The Queenstown Weekender
In recent years, I have had a love/hate relationship with the idea of a weekend getaway. Mainly because on any given leisurely trip, I like to get as far away from home as possible and somehow I can never get far enough to feel like I’ve achieved anything wonderful on a weekend… plus, when you’ve only got 3 days at most to take it all in, a weekend seems a tad skinny. Road trips are always nice, but leaving on a Friday evening can be a nightmare (thanks for nothing, Sydney traffic.) When it comes to flying somewhere for the weekend, short flight destinations often do the trick, although if you're anything like me, it's all about experiencing a major change in scenery, enjoying great food, and actually feeling like the woes of city living are far, far behind you. On my first visit to Queenstown New Zealand, I found myself asking why it took me 30 years to visit this place. A quick three hours from Sydney, I had just the right amount of time to get a taste what this pristine town had to offer. Pictured above was what I saw outside the windows as the plane I was in began to descend... and I couldn't believe my eyes.
If you're coming to this part of the world with a few days up your sleeve, don't let it go past you to stay at the Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa. The stunning hotel sits on the aqua blue banks of Lake Wakatipu surrounded by the snowcapped mountains that Queenstown is famously known for. At the time of my visit, the snow season was well and truly over and the days were beginning to feel warmer. That didn't stop the nights from getting chilly, and there were no complaints from me. My room was simply wonderful. Late night reading never felt so good, especially because the living area came complete with a fireplace. Waking up in this space was an absolute joy, as loads of natural light poured in from the balcony and filled the room with a gentle reminder that it was time to start the day.
During my stay at the Hilton Queenstown, I made it a point to do something a little different to my usual workout routine. In place of using the gym at night, I used the lap pool in the morning. Such a small change to the start of my day made for a big difference to my head space. I also had the pleasure of taking an hour out to recoup with a massage at the eforea spa, a part of the hotel that I wish I spent more time at... but as beautiful as the hotel was, the town outside was calling my name.
Keep reading to discover what makes a delicious and relaxing weekend in Queenstown New Zealand.
The best burgers in the world...
I don't think they were kidding when they said that Fergburger in Queenstown is home to the best burgers in the history of human events. Maybe it's the fact that they bake their own bread? Or perhaps that I didn't know lettuce could taste so fresh? Even so, the beef was the best I've ever had in a burger. I ordered the Fergburger with cheddar, with a side of fries of course. It was hands down the best quality I've ever experienced, and it was all encompassing perfection, from the bread, the meat, the produce, the cheese and the sauce. I sadly didn't finish the burger. #regret
Had I known it was going to be that amazing, I would have happily foregone the fries.
Walk and wander
All that Fergburger deliciousness warranted a good walk. Although the town centre is small, there's plenty to take in. If you're not in the mood to wander in and out of stores and boutiques, no worries. Perhaps some quiet time by the riverbank will do the soul some good.
Dinner at Wakatipu Grill
Seafood lovers take note. Even if you're not staying at the Hilton, dining at Wakatipu Grill is definitely one for the foodie itinerary. Wakatipu Grill is positioned inside the Hilton hotel with a section that opens up to an outdoor pinot pit for those who want to take in the stunning surrounds while sipping on the regions best wine. If you happen to be staying at the Hilton, even better - take your time, you've got nowhere else to be. Eat, sip, and enjoy cheese and sweet treats for dessert.
Even if you don't fancy yourself an outdoorsy type, fishing on Lake Wakatipu is a must. Picked up right along the jetty at the Hilton Queenstown, Unreel Fishing took care of all the finer details from rods and bait to morning tea and juice. All I needed to do was show up with a warm coat, and sensible footwear. The ride along the glassy river was utterly breathtaking. This was one of those moments that had me thinking, I cannot believe this place is so close to home.
Upon arriving back to the hotel after a morning fishing along the banks of Wakatipu, I hopped into a hire car with my fellow travel-mates and made headway for Arrowtown. We stopped for a coffee at Postmasters before spending a little while browsing the boutiques. This town feels like a movie set... there's something so nostalgic about the store fronts and landscape. We stopped to take a few photos on the way to the next spot, Gibbston Valley Winery where my travel-mates enjoyed a little wine tasting. While I don't fancy myself a wine drinker, I adore wineries. Given the chance I'll always stop in at one just to take in the surrounds.
Lunch at Amisfield
When I mentioned to my friend and New Zealand native Erin that Amisfield was on my itinerary, she told me that I would love it. She said that Amisfield is pretty iconic in New Zealand and that most foodies who make the trip to Queenstown always make it a point to visit. I loved her excitement. And I loved Amisfield. While I'm no wine connoisseur, I'd definitely visit this place again for lunch, because the menu reflected everything I love about eating out with friends - plenty of shareable options. My pick of the bunch - the wood fired bread with sautéed zucchini flavoured with lemon zest and olive oil, topped with dollops of creamy goats chèvre. Heaven.
Dinner at Rata
If you're looking to end your Queenstown experience on a culinary high, then you need to make dinner reservations at Rata. This restaurant is a celebration of all the beautiful, earthy and wonderful elements that make New Zealand so spectacular. The menu is clearly defined, and the interior is relaxed and inviting. I ordered the organic boneless chicken that was served with freeka, shiitake, broccolini and sorrel. I can't recall the last time a dish I ordered made so much sense. I loved every element!
Lazy Sunday Drive to Glenorchy
After an early swim back at the hotel we decided to make the most of our last morning in paradise with a drive to Glenorchy. This winding road along the mountainside may make you feel a little dizzy - but just chew some minty fresh gum and open the windows because it's completely worth it. When we arrived at the lakeside fishing spot, I saw a bride and groom having photos taken off in the distance. Down by jetty, a woman had set up with her fishing rods, a tea thermos and furry companion. Yes, of course I introduced myself to the pup.
Light lunch and brunching at Vudu Cafe & Larder
One last stop before making the trip back home to Sydney, and it was for a good brunchy refuel. Vudu Cafe & Larder is in the heart of Queenstown and was brimming with locals and visitors who were seeking good coffee, and delicious down to earth food. I ordered a green juice, with big bowl of oatmeal topped with roasted nuts and seasonal fruit. It was grounding, wholesome and delicious.
One final show of amazing from way up above...
There was no way Queenstown was done with me yet. even on the flight home, the landscape kept pulling me in with spectacular views from above.
Plan your trip to Queenstown
Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa Kawarau Village, 79 Peninsula Road, Queenstown 9300, New Zealand Tel: +64 (0)3 450 9400 Fax +64 (0)3 450 9401
Viola of Project Sweet Stuff experienced Queenstown as a guest of Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa