Travel

2023 is the Year to Visit New Zealand — Here’s Our Guide to Exploring the Best Queenstown Has to Offer

It’s Now Easier Than Ever for Texans to Visit the Land of the Long White Cloud

BY // 03.17.23

In case you hadn’t heard yet, 2023 is the year to visit New Zealand. American Airlines launched direct flights from Dallas to the country’s capital, Auckland, in late October 2022, meaning it’s never been easier for Texans to experience this beautiful, secluded part of the world. New Zealand is best known for two things: unparalleled scenery and adventure travel. Queenstown, a small town on the South Island with a big reputation, perfectly encapsulates both of these aspects. It’s nicknamed the “Adventure Capital of the World” and its setting on Lake Wakatipu with the (aptly-named) Remarkable Mountains reflecting on the water create a postcard-perfect moment at every turn. Queenstown is the ideal place to begin your exploration of New Zealand– or to keep returning to time and time again.

 

Matakauri Lodge dining queenstown new zealand
Matakauri Lodge, a serene oasis on Lake Wakatipu.

Where to Stay in Queenstown, New Zealand

Matakauri Lodge is a serene oasis on Lake Wakatipu, located just a 12 minute drive from Queenstown’s town center. From your first step out of the car, it’s clear what a special place this is. A smiling concierge– who seemingly foresaw your arrival– waits to greet you at the top of the steps in the driveway. Sweeping views of the lake and mountains greet you at every turn– from the dining room, from your room, from the pool deck.

The meals, which are included for guests, are the highlight of the stay. The intimate, candle-lit dining room was occupied only by one other couple. Sipping wine by a window framing an unimaginably stunning view, that dinner was one of those few golden-tinged moments in life where time seems to still. There are also options beyond the dining room for your meals: We requested breakfast in the comfort of our room the next day, and ate lunch on the sunny, lavender-filled patio the next.

 

The Rees Hotel is the best blend of unpretentious and upscale, studded with thoughtful touches. The hotel’s 155 rooms are crisp and clean, with that panoramic view of the Remarkable Mountains across Lake Wakatipu of course. To level up your stay, the hotel also boasts five luxury, three-bedroom Lakeside Residence Villas, outfitted with king beds and more than 1,200 square feet to comfortably accommodate the whole family or several couples. The service was also incredible. One night, I rang the front desk in hopes of a few restaurant recommendations for dinner, and walked away from the call with a hard-to-get reservation at a delicious Italian spot in town.

Outdoor Dining with Bering's

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  • Bering's Gift's April 2024
  • Bering's Gift's April 2024
  • Bering's Gift's April 2024
  • Bering's Gift's April 2024
  • Bering's Gift's April 2024
  • Bering's Gift's April 2024
  • Bering's Gift's April 2024
  • Bering's Gift's April 2024

 

Edgewater Hotel is the perfect place to stay if you want to explore the greater area around Queenstown. Lake Wanaka’s only lakeside accommodation, the hotel enjoys a prime, peaceful spot at the water’s edge, just outside the town center. Among the hotel’s many virtues are a delicious breakfast (give the Vegemite toast a try!) and the locally-made blackcurrant bath products. For a gentle walk, the lakeside trail is just outside your room. For an epic hike, try nearby Roys Peak– the most stunning view I’ve seen in the Queenstown area.

 

queenstown new zealand restaurants
Botswana Butchery, one of Queenstown’s most renowned restaurants.

Where to Eat in Queenstown

The great thing about New Zealand cuisine is just about everything you’re eating is produced on the island. The country’s seclusion means importing food is expensive and, frankly, unnecessary when there is so much local livestock and farmland.

If you ever ask anyone who’s been to Queenstown for recommendations, you’ll probably see Fergburger on the list. The popular burger joint lives up to the hype with patty choices ranging from prime New Zealand beef to Wild Fiordland deer to tempura tofu.

Bella Cucina is a cozy Italian hole in the wall and the ideal place to experience that “Chef’s Choice” option that you always put off trying until next time. Providing great value at 65 NZ dollars, every one of the three courses that hit the table were delicious. Some of my favorite dishes, like the lemony sole and panna cotta, were things I never would have thought to try otherwise.

Botswana Butchery, one of Queenstown’s most renowned restaurants, is perfect for meat-lovers and those who enjoy a water-front view.

 

TNZ-Space – ChardFarm – F6A8501
Visiting wineries (including Chard Farm, pictured) is a popular New Zealand excursion.

Things to Explore and Do in Queenstown, New Zealand

 New Zealand is known for its wines– particularly its Sauvignon Blancs, Pinot Noirs, and Chardonnays– and there are several good ones to sample in Gibbston Valley, just 25 minutes outside of Queenstown. Gibbston Valley Winery, Mt. Rosa and Kinross are three to keep at the top of your list. This is Queenstown, so naturally, there are several epic wine tours available beyond your typical wine-tasting experiences. For example, you could take a scenic helicopter ride between tasting stops or pair your wine tour with an adrenaline-pumping jet boat ride.

If unforgettable scenery is what you’re after, be sure to book a day trip to Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park. If you have a rental car you can do the three-and-a-half-hour drive yourself, but I would recommend booking a bus or shuttle tour so you can sit back and enjoy the gorgeous, albeit windy, drive. Once you reach the sound, you’ll embark on a boat through truly indescribable rainforest-clad cliffs, waterfalls, and mountains.

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