Set on the edge of New Zealand's Fiordland National Park, Queenstown is a well-known outdoor playground, with loads of opportunities for active vacations all year round. Breathtaking landscapes, towering snow-capped mountains, crystal clear lakes, are perfect settings to sample the Alps in the morning, go kayaking in the afternoon, and to chill out by the beach as the sun sets.
The region is also New Zealand's only true continental climate, with hot and dry summers, colorful falls, and cold winters. Besides snow sports, you guessed it, that's a perfect place to grow structured, aromatic pinot noir. A Google search on 'Queenstown wine trail' shows that after all, the region's 75 wineries are definitively worth the trip, and sipping a great wine while watching adrenaline-junkies jumping off a bridge a perfectly adequate experience.
With this in mind, if you're still in the early stage of planning your trip to New Zealand, and Epicure means anything to you, what are your options to enjoy the best of both worlds - landscapes and great food - during your stay in South Island?
Cycling through paradise
One such option sits along the shores of Lake Wakatipu, on a 70 km trail known locally as the Paradise Trail. Amidst Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks, and across the areas high country stations, the trail boasts Queenstown's most stunning landscapes, all accessible on mainly flat roads, and undulating farm tracks.
On the way to Kinloch, North of Lake Wakatipu. Hybrid mountain bikes are popular amongst casual cyclists, as their straight handlebars and padded seats bring extra comfort and ease of use.
The tour begins on the wharf in Queenstown, to board the steamship TSS Earnslaw, en route to the western shore of the Lake. The 45-minute journey on water is still a three and a half hour drive by car, which means that once you're back on you bicyle, the road will be quiet. You'll have ample occasions to take breaks, or to pull your camera, without worrying too much about traffic.
The journey starts on Lake Wakatipu, aboard the iconic steamship the TSS Earnslaw, one of the best ways to experience the region’s scenic beauty.
As you leave the boat, the trail unfolds through farmland and forests with lake views and snow-capped peaks stretching out to the distance. Crystal clear mountain streams here and there add a pinch of adventure and fun, as you bond with your bike. Evoking childhood memories, only this time it's allowed to get wet.
A water taxi mid-way connects to the Greenstone Valley, and up to the northern head of the lake, Glenorchy. It's a welcome 45 minutes ride on water, time to relax and to contemplate the surroundings Fjords. Endorphins have kicked-in 3 miles before, so the slight euphoria gently enhances the already imposing sensation of grandeur.
The kiwis will tell you that some of the world's most scenic hikes await you in this area: Routeburn, Rees and Dart hikes, and the Greenstone/Caples tracks. Its fair to say that Peter Jackson was just as impressed as you currently are. The locations for Isengard, Lothlorien and Amon Hen for The Lord of the Rings trilogy were all filmed nearby.
Food and Accommodation
You might be wondering if the price to pay for such famed landscapes is a lukewarm canned soup by a smoky camp fire, followed by a less than appealing night on half-inch-thick sleeping-pad ?
Fortunately, there are still some places in this world where true epicureans are catered for. The Kinloch Lodge and Paradise Trust Farm, are two such examples. They are both wise old ladies, with a lot of stories to tell, and that sense of tradition where great food, nice conversations, fire place, and comfy beds are all essential elements to a welcoming house.
After a day of riding in spectacular surroundings, be prepared to enjoy a lively gourmet dinner and a good wine (or two!). The Kinloch Logde menu will sound like music, and yet another reason to vigorously pedal during the day. Indeed, nothing like a little bit of exercise to bring about a healthy appetite.
Icing on the cake, the lodge features an outdoor hot-tub with views of the lake and the mountains... It's time to unwind, and if the day turned out to be slightly demanding to your limbs, enjoy a well-earned rest in front of the fire, then happily drift off to sleep in a fluffy bed.
Laurence Belcher's dinner at the Paradise Farm. Kiwi's hospitality is undoubtedly a most welcome reward after a day of cycling.
The Paradise Farm, north of Glenorchy, is a Homestead with 3 adjacent cottages equipped for self-catering. The Annexe house has just been extensively renovated after lightning struck the homestead in May 2014, and offers the option of a full comfort experience.
Nestled in nature, it's also an ideal base camp to numerous hiking and cycling tracks. The Diamond lake, the Routeburn and Dart tracks are all nearby. From there you can admire clear rivers, deep green beech forests, waterfalls and moutain ranges from the Fjord and Mount Aspiring National parks. They are perfect venues for picnics, relaxed afternoons, trout fishing, in other words simple pleasures with good friends.
Let's face it, when you return, you're not going to brag about your sporting achievements, and the Tour de France will remain an improbable endeavour.
But you may look back at that moment, sitting on the deck at Kinloch lodge looking down on the lake, encircled by snow-capped mountains as the sun sets in a cloudless sky, with a huge sense of satisfaction at having cycled the paradise trail.
Were breaking records really the point anyway ? Seize the day was.
photos/ Laurence Belcher©
Getting to Queenstown
Set on the edge of Fiordland National Park, bordering glacial Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown has quickly emerged as South Island main tourist stop. With the 3 of the nine New Zealand great walks just round the corner, an awe-inspiring scenic route to Dunedin (via Te Anau, Invercargill), the place is a must see for first-time tourists.
Queenstown has an international airport with direct flights to Auckland, Sydney, Melbourne, and Christchurch. From Christchurch, It's a 6 and a half hour drive to get to Queenstown, about 490 km (300 mi.) via state highway 8.
Cycling the Paradise Trail
Matt and Kate operate the Paradise Trail, a fully guided and supported luxury biking and walking tour around Queenstowns lake Wakatipu, with full board accomodation. This leaves you free to enjoy your ride and walk without the extra weight of all your personal belongings.
Laurence is a keen photographer, and a chef; the mesmerizing pictures are his, and the menu at the Paradise farm the result of a close cooperation with his bubbly wife Carol. So, expect to be treated like family.
Contact Matt & Kate
If you have kimshi iPhone App, you can send them a direct message : Open in App or take a closer look at their tour.
Already a kimshi user? Just send them an email to matt (at) kimshiapp (dot) com using your account email address.
None of the above and the Paradise Trail is your thing? We're currently testing a web version of kimshi; in the interim, non iPhone users can contact hosts through emails by simply dropping us a message here.