Monday 15 August 2022

Back to South Island in 2022 (1): Queenstown

It has been 8 years since I last made a long visit to the South Island. You can find my dairies about my 2014 trip here:

I have long wanted to do that again but was blocked from doing so even before 2020 then we have covid...but now it's finally time to travel around. Things have definitely changed, but by how much?

In short, by a damn lot.

Since I have already wrote about those attractions before I want to concentrate on how I feel about the changes in these cities during the years. I hope you enjoy and perhaps will travel there some day :3.


It is always the same amazing mountainous view when you stepped down the plane at the Queenstown airport. These mountains are probably the least altered and that gave me the wrong feeling that the trip will be just the same as the one I had in 2014, which is quickly proven wrong though.

Another thing that stayed ever the same is the popularity of Fergburger. Last time I ordered at dusk and had to bring the burgers all the way back to the hostel, only to found that the burgers had already cooled. This time the hotel was much closer and this is one of the best burger I have had in some time. 

The birds clearly enjoy the burgers so much.

Oh I almost forgot about the bakery on the side. When I went there last time I only tried their Danishes (which is delicious for sure), but I knew nothing about pies other than those frozen ones sold in supermarkets. This time with proper knowledge handmade pies became a must-order for me whenever I come across bakeries making those. Fergbaker is no exception. They make really good pastry and the fillings are more of a watery style. Their pork belly & apple really tastes like baked pork belly with apples that you make at home, and the sauce is just the same as the gravy you would get. I am sure some would love these pies just like pies served in some popular bakeries in Auckland, but it's just not my cup of tea. 

Here comes the first major difference that I encountered during the trip: Intercity buses are running much less frequently. In particular the Queenstown - Tekapo - Christchurch route no longer runs daily. The Mt Cook route is suspended as well. It has became much harder to arrange trips using public transport in 2022 than in 2014. 

As a result I had to stay in Queenstown for 3 nights and I have no access to Mt Cook using public transport. So what can I do if I still want to pay a visit to Mt Cook? That is by private tours either on the land or in the air. Unfortunately the weather is bad around the travel date together with the fact that YHA Mt Cook closed and no hotels were available for our dates (even for the best rooms in the Hermitage!), I had no choice but to book a single day round trip flight cruise instead. But even that was cancelled due to bad weather. This is not something we can control, but after talking with my friends, it was not the most unfortunate thing during the trip to be unable to take the Milford sound cruise or visiting Mt Cook but something else -- perhaps you should know the answer already, but it would be clear in my next entry.

Oh well, but you still need to get something to do in Queenstown right? Otherwise staying in the hotel for 3 nights doing nothing is just like staying in isolation facilities/MIQ...

We visited the city centre and took the gondola + luge in day 1, but day 2 and 3 were unplanned because we would have taken the flight cruise should the weather be fine. Day 2 was windy but not rainy so we still decided to go out, but we met a sandstorm.

Yes, sandstorm.

One almost wondered immediately where did the sand come from. It turns out that it's the reconstruction of the city plus the construction near the gondola that contributed all the sand, the latter is much higher than city centre so the sand easily rolled down the slope. 

We still managed to reach Patagonia, the holy grail of Queenstown. This is the  reason we miss here so much over the years despite not being interested in all the water activates or parachuting. They have relocated since we last visited but still somewhere at the lakefront -- this could be more of a food problem for the birds and the ducks, but the Saturday market proved that the animals have more options other than just gelato.

Patagonia is now much bigger with two stories. They are also serving choc-coated ice creams as well as other in-house sweets. We had some great time in the second floor enjoying their affogato/gelato while watching staffs making chocolate live as well as enjoying the amazing lake view. I always have a kink to affogato -- it reflects the quality of the gelato made, the coffee brewed and the personality of the shop all in little container. The affogato of Patagonia is very thick with vanilla ice cream standing out even with a  strongly bitter expresso shot. This is clearly an affogato from a gelato maker.

Patagonia sweets served as our lunch. We did some shopping, took a short break in the hotel and very soon it's dinner time. I realized that most restaurants here tried to do high-end dining and they were so full during our trip that walk-ins at 6:00pm were impossible. Very strange, considering Queenstown should also be a popular place for all kind of travelers. Also it's mid-winter right? Are you telling me that those travelers are all wealthy skiers?

At the end we had dinner in the hotel on day 1, but we managed to book two good restaurants (at 5pm) for the other two days. It is still regretful that we failed to book one of the top Japanese restaurant located here. The two restaurants that we visited were definitely good and their standard matches the price. 

Mango panna cotta. People seems to be frenzy about the word panna cotta but the real highlight is the pistachio candy.

Day 3 weather in Queenstown turned worse and without any surprise I received the call that the flight cruise to Milford sound was also cancelled. It was raining so heavily that we just stayed in the hotel for some relaxing time till dinner. We enjoyed some great seafood just below the casino, which reminded me that my friends liked the pasta ($10) served by the casino-owned restaurant when we came last time. I can't tell if that restaurant's still around, but Queenstown definitely need more of these middle-priced restaurants.


Queenstown is undoubtedly the major travel city in New Zealand and it took a major hit during covid. Many backpacker hostel closed, leaving hotel rooms marked at extremely high prices with similar situation in the dining or shopping sector. The town kept developing to serve more high-end travelers with city renovation, building more tax free malls and luxury hotel/apartments. 

These developments were in line with the ministry's most recent controversial speech saying that NZ needs more "money carrying" travelers instead of backpackers. Is this the right future for Queenstown/NZ tourism? I can't tell. I enjoyed this city both in 2014 and in 2022, but perhaps it will be a different story in 2030.

The night of Queenstown, with someone playing Christmas in the 13th month in accordion.

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