Queenstown locals are made up of people from all over the world, those adventurous few who came here for a holiday and fell in love with the landscape and lifestyle. Of course, it’s only natural for families and friends to come visit, but when they do, what to show them first?
My 30-year-old sister, who lives in London, dropped the news of her visit on our weekly catch up call.
“Sis, I’m coming to see you.”
“WHAT? That’s amazing, wow! I didn’t think-”
“For three weeks.”
Three whole weeks? How the hell do I entertain a Londoner for that long? Setting my panic aside, I start to put together a ‘family-friendly’ itinerary that’ll knock her fast-paced city life out the park. London might have avocado cafes and rooftop cinemas around every corner, but Queenstown is a worthy rival for any capital...
Heather on horseback (looking far more confident than I did)
Seeing as horses terrify me, this was my pony-loving sister’s idea. However, at High Country Horses in Glenorchy, the guides instantly put me at ease, matching me with a handsome English Drummer called Roll.
We trekked through Paradise (that’s literally what it’s called), a sweeping landscape of bush, blue rivers and snow-capped mountains. The valley we rode through had been carved by a glacier, which was still in the process of melting, hence why Lake Wakatipu is so chilly.
My sister, whose experience meant she was given a ginormous stallion even Gandalf would have feared, persuaded our lovely guide Shireen to let us go for a trot. Two groups emerged - those happy to plod back to the stables, the other to try a bit of trotting. I knew I was in the wrong group, and bouncing on the back of an unimpressed Roll, I knew he thought so too.
Looking back, I can honestly say riding with High Country Horses was one of the best things I’ve ever done in Queenstown. The combination of stunning scenery, friendly ponies and experienced guides was a show-stopping experience. www.high-country-horses.co.nz
Onsen Hot Pools at night
After a morning on horseback, I shocked my sister into planning ahead and booking an hour at Onsen Hot Pools for 10pm.
We followed the fairy lights down the steps towards the spa, trying hard not to walk like John Wayne after the trek. The team who greeted us were lovely, taking us straight to our own private hot pool that overlooked Arthur’s Point (just 8 minutes’ drive from Queenstown).
Wood-lined and candle-lit, the private spa room felt like something out of an Alpine fairy tale. Steam from the bubbling jacuzzi rose gently into the inky night sky above - a few stars could be seen peeking out of the clouds.The floor-to-ceiling window completely retracted, so it felt like we were sitting in a hot tub outside.
“Ok Sis. I’m impressed.” Heather admitted. Trying not to feel smug, we indulged in the Pamper Package (an extra $12.50pp) and sipped champagne under the stars.
A truly special experience, Onsen Hot Pools is amazing both day and night, open for private hire for up to 4 people per pool. Super busy, make sure to book ahead! www.onsen.co.nz
Heather has a fear of heights - but she loved this!
As revenge for making me ride a horse, I booked my sister and I into the Canyon fox - a terrifying leap of faith into the abyss (or into the kind arms of a German instructor who reeled me in on the other side..)
Heather does not like heights. However, the instructors were great, their humour and professionalism put her at ease and they strapped her up into the ‘easiest’ option: sitting down backwards and then pushing her off. I watched her ping into the canyon - a stunning valley of rocky terrain, blue rivers and mountains - and disappear into a tiny dot onto the otherside.
My turn. Always after an adventure, I opted for the ‘pant-wetter’ option, where you literally run off a diving board until the diving board runs out and you’re flying. Harnessed up, helmet on, a last check by the jump masters, and I was ready. It was just me, the diving board and a whole lot of gravity.
I ran. Flinging myself off the board, I screamed - there’s a 10 second freefall where you’re weightless, no feeling of attachment, you’re just at the mercy of the wind. Then your cord goes taught and you smoothly glide to the other side, where said German was waiting to pull me up the steps onto the landing base.
It was thrilling. I sat down next to my sister, legs shaking, and saw her grinning, pink-cheeked and wide-eyed at me. I take it she enjoyed it too. www.canyonswing.co.nz/canyon-fox
Jet Boating has rocketed in popularity in the past decade, and for good reason. The sport, originating in New Zealand, gives visitors a fast-paced ride through the stunning rivers of Queenstown. Shotover Jet prides itself on offering a scenic tour like no other, racing over paradise-blue waters, around rocky cliff faces and under the famous Edith Cavell Bridge.
Jumping into our jet boat, we were delighted to find our driver was Rachael, the only current female jet boat driver in the fleet. Born locally in Wanaka, Rachael is proving the more women behind the wheel the better.
Handling what was essentially a giant jet ski, Rachael propelled the jet boat through the water at up to an eye-watering 80 kmph. It was like being on a fast roller coaster, racing through tiny rock gaps and impossibly shallow waters. The reaction on board was a never-ending laugh/scream hybrid.
It was a fantastic ride, and at 4pm, we were treated to a stunning orange sun as it set behind the mountains and lit the Autumn trees gold. Shotover Jet runs every day of the year (except for extreme weather or river conditions) and is fun for all ages. www.shotoverjet.com
Many thanks to High Country Horses, Onsen Hot Pools, Canyon Fox and Shotover Jet for the great experiences!