• For me, the food and wine were the highlights along with the breathtaking scenery. Everywhere you look there are snow-capped mountains, sparkling lakes and rolling hills covered in vineyards.

Why we’re kicking ourselves we didn’t holiday here sooner

Please note, this article is best enjoyed with a glass of wine.

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After exploring more than 15 countries on this planet, it’s hard to believe I hadn’t looked closer to home on the never-ending search for the ultimate travel destination.  But… I think I have found it.

New Zealand’s South Island is everything it’s cracked up to be and more.

Whether you’re into food and wine (like me), extreme sports, the natural world, spa days, dancing til the wee hours of the morning, golf or exploring, NZ has you covered.

For me, the food and wine were the highlights along with the breathtaking scenery. Everywhere you look there are snow-capped mountains, sparkling lakes and rolling hills covered in vineyards.

I was lucky enough to have a week on the pristine South Island and I’m already looking to book my next trip back. It would be great to see this area shine during a ski season, but for now – here is a guide to Otago in the spring.

Please note: This article is best enjoyed with a glass of Amisfield Wineries 2015 Pinot Noir Rosé, or Roaring Meg 2013 Pinot Noir. 
 

Queenstown

Queenstown is a picturesque alpine town that is buzzing with people from all over the globe. It’s the perfect place to start your South Island journey.

Be sure to start the day with breakfast from

If you’re wondering where to get the best breakfast in Queenstown, Vudu is a must. It offers delicious, wholesome breakfasts made with fresh, local produce.  There are a few locations but Vudu overlooking Lake Wakatipu is the best spot to enjoy your morning caffeine fix. If you’re just after a quick bite another option is Fergburger bakery. All I will say is fresh cream doughnuts. And amazing pies. And baps. Ok, everything is delicious there.

Beach Street or 16 Rees Street, Queenstown

Make sure you eat lunch at

 Fergburger itself is an institution and will always have a line out the front, no matter what time of the day. Their burgers hit the spot and I imagine would taste even better after a day on the slopes.

42 Shotover Street, Queenstown 
 

Just out of Queenstown is Amisfield Winery; put this on your list. The food, wine and service are all top notch. You can choose from share plates (get the pork belly, hot smoked salmon and crispy potatoes), to a seven course degustation and wine matching. Oh, and don’t forget to do one of their wine tastings… you will end up ordering a case to be sent home.

10 Lake Hayes Road, Queenstown
 

The best spots for dinner

 Queenstown really is a foodie paradise filled with low to high-end eats. If you’re after that ‘special’ meal for the trip, Botswana Butchery is all the rage. As soon as you walk into the restaurant you’ll notice it has a degree of pomp about it, but it’s all part of the experience. The food is delicious, but rich. Not recommended before a night out dancing at Queenstown’s clubs.

17 Marine Parade, Queenstown East

If you’re after something a little more casual, Madam Woo serves delicious modern Asian food and cocktails. It’s got a great atmosphere and good service. Another must try is The Cow. Tucked away in a little brick building, similar to a country English pub, it serves the best pizzas… and oh that garlic bread.

5 The Mall, Lower Ballarat Street, Queenstown | Cow Lane, Queenstown 
 

Where to drink

If the weather is on your side and there’s even a glimmer of sunshine, head to The Sundeck. This place is an absolute gem. It’s hidden up two flights of stairs but has the most stunning views of Queenstown. Hours can be spent here enjoying the world class wines on offer and soaking up the beautiful views.

14 Cow Lane, Queenstown

Let’s not forget, Queenstown is a tourist hotspot so naturally it’s full of travellers and backpackers from all over the globe. This means it has amazing nightlife. Along Searle Lane you will find a mix of bars, clubs and live music venues, which will be open until the wee hours. Cowboys is a must and feels like you’ve stepped into a Honky Tonk in Texas, Havana specialises in rum and Cuban music, and if you want to a live band or play some pool then Zephyr is for you.

What to do

If you’ve over indulged in Queenstown on the food and wine front (it’s possible), there are plenty of opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy the surrounds. Walking around Lake Wakatipu and through the Queenstown gardens makes you feel a bit better about all the food you have consumed. If you’re after a hit of golf, the Queenstown Golf Club has amazing views and is one of the cheaper clubs to play at, for a more glamorous experience – Jack’s Point Golf Club offers some of the best views in the area.

If daredevil is your middle name this town is for you. There is the famous AJ Hackett Bungy – either the Ledge Bungy overlooking Queenstown or the Kawarau Bungy. If that’s not up your alley (me either), then the Gondola to Bob’s Peak followed by a fun luge ride is as much of a thrill as you’ll need. If you do want to push your boundaries a little, the Shotover Jet definitely gets the blood pumping, without having to jump of the side of a cliff.

