Like almost all of our 70+ hours in the car so far, the drive from Wanaka to Queenstown involved some pretty splendid views.
We stayed just outside of Queenstown in a historic hamlet called Arrowtown. There was one main street with about 20 shops and cafes and that’s it. We hadn’t heard of it before we began looking for accommodation, so we were surprised when the main street and parking area were packed with visitors every day. It rained most days we were there, so we spent a few days catching up on emails or hanging out in town when the sky dried up for a few minutes. We enjoyed spending time with our host, a local radio DJ (he left for work each day at 3:00am), and his super sweet black lab. She was a little pushy for some playtime when we were on Skype calls, but it was a joy to live with a dog for a few days!
Glenorchy is a tiny hiking town 45 minutes from Queenstown. We drove there on a grey, blustery day and wished for clearer skies and less tourists, but still enjoyed our time exploring.
Queenstown itself is absolutely adorable. It’s full and bustling this time of year – a stark contrast to anything within hundreds of miles, which is mountains, plains, and lakes. It’s a tiny city with a small grid of busy streets full of young backpackers and nimble but graying tour groups. We spent one sunny morning walking around town and I found a cute shop in which to buy a new top. Another clothing item – such a luxury!
One thing Queenstown is strangely known for is huge burgers. No argument here, we just thought it was a little weird. Since Sydney two months ago, we’ve been hearing about the famous “Fergburger” most everywhere we go. Everyone said we “just had to go there”, and we were excited to, but when we actually saw the line out the door and around the block (there’s always a line any of the 22 hours/day they are open) and gaped at the prices, we decided it just wasn’t how we wanted to spend our time. We went to Devil Burger down the street and gorged on some absolutely delicious burgers there. Nate could barely get his mouth around his burger with egg and bacon and my falafel burger with feta, chutney, and avocado was just the fuel I needed. Darn it, we are happy to be back in an English-speaking country with a love of burgers!
This is a small example of a larger travel-related issue: There’s always something everyone says “you just have to do”. But no matter how much some people will argue about this – there is no “right way” to travel. There are infinite ways to travel. As thirty-somethings who are budgeting for a whole year, who love the outdoors, who appreciate privacy and quiet, and don’t love traveling in groups or spending tons of money on one thing, we travel differently than many others we see. Your vacation, your trip, your adventure is your thing. We didn’t go helihiking on the Franz Joseph Glacier, we didn’t skydive in Wanaka, and we didn’t eat a Fergburger in Queenstown. All because we thought intentionally about it and decided we sincerely didn’t want to; no regrets. We’re having the trip we want to have. And you know what? It’s bloody awesome. (There’s a larger life lesson that goes beyond travel here: You do you.)
Queenstown was a cute city, tucked in between some incredible mountains, and nice place to chill out for a few rainy days. But our next destination was something we’d been looking forward to for months. Finally – on to Te Anau and the famous Milford Sound!