Six cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand (so far) and a precipitous decline in tourism that began on February 3 with a ban on visitors from China. China accounts for more tourists to New Zealand than any other country, so the impact was immediate. We started noticing once we hit Queenstown during the latter half of February. (Since that time, more comprehensive travel restrictions have been enacted – more about that in a later post.) Normally crowded with tourists from across the globe during the busy summer months, Queenstown was lively, but restaurants and attractions appeared to have excess capacity.
As the birthplace of commercial bungy jumping back in 1988, Queenstown claims to be the adventure capital of New Zealand. It’s also one of most expensive places to live in the country, with a median home price in excess of $900,000 NZD.
We made our way to Queenstown by traveling through the Southern Alps from the west coast.
The first leg took us up and over Haast Pass through a rainforest that receives nearly 300 inches of the wet stuff a year. True to form, we drove through low, thick clouds and periodic rain showers. This poem, posted in several places we visited, made us chuckle:
Even with the wet stuff coming down (or more accurately, because of it), the rainforest was beautiful. And very, very green. Here are a few sights we saw in the Haast Pass area.
Once we got close to Wanaka, the landscape changed. Dramatically. No more rain!
Day 1 in Queenstown: A Drive through the Countryside
Highlights were visiting central Otago wineries, the historic community of Cromwell, and the Shaky Bridge in Alexandra.
Day 2 in Queenstown: Hiking in the Remarkables
This a photo of the Remarkables mountain range as seen from Queenstown.
Bill and I did a day hike at the Remarkables ski area. The drive up (and back) offered spectacular views of Queenstown.
The hike up to Lake Alta was steep in places but well traveled, and once there, we enjoyed a leisurely picnic lunch.
Day 3: Kiwi Birdlife Park
The most prominent feature of this family-owned wildlife sanctuary located in the heart of Queenstown is its participation in a national network of captive kiwi breeding facilities. (Kiwi birds, not kiwi fruit😎)
Sadly, the kiwi population is highly vulnerable due to non-native predators and loss of habitat, so aggressive measures have been instituted to boost their numbers and long term chances for survival.
Once in New Zealand, we learned that the odds of seeing a kiwi in the wild are remote, as they are shy, nocturnal animals. Unless you want to pay $200 NZD (each) for a guided tour. Instead, we opted for the $32 visit to the bird sanctuary and thoroughly enjoyed watching them in action. No photos allowed, so here’s a picture from the pbs.org website.
Photos of a few other attractions at the center:
A few more random photos from Queenstown
We loved our time in Queenstown and could have used a few more days!