MUST DO NEW ZEALAND: MILFORD SOUND & QUEENSTOWN

New Zealand had been screaming my name ever since I decided I was going to Australia. A bunch of my friends had spent the previous semester studying abroad in Fremantle, Australia and road tripped through South Island of New Zealand after the semester was over. Even though it was months after the fact, I was still suffering from severe FOMO. Since I was only in Australia for 2.5 weeks, I allotted 5 days for a quick trip over to Queenstown with Clara. Check out my list of MUST DO adventures below!

AJ HACKETT BUNGEE JUMP

If you're going to travel to the Adventure Capitol of the World, you need to incorporate some sort of adrenaline rush inducing activities into your itinerary. Our group chose bungee jumping for a few reasons: 

  1. Kawarau Bridge is the original site where commercial bungee jumping began
  2. Sky diving had been cancelled for the entire week leading up to our trip due to inclement weather and since the forecast hadn't changed, we didn't think our chances would get any better
  3. Peer pressue-- I mentioned all of those amazing friends that gave me severe FOMO from their trip to New Zealand-- I knew if I came home without doing it I would never live it down and that was something I just refused to accept

Full Disclosure: I hated bungee jumping and I hated it for the dumbest reason. I wanted someone to push me off that bridge more than I wanted to overcome my fear and do it myself. Do I think everyone should do it at least once? Absolutely! 

QUEENSTOWN SKYLINE LUGE

The Queenstown Skyline Luge is fun for every age group. Part Go-Kart and Part Toboggan Racing, the Luge sits at the top of the mountain overlooking Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu, and the Remarkables. You also get phenomenal 360 aerial views as you take the lift to the top of the course (bonus points for Queenstown Skyline Luge for not making us carry out toboggans up the hill!). 

I did this with Clara and two of our friends from elementary school that wound up being in Queenstown at the same time (talk about a coincidence!) and we had a blast. It definitely brought out our competitive sides as well. 

For those who aren't interested in racing, I'd still highly recommend taking the gondola to the top of the mountain for the view. The Remarkables mountain range nestled behind Queenstown truly lives up to its name. 

FERGBURGER

If I had it my way, it would be a requirement for people to have Fergburger while in Queenstown. People line the block in this tiny town to get a taste of their monster size burgers for good reason. Don't get me wrong, I like burgers, but I don't LOVE them or crave them on a regular basis. Except for Fergburger. Truthfully, Fergburger is easily the best burger I have had in my entire life (and I promise I am not getting paid to say this). I was in Queenstown for 5 days and had Fergburger 3 times. I loved it so much that I actually started using it as a reward for doing things outside of my comfort zone *cough cough* bungee jumping. 

Excessive? Probably. Worth It? Definitely. Fergburger should be at the top of your list of foods to try while in Queenstown. 

MINUS 5 DEGREES ICE BAR QUEENSTOWN

Check another item off your bucket list and head over to Minus 5 Degrees Ice Bar! Bundle up in giant puffy jackets, gloves and hats and head on into the bar entirely made of ice. Once inside, you have the choice of having one of your drinks through a vodka luge or in an ice cup. Minus 5 Degrees Ice Bar is right in town and a perfect activity for a small group before heading on over to the Buffalo Club

Beware- just because the ice is frozen doesn't mean you should sit down on it. Clara learned the hard way and had soaking wet jeans from sitting on an ice scooter for the rest of the night.

TAKE A RIDE ON AN ATV

We chose to do our 1 hour tour with Off Road Adventures Queenstown and had a blast. I had absolutely no ATV experience, so we spent the first 5-10 minutes of our ride becoming familiar with how quad bikes work and how to operate them. After that, we were off flying through the paths along the mountainside in Queenstown and flooring it through mud puddles along the way. 

I would recommend opting for a longer tour if possible. I felt like the tour was over just as I was really getting the hang of operating my ATV. 

DAY TRIP TO MILFORD SOUND

A day trip to Milford Sound is probably my number one recommendation for anyone spending time in Queenstown. Getting there isn't easy, but it's worth it. Here are the different ways to get there and each of their pros and cons:

  1. Bus
    1. Pro: The 4 hour bus ride from Queenstown to Milford Sound is allegedly one of the most scenic drives in the world
    2. Con: You will spend 8 hours of your day driving to and from Milford Sound. This will limit the time that you get to spend there as well.
  2. Plane
    1. Pro: You can make it to Milford from Queenstown in less than an hour while flying over the beautiful mountain ranges and glaciers. 
    2. Cons: The wings on prop planes could limit some of your views and it's pricey
  3. Helicopter
    1. Pro: You make it to Milford Sound from Queenstown in less than an hour while flying over the beautiful mountain ranges and glaciers. The price to take the 2 hour boat tour in Milford Sound is included in your ticket. You get to LAND on a glacier on your way back to Queenstown.
    2. Cons: It's pricey.

Based on the sheer number of pros affiliated with the helicopter option, I'm sure you can guess which option we chose! While expensive, I still believe that this was some of the best money I've ever spent. 

We took off from Queenstown and flew west towards Milford Sound, crossing the Remarkables, frozen glaciers, and waterfalls along the way. When we arrived in Milford Sound, we boarded the 2 hour boat tour that took us further into the sound. If you're lucky, you'll get to see some of the wildlife that calls this magical place its home. We were fortunate enough to spot dolphins and seals on our trip! Once we were finished taking in all of the beauty the sound had to offer, we loaded up the helicopter and headed towards Queenstown. On our way back, we had the opportunity to actually land on Mt. Tutuko, a glacier in Fiordland National Park. It's safe to say that our day trip to Milford Sound was a life changing experience. 

OTHER HIGHLY RECOMMEND ACTIVITIES

Since I was only in Queenstown for a few short days, I didn't manage to check everything off of my bucket list (oh well, I guess it just means I'll be going back!), but these activities come highly recommended (especially if you are visiting in the warmer months).

1. Beorn's House from the Hobbit- For all the Hobbit fans, the entire trilogy was filmed in New Zealand. There are locations and sites all over New Zealand that you can visit and see where the filming occurred.

2.  Nevis Swing Queenstown: If bungee jumping doesn't interest you, you can always try New Zealand's large swing! Like bungee jumping, you can do this solo or tandem with a friend! Suspend on a high platform and then free fall at 75 mph over Nevis River. *Bonus points if you do it upside down! 

3. Shotover Jet Queenstown- If reaching high speeds while making your way through narrow canyons peaks your interest, this is the boat ride for you! 

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES TO DO IN QUEENSTOWN?