Inflatable Kayak Adventures & Giant Pizza: Queenstown’s Secret Getaways
Queenstown is more than a place for winter sports, great food and luxury accommodation. Brook Sabin sets out in search of the area’s best hidden gems that you’ve probably never heard of.
Most people assume that a “flying” vacation in Queenstown will involve a scenic trip by plane or helicopter. However, one of the area’s newest attractions has you flying on the water.
Fliteschool Queenstown will teach you how to use an e-foil; it’s basically an electric surfboard with a propeller that floats above the water.
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A 1.5 hour lesson will provide you with everything you need to know to foil, and it’s said to be easier than kitesurfing, snowboarding or skiing to learn.
About 95 percent of students are able to foil from their first lesson.
Fliteschool is the first licensed place to teach people to use Fliteboards in New Zealand, and framed against the mountains, it’s probably the most beautiful place in the world to learn.
A day at the beach
Many don’t realize that Queenstown has a sandy beach a short walk from the city, on the shores of Lake Wakatipu.
If you want to spend a day at a slower pace, arrive early to reserve your spot, then relax at the beach with a book and mountain views. When you’re hungry, hit town for lunch, then cool off in the lake with an afternoon swim or ice cream.
What do you get when you cross river rafting and kayaking? It’s something called Funyaks, and they can be found floating among landscapes listed as World Heritage.
This trip is based in Glenorchy and begins with a quick up the Dart River in a jet boat.
After deepening into Mount Aspiring National Park, you’ll hop into your inflatable kayak to ascend downstream with your guide.
Along the way, you’ll explore spectacular sinkholes, rock pools, and side streams, all while floating on dreamy blue glacial waters.
You will eventually reach a community called Paradise, where an off-road bus will take you into the backcountry the Lord of the Rings locations as you return home to Glenorchy.
The most beautiful seat in New Zealand
While staying in Glenorchy, one of the top rated things to do is the Glenorchy Walkway. Few realize that the hour-long walk is also home to what could be the most beautiful seat in the country.
Along the promenade part of the track is a small chair perfectly framed by the trees with a view of the mountains. Don’t miss a photo; in the years to come, this place could be inundated with people looking to fill their social feeds. For now, you’ll probably have the place to yourself.
Try a Yooner
A new craze is sweeping the slopes of Queenstown, and it’s a blessing for those of us who don’t know how to ski or snowboard. It’s called a Yooner.
At first, this slightly mysterious French invention makes it seem like you are descending a mountain on an elaborate broomstick. But if you take a closer look, this contraption is just genius.
At the turn of the last century, French children in the Manigod Valley were riding a primitive wooden invention on snow-covered roads to school. It was called a “paret” and looked a bit like a crossed sled with a single ski.
Fast forward a hundred years, and a French company brought design into the 21st century, adding shocks and a brake system. Now the fast growing craze has hit New Zealand.
Yooners are available at Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, and Cardrona, which means you get instant access to the slopes without going through the sometimes tricky process of building confidence on the skis.
Hot tub paradise
Queenstown’s hot tub scene has long been dominated by the famous hot pools at Onsen, where you can immerse yourself in privacy among the mountains.
But there is a new kid on the block, and this one is closer to town.
The new boutique hotel, Kāmana Lakehouse, has three bookable tubs overlooking Lake Wakatipu and the mountains. The private pools are only accessible to hotel guests and are cheaper than those offered by Onsen.
What’s in over 70 slices of pepperoni that will feed a family?
Fat Badgers Pizza serves huge 20-inch New York-style pizzas, and they cure more than hunger; many have used them as medicine after a heavy night’s sleep.
Each of their 23 pizzas can be large in size or design your own gigantic creation.
Pizza with a view
If you prefer your margarita with a view, head to Cardrona. Although it is one of the most recognizable ski areas in the country, few realize that it is also home to one of the most spectacular pizzerias.
It’s called Captain’s Pizzeria, but there is a catch. The only way to get there is to snowboard or ski on an intermediate level trail. Essentially, you have to earn the right to eat there. Well worth it, with one of the best pizza views in the world.
Ride the Orc Chasm
On the lower slopes of a mountain near Glenorchy is New Zealand’s finest zipline course.
It winds through a deep valley that is home to Oxburn Creek, overlooking Mount Aspiring National Park.
The course will make your heart beat faster; it starts with a zip line over a huge cliff, then descends the valley into the “Orc Gouffre”.
The wire is in the center of a fast-flowing river embedded in a native bush. It’s like you’ve entered a tunnel in the trees and hurtled down the rapids a few feet above the water. The trees, rocks and the riverbank are all so close it looks like a roller coaster.
You don’t really need an excuse to visit the historic village of Arrowtown, but if you are looking for one, let it be cheese.
The quaint town is home to the Gibbston Valley Cheese Café, which offers a delicious selection of cheese dishes. Don’t miss out on the fresh baguette, warmed up and stuffed with cheese, chorizo and local chutney. Or the double cream brie, baked with caramelized onions and served with fresh bread.
Then, head to The Winery just down the road, where you can taste over 80 wines.
Getting There : Air New Zealand flies from all major centers with connections on the domestic network, while Jetstar flies from Auckland and Wellington. See: airnz.co.nz or jetstar.co.nz
One night at Kamana Lake House from $ 164, with a private hot tub, $ 100 additional for three people for a one-hour session. See: kamana.co.nz
Fliteschool Queenstown starting at $ 199 for a group of three or from $ 249 for a single rider. See: fliteschoolqueenstown.com
Yooners can be found at Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Cardrona. The minimum age is seven years old. The cost is $ 50 for daily rental or $ 99 for rental and lessons. Advance reservation essential. See: yooner.co.nz
A Funyak the adventure includes the jetboat, Funyak and an all-terrain bus tour starting at $ 299 per adult, $ 229 per child and $ 827 per family. See: dartriver.co.nz
Fat badgers giant pizzas starting at $ 31. See: fatbadgerspizza.com
Paradise zip lines $ 179 per person. See: paradiseiplines.com
Carbon footprint: Flying generates carbon emissions. To offset your carbon emissions, visit airnewzealand.co.nz/sustainability-customer-carbon-offset
Stay Safe: New Zealand is currently subject to restrictions related to Covid-19. Follow the instructions on covid19.govt.nz.