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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What to do in Queenstown

Queenstown is renowned for the myriad of high-adrenaline adventure activities that it offers: bungy jumping, parapenting, abseiling, jetboating, heliskiing, and riversurfing, to name a few (don't worry if you don't know what all those things mean-- neither did I).  Even for the fainter of heart, there's so much to do.  

You could start out your day with the incredibly knowledgeable team at Nomad Safaris.  If you've seen the Lord of the Rings movies (The Hobbit is currently being filmed, too), take their "Safari of the Scenes" trip to see where pivotal scenes were filmed.  An exciting 4WD tour led by expert drivers, this is a great way to get an overview of the region and maybe even catch a glimpse of a movie star... or at least an extra. 

To really get off the beaten path, take their Nomad Quad Safari.  On exciting, noisy quad bikes you can experience the great outdoors, the fresh air, and some exclusive photo opportunities.

For a bigger thrill... helicopters!  Over the Top, a Queenstown owned and operated helicopter company,  offers customizable itineraries for trips to Milford Sound, heli-hiking, fly fishing, or mountaintop picnics overlooking Lake Wakatipu. 

Sadly, the weather wasn't cooperating for us to see Milford Sound, so we flew instead to a sheep farm across the lake, where the farmers, James and Lucy, gave us a tour and the sheepdogs demonstrated their expertise.

Finally, a fun activity that sounds exciting but not too dangerous (until you see just how close you get to the rocks)-- jetboating.  Despite the warning they give you ("The drivers are quite heavily medicated as a condition of their parole; we recommend not making direct eye contact"), it's quite safe and entirely thrilling as you whoosh past the canyon's sides and over shallow riverbeds, whipping up a spray of cold water.  The notorious 360-degree spins are not as nauseating as they sound.  We chose the Shotover Jet, but there's also one up on the Dart River, as well as other locations throughout New Zealand.  

We had a full and exciting two days in Queenstown, and I never even had to face my fear of bungy jumping.  But there's always next time!

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