8 things to do in and around Queenstown New Zealand

8 things to do in and around Queenstown New Zealand

Queenstown is a must-do on anyone’s South Island itinerary, after all its not the adventure capital of New Zealand for nothing! Of course, there are TONS of things to do there, but here are 8 of my recommendations…

 1. Ride the gondola

Although Queenstown is famed for its fun and adventure, lets not forget that this is New Zealand, meaning that it is also quite pretty. The best way to take advantage of all that scenic beauty is to ride the gondola, which is STEEP (it’s actually the steepest cable car lift in the Southern hemisphere!) but so worth it when you reach the top and take in those gorgeous views.

Skyline gondola Queenstown

2. Have fun on the luge

Once you’ve ridden the gondola up to Bob’s Peak, you may as well enjoy some of the activities on offer up there. My recommendation is the luge – so much fun! You take a chair lift up even higher and then pick one of the two luge tracks to travel back down. There’s a more gentle, scenic track which everyone must do on their first ride and then there’s also a faster paced, steeper track. We ended up riding the luge 5 times!

Luge track in Queenstown New Zealand

3. Try a famous Fergburger

If you read my post about 3 fast food burgers you must try in New Zealand then you will already know about Fergburger. Although to be fair, you probably already know about Fergburger because literally anyone who has been to Queenstown has raved about this place. It’s not really “fast food” as you’ll probably be queuing about 45 minutes for it but it’s still worth trying at least once. Or twice in my case.

Burger and fries at the legendary Fergburger

4. Go horseriding

45 minutes drive from Queenstown is the town of Glenorchy, home to Dart Stables where we admired yet more of New Zealand’s beauty but on horse back. We did the beginners trek named Hobbit’s Hack and saw where some of Lord of the Rings was filmed. I can’t claim to be a LOTR fan but I did enjoy the scenery.

Horse riding in Glenorchy New Zealand

5. Spin and splash on the Shotover Jet

The Shotover Jet is quite simply, a jet boat ride on the Shotover River. Running since 1965, they are the only company permitted to operate within the Shotover River’s canyons. High speeds and 360 spins are guaranteed – you might even see rainbows in the mist!

Shotover jet boat ride in Queenstown, New Zealand

6. Bungy jump

So I have a small confession to make… I didn’t actually do a bungy jump because I don’t have that part of my brain that makes me want to pay $195 to tie a rubber band to my legs and throw myself off a bridge. However, my husband is a bit of a secret adrenalin junkie and did the AJ Hackett Kawarau Bridge jump in Queenstown – the world’s first commercial bungy jump.

He loved it and wouldn’t let me write this list without including it!

Bungy jumping on the Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown, New Zealand

7. Visit wonderful Wanaka

We only spent one day in Wanaka which really wasn’t enough. It was pretty and peaceful and we enjoyed a lovely lunch by the lake. It’s also home to two fabulously quirky attractions – Puzzling World and Cinema Paradiso. If you want to know a bit more about Wanaka then take a look at my post Quirky things to do in wonderful Wanaka.

Quirky Wanaka New Zealand - Puzzling World!

8. Take a day trip to Milford Sound

I admit this might be an odd choice given that my trip to Milford Sound was my worst day travelling but I know other people who have been there and had a great time. I can’t say more than that. Go read my post Milford Sound – is it worth it? and decide for yourself on this one.

Milford Sound - is it worth it?
Milford Sound – image not my own unfortunately. Image via Unsplash.

Have you been to Queenstown? What was your favourite thing to do? Comment below. And for more inspiration, follow my New Zealand Pinterest Board.

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8 things to do in and around Queenstown New Zealand

Milford Sound – is it worth it?

aka My Worst Day at New Zealand’s Number 1 Attraction

Milford Sound - is it worth it?
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Milford Sound – is it worth it? It’s often touted as New Zealand’s number 1 must visit attraction, but is it worth the hype?

That greatly depends. Many people come back from there with wonderful experiences having spotted seals, dolphins and penguins as they’ve glided their way on a beautiful boat through the majestic waters. I, however, want to tell you about my visit to Milford Sound, because well, I’m all about keeping it real and sharing what the likes of Lonely Planet probably won’t tell you…

Milford Sound - is it worth it?
Milford Sound – image not my own unfortunately. Image via Unsplash.

Although we had hired a car in New Zealand, neither of us really fancied driving the lengthy journey from Queenstown to Milford Sound, so we booked an organised coach tour. There are plenty of operators based in Queenstown but we chose to go with Jucy.

Our driver Lucy (you can’t make this up!) picked us up in the morning and remained bright and friendly throughout our trip. She told us all stories of her childhood on a farm and made several rest stops on route. Sadly for us, the weather was not being kind and even though we’re British and quite used to the rain, the more than damp weather was dampening our spirits the closer we got to Milford Sound.

After a long journey, we made it to the boat where the rain was still pouring and the wind was blowing a gale. The crew on board could obviously sense our coach load of disappointment as they tried to remain enthusiastic and marvelled at the many waterfalls spilling down the rocks because of the torrential downpour. I don’t know if they were genuinely that excited about the waterfalls or if they were just putting a positive spin on things in order to lift our spirits.

