Queenstown LOTR & Much More Tour

This small group 4WD LOTR tour is a great combination of LOTR film locations, stunning outback alpine scenery and river gold panning.

Queenstown and Lord of the Rings are two world-renowned names and when they’re combined in to this half day tour, it’s magic!

LOTR - Film Location Deer Park HeightsWe explored the highlights and backroads of the Wakatipu Basin by tough, late model 4WD, visiting several LOTR film locations and enjoying the stunning alpine scenery around Queenstown.  Amazingly, the tour is quite close to Queenstown and yet a thrilling world away.

For adventurous LOTR fans this tour is the perfect combination of visits to several LOTR locations as well as outback 4WD river fording, gold panning and driving remote cliff-hanging roads.

Our small group guided tour departed Queenstown and headed for a remote lookout point overlooking Deer Park Heights and up to the “Misty Mountains”.  We saw where the Pillars of the Kings was filmed in the rugged Kawarau Gorge before driving across the Wakatipu Basin to the historic gold mining village of Arrowtown.  Here is where the loss of The One Ring at Gladden Fields was filmed.  To get to the Ford of Bruinen film location we criss-crossed the Arrow River several times.  Clearly the trick is to put the foot down on the peddle, keep moving and don’t worry about the water washing up over the hood!  Nature’s carwash!

Morning tea was laid out on the afore-mentioned, now clean, hood of the 4WD before we tried our hand at gold panning in the Arrow River.  Yes!  We struck gold, one flake and several pieces of gold dust.  Not exactly a gold rush but a lot of fun.

Kawarau Gorge, Pillars of the KingsWe then headed up the road to Coronet Peak ski area, turning off on to the 4WD road that winds its way into the remote and very spectacular Skippers Canyon.  At this stage everyone is hoping not to encounter an on-coming vehicle because passing bays are hard to come by and the sheer drop into the canyon goes down a l-o-n-g way!  The photo ops of Skippers Canyon and the Wakatipu Basin are amazing.

This trip punches above its weight in terms of value, with a winning combination of diverse and spectacular alpine scenery and LOTR film sites and stories.  The trip is operated by the very experienced and professional team at Nomad Safaris, departs twice daily from central Queenstown and is away for approx 4 hours.

Even for people who have visited Queenstown before, this tour still reveals new dimensions, with an informative commentary about local history, wildlife as well as stories and snippets about the LOTR filming.  A lot of fun!

For more top sightseeing options around New Zealand.

Golf Queenstown and Around

The Queenstown region offers superb golfing opportunities, including international standard resort courses and an excellent range of local golf clubs.

If you’re planning some time in Queenstown and wondering whether to pack your golf shoes, then don’t hesitate!  The region offers an excellent range of golfing experiences that will delight recreational and scratch handicappers alike.

Millbrook Golf and Spa ResortThe big hitting names include the well established and world-renowned Millbrook Resort and the newer designer Jacks Point on the shores of Lake Wakatipu.  Millbrook is located15 minutes from Queenstown, near the historic Arrowtown village which is just 5 minutes away. This championship 27 hole course has been voted Best Golf Resort in New Zelaand in 2011, 2012 and 2013 by the World Travel Awards.  Millbrook offers 5 star resort facilities including self contained villas, 4 outstanding restaurants and world class spa facilities which are ranked in the Top Ten Hotel Spas in the world. Millbrook ticks all the boxes, the golf is challenging – beware the long grass in the rough, it’s perilous!

Arrow Town Golf CourseArrowtown boasts its own golf club with a very distinctive flavor.  A round there is a game of 2 halves, with the landscape of the front nine resembling a moonscape.  A slightly wayward tee shot landing on a rock outcrop can have your ball pinging on to the neighbouring fairway.  Across the road, the back nine is still challenging but less prone to unexpected surprises.

The Queenstown Golf Club is located on the Kelvin Heights peninsula, approximately 15 minutes’ drive from central Queenstown.  The location is sensational with the Remarkables mountain range providing a rugged alpine backdrop and with long lake vistas across Lake Wakatipu.  Excellent views from the top of the hill!

Wanaka Golf CourseJust an hour away from Queenstown, the Wanaka Golf Club is surely located on some of the best real estate in the region.  Outstanding lake and mountain views of the Mt Aspiring National Park are easy distractions.  The course is gently undulating with some elevated tees so expect a slow round if you have your camera handy!

For a genuine local golf experience, enjoy the warm hospitality at the Cromwell Golf Club, a 45 minute drive from Queenstown in the heart of the Bannockburn wine region.  A morning round followed by lunch and wine at one of the many boutique wineries can be a perfect day out.  If you can’t guarantee your golf, you can at least guarantee to experience world-class wine!

If you are looking for a truly rural experience, try a round at the Tarras Golf Club.  You’ll be sharing the fairways with a local mob of sheep and need to be careful that you only hit the white ball, not any of the little black ones!  A lot of fun, outstanding scenery, but you probably won’t want to put your card in!

If playing a round at a resort or major club is a “must do”,  then it would be prudent to plan your trip and have your tee times pre-booked so that you avoid tournaments and/or club events.  Planning assistance is available to ensure a perfect balance between sightseeing and golf opportunities or you may prefer to take adventage of self drive golf itineraries that already have all the planning done.

If you are on a freewheeling self drive holiday, then you’ll see ample opportunities to enjoy a local club round en route.  Just call in.  If the club house is unattended, you’ll see the honesty box and cards by the window!

As for golf holidays in other regions?  Watch this space!

