New Zealand Winter, Part 2: Queenstown

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Queenstown was three days into our trip and the first leg of the road trip that we stayed for more than one-two nights. We drove around both islands, and the trip totaled three weeks. The drive into Queenstown is still one of the most beautiful things that I have ever seen in my life. Picture the kind of snow-capped mountains that you see all over tourism websites, and the kind of clear water that seems impossible, and you have Queenstown.

We arrived at our hotel — Double Tree by Hilton — feeling cold and a little tired. At the reception, we were met by a lovely receptionist that gave us full wifi access (you usually pay for it) and warm cookies. Let me say that again — warm. cookies. As if that wasn’t great enough after a two and a half hour drive from Te Anau, the hotel was literally right on the lake with a full view of the town across the water. We took a free shuttle across the lake into town and were just in time to see the end of the Winter Festival.

Queenstown is home to gondolas and a luge track at the top of a mountain, a skiing park at the top of The Remarkables, and is a short drive from Arthur’s Point, Shotover Canyon — if you google it, or are on social media, chances are you have seen iconic shots of Shotover Canyon in the springtime. You can also take a speedboat through the canyon which looked insane (as with Milford Sound, we didn’t plan ahead and couldn’t get a speedboat tour in time).

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Here’s the thing with The Remarkables, though. I always wanted to check that off my bucket list, and I did. We were driving a rental Pulsar and, having no experience with black ice )or icy roads on a mountainside that had next to no safety railing until you got much too high for my liking), we drove up the mountain ourselves to reach The Remarkables skiing park. Halfway up, there were men there that did help us put on snow chains. Upon getting to the top and having gotten our gloves and beanies on, we saw a free shuttle bus. I am not kidding. We could have taken a damn free shuttle but we didn’t know. We did not have to use the snow chains at all. Despite this, the view from the peak of The Remarkables was insane. I still remember feeling like I had never been so high or breathed air so clean, so crisp.

I recommend Queenstown to anyone going to NZ for any reason…work, leisure, anything. Go to Queenstown and find yourself in a flawless wonderland of snow, crystal-clear waters, and dustings (sometimes mountains) of powder so crisp that it feels like an entirely new shade of white, like you’ve stumbled into something out of a dream.

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