We had heard a lot about Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand, situated at the foot of a mountain range called The Remarkables and right at the shores of Lake Wakatipu. Shortly after driving into Queenstown, we noticed how clean and neat everything seemed, and David said it reminded him of a smaller version of some ski resort towns back in the U.S.
We went for a stroll around the town center, which is very small and call be explored in about 15min. Despite being so small, Queenstown seemed like a nice place to live, but we had heard from a lot of travelers that rents are very high and finding jobs can be tough outside of high season. After walking around for a bit, we were starting to get hungry, so we decided to check out what may be New Zealand’s most famous food place – Fergburger. This burger place is known all over the country, and we had heard of people lining up down the block to grab a burger from there. Ferg Burger was easy to find, and to our surprise, there wasn’t really a line. All the burgers on their menu sounded delicious, and were still reasonably priced (the most basic burger is $11NZD), so we had a tough time deciding.
Despite the line, we only waited about five minutes for our burgers and David had to admit that Fergburger was on par with burgers from back home. If you’re still hungry after the big burger, conveniently located right next to Fergburger, is Fergbaker and Mrs. Ferg Gelato, we tried some pastries from the bakery and weren’t disappointed either. Although Fergburger is very popular even with people from outside Queenstown, the owner isn’t planning to franchise it, so we were happy we had the time to try it there.
Apart from good food and a nice atmosphere, Queenstown is mostly famous for it’s outdoor activities, like jet boating, hiking, bungee jumping, tobogganing, zip lining, skiing, and mountain biking. We decided to get a better view of the area and take a hike. The most popular hike near Queenstown is probably Ben Lomond Track.
Ben Lomond Track
The Ben Lomond Track leads up from Queenstown to the 1,748 meter/ 5735 ft summit of Ben Lomond mountain. The track starts at the base of the Queenstown Gondola, which could also be taken up to make the hike shorter. We decided against taking the Gondola, partially because at $15pp it is expensive to ride, and partially because we enjoy hiking. We parked our car near the Gondola and headed toward the Tiki Trail, which leads to the top of the Gondola and the start of the Ben Lomond Track.
The Tiki Trail lead us up a steep path through the forest for about 800 meters. The trail intersects with mountain bike tracks a few times, and watching the bikers racing downhill is a good reason to have some short breaks. When we cleared the forest, we had reached the upper Gondola station and were greeted by tons of people, bikers, other hikers and people just enjoying the nice weather with gorgeous views over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu. Another attraction that draws people up there, is the Queenstown Luge, a sort of toboggan people of all ages were riding down the hill. Unfortunately it didn’t go all the way down to Queenstown, otherwise it would have been a fun alternative to hiking back down later.
We enjoyed the busy atmosphere for a while, before heading off again on Ben Lomond track toward the Ben Lomond Saddle. The path lead through the forest for another 15 minutes, before it gave way to alpine vegetation. The climb up to the Ben Lomond Saddle was steady but with moderate inclines and beautiful views over Lake Wakatipu. After another hour on the trail we reached the saddle were we had a short lunch break and enjoyed the views over the surrounding mountains. From the saddle we had another hour of incline to the Ben Lomond summit ahead of us.
In the end the hike up to the summit looked worse from below than it actually was, and the extra hour turned out to be more than worth it. The 360 degree views from the summit were pretty great.
After a short break we started heading back down the same way we came and got back to the bottom of the Gondola after another 2 hours. The whole hike ended up taking us about 5 hours with a lunch break on the saddle and a long break on the summit.
Queenstown has a lot to offer and is a nice place to stay for a few days. If you’re looking for a nice and free way to spend the day Ben Lomond is a moderately tough hike with views that are well worth the effort.