Queenstown and a scenic flight to Milford Sound 🛩️

Me, Georgie, sitting on a wooden bench in front of a purple, blue and black muralw with a bird and some coloured bubbles. I am wearing a white jacket, shorts, and hat, and have part of my hand shielding my face from the sun.
Grabbed this photo before we left Twizel

Queenstown was the last stop on our New Zealand trip, and we started our journey there from the farm we stayed at in Twizel. We couldn’t miss “that tree”—the Wanaka tree—a lone tree that is thriving in the shallow depths of Lake Wanaka. Since we still had some time before being able to check in to our Airbnb in Queenstown, we ate lunch in Wanaka at a small cafe. I honestly wasn’t hungry for lunch because I hadn’t done a lot of exercise or movement, so I hadn’t worked up an appetite. But I chose the brunch special on the menu which was salt and pepper calamari.

A single tree in the middle of a big lake. The sky is very bright blue with some clouds in it.
That Wanaka Tree
A view of green hills with empty land in the middle. The sky is blue with lots of clouds.
An incredible view before driving into Queenstown
A similar view to the previous photo but with a green hill taking up most of the photo, with a road stretching around the side of it.
Winding roads around the landscape

Our drive had been almost three hours to Wanaka but we had another 90 minutes or so to get to Queenstown. We were able to check in once we arrived, and then drove downtown to drop off our rental car as we wouldn’t be needing it for the remainder of our trip. Queenstown is not exceptionally walkable… if at all. 😂 Unless you are staying in the heart of town. Anywhere with a good view would warrant a rental car because it would be up steep hills that would be extremely tiring to climb. The villa we were staying in was about fifteen minutes’ walk to town, but the two small hills we had to climb felt like hell especially when we were tired. 🫠

We took the rest of that afternoon to explore Queenstown near the water, and do the harbour walk that loops around near the beach and Queenstown Gardens. We just followed the walking path close to the water and continued going around. It’s a lovely short walk.

A wooden bench looking onto the sea, with the rest of the hilly city in the background.
A peaceful spot near the water in Queenstown
A light grey gravel path going forward, with some lush green trees on either side of the path up ahead
It was a nice walk.
Two cocktails sitting on a bar in front of a menu with a cover reading “Ferg’s bar”.
A stop by Ferg’s Bar, which was next to the famous Fergburger

We ate at a place called Pedro’s By The Lake for dinner, a Mexican tapas restaurant with some very good food! During our stay in Queenstown we also spent a lot of time walking around and exploring the esplanade, the shops, and basically just going for a wander around.

Nick, a white man with short dark hair, wearing a blue checkered shirt and black jacket, sitting in a restaurant with glasses of wine, and bread and slices of jamon served as an entree.
A cosy setting
A plate served with bread topped with shredded lamb
These lamb montaditos were served on toasted bread with mint sauce
A table served with a plate of seared raw tuna slices, and another plate with some spinach croquettes
Spinach croquettes and tuna tataki

The following morning we had booked a tour with Milford Scenic Flights, the Fly/Walk/Cruise/Fly to experience Milford Sound. It was fairly easy to book and organise, and we chose this option (despite the cost being a bit over $1000) because we felt it was best value for money for what we were after. I have heard that walking the Milford Track is marvellous, but we didn’t have the time, nor did we have the preparation (Nick and I have not yet done a multi-day hike). Driving to Milford Sound would be a lovely drive, but again we didn’t have the time to drive from Queenstown for several hours there and back. The package consisted of a free shuttle bus pickup from our accomodation, a scenic flight to Milford Sound, a three hour hike doing part of the Milford Track, a boat cruise, and a flight back to Queenstown. It was a very full-on day from 8:00am to 5:00pm.

The day started with us trying to grab a rudimentary snack from McDonald’s, but they were annoyingly closed for some kind of cleaning or maintenance, so we had to go to a convenience store. Then we had to make the pretty hectic walk up the hill back to our Airbnb, but all of this in time for a 7:05am pickup. 🥱 I was starting to panic and hoped we hadn’t forgotten anything in our day bag.

A view from the side of a small plane, of a mountainous region, with the wing in view
I took a few pics, but not many since I wasn’t feeling well!

The flight to Milford Sound would be about 35 to 40 minutes. Getting us prepared for the flight was alright, but it was on the flight that I really started to feel ill and felt myself going into a state of panic, and I couldn’t wait to land. I’ve only had a panic attack once in my life, and it was enough for me to know what being close to one feels like; I’ve had a couple of emotional meltdowns that I know when I’m about to have one… so I don’t normally get motion sickness but a combination of things made the flight uncomfortable—being a small jet, seating only seven or eight people, you could really feel the turbulence; I was split from Nick and sat at the back while he sat next to the pilot; the air vent above my seat wasn’t working so I had no way of easing my motion sickness. Above all, just a whole bunch of nope. I had to get the sick bag in case I was going to be sick. The pilot wasn’t particularly friendly and while I was there feeling rather traumatised and needing some space, she made it feel like feeling sick was extremely uncommon.

