The Journey is the Destination in Queenstown
Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa’s General Manager Andrew Nisbet shares insider tips on
New Zealand’s scenic trails
QUEENSTOWN, New Zealand – November, 2013 – Hotels aim to fulfill every guests’ need directly on-property. From relaxing in the ample living space of a luxury suite to imbibing from a wine list and indulging from the hotel’s restaurant menu – all can be done without leaving the property. At Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa, that is not the only priority. Queenstown is a marvel of a destination and the resort does everything they can for guests to go out and about to explore.
“Queenstown may be on your bucket list but you won’t be able to check it off unless you explore what the destination has to offer,” said Andrew Nisbet, general manager, Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa. “Even if guests only have the opportunity to go for a walk, they should make the effort to take in the outdoors while in town.”
New Zealand’s Long Pathway: Te Araroa
In the 1970s there were murmurs about creating a trail that spanned the length of the country’s two main islands. The pathway would start at New Zealand’s windy northern tip Cape Reinga, where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean collide, and make its way past black sand beaches and through colossal Kauri tree forests. It would take in the country’s rich diversity from grassy plateaus to rocky dormant volcanoes. The idea was fading away until Kiwi journalist, Geoff Chapple, set out on a yearlong journey in 1998. He proved that the walk could be done. Over a decade later in 2011, “Te Araroa” a 3,000 km track opened to the public.
“We don’t expect you to lace up your boots for the full epic journey, but you can get a sampling with the Wakatipu Track, nearby the resort,” said Nisbet. “This 21km section of Te Araroa is fairly easy on the feet and very easy on the eyes.”
Nisbet suggests starting the six-hour tramp at Arrowtown, a former gold mining settlement that’s been frozen in time. More than 70 protected schist buildings and timber abodes line the old town’s main thoroughfare. Once miners’ cottages and horse stables, today they’ve been reborn as hip bars, boutiques, fine-dining restaurants and casual cafes with historic facades.
The neighborhood’s latest addition, having opened in June, is a gourmet deli and cafe called A Taste of Gibbston Valley. The artisan spot sells locally-farmed meat and cheeses that are ideal for a snack or to take on the walk. Along with a complete hearty menu, visitors will also find craft beers and wine from Gibbston Valley Winery, the region’s first and one of its most famous vineyards.
Another highlight of the trek is the Shotover Bridge, built in 1915. In 1975 the bridge was shut down until it was restored to its former glory in 2005 and re-opened for pedestrians and cyclists. These days the wooden paneled bridge is supported by sturdy concrete pillars, which reach down into the Shotover River. The 75-kilometer waterway below is frequented by tourist jet boats that swerve extremely close to the rocky sides. The scenic trek will take walkers at last, to the rim of Lake Wakatipu. Follow the shore to the left to finish at Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa’s door.
The NZ Cycle Trail
“To cover even more ground, consider a bicycle ride,” suggested Nisbet. “From Kawarau Village you can rent one at Vertigo Bikes and start The Queenstown Trail, part of a larger network of cycling paths across the country that runs right in front of our property, and onward past Otago’s pristine lakes and rivers, valleys, verdant native forest and craggy peaks.”
The idea for a NZ Cycle Trail was born back in February 2009. However the Queenstown section is relatively new—having celebrated its one-year anniversary in October. The full Queenstown course is 110km but smaller portions can easily be tackled in a day ride, adding in a few stops along the way.
Advanced riders can hug Lake Wakatipu’s shore and undertake the Jack’s Point trail, 12 kilometers of rustic terrain that exposes riders to the rugged landscape made famous by The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The lakeside ride drops cyclists at the 18-hole Jack’s Point championship golf course where visitors can play a round or stop by their cafe for a bite.
“From each hole you get a different view of this stunning natural landscape,” said Nisbet. “At one point you’re hitting the ball straight into The Remarkables, with the ball a tiny dot against the colossal mountain range.”
Wine lovers can opt for a longer journey, taking the trails into the heart of Otago wine country, Gibbston—which happens to be the most southerly wine-producing region in the world. Take a break at Gibbston Valley Winery for a tasting and tour that takes you into their wine cave, an underground dwelling of blasted schist stone. Afterwards try the local produce in their sunny courtyard before hopping back on your bike.
After a long ride you can drop your bike straight back to the resort, put up your feet on the outdoor terrace and order from that long wine list to celebrate the latest tick on your bucket list.