Relaxing in the adrenaline capital of the world
Lake Wakatipu from Queenstown's beach (Irene Caselli)
Queenstown is the adrenaline capital of the world – that is what the tourist board will tell you, and that is how it feels like when you walk down its streets. There are dozens of outdoors shops and athletic people sporting the trendiest trekking gear. Skydiving and bungee jumping are a common topic of conversation. And in the distance you can see paragliders descending nearby peaks.
But adventure sports are not all there is to do in Queenstown. Great food, beautiful scenery and relaxing walks make this town a worthwhile destination even if you are not an adventure junkie, or you have already had an adventure overdose and need a day to totally relax.
Start by setting yourself up away from the town's hustle and bustle. Choose a location by Lake Wakatipu, which offers the perfect backdrop for the city. Options vary hugely, and you can find anything from the large and upscale Rydges Hotel to the basic YHA youth hostel. The hotels are only a 10 minute walk from the centre of town, and the lakeside path makes for great photography, a long jog or a nice stroll into town.
After a quiet and relaxing night of sleep, start your day by hiking up Ben Lomond. It is a five-hour trek roundtrip from the town's cemetery, and it is worth the initial steep climb. The views from the summit, at 1,748 metres, are stunning: you can see the whole lake, as well as the Remarkables mountain range. Start the walk early in the morning and have warm clothes and sunscreen with you - it might be very sunny yet chilly.
Walk down and stop for a drink and a snack at the café restaurant at the Skyline (if you can time it, a cocktail at sunset is unbeatable), and then hop on the gondola and you will be back in town in five minutes.
Back in Queenstown, there are plenty of options for an early dinner. If you are after a beer and a burger, Fergburger is the place for you. The meat is superb, and it also offers great fish 'n' chips or vegetarian options such as falafel. Otherwise, you can have a seafood-based dinner at a waterfront location such as Finz. There is a good wine list, the prices are reasonable, and the view of the lake is great.
Whatever you eat, leave space for ice cream. Argentine-owned Patagonia has incredible ice cream, summer fruit sorbets and spectacular chocolates. Take a stroll with your ice cream and you might be able to catch some young artists in the streets. If it is not too cold, the beach is a nice place to sit, relax and even sunbathe in the summer.
If you book ahead, Onsen Hot Pools after dinner is the perfect end to any day. You get access to a private hot tub for a reasonable price (going in a larger group is cheaper), and you even have the option to open the roof and the walls around you while soaking in hot water. Pools are conveniently south-facing, which means that on a starry night you can spot the Southern Cross and other constellations while soaking in the tub.