If you are planning a trip to New Zealand, there will be much debate on which exciting cities, charming towns and endless scenic viewpoints to visit. With limited time, you really need a solid travel plan to make the most of this country with its picturesque mountains, lakes, beaches and forest to explore.
Many travelers feel torn between the South Island destinations of Wanaka and Queenstown. The good news is they are both wonderful places to visit and you will have a fabulous time at either one. The bad
news is, it’s hard to pick. So I’ve laid it all out, like a delicious picnic on the beach, to help you decide between beautiful Wanaka and lovely Queenstown. Or you always have the option of seeing both places if time allows.
Landing in Queenstown, you will look out the plane window and be amazed at the aerial view of majestic mountains and pristine lakes. Then you go from the runway to your cozy accommodation in lightning speed time since the airport is close to downtown Queenstown.
Hiking is a popular activity for Queenstown visitors, with the Queenstown Hike being a rewarding challenge. If you prefer more of a pretty meander, the Queenstown Gardens path is wrapped around Lake Wakatipu and makes a lovely place to take in the fresh air, nature and wildlife without breaking a sweat.
For thrill-seekers, Queenstown is an exciting playground with attractions like bungee jumping, luge rides, jet boats and sky diving readily available. Adrenaline junkies rejoice at the thought of Queenstown’s adventure sports options and even if you are not brave enough to join the daredevils, watching them play can give you sweaty hands. A gondola ride up the Southern Hemisphere’s steepest cable car ride can also get the heart racing.
Excellent dining, shopping, and entertainment such as Kiwi bands playing at cool venues mean you will be kept busy for however long you stay in Queenstown.
By air, you will land at Queenstown Airport then drive for about an hour to reach Wanaka. The scene is more laid back and quieter than Queenstown, but just as gorgeous, with Lake Wanaka being a vision against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains. One of those mountains, Iron Mountain, is wonderful for trekking and reaching the top is exhilarating. Catch your breath, then start taking photos because this will be one of the most photogenic sights of your day. Roy’s Peak is another Wanaka gem if your fitness
level is reasonable. Diamond Lake/Rocky Mountain is a bit easier and also has the wow factor when you reach the top.
Wanaka, like Queenstown, has plenty of extreme sports and thrilling activities to experience. Hold on tight when the jet boat roars through the chilly Lake Clutha water, then go horseback riding across scenic lands. Not scary enough? You can pretend you are James Bond and bravely cross a jiggly suspension bridge then repel down a powerful waterfall. Another fun-packed experience is taking The Cardrona Bike Park chairlift to the highest point, then mountain biking down.
Wanaka is also home to many wineries and vineyards where you can sample award-winning wines and meet the winemakers who are so passionate about winemaking. Specialty tours for novice tasters and connoisseurs are designed to entertain and educate both the mind and the taste buds.
Hiking, biking, mountain biking and blissful walks surrounded by nature are as easily enjoyed in Wanaka and Queenstown. The accommodation, dining, shopping and facilities are also great in both places and in terms of cost, there isn’t much difference.
So it really comes down to what activities you would enjoy most, how much time you have, and if you prefer a buzzing tourist scene like Queenstown offers or a slightly more low-key experience like Wanaka serves up. The nightlife in Queenstown is hopping, while in Wanaka, you can let the barman give you the last drink before closing and still get an early night.
If skiing is your buzz, then Queenstown is a popular base with world-class ski facilities 30-60 minutes away at Coronet Peak, The Remarkables or Cardrona. You can hit the slopes from Wanaka too, or enjoy leisurely wine tastings.
Again, you could squeeze in time at both places. Using Queenstown as a base and making a day or overnight trip to Wanaka can be a good plan. All good road trips to Wanaka include a stop in the historic mining town of Arrowtown just out of Queenstown. The Arrowtown Bakery has fresh pastries that are legendary.
So Wanaka versus Queenstown – still find it hard to choose? Give me a call and I’m sure you’ll be able to decide after our conversation and it will be only one stop on a trip thru scenic and friendly New Zealand – a trip you will talk about for years to come.
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