. I got just a tiny bit motion sick from the ride but made it up to the highest jump off no problem. My first thoughts when we arrived at our launch point were (1) I wish I brought chapstick and a down jacket because it’s cold, and (2) this is going to suck isn’t it?

Five minutes later, I’m strapped in to a guy named Peter watching my boyfriend jump off with his tandem partner and he looks stoked. His jump was perfectly executed. I was gonna jump right after but it took a couple of tries because I couldn’t exactly run against the wind with a guy 3x my size strapped to my back. So I had to get an assisted pull into the wind until I was airborne. Once we were up, I felt so relaxed. The view was incredible. I was cold and really wishing I had chapstick on but it was manageable. Time flies when you’re high, literally. And 15 minutes later and a couple of roller coaster spiral spins down towards earth, I landed on my feet (yay!) at the base of the mountain.

Ian landed right after me, followed by Mark and Alice, and we all met at the coffee shop where our pilots were trying to sell us the GoPro photos and videos. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when I found out that both Mark and Alice puked their morning fill of cherries during their flight, especially since they were the ones that were all gung-ho about paragliding! I couldn’t laugh too hard though because I also got quite motion sick from the downward spiraling, so my shoulders were tense and if I moved too much I could have puked too. But more importantly, I didn’t!

Did I like paragliding? Sure. Would I do it again? Probably not.
I’d definitely recommend this for someone who wants to do something exciting but not too blood rushing. In my opinion, it’s just really overpriced (~$200 NZD per person) and not my favorite experience in Queenstown.

Paragliding in Queenstown, New Zealand
Falling in style in Queenstown, New Zealand

Luging isn’t what you think it is

Speaking of favorite experiences… you would think that after paragliding, that would be the topper event of the day, but you’d be wrong. Luging is where it’s at!

The Skyline Luge is cleverly and appropriately marketed as the ride where “once is never enough”. So we went 4 times, but easily could have gone on the 7x maximum ticket if we knew just how fun it would be!

After an hour of resting off the physical discomforts from paragliding, we walked up to the Skyline ticket office, took a gondola up a mountain, and then got on a ski lift that would take us up to the top of the luge track. We were quickly briefed on how to use the luge carts, and proceeded to the first timer’s “scenic route”. It lasted a couple of minutes but it was quite a rush! We got in line again and again, and a group of girls showed how how it’s done when they zoomed by us violently fast laughing their heads off! We were awestruck (that girl is kinda my hero) and on our last race down, we barely used the brakes because we just kept wanting to go faster!

I had no idea what luging was going to be like, but that was my favorite thing I did in Queenstown! We’re putting together our GoPro videos of us luging, so I’ll post that here soon.

While paragliding is the story we will probably retell a lot (mostly because Mark and Alice puked and our friendship warrants this to be held over the other’s heads for some time), luging was the adventure we were looking for in Queenstown.

Savoring Queenstown before getting the heck outta there

We spent our evening at the wharf with our fish and chips, pizza, and fizzy drinks; and listened to live music by a street performer surrounded by a crowd of onlookers. A guy flew a drone and caused a raucous with the gulls in flight. A couple of brüs jumped into the water and laughed like manly men about it. It was already 8pm but it was still bright out. We drove off to Mark and Alice’s campsite by the lake. They got a sick free spot with an epic view. Ian and I almost wished we could camp there for the night too but the drive was 40 minutes away from our holiday park in town and we were feeling exhausted, so we said goodnight and hit the sheets.

The next day was New Year’s Eve. Traffic was suddenly a thing and there were way more people in town, jaywalking and drinking way too early in the day. We packed our stuff and prepared for our road trip. We got groceries at Pak’N’Save (I freaking love this grocery store!) and were relieved to finally get out of touristy Queenstown and hit the open road again.

Gulls going crazy over a drone.

My first time in a holiday park… honestly, not a bad way to travel.