Family Holidays Fun Comes First

New Zealand offers an outstanding opportunity to create educational, cultural and fun family holidays for you and your children.

For family holidays, fun comes first!

New Zealand offers an abundance of opportunities for you and your children to engage in educational and cultural activities as well as enjoy the natural outdoors.  The country is like one giant natural theme park.

Often it is the simple things that create the most fun, such as building sandcastles on the beach, tucking in to a delicious picnic lunch on a remote river bank or taking a gentle hike through native forest in the evening to see glowworms.

Connecting with wildlife is quite enchanting, whether it be in a reserve such as Willowbank, Wild Kiwi,  Kiwi Birdlife Park or Rainbow Springs where you can see local birdlife up close, or in the wild when a kea, our native parrot, perches on the rear vision mirror of your car – which can also be very close!  In Oamaru and Dunedin there are opportunities to see penguins coming in to shore early evening after a day fishing. Dolphin watch cruises in Akaroa, Kaikoura and the Bay of Islands are a wonderful way to see how these amazing creatures love to play in the waves.

Split Apple Rock. Abel TasmanSafe swimming, golden sand beaches such as Kaiteriteri near the Abel Tasman National Park offer an inexpensive way to spend the day outdoors with the kids. Take a picnic – treat yourselves to delicious New Zealand ice cream.  Lake shores and rivers are also wonderful swimming pools, but take care to swim with others and check the depth of the water first.

Of course, farms are everywhere and there are plenty of opportunities to see sheep, cows, deer etc as you drive through the rural regions.  Spring, Aug/Sept, is the best time to see the cute lambs frolicking in the paddocks.  For a more up close encounter, visit Walter Peak High Country Farm near Queenstown or the Agrodome in Rotorua where there are oppourtunities to get up really close and touch the animals.

New Zealand’s unique Maori culture offers entertainment as well as an educational experience. Rotorua in particular is renowned for its rich cultural heritage, displayed when visiting a Maori marae (village) for a hangi (traditional dinner) and evening of chants and songs, including the renowned Haka, made famous by the All Blacks.  If you are only travelling to the South Island, check out Willowbank for a guided kiwi tour followed by Ko Tane Maori cultural performance and Kiwi Haka at the Skyline in Queenstown.

Sports are an integral part of our New Zealand culture and you will easily find sports grounds, adventure playgrounds etc as you travel around.  Saturday mornings are for family sports, so why not head to the local sports ground and watch some rugby, soccer or netball or hockey from the sideline?  Take some Cadbury chocolate to keep up your energy levels.

When you are travelling with children, family-friendly accommodation is important.  New Zealand’s family-style motels are a great way for everyone to enjoy living space and kitchen facilities so you can cook your own meals if you like.  Self catering is convenient and helps the budget too!  Many motels have BBQ facilities, swimming pool and playground for children.  Plan your trip well so that you have “stay put” time at key destinations so you can relax and enjoy some fun together.  Consider sample itineraries as a helpful start to your family holiday and ask for advice so you make the right choices.

New Zealand is perfect for exploring and learning. Simple and fun.


Tandem Skydiving over snow-covered Queenstown

New Zealand Winter Road Trips

Winter in New Zealand is mild (compared to North America and Europe) and still has plenty to offer road tripping travellers.

If you want to avoid the summer crowds, but still experience New Zealand at its most breath-taking, winter road trips are a good option.

Parts of the North Island are sub-tropical – meaning the winter months are still mild and great for travel.  The average winter temperature in the Bay of Islands is a balmy 16 degrees Celsius and can reach the mid-20’s occasionally.

In the South Island you’ll find cool sub-zero temperatures overnight and crisp sunny days.  When travelling from Christchurch to Queenstown there is no shortage of snow-capped scenery to take in.

Winter is a superb time to travel in New Zealand if alpine sports are your passion.  In the North Island you will find Mt Ruapehu (and its two ski areas – Whakapapa and Turoa), and in the South Island there are dozens of ski areas stretching from Rainbow Ski Area in the Nelson region, to The Remarkables and Coronet Peak in Queenstown.

KiwiCombo Pass is a great option when considering a New Zealand road trip.  The flexible pass options include Thrifty Car rental car hire and your choice of motel or hotel accommodationActivities can also be added for extra convenience.

Visit the KiwiCombo Pass website for more information.

Queenstown Skyline Gondola

Queenstown’s Skyline Gondola is a “must do”. And doing it early in your Queenstown visit will give you an excellent overview of the region’s geography.

The Queenstown Skyline Gondola is an excellent way to get a bird’s eye view of Queenstown resort, Lake Wakatipu and surrounding mountains.  By doing it early during your stay, you’ll get a good overview of the region’s geographic features which will help you find your way around.

It only takes a few minutes by gondola to ride the 450 vertical metres from the base station to the Skyline complex on Bob’s Peak.  If you can, ride up and down with your back to the hill so you get the primo views across the lake to the Remarkables Mountains, Cecil Peak and Walter Peak.

The Skyline complex is open 365 days, 0900 until late.  As well as offering stunning vistas from the viewing platforms, the complex also features a daytime cafe, Skyline Restaurant with buffet lunch and dinner,the Kiwi Haka live performance of authentic Maori songs and dances, downhill luge rides, star gazing and mountain bike trails. 

If time is precious, then allowing just 30-45 minutes at the start or end of your day will still be very rewarding.  The lower sun early morning or at dusk also makes for spectacular photos.  But if you have more time to linger and enjoy some of the additional activities, you’ll be assured of a great time.