Day 6: Queenstown Area
You probably noticed in our pictures that the weather here the past few days has been pretty amazing. Sunny and perfectly mild winter days. Well, it seems our luck has been too good. The unseasonably mild winter means that there has been no snow in the mountains, and so, no sled dogs. Boo.
Also, the rain caught up with us.
So, we dusted off our indoor plans and set out to make the most of an extra day in the Queenstown area, starting with a tasty breakfast and a drive to nearby Arrowtown.
Walking around this historical gold-mining town is probably more fun when it’s not raining, but you can’t really put a damper on any stroll that involves stopping for hot chocolate and hazelnut truffles.
We checked out a few other places in town, including a jade factory, the town post office, and Dudley’s Cottage, which offers visitors a chance to pan for gold.
When the rain slowed for a couple minutes we also tracked down two more LOTR filming locations within walking distance from the city park and the trail to the historic Chinese Settlement.
First, we found one of the river beds that was a portion of the Ford of Bruinen (the rest is in Skipper’s Canyon, which is nearby, but accessible by the one road in New Zealand which rental car companies specifically tell you not to drive).
Second, we found the location where Isildur was attacked by orcs and lost the One Ring into the bottom of the Anduin River.
Having reached an acceptable hour for drinking, we embarked on the second part of the day’s plan, visiting a handfuls of the wineries in Gibbston Valley along the Kawaru River.
First up was Chard Farms, located south of the river and accessible via another death-defying dirt road along a cliff. They love crazy roads here. On the plus side, the road offered a spectacular view of the river gorge.
The next winery was Gibbston Valley Winery. Here we toured the vineyards and tasted the seasonal selections in their unique wine cave. The Central Otago vineyards are the southernmost vineyards in the world by a good margin. The soil is composed of the surrounding schist rock, making it difficult to grow a variety of grapes. They specialize in Pino Noirs, and outside a few exceptions, are unable to make other reds.
Ready to make a couple more stops, we headed to Peregrine Vineyards, which has award winning architecture and wine you can buy at Whole Foods, followed by Mt. Rosa Vineyards for a full tasting menu.
Back in Queenstown, and free from the stress of the the traffic, rain, and crazy mountain streets, we discovered a Thai restaurant with free delivery. Sold!
Our bonus Queenstown day is complete. Time to head north tomorrow as long as the roads are open!