First published on 3 May 2011. Updated on 11 May 2011.
This reporter recently took part in a week of cocktail mayhem and adventure, on tour with the 42BELOW Cocktail World Cup 2011. But it doesn't need to be a wild week of boozing to make Queenstown special - the achingly beautiful city does it all by itself. Take a look at Time Out's guide to the best of Queenstown - the city where upside down is right side up and the drinks never stop flowing.
From June through September, Queenstown is one of the world's best skiing destinations. The area boasts six world-class skifields close by to each other, all with amazing views and exciting après-ski culture. The main areas of Coronet Peak and Cardrona have slopes for every level of skier and all equipment can be hired. If you're visiting 24 Jun-3 Jul, the Queenstown Winter Festival will be in full swing, with races, street parties, fireworks, live concerts, comedy, theatre and family events.
Queenstown – a city of sheer cliffs, unforgiving mountains and chilly lakes and streams – doesn't rely on a good fall of snow to get pulses pounding. Take the Shotover Jet - a high-powered jet boat that shoots you through narrow canyons and rapids at 85km/h and does 360-degree turns down the wild, icy and beautiful Shotover River. Gorge Rd, Arthurs Point. Or take a helicopter ride with the Helicopter Line over the Remarkables – you might remember these hauntingly rugged mountains from the Lord of the Rings trilogy – ending with a picnic on a remote hilltop in some of the old gold-panning country. Queenstown Airport, 29 Lucas Pl, Queenstown. Perhaps a little luge is more your speed. This little boogie board on wheels hurtles around sharp corners and dips with remarkable alacrity. Take the chairlift to the top of the hill, take in some of the amazing views in the tiny little pocket of paradise you've found yourself in, and roll really quickly back down again. Brecon St, Queenstown. Or you could always take a dip in envigorating Lake Wakatipu for free - it never gets warmer than eight degrees.
If all that landed in the too-hard basket, stop by a few New Zealand wineries instead. Chard Farm is conveniently located near the bungy bridge - that means a few bracing glasses of pinot before hanging from a single piece of elasticated piece of rope staring death in the face. 205 Chard Rd, Gibbston. Otherwise, head Peregrine Wines just past Arrowtown. Kawarau Gorge Rd, Gibbston, Queenstown. The winery is boasts some of the best cheese and steak pie you're likely to ingest, care of the Arrowtown Bakery – 1 Buckingham St, Arrowtown.
While the city is mainly known as an outdoorsy town, there's a thriving café culture here, too. Leading the pack is Vudu Café and Larder a beautifully designed space with exceptional coffee. 16 Rees St, Queenstown. If you've got a bit of time up your sleeve, Joe's Garage is worth a visit. It's super busy, (read: long food waits) so go and lounge in the courtyard sun and watch the open kitchen get absolutely thrashed. Searle Ln, Queenstown. Or go hifalutin' and hit Botswana Butchery. Set in a little cottage by the lake with a plush upstairs bar, it's right up there in terms of Queenstown fine dining. The team offer bistro staples using local ingredients including their amazing seafood. 17 Marine Pde, Queenstown. The Bunker is actually more fun as a bar, but the downstairs restaurant does an excellent rabbit three ways and offers the chubby, briny bluff oysters which are only available for a few months each year (they're in season right now, in fact). Cow Ln, Queenstown.
Queenstown is a drinking town, through and through. You could actually do a different bar crawl every night of the week and barely touch the sides. One of the really standalone venues, though, is Bardeaux, where the music's always set to somewhere in the 80s and there's a roaring open fire. It's like Hot Tub Time Machine, only with better cocktails. Eureka Arc, Queenstown. Speaking of open fires, Barmuda features a giant fireplace in their front courtyard, as well as plenty of super-comfy outdoor furniture. They do a banging Old Fashioned. Searle Ln, Queenstown. Letting loose? Climb the rafters at Bar Up (Searle Lne, Queenstown) and do some shots or get your dance on at Revolver. 53 Stover St, Queenstown.
While shopping in Queenstown is fairly limited, at Angel Divine (3 Searle Ln, Queenstown) you can shop for local designers such as Kate Sylvester and Karen Walker, while DT Carter stocks an almost entirely local collection of up-and-coming New Zealand designers. Arthur's Point, Queenstown. Mediterranean Market is Queenstown's version of Simon Johnson. It's filled with all manner of cured meats, spices, plus cooking equipment and boutique ice cream. 53 Robins Rd, Boydtown.
You're going to want to lay your head somewhere, and the Heritage Hotel, with its stunning views of the lake, the mountains and big self-contained villas, is a great place to set up camp. Travelling this month? The Hilton Hotel should be up and running - the brand new hotel is a first for Queenstown and is built right down on the water.
Air New Zealand, Pacific Blue and Qantas have regular direct and non-direct flights from Sydney to Queenstown. More flights are scheduled during winter and flying time is 2.5 hours.
For a full list of winners from the 2011 42BELOW Cocktail World Cup plus recipes and images for some of best cocktails, head to timeoutsydney.com.au/bars
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