Queenstown – The Adventure Capital of the World!
Queenstown has definitely earned this reputation. Whatever adrenaline-fueled activity you desire, it will probably be on offer here. One thing that I think every visitor to New Zealand must do is bungy jump. And who better to do it with than AJ Hackett, the original commercial bungy pioneers. It has been over 25 years since the idea to jump off the Kawarau Bridge attached only by a bungy cord originated so we decided while in Queenstown, we would jump off that exact bridge.
This time around, fear was not so much an issue. The Kawarau Bridge is a beautiful old bridge above the Kawarau River. It is a scenic spot, located right beside the highway along the Kawarau Gorge. This means there are always people stopping in to watch on their way past, as was the case when I went to jump. An entire tour group spread out along the viewing platform to capture it on film. When I walked back up afterwards I was greeted with a cheer from the crowd and one guy even hugged me! I felt like a rock star! The group was dis-interested in watching Sam, which amused me.
The other bungy options offered by AJ Hackett in Queenstown are; the Nevis – New Zealand’s highest bungy where you jump 134m from a highwire cable car – and the Ledge – a freestyle 47m jump 400m above Queenstown. Alternately you can do the world’s biggest swing, the Nevis, which has a 300m arc, or the Ledge Swing. A recent addition to the Kawarau River site is the Zipride. With three 130m zip lines the race was on between Sam, Lisa and I. This ride was designed to appeal to all ages and abilities, and you can ride tandem or solo.
Our day on the river continued with a ride on the famous Shotover Jet. (SEE WEBSITE). These guys owned their reputation as ‘The most exciting jet boat ride in the World’! In no time our driver launched us into 360 degree spins and had people screaming. We flew down the towering canyon at speeds reaching 85kph, narrowly missing rocky outcrops, and skimmed across the water through small channels that didn’t look deep enough for the boat. Even large trees in the river were narrowly avoided on purpose. It all added to the excitement and adrenaline of this jet boat ride. Those drivers are clearly highly skilled and that was a whole lot of fun.
Next, it was just a short walk across the carpark to Queenstown Rafting. We elected to do their most extreme rafting option, Shotover River. The trip began by travelling the narrow, winding road that is Skippers Canyon. Signs at the entry of the canyon state that this road is not suitable for buses or trailors… Two negatives make a positive right? This is considered one of the most dangerous roads in the country.
I couldn’t believe it when I realised our guide was a mate of mine. Stefan is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, and definitely not your stereotypical raft guide – much to Sam’s delight. As we rafted from Deep Creek down Skipper’s Canyon the river became increasingly turbulent. The adrenaline increased as we descended the rapids. The finale was paddling through a 170m long tunnel before shooting Cascade Rapid. We almost lost Lisa on this one, until I pulled her back into the raft by her life jacket. After ditching the wetsuits, it was time for a sauna.
We had explored Queenstown by the river, now it was time to view it from above. We took the iconic Skyline Gondola up the hill, which gave us spectacular views of the region. While skyline offer numerous activities, my favourite is the Luge. After a run down the scenic route, we were ready to attack the 800m long advanced track Of course, the race was on between Sammy and I. When isn’t it? Slippery track conditions and slow luge carts definitely interfered with the results on the day. I mean, Lisa overtook me at one point and she passed Sammy after he spun out. Nevertheless, luging was just as much fun as ever.
Also located up the top of the Skyline Gondola hill is Ziptrek, an ecological flying fox adventure. Three years ago I spent a season working as a guide for Ziptrek so it was good to get back out in the forest and catch up with old friends. Due to time constraints we only did the Moa 4-Line tour. To be honest though, Line 4 was always my favourite because it provides spectacular views of Lake Wakatipu, The Remarkables and Cecil Peak. The only thing is we missed out on Line 6, the steepest tree to tree flying fox in the world. If you want to experience this ride, and I know you will, you need to do their Kea 6-Line tour.
Now there was only one thing left to do, explore Queenstown’s abundant nightlife. The beauty of Queenstown is that days of the week are irrelevant. This place is a tourist mecca so bars are pumping every night. One of the more unique places to drink is Minus5 Ice Bar. The crew kit you up like an eskimo in warm jackets and gloves before sending you into the freezer, literally, which is minus 5 degrees or colder. Inside there is over 18 tones of crystal clear ice architecture. The floor, the walls, the ceiling, the bar, the seats, the sculptures, the cups your cocktails are served in – everything is made of ice.
CAUTION: The drinks are delicious and the icy temperature ensures the alcohol is absorbed quickly into your blood. It is definitely worth a visit next time you’re in town. Ahh Queenstown, you’re always a good time.