Many waterfalls can be seen at Milford Sound when it rains
Expect to see all the waterfalls when it rains

We received lunch on board the boat – wraps, cookies and drinks. I chose a falafel wrap and shortly afterwards found myself in the toilets with an upset stomach.

Needless to say, the rest of my Milford Sound experience was spent locked in a cubicle. But I didn’t miss much as hubby didn’t see any wildlife or rainbows beyond the drizzle and clouds, but he did venture out on deck to battle the elements. Sure, you could say it’s dramatic and atmospheric but when you’ve got food poisoning and you’re having panic attacks about spending another 5 hours stuck on a coach, who really cares?

What the travel guides DON'T show you about Milford Sound
* sigh *

The 90 minute boat ride was soon over and everyone was pretty keen to just get back to Queenstown. Lucy from Jucy had to ask another couple (who had prime location seats at the front of the coach) to switch with us so I could be at the front of the coach incase I needed to ‘go’ again. I would have felt guilty and mortified had all my energy not been focussed on making it through the next 5 or so hours. The trouble with New Zealand is that rest stops are few and far between but fortunately having dosed myself up with the necessary medication, I made it back to Queenstown just fine.

And thus concludes the worst day I had in my whole backpacking trip down under.

Milford Sound in bad weather
Image taken by my hubby 🙂

So, is it worth it?

In my opinion, no. Perhaps if we’d driven ourselves and stopped in Te Anau for a night maybe? But I feel it is my duty to present the less glossy, sunny and perfect side to travel.

There are two sides to every story of course, so if you want to read a good experience of Milford Sound then I’m sure there are a bazillion other travel bloggers out there who will gladly share that.

Milford Sound in New Zealand
Here’s what we *could* have seen. Image via Pixabay

Have you been to Milford Sound? What did you think? Or have you had Travellers Tummy at the worst moment? Share, we’re all friends here!


You can find some of my more pleasant New Zealand adventures right here.

Cuba Beyond the Beaches and Havana

Cuban Crocodiles, Sugar and Steam Trains

We decided that it would be nice to see a bit more of Cuba without venturing too far from Varadero, and so we booked a tour to see a sugar mill with steam trains, as well as a crocodile farm and a replica indigenous village on the Zapata Peninsula.

Is this Cuba? It certainly is!
Zapata Peninsula

I’m sure the more intrepid of travel bloggers would have hitch-hiked their way there, but bugger that! I went for the easy and comfortable option of an air conditioned mini bus! The heat and humidity are almost unbearable if you are away from air conditioning or a swimming pool for too long.

Steam train at a sugar mill in Cuba
Ride a steam train at the sugar mill

The first step was the sugar mill museum where we learnt how sugar is produced and then tasted some sugar cane juice. It tasted very sweet (as you would imagine) but also had a ‘rooty’ kind of taste I can’t describe. Afterwards we took a little ride on one of the several steam trains they had there.

Take a tour of a sugar mill in Cuba for something beyond the beaches and Havana
Take a tour of a sugar mill in Cuba

Next step was the crocodile farm in Boca de Guama where we got to see the famous Cuban crocodile, from teeny babies to giant beasts. The Cuban crocodile can grow up to a whopping 5 metres in length although the ones we saw weren’t quite as big as this.

Famous Cuban Crocodiles
Cuban crocodiles!

We also got to see a few more of Cuba’s famous animals – iguanas, turtles and jutia, an endangered mammal that reminded me alot of the quokkas on Rottnest Island in Australia.

Jutia - large rodent of Cuba
Jutia

After lunch at a Paladar (private restaurant), we headed back to where the crocodile farm was situated to catch a boat across Laguna del Tesoro (Treasure Lagoon). The lagoon was named for the gold that the Taino (aboriginals) supposedly hid in its waters. The boat ride took around 20 minutes and was a joy to feel the wind in my hair!

Boat ride on the Treasure Lagoon in the Zapata Peninsula
Treasure Lagoon

When we arrived we could walk around a replica Taino village, where people can actually stay although to be honest, besides a bar and a couple of gift shops, there’s not alot else there.

Once we’d got the boat back across the lagoon we headed back to Varadero (which took just over an hour and a half) and jumped straight into the hotel pool!

Replica Taino Village in Cuba
Replica Taino Village
Replica Taino village in Cuba
Replica Taino Village

I would love to have seen a bit more of Cuba’s native creatures (flamingos live in the Zapata Peninsula although we didn’t get to see them) but I enjoyed my day of seeing a bit more of Cuba beyond the beaches.

Liked this? How about 24 hours in Havana?

A beginners guide to Geocaching

Now we’re finally seeing the signs of summer here in England, it’s great to get out and about in the sunshine. So put down the Pokemon Go and listen up, kids – I’ve got a real treasure hunt for you… Geocaching!

A beginners guide to geocaching

What is Geocaching?

Geocaching is a “real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS enabled devices”.