On the sleeping and accommodation front

When it comes to accommodation in Queenstown, Airbnb is your friend. There are so many beautiful houses and apartments available that can prove to be really cost effective with a group. If you’re after something a little more luxurious, Hotel St Moritz is the perfect place to rest your weary head.

Arrowtown

This quaint little village, 20 minutes from Queenstown, is like stepping into a mystical town in the English countryside.

Be sure to start the day with breakfast from…

Now for the big statement – I had the most delicious breakfast I have ever eaten in Arrowtown.  Chop Shop is a trendy café hidden up some stairs off the main street and it’s worth seeking out.  The ‘Turkish eggs’ were heavenly – perfectly poached eggs with Greek yoghurt and an amazing garlic, chilli and dill sauce. It was so full of flavour. The Arrowtown Bakery might not look like much but their bagels with local hot smoked salmon and cream cheese will tick all the boxes and is the perfect snack before going on a hike on one of the nearby trails.

Get your lunch from…

You’re not going to need lunch after all you’ve eaten, but if you’re peckish Gibbston Valley is a cheese shop and café on the main street, or the pies at the Arrowtown bakery are delicious.

1820 State Highway 6, Queenstown
 

Book for dinner at…

The Fork and Tap Alehouse and Restaurant (aka the pub) is somewhere to spend the afternoon drinking craft beers and local pinot noir, while grazing on their gastro pub fare. It’s got a real British feel to it.

51 Buckingham Street, Arrowtown 
 

If you are after something a little more upmarket Saffron is the restaurant to visit in Arrowtown. Their menus are all about local produce and seasonality, always pushing the boundaries with their creative dishes.

18 Buckingham St, Arrowtown
 

Just out of town is Millbrook resort which also offers a selection of restaurants including Kobe cuisine. This little Japanese restaurant offers the freshest dishes with amazing flavours. Whether it’s sashimi or Wagyu with shitake mushrooms… it’s all good!

Malaghans Road, Arrowtown
 

Make sure you…

Arrowtown itself is really just one main street with cute shops and delicious food offerings. If you’d like to explore a little further there are a number of trails to enjoy. For a bit offresh air there are the one hour hikes which follow the Arrow River, or some that will last the whole day and get the heart racing. If you’re still craving more wine… head to Gibbston Valley for a wine and cheese tasting. If you didn’t know it already, Central Otago is known for its Pinot Noir. Taste as much as you can because some of these have been voted the best in the world.

Looking for accommodation in Arrowtown?

Millbrook Resort is a special place. Yes, everyone staying there may be in the 55+ age group, but it’s like stepping into a relaxed, upmarket world. From the restored wheat mill (which is now a restaurant) to the luxurious cabins and hotel rooms, Millbrook is the perfect place for some r and r. Get into your white bath robe and chill out… Or play golf, go to the day spa, swim in the lap pool, eat at one of the four restaurants, play a game of tennis or feed the ducks.  Take me back!

Day trips from Queenstown 

Wanaka 

The views here are seriously spectacular. Wanaka is a quieter version of Queenstown, but is just as impressive. If the weather permits it’s worth getting some local cheeses, fresh bread and other snacks to have a picnic overlooking the stunning Lake Wanaka and surrounding snow-capped mountains. A beautiful spot is along Beacon Point Road, where the road meets the waterfront. If it’s warm enough (and you’re mad enough), you may even want to go in for a dip. It sure is refreshing and an amazing experience swimming while looking out to some of the world’s most beautiful mountains. Dry off and then head to Rippon Vineyard. The views here are ridiculous and the wines are delicious. You won’t want to leave, especially after tasting a few too many of their top shelf Pinots Noirs.

246 Mount Aspiring Road, Wanaka
 

Cromwell and Bannockburn

This is in the heart of Central Otago and therefore means wine, wine and more wine. Cromwell has a picturesque historic village, with some of the buildings dating back to 1860. If you’re there on a Sunday morning the markets have everything from gourmet pies to lavender hand cream, produced at the local Lavender farm. Just across Lake Dunstan, in Bannockburn, are some of the region’s best wineries.  Mt Difficulty is once again known for its Pinot Noir, but its 2014 Sauvignon Blanc is also a really decent drop. If you’re after a late lunch, the Winery Restaurant at Mt Difficulty offers views of the countryside and a menu filled with local produce.

73 Felton Road Cromwell 
 

My extra travel tips for New Zealand’s South Island…

Definitely hire a car and pack for all seasons.  Most wine tastings are free, however it’s nice to make a small contribution… or better yet, buy a bottle of your favourite. And yes, the region is known for its Pinot Noir, but some of the rosés and whites are also worth tasting/ guzzling.

Kelly Hawke lives to eat and travel. When she’s not busy with her day job in PR, she’s wearing the editor’s cap at the Straddie Island News, eating her way around Brisbane or planning her next trip abroad.  

 

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