Since arriving in Queenstown I have been waiting impatiently to try out the Onsen Hot Pools. Not only do I love a good bath, but looking at images of the views from the pools over the Shotover River had left me green with envy. After 3 months here today was finally the day and it was easy to see why the demand is so high for this unique experience!
Waking up to -2 degrees I literally had to drag myself out of bed. I drove to the hot pools with the air con turned up full only to be met with a pathetic stream of semi-warm air (Queenstown second hand cars … enough said). When we arrived at the hot pools we saw some work going on outside which we found out was the construction of two new massage rooms. There was a little noise from the drill but as soon as we got downstairs it wasn’t noticeable. We were given a jug of water on arrival, which turned out to be a life saver so I urge you to accept the offer, and the most amazing passion fruit scented candle! We then headed to the pools. You get your own private pool with a maximum of 4 people per room. There are benches and hooks to hang up your clothes and a shower in the corner. The first thing you notice when you walk in is, without a doubt, the view. The Shotover River once again left me enchanted!
Luckily by the time we had arrived the weather had picked up and although it was still freezing, the sky was clear and the view outstanding. The water was hot but not uncomfortably so and there is an option to add cold water as well as a button which controls the retractable roof. Once we had settled in and opened up the roof we were able to really appreciate the views. The snow-capped mountains, crystal blue water and occasional jet boat whizzing past coupled with a silence interrupted only by the sounds of nature, made for a truly unforgettable experience. When I first arrived, I thought I could stay there for hours but in hindsight I think the 60 minute slots are just perfect. Before we knew it, our buzzer was ringing which signalled the end of the most relaxing bath I have ever taken.
I am so glad to have finally gotten to experience all the Onsen Hot Pools have to offer. The concept is simple and it is executed so well. The staff were friendly and welcoming, the pool area was clean and tidy and the whole experience was top notch! I would highly recommend this activity to singles, couples, friends or families – but be sure to book in advance so you don’t miss out!
Queenstown, like most of New Zealand, is spoilt for choice when it comes to beautiful walks and hiking trails. Living right beside the lake I often take a dander down to the Frankton Trail to walk beside the water. A few weeks ago, I was feeling more adventurous so I did a quick search for Queenstown walks and happened upon the Tiki Trail. Now, whilst I would say I enjoy the odd walk or two, I’m certainly no avid rambler. According to the website the Tiki Trail is moderately difficulty and should take around one hour all in. Spoiler alert – it was neither moderate nor one hour in duration. In saying that though it’s worth doing and you’ll soon see why!
The trail starts at the bottom of the Skyline Gondola. The incline is steep from the get go and the first 20 minutes or so are probably the most difficult. Despite my lungs feeling like they were going to burst and my heart literally beating a mile a minute, the hike through the forest was very refreshing. We passed some other people along the way but for the most part it was just ourselves, the trees and probably hundreds of possums. About half way up we came to a clearing with the most breath-taking views of Queenstown I have seen to date. From this awesome vantage point you can see Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables and we were lucky enough to have the autumn sun on our side which made the view like a postcard.
After an impromptu photo shoot we headed back into the forest and continued uphill. The Tiki Trail winds upwards criss-crossing with the Queenstown Track used by mountain bikers. Take a minute to watch them fly past at top speed but watch your step to avoid a collision! Eventually we arrived at the top of the trail, red-faced and out of breath but feeling very accomplished. At the top we were greeted with the smiling faces of the cool, calm and collected gondola goers who had raced up the hill in 5 minutes and I can only imagine what they were thinking when they saw me emerge from the bushes.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to give luging a go so we just spent some time taking in the view. After a quick 5 minute debate on the merits of walking back down rather than taking the easy option of the gondola, we began our descent. The views from the top are still outstanding but if you’re after amazing photos of Lake Wakatipu I recommend hiking up to the first vantage where there are infinitely less people around. The walk down was of course much more pleasant and as it was getting towards mid-day we passed a lot more people. Throughout the whole descent we were asked ‘how far to the top?’ and my response remained the same ‘not too much further’. Something tells me the guy in the car park wasn’t convinced by my answer…
All in all it took us around two hours to get up and down the trail, with a 20 minute rest at the top. If you’re after a moderate hike, and I’m using this term loosely, with great views of Queenstown then this is the one for you! And if the ascent sounds a bit too challenging then you can always take the gondola up and walk back down. Despite the fact that my calves, knees and ankles would disagree, I have to say that Tiki is definitely a trail worth tackling!
