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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Unforgettable New Zealand (Part 2): From Queenstown To Lake Wanaka

We arrived in Queenstown when the sun went down. The bus dropped us at our hotel, Mantra Marina. We just realised that the hotel location was actually in Frankton, a 20-minute drive from Queenstown. Luckily the bus stop was very near to the hotel, so we did not have any difficulty to go to Queenstown. The one bed room apartment was very nice and clean but the most wonderful thing of all was the view behind our hotel. When we woke up the next morning and opened the glass door behind our room,  we said, "wow!!"

The Remarkable Mountain. 
Lake Wakatipu.
Mantra Marina, our hotel.  

It was a bright sunny day. The combination of the clear blue sky, snowy Remarkable Mountain, serene blue lake and green grass created a breathtaking view. We couldn't get enough of it. After spending a couple of minutes just to sit down, take a deep breath and enjoy the scenery, we started taking a lot of pictures. New Zealand is indeed "a heaven for nature lover" and Queenstown is one of the most beautiful towns in New Zealand.

Located in the shore of crystal clear Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by majestic Southern Alps mountains, Queenstown is really stunning. No wonder it becomes the world's famous destination and a must-visit place if you come to New Zealand. Queenstown also offers a wide variety of outdoor activities such as kayaking, hiking, biking, skiing, scenic flights and more adventurous activities that'll pump your adrenaline like skydiving, bungee jumping and jet boating. Both of us were not adventurous enough to try skydiving or bungee jumping. Just the thought of it already made my knees shaking. We walked around the city instead.

Queenstown, just like Kuta in Bali, is a tourist city. The city is small but vibrant. We found a lot of tourists from many countries even though it was not a peak season. We explored the city on foot, bought our lunch at one of the cafes and then booked a scenic flight trip to Remarkable Mountain and a day trip to Milford Sound for the following day.


That afternoon we took the helicopter flight and flew from Queenstown to Remarkable Mountain range. As we flew higher we saw an incredible panoramic view of Queenstown landscape and the blue water of Lake Wakatipu surrounded by snowy Southern Alps. It was amazing! One of the most beautiful views I'd ever seen in my life. The helicopter landed in the mountaintop to give us opportunity to take picture. Only five minutes were given and we tried to take pictures as many as possible amidst the blowing wind from the spinning propeller!

The Remarkable Mountain, really remarkable! 

Queenstown viewed from above.

We took the shorter flight due to limited budget. It was only 20 minutes in total, including 5 minutes landing time. If you have more budget, it will be more satisfying to take longer flight such as the 30-minute Cecil Peak Snow Landing, the 50-minute Glacier Landing Flight or the 90-minute Milford & Alps flight. The last one sounds amazing, don't you think so? Can you imagine flying over the fjord, waterfalls, mountain and lake? It'll be awesome!

We spent the rest of the day beside Lake Wakatipu. Taking pictures, watching the ducks and seagulls and enjoying the scenery. We also walked around the garden beside the lake and saw many pretty flowers blooming. The atmosphere was so peaceful. I wished to stay as long as possible but slowly the sun went down and the weather was getting colder, so we went back to our hotel. 

Me and my best friend playing at the lakeside.

The shore of Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown.

The next day early morning we received the call from our tour agent. The trip to Milford Sound was cancelled because the road was closed due to heavy snow last night. We were very disappointed. Milford Sound was one of our main agendas. We definitely didn't want to miss the opportunity to see the famous fjord, waterfalls and glacier. But what could we do? My best friend put her hand on my shoulder and said, "it's ok. Perhaps it means we have to visit NZ again later in the future." Yeah, I think she was right. I want to go back to this country at least once again in my lifetime and show my beloved family the most beautiful place on earth. Moving from one place to another place with caravan will be a great experience for us.

We finally visited Arrowtown as the replacement itinerary. Arrowtown is a historic gold mining town, rich in heritage and is now one of tourist destinations with world class food and beverage, shopping and attraction. We took a public bus from Queenstown and reached Arrowtown 20 minutes later. The first place we visited was the Lake District Museum. We learnt that back then in the mid to late 1800s, thousand of miners came to the Arrow river to find the gold. We saw the gold mining's tools and artefacts and some pictures that showed the chronicle of this historical city. Despite the small size, the museum was complete and attractive.  

We strolled along the Arrowtown main road and had our lunch in one of the restaurants. We bought a delicious fish and chips before we continued our sightseeing. There were post office, boutiques, art studio, cafe, restaurant and bar along the road. In one of the corner, we found this pretty house that also happened to be a restaurant.

A pretty restaurant in Arrowtown.
Lake District Museum & Gallery.

Arrowtown is renowned for its stunning autumn colour with red and orange colours on the hillside and the surrounding. But when we were there, we didn't see it. Perhaps it was not the season. We spent few more hours for sightseeing in Arrowtown before heading back to Queenstown. If you stay in Arrow town, you can go for hiking and biking to enjoy the scenery. 

We said goodbye to Queenstown on the next day. We continued our journey to West Coast by car. We were so excited. Travelling in our own (rented) vehicle was the best way to explore New Zealand. We could stop anytime and anywhere we wanted to. We rent a car from Apex car rental in Queenstown and returned the car in Hokitika before we continued our journey by train. Very practical. My friend and me took turn in driving, since both of us drove in Jakarta. Driving in New Zealand was much easier than driving in Jakarta's congested roads. The road in New Zealand was so empty. The only problem was we weren't familiar with the direction, but GPS was a great help! 

Basically there are two driving routes from Queenstown to Wanaka; via Crown Range Road and via Cromwell. The shortest and more scenic route is via Crown Range Road but it is also more challenging because it goes to a steep and windy route that climbs up to Crown Range Mountains. We chose the safer route, via Cromwell, where we passed by vineyards and lakes. We frequently stopped along the way to enjoy the scenery and took pictures. After two hours of driving plus stopover, we finally reached Lake Wanaka, a beautiful village with the alpine backdrop of Mount Aspiring National Park, but we'll save that for the next episode: Lake Wanaka and the journey to the West. Stay tuned! 

Lake Hawea.

Lake Wanaka.

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