After the magical time that we spent in Fjordland, it was time to go back on the road in reach of our next destination: Wanaka! Although before Wanaka, we first went to Queenstown where we got really disappointed.
After leaving Te Anau in Fjordland (see previous location), our travel tour through the south island of New Zealand came to it’s next stop: the mountains, lakes, and snow of the Queenstown and Wanaka area.
Queenstown is very famous as one of biggest Ski/Wintersport places in New Zealand, especially in the winter season (that means July/August). We were curious to see the most touristy spot in the country as we didn’t see so much tourists in our previous stops. The whole country seemed pretty empty (for our great pleasure as we went to amazing spots that we were able to enjoy practically all by ourselves…). We even considered to go skiing if only it wasn’t so expensive (as skiing was not the main purpose of our journey) and if we had a good feeling about the place.
Queenstown leads you, once again, through amazing landscapes and when you come close to this city you’ll discover the huge Lake Wakatipu, which is surrounded by impressing mountains covered with snow, and this is really worth seeing!
But once we arrived in Queenstown, we were really disappointed by the mood of this city. Ok, the lake walk is beautiful, the surrounding nature is amazing, but the city is really ugly – overcrowded with tourists coming for the winter season from many different countries. A lot of cars with impatient drivers (it was the one and only time in NZ that we got stressed in the car by those who followed us if we didn’t decide in 2 seconds which direction we should follow!!) And the whole area along the lake is over constructed (or polluted?) with hotels, residences, and buildings for the massive tourist activity in this place. And this was really the first time during our journey when we didn’t feel good at all in such a city. That was exactly what we didn’t like, even if the surrounding landscape is beautiful.
So, instead of looking for a place to sleep in and spend another day in Queenstown, we decided to follow the road to the next city: Wanaka. What we heard about Wanaka before was much more than what we were able to experience: a small little town with a friendly atmosphere along a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. In fact, some Kiwis (how people in NZ like to call themselves) told us that the charm of Wanaka is to be the exact opposite of Queenstown, and that it has the friendly spirit Queenstown had 50 years ago…so let’s go to Wanaka!
You have two different roads to go from Queenstown to Wanaka: the highway is quicker but with no specific charm, and if the weather is okay, the mountain road, which offers some amazing viewpoints, even if it’s longer to drive out there. We chose the second option of course (as the weather was okay) and we were charmed by this little mountain road. There’s an amazing viewpoint at the beginning, when you climb up the road and before the peak, which leaves you speechless upon seeing the panoramic view of the whole Queenstown area. Even just for that alone, it’s already worth taking this road!
Once we got to Wanaka, we liked it so much more than Queenstown. A little town with a friendly and nice atmosphere and a surrounding landscape that has absolutely nothing to envy when compared to Queenstown. It’s a Ski/Wintersport station as well, so it’s really a better choice to go to Wanaka instead of Queenstown (unless you prefer the big crowded ski stations). And Lake Wanaka is as beautiful as Lake Wakatipu.
But the weather was so fine, even “warm” (around 15°C, that was almost 15° more than what we had in Fjordland!) and there wasn’t so much snow left for skiing so we didn’t insist on this idea, but discovered something great to do in Wanaka: visit the wineries! Yes, New Zealand is well-known for some of it’s high-rated wines, but I didn’t expect to see wineries at such a height! Indeed, Wanaka Wine is the most “southern” wine produced in NZ at the height/temperature limit wherein grapes can grow.
So we still had an awesome day out, exploring the wineries around Lake Wanaka, tasting some very good ones, enjoying the beautiful sunny weather and shooting some pictures in the vineyards. We came back to the hotel a bit tipsy and tired but it was a great day out in Wanaka!
To be continued…