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open mind, empty stomach

travel, food, and fun

Queenstown reminded me a lot of Lake Tahoe. They are both beautiful, charming little towns located on large lakes, surrounded by mountains. Like Tahoe, Queenstown is a mecca for winter sports and this was peak season. In addition to snowboarding and skiing, Queenstown gives you the opportunity to live out a Mountain Dew commercial. They have every extremely extreme activity imaginable including bungie jumping, sky diving, power boating, and loads of other things I’ve never even heard of. None of these activities are cheap and my budget limited me from partaking.

Eating in Queenstown wasn’t bad. There are a host of restaurants, many of which offer lunch specials in the $10-$15 range. The quality of the food certainly wasn’t great, but it wasn’t horrible either. It was better than many other places I’ve encountered this trip, most notably Cairns.

The jewel of Queenstown’s food scene is Fergburger. They are open 22 hours a day and there is almost always a line. I tried them twice. The first time I had Sweet Bambi, a local venison burger with a Thai plum chutney. It was phenomenal. I tried the Southern Swine (burger with bacon, cheddar, and pineapple) on my second visit and wasn’t blown away. The venison was cooked to a respectable medium while the beef was cooked through and the Swine was drowned in tomato sauce (ketchup).

Located next door to Fergburger is Fergbaker. They make great pastries and the best pies I had in New Zealand. The pork belly pie and lamb shank pie were game changers. I also tried another little pie joint, Humble Pie. Despite the cool name and nice owner, the pies themselves didn’t get it done. I had their best seller, the steak and blue cheese pie. It was average except for the pieces of gristle and chewy steak.

Couchsurfing hosts were few and far between and I ended up staying at a Backpackers, The Flaming Kiwi. Prior to booking, I had to do a bit of research and make sure that the name didn’t indicate catering to a certain cliental (it didn’t). The price was great for Queenstown and the hostel was extremely clean. The owner, Kent, was great. I really wanted to try whitebait before leaving New Zealand and it turns out that Kent is a whitebait fisherman and brought me some of the coveted baby fish.

While price prohibited me from experiencing the vast array of extreme activity offerings in Queenstown, I did make a day trip to Milford Sound and it was incredible. Frisbee golf is free and very big in Queenstown. The town is home to the oldest official frisbee golf course in New Zealand.

The population is largely transient with young people from all over the world temporarily living there and working at restaurants and other tourism dependent businesses. The guy to girl ratio must be at least 20-1 and, although lively, the nightlife certainly reflects this disproportionality.

Queenstown is a great place to do some extreme sports, ski/snowboard, or just relax and enjoy a beautiful part of New Zealand like I did. The weather kept me from doing any real walks or hikes and I’d like to go back and give them a go when it’s warmer. Queenstown is supposed to be a totally different place in different seasons and I’d like to check it out again when it’s warm. Overall, Queenstown has charm and identity and is worth a visit.

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