Day 7: Onsen & Arrowtown
We’re at the halfway mark of our road trip now and over the next few days, we’ll be exploring Queenstown.
But first, a trip to ONSEN Hot Pools which is just a ten minute drive from Queenstown town centre. Make sure you book ahead of your trip – as this place is popular and books out weeks in advance. At ONSEN, you book sessions that last one hour at a time. At the 50 min mark, they knock on the door so you’re aware of the time and at the one hour mark, a small buzzer will let you know. There’s a shower in each hot pool area so you’re able to get changed before you leave but there’s also public change rooms as well if you need. The hot pools are all private and have a retractable roof. Each pool overlooks Shotover river and it’s just so scenic and picturesque to be in front of such a view! With so much going on in action-packed Queenstown, it’s nice to have somewhere to just relax and go at a slower place.
We enjoyed the Tandeki Experience Package which includes towels, drinks and snacks. Note: if the water is too hot in your pool, you can add cold water. But this spurts from the top of roof so be aware!
Drive: Queenstown to Arrowtown (20 min)
After your refreshing session at ONSEN, it’s time to get exploring! We headed to Arrowtown to check out what it’s all about. It’s a really small town with one main street filled with cute little cafes, eateries and shops. It almost reminds me of Ballarat in Victoria as there is also gold mining history behind the town and it is also preserved with its old-style buildings.
I’d say Arrowtown isn’t a ‘must do’ but it is a convenient place to visit being a short drive from Queenstown and if you like eating, a good place to stop for some food. We tried a pie from Arrowtown Bakery (a creamy chicken pie which had actual tender chicken pieces in it) as well as a steak burger from The Shed.
Drive: Arrowtown to Queenstown (20 min)
After Arrowtown, it’s time to head back to Queenstown.
On our drive back, we stopped over at Shotover River, at the place where they hold the Shotover Jet rides. I’m not really the world’s biggest adrenaline junkie so we didn’t do anything adrenaline pumping in Queenstown. However, there’s a great view of the Shotover canyon from here, so it’s a nice place to stop at nevertheless.
Evening: Wakatipu Lake, Queenstown
If you’re up for it, the shores of Wakatipu Lake at Queenstown are quite beautiful and a nice place to sit and relax. Park anywhere alongside the lake and walk a few steps down to experience sunset here.
Day 8 – Milford Sound
Today we’re doing a road trip to Milford Sound with Cruise Milford.
We visited Milford Sound on a Coach-Cruise-Coach day tour with Cruise Milford. There are a few ways to do Milford, you can either do a self drive and go on a cruise when you arrive, or you can book a Coach-Cruise-Coach tour or you can book a Coach-Cruise-Fly tour where you take a helicopter back. If you choose to self drive, drive with care as the accident rate here is quite high. The road isn’t that much worse than your typical NZ roads but it is definitely windy and with so many tourists on the road it’s best to keep an extra eye out for dodgy pullovers and the like.
We decided to go on a Coach-Cruise-Coach tour as the drive to Milford Sound from Queenstown is quite long (about 4-4.5 hours) and so wanted to give our camper and ourselves a rest.
Whilst heading to Milford Sound, you’ll pass scenic views of The Remarkables Mountain Range and drive along a stretch of road called the Devil’s Staircase before arriving first at Te Anau. We had a rest break at Te Anau where we had a yummy pie from ‘Miles Better Pies’ before hopping back on the bus to Milford Sound. About 10 minutes out from Te Anau, you’ll lose all phone reception.
From Te Anau to Milford Sound, our bus driver made a couple of pullovers at Eglinton Valley and Reflective Lake. On the way to Milford, you’ll also pass by Homer Tunnel – a one way tunnel where you have to wait on the road for the other side of the traffic to pass through the entire tunnel before heading in. Whilst waiting (there’s a digital clock telling you the approximate wait time), we all hopped off to appreciate the view and small waterfalls before us.
Milford Sound is a World Heritage Park and one of the wettest places on the planet so you’ll be lucky if it doesn’t rain. There’s no reception here (at least for the public) and it’s one of the most remote places you could be in NZ.
We took a two hour cruise here with Cruise Milford and saw some beautiful waterfalls, spotted seals bathing on the rocks and just kind of chilled. The captains here like to take you on an all immersive waterfall experience – so there will be numerous times where you’ll head right under a waterfall! Bring a waterproof jacket to enjoy the experience!
