Queensland is a busy touristy city full of places to stay, restaurants and shopping. There are also many homes built around the city center and built into the steep hills. The streets are very hilly and some of the hills were steeper than San Francisco streets. This is the adrenaline capital of New Zealand. It’s also very popular with the younger backpacker or young people working overseas.
We spoke to a couple of girls who were on holiday from working on a sheep farm. In exchange they get a place to stay, money and a short-term summer job overseas. Canadians are part of the common wealth but Americans are not. There is a positive energy in the air from all of the young people and adrenaline sport brochures in all the travel offices around the town. Most of the visitors are doing some kind of outdoor activity and the days are filled with people in active gear and backpacks. We drove to AJ Hackett bungy and watched people jump. I’ve bungy jumped 3 times (once in Australia) and didn’t want to waste $195.00 on a five-minute thrill during our flashpacking travels. This seemed like a logical savings. It was more fun watching.
This is the second time we stayed in a hostel during our travels. It’s not because we are against hostels, it just doesn’t save us any money staying here rather than an air bnb or hotel. Hostels are great for travelers who are traveling alone. The prices have gone up in hostels and two people can end up costing the same as a hotel room. There are hostels that aren’t as expensive but you get what you pay for. As long as the room is clean and safe I don’t mind sleeping in it. New Zealand has high standards for cleanliness in most of the places we have been and the hostel is no different.
The Nomads Queenstown hostel was just as nice as a hotel and we saved over $300.00 (USD) staying in a hostel rather than a hotel (in Queenstown). I thought we would be the oldest people staying but I was wrong (again). I did notice a few older (over 30) guest, but the majority were young backpackers. There are two floors of dorm rooms in the hostel. We stayed in a private room with a balcony that included free internet, breakfast and dinner. There is also community kitchen to use with refrigerators, appliances, sinks, cutlery, cookware, towels and anything else you can think of in a kitchen. Most young travelers were eating pasta, salads and cooked vegetables. We made tacos.
One of the nights we went to the free dinner the hostel offers every night. Each night features a different dish and Thursday was chili night. After arriving in the lobby at 7:20pm, an employee literally walked us through town in a line to a restaurant/bar called Loco. We lined up at the back bar and each were given a bowl of chili and rice with the option for upgraded to a larger portion for $3.00 extra. We just wanted to try the free dinner so we took the smaller portion (not enough to fill a hungry person up) and ate all of it. It was decent and even better it was free. After eating the free dinner we walked to KFC (old faithful) and each ordered a two piece dinner.
Hiking up the hill in the Ben Lomond forest instead of taking the gondola was not something I was looking forward to. We had a view of this treacherous mountain from our room and the gondola path is so steep it’s not even walkable. When Doug told me we were hiking it “tomorrow” I was horrified. When the morning came I just bit the bullet and did it. It was as steep and painful as I imagined. It was also long. One full hour and thirty minutes of steep uphill, never forgiving (except the steep staircase in the beginning) hiking. I pulled my neck out just from being on that slant and looking at my feet for the first 45 minutes. After 45 minutes it’s a long steep zig zag to the top.
Mountain bikers were whizzing past us jumping dirt hills on the extremely difficult paths paved for them. This is also a heaven for extreme mountain bikers from beginners to professional. The local and professional bikers all have passes to use the gondola. Their bikes are locked outside the gondola and they taken to the and then choose the path to ride down. The paths range in difficulty. Visitors/tourist can also rent mountain bikes and ride them down to the base of the mountain.
The view at the top was a sweeping panoramic of Queenstown. A full restaurant, gift shop and luge ride is also at the top of the mountain. This was the busiest mountaintop gondola I’ve ever been too. The people who rode up all looked so relaxed and enjoying the large area to sit on picnic tables, take pictures, eat and riding the luge.
We came out of a side bush literally sweating and glad the hike was finally over. It looked like we had arrived in heaven. The ride back down cost $20.00 (NZD) but we figured it would be easy to walk down. Instead it was just as much concentration to get down. The path was steep and our knees were literally shaking whenever we stopped. The best part of the day was knowing I would never have to walk up that mountain again. This is a long post because I am very lazy when it comes to hiking steep hills. Especially for long periods of time. I’ve hiked many steep hills to confirm that I don’t enjoy it.
After walking around town we stopped in Queenstown Gardens to relax and watch the world go by. This large botanical garden is filled with manicured ponds, ducks and psychedelic mushrooms growing wild. Yes I did say psychedelic. The name of the mushrooms are Amanita muscaria, commonly known as the fly agaric or fly amanita.
Unfortunately people aren’t rushing to eat them because the nausea they produce before the “trip” sets in is unbearable. The park also has a tennis, lawn bowl, skate boarding and BMX area.
There is one restaurant in particular that we had to explore called Ferbburger. Whenever we mentioned Queenstown, people would suggest we must eat at Fergburger. This is an institution in Queenstown and the lines are incredible. Especially between 4-9pm. This is when the line can reach around the block. All of this for a hamburger. We saw the line the first night and decided to wait until the daytime. Around noon we went to have lunch and ended up waiting only 15 minutes in line and another 15 minutes to receive our food. The hamburger was grilled over flames and made to order. I ordered the Southern Swine burger (beef patty, bacon, lettuce, tomato, red onion, avocado, aoili and tomato relish). Doug loved it so much, we were back the next day eating burgers again.
After four days we are getting back in the car and driving to Milford sound in the Fordland of New Zealand. Queenstown was fun but I’m ready to get away from all of the people in one concentrated area.