Queenstown: Discovering the heart behind the hype

Mary Hamilton

July 21, 2013

Great Spots


I lived in Queenstown for several years, and it remains one of my favourite places in the world. Ever. When talking to people about the Southern Lakes, I often hear, “It’s too busy” or “It’s too commercialized”. Sure, Queenstown is busy, and there are a lot of people that visit every year. But, by taking the road less travelled, you can escape the crowds and have a whole mountain or valley to yourself with a little lateral thinking. Here are some of my favourite places to visit when I’m there.

Queenstown – Special spots to visit around Lake Wakatipu

12 mile deltaQueenstown, with a permanent population of just over 13,000, is the adventure tourism capital of New Zealand. Full of activity operators offering jet-boating, bungy jumping, canyon swinging, and of course skiing, the number and scale of the possibilities can be overwhelming. Just 20 years ago, Queenstown was a one supermarket, four pub town. Now, it is home to world class resorts, restaurants, golf courses, and of course, the home of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Yet, in spite of the hype, there are many secret gems to this adventurers’ playground.

1. Camping

  • 12 Mile Delta Campground: Along the road to Glenorchy, some 20km west of Queenstown, you will find 12 Mile Delta Campground. Operated by the Department of Conservation (DOC) , the campground has water, basic toilets, and a picnic area. Cost per person is $6 per night. Located on the edge of Lake Wakatipu, it is an excellent campground for those seeking a little solitude. Getting there early will likely give you a lakeside site.
  • Moke Lake Campground: Still revered by locals as  one of their favourite day getaways. 10km west of town (on the road to Glenorchy) you will see the Moke Lake Road sign. Turn onto the road and drive a further 7km inland until you reach the lake. Note: the road is unpaved and very dusty in summer. Respect others and drive at low speed. Once at the lake, enjoy a spot of trout fishing and swimming (in season) or take a walk on the Moke Lake Loop track (3 hours return).
  • Kinloch Campground: Located on the opposite side of the lake from Glenorchy, on the road to the Routeburn track, KinlochCamground is a little used gem of the Dart River Valley.


2. Day Walks

  • Mt Crichton Look Track: Historic and scenic, the Mt Crichton track is adjacent to the 12 Mile Delta Campground turnoff. Be sure to take the side track to Sam Summers Hut for a look into gold mining history.
  • 12 Mile Delta to Bob’s Cove Track : A great walk for those spending the night at 12 Mile Delta Campground. A pleasant lakeside stroll perfect for all ages.
  • Ben Lomond Track: Ben Lomond is the mountain located beyond the  top of the Queenstown gondola. Reaching the top is a 3-4 hour steady uphill climb, but the views from the top are stellar. Depeding on the snow level, you may be able to reach the summit of Ben Lomond in the winter. Speak to the Queenstown Information Centre staff to see if it’s possible. You can make your journey shorter by using the gondola to complete the first third of the journey.
  • Queenstown Gardens: You won’t have the place to yourself, but the Queenstown Gardens is a very special spot in downtown Queenstown.  Pack a lunch and take a couple of hours of hours to enjoy the loveliness of this town icon.

3. Parking:

Parking, particularly for larger campervans, can be a bit tricky in Queenstown . If you’re heading to town for the day, try to get there early. There is 2-3 hour free parking along the waterfront, and all day free parking at the Fernhill Road roundabout (as you head toward Glenorchy). Other good parking places are along Gorge Road (there is limited street parking, but there are 2 large pay per hour parks close to town) and along the lakeside beside the Frankton Arm Walkway.

Enjoy your trip to the Southern Lakes, and don’t forget, Queentown can be yours alone with a little forward planning.

Happy Campervaning.

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