What you need

  • A mobile phone with Geocaching app. There is a free version which is quite limited and a paid for subscription which, although pricey is alot more accurate and shows alot more caches available.
  • A pen for writing in log books
  • Trinkets and toys for swapping (optional)
  • Gloves – i.e. garden gloves for if you need to put your hand into a bush or something (optional)
  • A good pair of eyes!

a beginners guide to geocaching

How to play

  1. Download the app and register as a player. The username you assign yourself will be what you sign in the log books that you find.
  2. Switch on your GPS and use the app to discover just how many geocaches are near you.
  3. Once you’ve chosen a cache to find, follow the compass on the app to head to the location. Read the clues as to what you are looking for and get searching!
  4. Once you locate the cache, sign your username and the date in the log book. If you take any of the “treasure” inside the cache, be sure to replace it with something of equal or greater value.
  5. Put the cache back where you found it and don’t forget to mark on your app that you found it. Also leave a little comment for the person who created the cache, as well as future geocachers, to let them know what you thought of it.

Signing the log book in a geocache

Terminology

Cache – A cache can be as big as a lunchbox or as small as a USB stick. A cache is the “treasure chest” so to speak.
Log Book – Usually a piece of paper rather than a book. Sign this when you locate a cache.
Muggle – Like the term from Harry Potter, muggle refers to non-geocachers. When geocaching, try not to reveal a cache to a muggle. Keep it secret – it’s more fun!
Swag – Trade items left in caches. Most are cheap plastic toys and tat but some might be trackables. Most caches are too small for swag anyway.
Trackables – Also known as Travel Bugs, these are specially purchased trackable tags which are tracked online at geocaching.com. If you find one, the idea is to move it on to another cache so it can travel around.
DNF – Did Not Find. If you see this a few times on the app for a particular cache, chances are the cache has been tampered with unbeknownst to the cache creator.
FTF – First To Find. Pretty obvious – written by the first person to find the cache.
TFTC – Thanks For The Cache.

Placing a trackable into a geocache

Me and my husband have taken up geocaching as a quirky summer hobby. We started last year as a fun way to explore the local area and have just started to do it again this year now the weather is warm again.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of trackable travel bugs when the Geocaching.com founder Jeremy Irish released 7 deadly ducks (based on the 7 deadly sins) into the wild. In honour of the 15th anniversary, the 7 deadly ducks have been reincarnated in a race lasting from 20 July to 20 August (International Geocaching Day) in a competition to see how far these trackable tags travel. So hubby bought the ‘greed’ duck and we have now released him out into the geocaching wilds. I will keep you posted on his progress – wish us luck!

Greed - 7 deadly ducks - geocaching race

Have you taken part in The World’s Largest Treasure Hunt? or are you a Geocaching Muggle? Drop me a line below…

Where to see wild seals in New Zealand

where to see wild seals in new zealand

Where to see wild seals in New Zealand

This post could quite easily also be called Free things to do in Kaikoura or What to do in Kaikoura when weather ruins play but I thought I would go with the one that would grab my attention, after all who wouldn’t want to know where to go seal spotting in New Zealand?!

Initially we had booked a stay in Kaikoura in order to swim with seals. Sure, you can swim with dolphins there but I thought being able to swim with adorable New Zealand fur seals would be something completely unique.

Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. Although the sun was high in the sky, the sea was cloudy because of the previous day’s poor weather. So our seal swimming adventures were over before they had even begun. We decided to book a whale watching excursion as an alternative but luck was not on our side and all whale watching trips were cancelled too.

I wasn’t too disappointed because we still had a wonderful day and managed to get closer to the New Zealand fur seals than I had ever imagined – AND without getting wet!

A seal swimming in Ohau stream, Kaikoura

We drove to Ohau Point seal colony where we parked up and took a walk to the waterfall with the promise of potentially spotting a few young seals frolicking in the water. The walk was much shorter than expected and there were seals everywhere! They jumped and played in the waterfall, they lolloped around on the rocks. We were careful not to disturb them but two of the little scamps were playing on the path merely a metre away from where we stood! We watched them for a while and even as we left we saw more seals swimming along in the shallow waters beside us.

Ohau waterfall - a beautiful place to see seal pups swimming

Adorable seal pup at Ohau Point, New Zealand

See New Zealand fur seals - free things to do in Kaikoura

Our next stop was to drive down to the peninsula where another colony of seals could be found. One of the seals was even occupying a car park space! The rest of the seals were lolling around on the rocks which we climbed down on to in order to take a few pictures. Again, we were careful not to get too close as the car park seal already made it clear that I was invading its personal space when I stopped for a photo! (I really wasn’t that close either!).

Funny seal thinks its a car!

Seals on the peninsula in Kaikoura

We finished our day with a drive up to the lookout where we could see the stunning views of Kaikoura below.

View of Kaikoura in New Zealand's South Island

Even though the day didn’t go quite as planned, it was still one of my favourite days in New Zealand.

Here’s a little video I made from clips I shot on my mobile phone.

If you’re feeling inspired, why not take a look at my other New Zealand posts or check out my New Zealand board on Pinterest. My YouTube channel is also here.