We got our lunch bags with food and snacks—for the most part, I think we were pretty well catered for, as dietary requirements were adhered to and there was more than enough food for the day. Unfortunately our hike ended up feeling rather rushed. We had maybe a half hour delay or more because the skipper who was supposed to pick us up from the terminal and transport us by water taxi was on another job. We had to wait around while our hiking guide contacted someone else.

A mountain on a lake, covered in green vegetation, with a cloud of mist forming a ring around the mountain
It was quite a nippy morning
A track leading up into the bush, with a green sign with “Milford Track” printed on it
Part of the track
A view out from a shady hiking trail, looking out to the somewhat overexposed view in the distance, which is on a lake.
Somewhat of a nice shot!

We barely had stops on the hike; just a fifteen to twenty minute break before we completed the return part of the trail. The Milford Track seems rather approachable and mostly flat, but to complete the entire track would take three to four full days. You can book accomodation in huts, and just bring your own sleeping bag. Maybe completing the whole hike is something I would consider one day, but I haven’t put too much thought to it. I know there are other hikes I would want to do around the world and they don’t necessarily have to be multi-day hikes.

A hiking path going through a dense forest; there are a few people walking on the path, facing away from the camera.

A short waterfall with light blue water in the middle of the forest, creating a stream amongst a layer of small rocks in the foreground
Giant Gate Waterfall was our midway point on the hike
A river with clear aqua blue water, the rocky bed visible underneath.
Downstream from the falls

The next part of our day was a scenic cruise which was a couple of hours on the water, driving out into the point at which the sound meets the Tasman Sea. There were some intense waves. The captain steered the boat directly into some of the icy cold waterfalls—with fair warning for the passengers outside on the deck—I had a poncho, but I didn’t particularly feel up for the surprise of cold water. I was getting just a little bit seasick from the waves.

Tall rock faces with streams of small waterfalls flowing into one another, seen from a lake
Incredible waterfalls connecting to one another
A large waterfall on the side of a cliff face with lots of green vegetation, seen from a lake, with the water flowing into the lake
A much heavier waterfall
A lake with mountains in the background, and a boat’s wake just visible in the foreground
Great views on the cruise

After having such gnarly weather throughout our New Zealand trip, and it being incredibly cold, we were grateful to have some sun during our day out at Milford Sound, and no rain.

On the flight back, we had a different pilot, who asked if anyone wanted to be at the front. I asked if I could at least be in the middle or somewhere that wasn’t the back of the plane, because I had such a terrible experience on the way there. He asked if I wanted to be at the front instead, in the co-pilot seat, and said it would definitely help a bit with the motion sickness. I didn’t want to take that seat in case someone else wanted it, so I asked first… turns out the group were alright with that.

Me, Georgie, and Nick, standing in front of a small plane that can only hold a few passengers. We are both wearing sunglasses.
Just how small the plane was!
Me, Georgie, sitting in the co-pilot seat of a small plane, wearing a white jacket and sunglasses. I am looking to the over my shoulder towards the camera. Some of the plane controls are visible in front of me.
Front row seat

I was hoping sitting in the front would be miles better than anywhere else, but it made only a small difference. I was still very unprepared for any unexpected turbulence and hated those stomach drops, but this time I felt a bit more well looked after, and I felt more like I could enjoy the view compared to on the way there.

An aerial view of large mountains, with a river separating them. The sky is filled with very puffy clouds.
Mountains from up high
A large mountain with glaciers in the foreground of a mountainous range
Another large mountain with glaciers and ice
Another view of a mountainous region, with the sea visible at the edges
Gorgeous blue water, yet again
A selfie with me, Georgie, a male pilot in a light blue uniform next to me, and Nick behind the pilot. We are all wearing sunglasses and a flare from the sun appears across the photo
An aerial view of a winding road, made up of many s-shapes, going through a dry area at the base of a mountain
Almost a dizzying view, but I can’t believe this road is also real!
An aerial view of the city of Queenstown seen from a plane. The landscape is slightly mountainous, light yellow with green trees in some spots, with some roads and buildings. A slight reflection in the glass can be seen in the photo
A view of Queenstown

The shuttle bus dropped us back to where we were staying, where we had a bit of a break before heading into town for dinner. It was very cold, temperatures in the low teens (Celsius—about 50ºF), and even though we wore layers of clothing, we were still not prepared for such cold. We wanted to eat at this restaurant called Finz but ended up having to book a table for a later time, and do something else in the meantime. They were that busy. We could also only secure an outdoor dining table, so we were pretty cold—they were nice and gave us double the blankets though. 😂

Nick, seated at a dining table with a red blanket over his lap. He is looking downwards. There is a plate of sliced fish sashimi on the table.
It was frreeeeezing cold, we had blankets!

The following day was our last full day in Queenstown, and we didn’t have anything planned. There is certainly no shortage of adventure activities you can do in and around Queenstown, but as it was the end of our trip and we just had a big day for Milford Sound, we didn’t try to pack anything in. We had brunch at a nice place called Yonder, which we also ended up going to the following morning.

Me, Georgie, standing on a large, mostly flat rock by the sea, with the city of Queenstown in the background. I am turned slightly away from the camera but looking at the camera. I’m wearing a white long jacket, white hat, and sunglasses.
A beautiful day for a walk!

