Queenstown, New Zealand – November 4 – 6 – With great ease and efficiency on our private jet we fly from the land of the Aborigine to the land of the Maori … and here to its present day New Zealanders fondly referred to as “Kiwis”. This little island country (downunder under) is blessed with some of the most varied and dramatic terrain in the world … from fjords to glaciers, beaches to mountains, meadows and rainforests … all discovered for us in easy helicopter rotor-beats these days.
We jet into Queenstown on a sunshiney afternoon. Surrounded by majestic mountains, we are soon at our beautiful boutique lodge, Matakauri, outside of town on a quiet hillside overlooking scenic Lake Wakatipu and the majestic mountains beyond. Wow!! Villa suites for our guests offer sumptuous ‘digs’ and breathtaking views. Our gorgeous new home is here.
In 1642 Abel Tasman, for whom Tasmania was named, was the first European of record to have sighted and sailed along these islands naming them after his town place in Holland (Zeeland), Niuw Zeeland. Some of his men went ashore and were killed by the local Maori whom have been dated to live here since the 800s. Tasman sailed away. The Maori traditional name for their land is Aotearoa meaning ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’. Their history recounts their arrival here by long seafaring canoes from a more tropical place of islands (perhaps Tahiti). In the 1770s British Capt. Cook arrived to these southerly islands and immediately laid claim to them as British Crown named New Zealand. From the mid-1800s gold fever drew thousands of prospectors to New Zealand. The place was discovered.
Queenstown has to be one of the most dramatic small towns in the world. Situated on a picturesque long glacier lake and surrounded by towering jagged granite mountains (known as the Southern Alps) with names like The Remarkables, Coronet Peak, The Aspirings. As a comparison, Queenstown sister city USA is Aspen, CO … although this vibrant kiwi town is (so far) less pretentious. It is one of the world’s ‘Adventure capitals’ for both winter and summer sports. It also boasts three of the best golf courses in New Zealand today. We are here to enjoy some exhilarating experiences.
On our first night a late spring storm arrives on schedule and it’s serious. We awake to constant rains and fog and, in the few brief sunny intervals, we see mountains now being covered in snow. We’re determined to have fun. We head out to our Shotover Gorge Jet Boat experience only to find all boating postponed until later in the day. We carry on to the world’s original bungee jumping bridge (New Zealand claims inventing bungee jumping) and in the drizzles we watch brave lads & lasses jump from the bridge on bungees, screams galore. We head on into the Otago Valley to a nearby renowned winery, Chard, and sample some of this region’s leading white and red wines. On to old Arrowtown, a gold prospectors mountain town from the mid-1800s, we enjoy an excellent lunch at Saffron joined by our jet crew. Suddenly the sun is shining brightly … frantic phone calls and we are quickly on our way to Shotover for one of the most exciting, exhilarating jet boat rides of a lifetime. Our adrenaline pumps high on this very fast river gorge jet boat ride and our boat captain amazes us with his 360 degree high-speed turns. We get wet and cold … but who cares, this is an amazing adventure. Soon enough home to the warm tranquil serenity and exceptional fine dining of Matakauri.
Our second day dawns ‘bright and beautiful’, the mountains all around us even more dramatic being covered in fresh snow. The weather is calm after the storm and sunny beauty abounds. We are off on the most iconic day of this trip … three helicopters hopping around all the highlights of this stunning area. A day not to be believed. Departing in our ‘choppers from nearby valley field (filled with sheep) up behind our lodge … we climb up over the calm lake and head over and through the dramatic southern alps. This is high terrain mountain flying up through glacier valleys with dramatic snow jagged peaks all around us and over mountain passes. We are headed for Milford Sound – a World Heritage Site “wonder of the world”. Before we go there our helicopter pilots fly us through valleys and over mountains and we have a heli-view sighting of Milford Sound … but we’re headed down through the westward valleys, along rivers, over dense rainforest and suddenly ON TO the beach. We settle on a deserted sandy beach on the Tasman Sea. A chance to walk about and enjoy the sea salt air. Within minutes we were down from 7000feet above sea level (surrounded by snowy peaks) and settled on to a wide sandy beach. Hopping back into the helicopters we fly off, around the bluff, and immediately into the stunning Milford Sound … one of our world’s most outstanding and picturesque fjords. We have mighty mountains all around us again including the towering Mitre Peak (second tallest mountain in the world to rise right out of the sea). We’re flying to our “mother ship”, the Fjordland Discoverer. One helicopter at a time we land on to the helipad of our motor yacht … and suddenly we’re now on a cruise. Our crew serves up all sorts of fresh baked goodies for us as well as fresh cheeses and grilled lobster tails. We cruise the fjord nosing up to glacial waterfalls and close in to large rocks to see sunbathing seals. It’s breathtaking scenery all around us and the sun shines brightly. All too soon our choppers are back to collect us. It’s time to ‘hop on’ and ‘heli off’ … this time right off our luxury cruise motor yacht at sea level and up onto one of the highest glaciers, Aspiring. This has gone beyond believable for most of us. Photos, snow ball fights, and snow angels … and it’s freezing cold. Soon enough we’re flying on through the high mountain valleys on our way to the “middle of nowhere” lunch at Minaret Station (a generations family run cattle and sheep ranch in the mountains). Only accessible by helicopter, this place exceeds wildest dreams especially our chef’s fine dining luncheon with chilled wines and roaring log fire. Surely this is ‘heaven on earth’ … can’t we stay … well yes we can. Minaret offers four beautiful lodge cabins for overnight stays. However, we’re helicoptering home to Matakauri … and Queenstown to sample the famous Fergburgers. Proclaimed the best burgers in the Southern Hemisphere and we agree.
It’s somewhat sad to see the sun settle away to the west, far away beyond massive mountain peaks and Milford Sound, down somewhere out there over the Tasman Sea. Clouds light up brilliant pink in the sky above the tranquil lake. Au revoir, til we see you again. We jet away from this fabulous place … to more fabulous … out into the South Pacific our private jet speeds us across to alluring Tahiti, via Papeete to mystical Bora Bora. Stepping off a glacier onto a white sandy beach. Enroute we gain almost a day … leaving New Zealand on Tuesday morning and arriving Tahiti on (day before) Monday afternoon. The magic of date line, and the wonders of our world continues … stay with us for insights of this idyllic finale …
Click here to join us in Bora Bora!