Best things to do in Otago and sightseeing in Otago
Queenstown - Otago
Queenstown itself is the most beautiful city in New zealand perched on the mountains along the shore of lake Wakatipu. A day trip to Arrowtown is a must if you include Queenstown on your trip.
But it was finally time to head out to Queenstown, and on Thursday, Feb 28 we headed out with Darren’s friend Chris through Central Otago to Queenstown. It’s lovely drive, once you get out of Dunedin, full of mountain roads, crystal streams and mirror-smooth glacial lakes. Eventually, with Chris as acting as tour guide, we made it to Queenstown. Queenstown is the exception to South Island’s Britishness. It bills itself as the “Adventure Capital of the World” and it pretty much is. Every corner bursts with posters calling for you to hurl yourself from a bridge, a mountain or launch yourself into a canyon of glacial runoff, all for a rather hefty price. This is not a place for cheap backpackers, unless they’re willing to make Queenstown their sole splurge on their entire trip.
Dunedin - Otago
And the South Island is veddy, veddy British in many ways. Especially in the far south. Dunedin is a nice little university town with excellent coffee and a good music scene. The University of Otago give the whole town a youthful buzz. It’s the kind of place where you go to the bandshell on the weekends in the botanical gardens and listen to the local brass band resolutely huff and puff their way through Sousa and Dion alike while the sun shines down and you feel the grass between your toes.
Dunedin is a great little town for wildlife watching along with a tour of Speight's Brewery. We stayed by the ocean in St. Clair.
Fergburger - Otago
Simply put, you can’t visit Queenstown and not try a Fergburger. It is like a right of passage for your travels in New Zealand. The restaurant itself is nothing special, just a small location with not enough seating or room for the amount of people it serves a day. The burgers on the other hand are excellent. They offer a variety of preparations for everyone’s preference and if you don’t like beef, no worries, they offer varieties in chicken and fish. Don’t let the long queue deter you, your visit will be worth the wait.
I can't believe I don't have a photo of my Fergberger. I've eaten there at least twice. I guess I've been too busy chowing down to bother with a photo. You will want to get some exercise before or after because it is a big burger, very filling, but oh, so good.
Speights Brewery - Otago
I went to Dunedin to see little penguins. I didn't expect to fall for a beer during my visit. I wish we could get Speights imported into the U.S. On a brewery tour, I learned that beer dates back to Babylon. Vikings enjoyed it, and so can you at the end of the tour when you can sample up to 6 brews.
Port Chalmers - Otago
After a three day crossing from Melbourne on the Bahia Negro, I landed on Feb 23 in the pretty harbor town of Port Chalmers, which is right next to Dunedin, the “Austin of New Zealand” as I was told by a friendly barista at a local coffee shop. (There are dozens of them, and they’re all pretty good. Dunedinistas like their caffeine.) Darren Atkinson, an affable Brit doing his PhD on post-conflict reconstruction political party development in post-communist Afghanistan at the University of Otago here, was kind enough to take me in via Couchsurfing. And it was a bromance made in heaven. His own experiences in Lebanon, Jordan, Afghanistan and Pakistan made he and I a great duo for the week that I spent with him. Also crashing with Darren were Louise G., her brother Paul and his girlfriend Chelsea.
Lake Wakatipu - Otago
Queenstown is scenic with the remarkable mountains lining the town and Lake Wakatipu. On the perfect day you can catch a beautiful sunset right from the beach in downtown Queenstown that will light the mountains right up in front of you. This is one of the best spots for viewing the sunset and you will often find locals playing music on the wharf. Alternatively, you can wait to take you gondola ride until just before sunset for a chance to capture the colors from a different vantage point. Regardless of where you choose to watch the sunset, you will be awarded with pretty outstanding views.
Kawarau River - Otago
A suspension bridge over the Kawarau River marks the world home of bungee (bungy) jumping: the place where, in 1988, adventurists AJ Hackett and Henry van Asch leapt off a platform, attached only with an elastic rope. Now, their enterprise has spanned the globe, with six different bungee experiences in New Zealand alone. Plummet over a ravine from the Nevis, or slide off the Auckland Bridge. AJ Hackett is the oldest and safest name in bungee, and New Zealand provides some stunning scenery to accompany your jump.
Wine Tastes - New Zealand Wine Experience - Otago
Queenstown is located in the area called Otago Central. This area is well known for it’s wine production and a short drive outside of the city will find you in the heart of wine country. You will find the beautiful vineyards are hard to miss and a great way to spend the afternoon. There are a couple options for checking out the wine areas, either by renting a car or joining a wine tour. Most of the wineries offer wine tasting during the day so don’t be shy, set off on your own and make some stops. Their tastings include their full line up for a small fee and an opportunity to grow your palette.
Shotover Canyon Swing - Otago
These guys are crazy. Since I had bungy jumped forward, they thought I should go off the Canyon Swing backward. Unlike bungy, where they tie your ankles, in the Canyon Swing, you're in a climbing type harness to keep you safe. Whereas the AJ Hackett folks tell you how safe bungy jumping is as they bind your ankles, these guys put the feat of God in you. Just when you think you're ready to go, they pull you back in. I asked if they wanted to know where I'd like to hit the water, because I'd told the AJ Hackett people I'd like to hit at boob level. They said: "Oh, you're supposed to stop about 100 feet above the water, so if you touch the water, something has gone horribly wrong." I immediately said: "I don't need to touch the water."
Queenstown Rafting - Otago
I wish I had some pictures of my white water rafting adventures, but I didn't want to worry about having a camera on me. The scariest part about the rafting isn't the rapids, it's the ride to get to the rapids. The bus winds up and down this narrow road with hairpin turns. One guy got so nervous on the ride there that he started having an asthma attack and decided he couldn't go rafting on the Shotover River. He wanted to be driven back. They tried to tell him that he might be less nervous going down the rapids than experiencing the trip back on the bus. As I recall the rapids are mostly level 2 and 3, with maybe one level 4 if the water is high.
Kawarau Bridge Bungy - AJ Hackett Bungy - Otago
Queenstown offers you an abundance of Bungy Jumping opportunities for whatever thrill or scene that suits your fancy. The most famous is the Kawarau Bridge Bungy that is just outside of the town. This is the location where in 1998, AJ Hackett and Henry van Asch launched the World’s first Bungy Jump. It became an international sensation and took the World by storm. Today the sport in internationally recognize and extreme and the best place to partake in it is right here in Queenstown. They offer 3 different sites to give it a try ranging from 40m to 134m.
Saint Bathans - Otago
From the lush green landscapes to an old town. Saint Bathans is a cultural treat. This town is over 150 years old dating its existence back to the Gold Rush of 1870. This small mining town is not very populated and thus isn’t like one of the noisy little places. The surroundings are peaceful and mostly it gives a feeling of an old abandoned place in the middle of a breath-taking landscape. Many of it’s old buildings are preserved which gives this whole place a historic feel. The Blue Lake is one of the features this place is popular for. This man-made lake is surrounded by picturesque ruins of old structures. The Vulcan Hotel is another. If locals are to be believed, this hotel is haunted by “the lady of the night.”