I still had the energy to do a giant walk. It’s very typical of me that I want to do giant walks or hikes when travelling, sometimes pushing a little too hard. Nick has no shame in pointing that out. We didn’t want to do a hike up the Queenstown Hill because we weren’t prepared, not even with a bottle of water, but I definitely was in the mood for a long walk. 😆 Nick did a quick search on his phone since he really wanted to ride the Queenstown gondola to see some views. We decided to climb up and then be rewarded with a trip down the gondola.

The Tiki Trail is the designated hiking trail that gets you to the top of the gondola ride, but there is also a gravel road for vehicles. Since we were walking in a part of town that wasn’t directly connected to the Tiki Trail, we ended up partially walking up the gravel road then connected to the Tiki Trail.

A view of an island, mostly mountainous, from a gravel road that is visible in the foreground. The water of a very still lake is in between width=

We got a little confused because mountain biking trails crossed the trail, and we encountered another hiker who started walking up the mountain biking trail… 😰 It was Nick who pointed the correct way to me, but the other hiker continued to climb up the biking trail. We hoped he would be fine (and not collide with a mountain biker), but there wasn’t much we could do but continue on our way.

A hiking trail consisting of stone steps embedded in the ground. Sparse trees surround the trail
The Tiki Trail was pretty easy to follow
A selfie of me and Nick, who is slightly further away. I am wearing a teal green t-shirt and Nick is wearing a navy t-shirt. I am grinning and Nick is smiling and wearing sunglasses over his eyes.
Doing alright with this hike, especially since it provides some shade!
A hiking trail leading up to a man-made wooden flight of stairs
On the ascent

The view from the top was wonderful. I wasn’t at all interested in going on the luge—I don’t regret my decision, but some people recommend it!

A view of part of the city of Queenstown, with some of the sea forming an inlet. The tops of some tall trees are in the foreground but the landscape mostly has hilly green areas with some buildings
A view from the viewing platform at the top
A luge staiton from a high angle, with a scenic view of a city surrounded by green trees
We didn’t go on the luge but you can observe!

We tried the famous Fergburger afterwards, as a bit of a treat after a big hike. We were able to grab a seat inside just as someone left. The place is very popular and you’ll more than likely have to queue, but they are open pretty late.

My hands holding a burger and tilting it towards the camera. In the background is a wooden table and a box of fries
A treat after a big hike 🍔

It was maybe not a burger I would rave about, and not really the best burger (I don’t know what the best is, to be honest), but I definitely had no complaints. It tasted good.

For dinner we stopped by a place called Margo’s with Mexican inspired share plates. The service was great and there were lots of taco options on the menu, including vegan options. I didn’t have any, but I would be so curious to know how good they are, since I have had some very good vegan Mexican food.

Two cocktails in highball glasses, one coloured brown-orange and the other coloured pink
Cheers! Last dinner in New Zealand
A bowl of ceviche topped with condiments, on a table with some hot sauce bottles and share plates on menus
A bowl of ceviche. We shared other food but this was the best picture, haha

Nick took this photo on our way back to our Airbnb from dinner. It was the last time we’d be walking up this extremely steep hill, since the next morning we’d be going downtown and catching a bus from there to the airport. Look—we’re fit people, but the hills are still a challenge when you are done at the end of a day and want to rest.

A view down a very steep road, which leads into a town. I am walking on the pavement on the side of the road
This photo does not quite capture the steepness of the hill. I was not going to miss walking up this!

The next morning I stopped by Foursquare, a supermarket, to buy some toffee candy called RJ Mackintosh’s. It is a very odd name, and it sounds even more odd that I wanted to buy them, but they are only available in New Zealand! I found some Australian suppliers, but they charged a lot for shipping and I figured I might as well grab some while I was in NZ. The funny thing is, I found out about the toffee candy because we got some in a small jar during our farm stay.

Then it was back at the Yonder cafe again for breakfast and I decided to order the same thing as Nick. This rarely happens! He likes a “basic” scrambled eggs and bacon, while I tend to explore what the eatery might specialise in. But I just felt like something “basic” too, so there you go.

Two plates on a table, both served with eggs on toast, grilled tomato, and bacon
Literally just ordered the same thing as Nick

After taking our time in the cafe, we headed out and located the bus stop that would take us to the airport. After hanging out in the gate lounge for some time, we were on our way back home, and also decided to fly back on a Saturday so that we had the Sunday to recuperate before going back to work. Queenstown itself was lovely, and I wouldn’t mind coming back, but I would probably explore more things outside of Queenstown and use it as a base. It definitely had a resort-like vibe that I wasn’t a big fan of (but that’s just my personal taste). I think the city itself has more to explore in terms of hikes, too.

Other posts about this New Zealand trip:

Overall, it was a good, well-balanced trip. We discussed how all the activities were well spread out, we saw everything we wanted to see this time, and covered good ground. Despite the weather mishaps, things ran smoothly and we didn’t have to deal with any cancellations or last-minute changes. New Zealand, thanks for having us! 🥝

Leave a Comment