Day 9 – Glenorchy & Queenstown
Start off today with a trip to Glenorchy, a small town on the other side of Lake Wakatipu. Here, you can visit the famous Glenorchy Wharf boat shed, Mrs Woolly’s General Store and have a bite to eat at one of the cafes. For those who are doing a Dart River tour, Glenorchy is also the home base for Dart River Adventures. Nearby is also Diamond Lake. Unfortunately we again hit a period of rainy weather and bad visibility so were unable to make it to Diamond Lake or stay as long as we’d like in Glenorchy.
On the way back to Queenstown, make a side stop for More Lake. Do note however that it is down a narrow gravel road which can be a questionable path for rental vehicles so if you don’t feel like doing gravel, here’s your heads up.
Lunch: Devil Burger
After seeing the huge lines at FergBurger and having no luck trying to place a phone order, we decided to head to Devil Burger instead for lunch. Devil Burger is actually rated higher than FergBurger on Trip Advisor but without the line, so we were keen to see how it was. Turns out, there’s also a line (albeit a smaller one) at Devil Burger however, because they have a large sitting area, after you make your order, you can just relax here and wait for your order to be ready. I thought the burgers here were pretty good and satisfying though coming from Melbourne, it’s not something that you’d be totally missing out on if you didn’t have a burger in Queenstown.
Afternoon/evening: Skyline Queenstown at Bob’s Peak
After pondering about it for a couple of days, we did the thing that every tourist does and visited Bob’s Peak by taking the gondola up. This is by far the most touristy thing we did all trip and normally I tend to avoid these activities but hey, FOMO hit hard this time. The gondola goes up the mountain real steep and at times I was pretty terrified haha. Though at the top, the view is quite beautiful. If you want to do even more touristy things, you can book a meal at the restaurant, ride the luge (go kart looking thing), participating in star gazing or go shopping. We did none of those and instead, enjoyed the sunset and watched the lights come on.
For those who prefer to walk, you can actually do a 2-ish hour hike up via one of the trails. We would have totally enjoyed that but I swear we were still recovering from Roy’s Peak and really not that keen to put in much effort.
DAY 10 – Queenstown – Mount Cook National Park
It’s time to say goodbye to Queenstown! But not without trying one last time to have a burger at FergBurger. Haha! Lots of you messaged us on Instagram about the secret tip of placing a phone order and coming in to collect it when ready. The first time we tried it, their line was engaged for the entire afternoon. The second time we tried it, we finally got through. So it happened, we finally got to try FergBurger – for breakfast!
For the price, FergBurger’s burgers were of better value compared to Devil Burger. Taste wise, I would say it’s a pretty close call. They both do very similar style patties and burgers. I personally liked the burger I ordered at Devil Burger better, but then I ordered a different style burger at FergBurger so it was difficult to compare. Both were definitely above average and delicious, but coming from Melbourne again where the food is so great makes me a tough critic! But with so much hype with FergBurger and such a long line, we were glad we didn’t have to leave with that FOMO wondering what could have been.
Drive: Queenstown to Mount Cook National Park (3 hrs)
Onwards we go now, to Mount Cook! The drive to Mount Cook is a long one, but it gets pretty damn scenic as you start to get close. You’ll first pass through Lindis Pass Road which takes you on a scenic route across mountains. There’s a lookout on this road where you can stop, snack and take in the view.
Heading closer to the national park and about mid-way along the west side of Lake Pukaki you’ll find Peter’s Lookout which is a nice place to get a good view of the mountain range. Note that Mount Cook is a pretty shy mountain so it’s not every day you’ll get to see it in full!
Overnight: White Horse Hill Campsite
Our first and only night at a non-powered non-holiday park was at the White Horse Hill campsite, managed by the Dept of Conservation for $13 per adult. It’s the only campsite in Mt Cook village and I really wanted to stay close by as the campsite is also the starting point for the many walking tracks in the area, making it an extremely convenient place to stay. There’s a toilet block here and a cooking shelter. However the downside? There is no power here and no showers either. The first of which I needed to charge my camera batteries and the latter of which can be super refreshing after doing a day of hiking in the area – the main activity, in this area! The original aim was to stay two nights in the area but in the end we only stayed one night and booked into a holiday park after.
Part 4 coming up next!