05.17.2009 50 °F
Queenstown was settled in the 1840s by gold prospectors. It was named Queenstown because it was a “fit for a queen”, Queen Victoria. Queenstown is beautiful. Surrounded by Lake Wakapitu and The Remarkables mountain peaks, it’s easy to understand how Queenstown got its name, even if it sounds uncreative at first. There are only 10,000 full-time residents, but many visitors from within New Zealand and from around the world during winter for snow sports and summer for hiking and boating. Queenstown is the closest city to Fiordland National Park (Milford Track) and Milford Sound, billed by some as the eighth wonder of the world.
It rained hard Friday morning, but the sun made its appearance at 10:30am. After a wet run along the lake, Susie and I went to Fergburger for grass fed beef and lamb burgers. Fergberger is ultra hip, filled with locals and tourists who go there for huge, yummy burgers and beer. We sat outside soaking in the sun and watching people walk by.
After lunch we walked down to the dock to get a good look at the mountains. Because of their size, they appear closer than they actually are. We arrived in Queenstown at night in the rain, missing what was surrounding Queenstown until clearing skies and daylight. It’s impossible to tire of looking at snow capped mountains, even if they’re everywhere in New Zealand.
From the docks we found our way to the Kiwi and Wild Birdlife Center. Ingrid and Mark said that Kiwi birds are rare to see in the wild since they are nocturnal, and recommended seeing them in a controlled environment. They are odd looking birds, a little smaller than a hen in size, but have very long beaks, skinny long legs that are quite strong, often used at the center to kick their keepers if they come too close to their eggs, and while they look wingless, they have wings the size of our pinkies. Females carry an egg almost the size of their bodies. The keeper explained that it would be as if humans gave birth to a 37lb baby. Ouch! After the egg is laid, the male bird incubates for a few weeks, leaving the egg for only an hour each day to feed. The chicks hatch with eyes open and instincts in place to be independent of their parents. Now there is an idea.
We woke up Sunday to a steady downpour that lasted all day. We thought about doing a short hike around Queenstown, but the rain eliminated that plan. We wanted to go take a Milford Sound tour, but that would be 12 hours round trip, including six hours on a bus. After the long drive from Hokitika to Queenstown, we couldn’t bring ourselves to be in a car again. We decided on an easy day in the town. It started out at Patagonia, a chocolate and coffee shop, where we lazed away hours checking e-mail, posting to the blog, and surfing the net while drinking coffee and tea. Afterwards we grabbed a late lunch at Halo, a restaurant located next to a church. The wait staff had cool t-shirts with “angel” or “worship me” written on the back. We schemed to get those shirts. After lunch, we visited a Country Road store in the town. Some of you may remember that they used to have stores in the U.S. but closed them in 2004, and some of us having been missing them ever since. The clothes, men and women’s, are like an Australian Banana Republic but with more flare. Susie found a stylish dark navy pea coat but they didn’t have her size. So close! Not ones to give up on fashion, we asked them to locate her size in Auckland for pick up. Bingo. Afterwards Susie did a little shopping and beer tasting (beer intelligence) while I went back to the hotel to nap (and truth be told, watched some Sky television featuring shows from The Discovery Channel). Would you believe we went back to Halo for dinner and then again for breakfast? There are tons of restaurants in Queenstown but we just loved this one. And best of all, Susie gave me one of the “worship me” t-shirts to wear out and about in Del Ray, Alexandria, Virginia.
There are so many things to do in Queenstown but bad weather kept us from being outside. We weren’t too upset though because we have concluded that we will return to New Zealand, especially to hike the Milford Track, Routeburn Track, and cruise the Milford Sound. It’s worth a return trip for that and to check out the local real estate.