Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand, including Skyline Gondola and Luge

Andrew and I again took a holiday to coincide with a conference his work sent him to, this time to Queenstown in South Island for the New Zealand Resource Management Law Association‘s annual conference.  Andrew attended talks, field trips, and nice dinners while I explored Queenstown and relaxed in our room at the Queenstown Motel Apartments one block from the conference venue.  Our house sitters for this trip were a retired couple who live in Hastings.

Queenstown is located in South Island at about the midpoint of Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand’s third largest lake and fourth deepest (34th in the world).  The bottom of this lake is actually 100 metres (330 feet) below sea level.

The Remarkables and Lake Wapatipu

View across from Queenstown Motel Apartments, including The Remarkables (far left)

Our room at Queenstown Motel Apartments was spacious, with two beds and a small kitchenette area which included a refrigerator, microwave, and plenty of dishes and utensils.  The room had a large (for us) flat panel TV, a small desk, and a dining table.  The bathroom has a large tub with shower heard.  Basically, everything one needs to enjoy a trip to Queenstown.  The view out the door was of the Remarkables (mountains), and the view from our small deck was of the Skyline Gondola and Bob’s Peak.  (Couldn’t see downtown Queenstown because of the other motel building across the car park.)

Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu waterfront

Queenstown Waterfront

While Andrew was at the conference each day, I would either walk or ride the bus to downtown, to explore and be a tourist.  Because our trip was during the first week of school holidays, the town was quite crowded.  Still, I had a grand time there, and it was even more fun during the evenings Andrew joined me.

Queenstown Skyline Gondola Cable Car

Arriving at the top of Skyline Gondola

On Saturday, Andrew’s last conference day, we went up the Skyline Gondola (cable car) to the top of Bob’s Peak.  After enjoying the view for awhile, we headed down the path to the ski lift, which is a free ride (though you’ll have to find a different way back down, such as along the paved pathway).  At the top of the ski lift, the luge begins, taking you back down to the bottom of the ski lift.

With our gondola ticket, we also purchased five rides each on the luge.  The more rides you purchase at one time, the less each one costs.  For our five luge rides plus the gondola, the price is $48 each (about $39 US).  With the long wait from in the long line, I didn’t think we could finish all five of our rides in the 1.5 hours we had before they closed, but with each ride, the line shortened, so that we finished our five rides with time to spare.  The longest wait was 20 minutes.

Skyline Gondola Cable Car and Luge

View from Skyline Observatory Deck of luge and gondola

The luge has two routes, the scenic route and the fast route.  No matter how many times you’ve ridden any luge (including this one), you still have to ride on the scenic (slow) route the first time each day.  Before you are allowed to depart on this route, the staff teach you how to use the luge brakes.  (One boy couldn’t quite get the hang of the brakes and crashed at least twice on the way down.)  After your first ride on the scenic route, you can choose whether to ride the faster route.  The line for the faster route is usually shorter (though for our last ride, it was not), but the ride is also faster.

Beginning of Skyline Luge in Queenstown, New Zealand

Top of the luge

Because we could ride side by side on the scenic route, we rode that one two extra times on the scenic route, after riding twice on the fast route.  I enjoy the ride much more when we can share the time together, laughing at the crazy turns all the while.  Racing is fun (and Andrew invariably wins, he’s that much better), but riding together is even more fun, at least for me.

The next day, we caught a shuttle to the airport and then picked up our rental car to begin the “real” part of our holiday, that part which didn’t include a conference, free to explore for five days.  Our first stop was Te Anau, in Fiordland National Park, but that is the focus of my next blog.


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