Global travel. On local public transportation.

Queenstown, New Zealand: Bring extra underwear

March 27, 2011 Markus Seppälä

Queenstown, New Zealand: Bring extra underwear

You say resort, and I think of beaches, pools, Swedish restaurants in Spain, Finnish bars In Turkey, and hotel after hotel after hotel. I certainly didn’t think of serene mountain scenery, cool crisp air, and adventure sports where half the experience is the nature around you. After my visit to Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island, I will.

Queenstown, the Adventure Capital of the World. With big swings

"Caution! There are massive cliffs in this area"

Ministry of Warnings to the rescue!

Going into Queenstown, I had very little planned for the four days there. For example, I didn’t know that I wanted to fall off a cliff. However, I did know falling off of a bridge on a rubber chord was not something I’d spring for, even though the bungee jump was invented here in Queenstown. Falling off a cliff, that was sufficiently different I though and headed for the Shotover Canyon Swing. What you got is a platform on one side of the canyon. And some wires suspended halfway to the other side, with you hanging at the end. You jump down towards the rocks, fall 60 meters reaching 150 km/h in the process, and instead of a bungee-type bounce back up, you swing 200 meters towards the other side of the canyon. They encourage you to bring extra underwear. Have a look:

Is the canyon swing worth the NZD 199? For me, no. Essentially it’s just a four-second fall. But most likely I’m partly to blame myself. You see, the cool thing about the Canyon Swing is that you can do all sorts of jumps: forward, backward, flips. Or sit in a chair and fall backwards. I chose the most vanilla option, however, namely that they hoist you up and then let you go. And I picked the plainest nuance of vanilla, namely sitting upright. You can see in the video that the good folks at the platform are trying to talk me into turning up the flavor just a tad by being suspended upside down. I probably should’ve taken their advice. They rate the scariness of the different jump styles with between one and five pairs of underwear. The style I did was rated one in the brochure, but four in the video. To make the customers look less wussy back home, I suppose.

Each additional jump is just NZD 39, so it would have been a great opportunity to try other, scarier jump styles.

80 km/h down the river

If the canyon swing didn’t quite live up to the hype, the other quintessential Queenstown experience – jet boating – certainly did. Jet boats don’t have propellers, so they can travel up and down a river with as little as 10 cm of water. And of course they were invented on the South Island. I chose to go with Skippers Canyon Jet, because in addition to the 30-minute jet boat ride, the canyon they use is also about an hour’s drive from Queenstown. This means you also get a bit of a sight-seeing and history tour on the bus. At NZD 129, I thought it was a good deal. Here’s a clip that gives you an idea of the ride, but doesn’t do the speed justice.

The words I’d use to describe the jet boat ride are exhilarating and beautiful. Exhilarating because you go down the river in 80 km/h, very close to the rock walls in the canyon, and the driver even makes a few spins with the boat. Beautiful because of the scenery: the crystal-clear blue water, the rugged canyon, and the majestic mountains around you. It’s not scary, but it’s not supposed to be. Highly recommended!

The water really is very shallow at several spots along the ride. Sometimes shallow enough for a jump. Then there’s also collapsed bridges, dam walls, and other artifacts from the gold rush they had around this area in the 19th century. As a gold bug myself, I may have gotten more out of this bit than most. But at least I wasn’t the only one:

Panning for gold in Queenstown

The Queenstown gold rush isn't quite over yet.

, , , , Canon PowerShot G12, Exotic transport, Oceania

previous post: Canberra: Flowers try to bring life to deserted city
next post: New Zealand: The South Island by backpacker bus

Comments are closed.