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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Queenstown – Jewel in the Crown

If you have not heard of Queenstown, New Zealand, you have missed out something good. Thanks to the Lord Of The Rings (LOTR) movie trilogy, many people around the world “discovered” Queenstown in recent years. The movies were filmed in many locations throughout New Zealand and the spectacular landscape of the Queenstown region also provided the stunning backdrop to a number of scenes. My first visit to Queenstown was in April 1999 and that memorable vacation changed my life!

Located in a region of breathtaking scenery, Queenstown is often referred to as the jewel in New Zealand’s crown. It is situated on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by majestic mountain ranges.

Regarded as New Zealand’s premier tourist destination, it has been voted by readers of Conde Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure as the friendliest place in the world and ranked with Paris and Rome, amongst the world’s best destinations.

From a sleepy lakeside town 30 years ago, it has grown to become a sophisticated all year round international resort. Presently, it attracts about 1.4 million visitors per year of which 60% are international visitors.

My New Zealand Vacation, Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu, Pano157
(click above for larger photo)
Queenstown Central Business District, August 2006

From the magnificent views of the mountains to the lake, beautiful walking trails, world-class wine from its vineyards, adrenaline charged activities, golf courses, ski-fields, ......

Queenstown is truly the jewel in New Zealand’s crown.

Aoraki/Mount Cook Village

If you plan to explore the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, do get to the visitor centre of the Department of Conservation (DOC) at Mount Cook Village. It would be wise to get necessary information and advice before venturing out into this vast terrain, especially if you plan to do it without any experienced guides.

Mount Cook Village is pretty small. There are just a couple of buildings around and that’s basically all there is about the village. If you want to be right into the national park and to be be as close to the mountains as possible, then you are at the right place.

You may wish to consider Glentanner Park which is about 15-20 minutes drive away. You would have passed it on the journey to Mount Cook Village. Glentanner Park offers a camping ground with cabins, power and non-power sites and restaurant facilities. It is also where the helicopters and planes take off for the scenic flights.

Alternatively, stay at Twizel or Tekapo but do know that the journey is about an hour plus for the one-way drive to Mount Cook Village.

In Mount Cook Village, there is limited accommodation but you can find the luxurious Hermitage hotel to the simple frills YHA Hostel. Whatever your choice of accommodation, you get magnificent 5-star views the moment you step out of the door!

The Hermitage surrounded by the majestic mountain range:

My New Zealand Vacation, The Hermitage, Aoraki, Mount Cook, Pano197
(Click above for larger photo)
The Hermitage
Mount Cook Village, Aug 2006
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