From Wanaka, it’s a magnificently scenic drive over the Crown Range road to reach Queenstown. We were headed straight to the Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump. We turned up the tunes and enjoyed the drive.
When we arrived at the Kawarau Bridge, I’m pretty sure I was more nervous than Jay, even though he was the one jumping and not me. I had no desire to do it. I’d had my fill of bungy at the Royal Gorge with my sister about 10 years ago. This would be Jay’s first bungy jump, and no better place for it than here – at the world’s first bungy jump in adrenaline-packed Queenstown.
It’s a 43-meter (140 ft) bungy off the Kawarau Bridge. You get to choose whether you want to bob above the water, touch it, or get dunked. Jay chose to get dunked!
For a taste of the thrill, check out these videos. The first one is the professional video taken by the bungy company. The second is the video from our GoPro that Jay had strapped to his chest. Two warnings on the GoPro video…#1 it may make your stomach turn as it puts you in Jay’s shoes, and #2, there is an expletive at 2:45.
In the GoPro video, Jay get’s asked a couple of times about the girls who jumped tandem right before him (see the two girls crouched down in the first picture above). They just happened to also be from Boulder, Colorado…what are the odds? We talked to the girls and their parents for a bit before and after the jump – they were taking six-months to travel the world together, so cool! Also, you’ll notice in the GoPro video that the guys keep calling Jay by the name Jeremy – that’s his legal name.
When I talked to Jay afterwards, one of the first things he said to me was that he wanted to do it AGAIN! So, needless to say, he really enjoyed it!
After the jump, we decided to head to Cromwell and camp there for the night. It was a sleepy town, most everything was closed by the time we got there around 6pm, but we found a nice little spot to camp next to the water at Lowburn Harbor.
The following day, we set off to hike to the summit of Ben Lomond Mountain. As the crow flies, the summit is only about 2.5 miles from downtown Queenstown. But it’s a long ascent when you’re hiking it. Round-trip it was 9.5 miles and took us 5.5 hours from start to finish. We started the hike from the bottom of the Queenstown gondola. Getting from the bottom to the top of the gondola is a steep ascent…no wonder some people choose to take the gondola instead of hiking that stretch.
When we reached the top of the gondola, we saw a helicopter take off from the mid-mountain helicopter pad. I imagine a scenic helicopter ride would be a pretty cool way to see Queenstown, but that was not in our budget.
From the top of the gondola are stunning views of Lake Wakatipu. The next section of the track, to the saddle, is on a gentler slope. Along the way, you can see the Ben Lomond summit get closer and closer.
From the saddle, it’s a very steep ascent to the summit. But the remarkable views during the climb almost make you forget about the burning sensation in your legs.
Once at the top, there are spectacular 360-degree views of Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains. We were fortunate to have perfectly clear, sunny skies. From the summit, we were even able to see Mount Earnslaw and Mount Aspiring in the distance. The views were absolutely stunning.
On our descent, several folks still making their way up asked us, “Is it worth it”? Our response was “yes, absolutely”!
Throughout the hike, the song “Beautiful Day” by U2 was running through my head. “It’s a beautiful day…don’t let it get away.” Yep, my thoughts exactly.
The next morning, I went for a 16-mile run (which was my longest training run for the Boston Marathon while we were overseas). There is a path called the “Frankton Arm Walkway” that goes from downtown Queenstown all the way around the Frankton Arm of Lake Wakatipu, following the waters edge. The path was primarily crusher fine trail, one of my favorite surfaces for running. I loved this run!
In addition to all the activities, we enjoyed just hanging out in downtown Queenstown. Good food, good coffee, a great vibe, and the weather was perfect!
We loved Queenstown. It reminded us a bit of Boulder, with its compact, pedestrian-friendly downtown filled with shops and restaurants; and the fact that it’s a town surrounded by mountains with an extensive network of trails and biking routes filled with people who love the active, outdoor lifestyle. If only Boulder was wrapped around a beautiful lake like Queenstown wraps around Lake Wakatipu. In our opinion, Queenstown is quite simply one of the best small towns in the world.