It seems fitting that my inaugural restaurant review for Girl About Queenstown should be the café I frequent on a weekly basis! Bespoke Kitchen was one of the first eateries I visited when I moved to Queenstown and it remains a firm favourite. It’s located just outside the main hustle and bustle of town and if you didn’t know what to look for you’d probably miss it. The exterior of the building is unimposing and the décor itself is rustic but this allows the outstanding food to shine through. Voted Best Café in New Zealand in 2015, the creators of Vudu Café have truly outdone themselves with Bespoke Kitchen – they do brunch the right way.
If you look up vegan restaurants in Queenstown, Bespoke is one of the first hits and, in my opinion, one of the best. Their vegan options are varied with sweet, savoury and everything in between. Whilst their main menu remains the same, their cabinet filled with desserts, sandwiches and salads changes on a daily basis – and I’ve never been disappointed! In terms of savoury options, the best thing I’ve had to date has undoubtedly been the vegan roulade which I opted for today and, whilst I’m going purely off appearances for non-vegan options, my boyfriend assures me their eggs benedict are out of this world. When it comes to Bespoke though, the proof is most definitely in the pudding. Their vegan spiced orange pancakes are heaven on a plate. When I say it’s the best vegan dish I’ve ever had, I’m really not exaggerating (anyone who knows me will roll their eyes at this statement, but I promise… they’re unreal!). I’ll let the photo speak for itself…
The service is quick, the food well-priced and the portions huge. I’ve learnt from my mistakes and now avoid wearing jeans when I go to Bespoke because with treats that good my eyes are always bigger than my stomach! If you’re looking for the best café in Queenstown CBD, look no further.
Try it out for yourself at 9 Isle Street, Queenstown.
Welcome to my first official post on Girl About Queenstown! I thought I’d kick things off with an activity review of the bike tour company Around The Basin. On a sunny April morning a few weeks ago I decided to try a bike tour which, considering I hadn’t ridden a bike in literally years, could have ended in tears. However, I had nothing to worry about because I had an awesome day and was very well looked after by the Around The Basin team! I decided to do their half day Arrow River Trail which lasts around 4 hours and covers 15km. The day before the tour I gave my measurements to Lisa, one of the operations managers, so they could pick a bike for me. The following morning I turned up ready to go at 9am at the Around The Basin headquarters in central Queenstown. Our guide, Hamish, introduced himself and we set off for Arrowtown in a mini-bus – bikes in tow. On our drive, Hamish was very chatty and gave us lots of interesting facts about the area. Around 20 minutes later we had arrived in Arrowtown and were shown a quick safety video which stated the obvious – how to change gears etc. I evidently wasn’t paying enough attention as I realised 15 minutes into the cycle that I was attempting steep hills in 9th gear but we won’t dwell on that! Hamish also gave us helmets, bar bags, maps, and bottles of water which all came in handy.
We were a group of 10 or so people but once we were given our maps we were free to do the tour independently. I really liked this aspect as it meant everyone could take things at their own pace and it also gave us the opportunity to stop when we wanted to take photos (or in my case, catch your breath!). From our starting point on the Arrow River Trail we headed along the track beside the Kawarau River. Our first pit stop was one of the suspension bridges and the view from here was spectacular. I took full advantage of the photo op as you’ll see below! At the far side of the bridge Hamish was there to see how we were getting on and to give us a pep talk. I thought this was a nice touch as it gave the option to drop off any unnecessary possessions, or, if the going was too tough, to stop the cycling part of the tour and take the van to the finish point. I’m glad I persevered however as we got to cross another suspension bridge and eventually reached our next pit stop at the Kawarau Bridge. I should add at this point that the actual tour itself is not that physically demanding, I may have just been embracing the Queenstown lifestyle a bit too much over recent months and admittedly have become a bit of a couch potato – I blame 6$ Domino’s! The Kawarau Bridge was an awesome place to stop as it also acts as the location for the world’s first bungee jump! There are steps where you can stand to get a better view of people launching themselves off the bridge and I spent around 20 minutes here with my heart in my throat! When we met Hamish on the other side of the bridge he told us we were on the home stretch straight to our final destination – Gibbston Valley Winery. The promise of free tastings had my legs doing a mile a minute and before long I had reached the wine!
Granted we had lovely, sunny weather the day of our tour, but even on a gloomy day the winery would be a great place to finish up. We were able to choose three wines which were brought out to us in tasting portions and we had around half an hour to sit in the sun and enjoy them before we were driven back to Queenstown. The Around The Basin staff were amazing and the whole day from start to finish was well organised and well thought out so thank you team! I highly recommend anyone with a spare morning / afternoon to give this company a go and I will definitely be back to try their full day options – my only criticism is I wish the wine had been in full portions!