Down In Queens
Our departure from Auckland to Queenstown went off without a hitch thanks to the exceptional customer service provided by Tom at East Coast Rental Cars. The company itself has a bit of work to do in setting up their operations in Auckland, but Tom saved their corporate bacon by going above and beyond. We didn’t realize until arrival at their facility that they don’t open until 8 am. Tom arranged to open early and get us to the airport with time to spare for our Air New Zealand flight. What a great guy!
Next was a short 1 1/2 hour flight to Queenstown, perhaps the most scenic airport to fly into in the world. The final 15 minutes of our flight felt as if we were on a sightseeing charter. The jet has to thread the needle a bit and the end result is some stunning close-ups of the mountain range that escorts you to the tarmac below. Add in the jaw dropping beauty of the glacier lake at the end of the runway and, wow, what an introduction.
Out In Arrows
Rather than choose the hectic pace of a Queenstown, a ski town bouncing back to life as the outdoor adventure capital of New Zealand’s summer, we opted to drive an extra 1o or so miles to the picturesque historic Arrowtown, a re-purposed mining town from the mid-1800’s. We ended up in what turned out to be a hybrid between self-catering and hotel style services, with a couple of nice perks added into the mix.
Arrowtown, it turns out, had a brief run as a gold mining town around 150 years ago. The population had dwindled to a couple of hundred in the 1960’s before it began the transformation to a tourist alternative to Queenstown. Many of the buildings on the main street date to the founding and they have implemented strict preservation codes for them. It hosts a couple of dozen shops and several great places to enjoy a meal. The Chop Shop is an eclectic and outstanding brunch and lunch place. Everything we had there was great. La Rumbla got great ratings for service and food in their tapas style menu and an excellent wine selection
Sights of the Sound
Milford Sound is the gem of the coast while you are in the Queenstown, South Island area. You have three options to get there. You may drive on your own, take a bus, or do what we did and fly in and fly out. We did try to picture ourselves in a car or a bus for an 8 hour round trip drive. In the end serendipity won out.
We woke up, got online, and reserved two seats for a 2pm fly-cruise-fly that afternoon. Since the website said it might take up to ten hours to confirm, we thought the best thing to do was to follow up by phone. That’s when serendipity struck. When we called, we spoke with Peter, the boss of sorts and eventually the pilot on our journey out. He said there was little chance they would fly at 2 pm because there was a big coastal system moving into Milford Sound. However, if we could get down there for the 10 am flight that departed in 50 minutes, he had two seats remaining. Done. We did the, “Gather and Go” and made it into Queenstown with time enough to get lunch for the cruise. To be continued….
Our flight path took us around Lake Wakatipu to Glenorchy where you could see the convergence of two rivers and the delta that fed into the lake with rich farmlands along it. We then took to the mountains and passed the snow capped ridges, valleys, rivers, lakes, and glaciers to get to the Sound. Fiordland National Park