All photos from my instagram @suekang_
For my birthday I ended up in the land of Frodo Baggins, Fiordlands and Fergburgers. Namely, Queenstown of New Zealand.
I had this memory that I was clutching onto: three years ago I was about to turn twenty one and I was in the wilderness somewhere on South Island. I was wearing a bizarrely neon safety vest and a sturdy helmet and cycling through an expansive hillside filled with yellow lupins. My hair was in pigtails and I felt it hit my shoulders with the wind every time I pedalled forward like, wip, wipwipwip, wip. I was the only person who was cycling on the gravel trail, the rest of my party far behind me. I was so quick and the rush of the cold November breeze urged me on – my legs pedalled faster than ever. I imagined myself as someone who was commuting to work through mountains and I felt exhilarated; as if anything was possible. I almost felt like snatching a handful of lupins and shaking it triumphantly above my head to symbolise how truly elated and successful I was. But, obviously I didn’t, because I like our environment.
So, there was a lot to live up to.
The day began with a 9:30am pick up at our Queenstown accommodation from Queenstown Bike Tours. After around 20 minutes on the van, we arrived in Arrowtown. Google told me to expect a picturesque town from the gold rush era where you could find charming cafes and hiking/biking trails full of wild flowers and a turquoise river called Arrow River. Google didn’t disappoint.
We set off with our cruisers (you can choose from electric or mountain bikes as well) with the promise of a gorgeous trail that followed along the Arrow River. The plan was to visually feast our eyes on the lupins and the rolling hills, go past the Kawarau Bridge Bungy (the first commercial bungee jump in the world) then pick our favourite winery along the road and feast.
“Don’t worry about it if you have too many drinks at a wine tasting,” the owners of Queenstown Bike Tours said. “We can come and pick you up along the trails.”
“Okay,” everyone started rubbing their hands together. “Full speed ahead to the wine!”
And dutifully, we started off cycling.
There were willow trees everywhere in the beginning, shedding their flowers like snow. It was beautiful but probably terrifying for anyone with allergies. It was like a giant hay-fever festival. The trail itself was extremely easy and there were so many photo opportunities alongside Arrow River’s edge – a bohemian Instagram account’s dream come true. There were an abundance of wild flowers, classic New Zealand bridges over turquoise water, tunnels and picnic spots.
By the time we reached Kawarau Bridge, the #OG Bungee Bridge, I was ravenous. I could have eaten for three people at that point. We watched a couple of bungee jumpers fall to their deaths (jokes, but did you know your retinas can retract from bungee jumping?) then we quickly cycled over to the wineries. It was way past 1 o’clock and that’s just insanity in my books. As wise Pippin once said in probably the greatest movies ever, “What about second breakfast? … What about elevenses? Luncheon? Afternoon tea? Dinner? Supper?” These were all questions I was shouting inside my own head. WHAT ABOUT THE SECOND BREAKFAST?
Then, we finally reached Gibbston Valley Winery and Cheesery (check out the location on the map). Famished though I was, I couldn’t help but appreciate how the place was blooming. There were roses everywhere, colours in every direction, and the cutest French tables surrounded by pink and white shrubs. As we sat at our table, we were surrounded by people all uproariously wine tasting and enjoying the food on a sunny day. But, it still felt like we were in a private garden.
The menu was scrumptious and you can even do a winery and cave tour to amuse yourselves.
It was more relaxed than my previous birthday and I didn’t feel like shaking any lupins above my head. I felt relaxed and satisfied in food coma haze and we called for a lift back to the bike store (thank god that’s an option). As I sat there in the bright courtyard surrounded by the sweet smell of roses, it was probably one of the best things I’ve ever done on holidays. If you have a spare day or two in Queenstown, treat yourselves. Cycle around, explore the historic town of Arrowtown and then have some wine.
Book a self-guided tour with Queenstown Bike Tours for an ‘Arrowtown 5 bridges Ride’ to the wineries. There’s pick up and drop off to your Queenstown accommodation, bike hire, free time to wander around Arrowtown as well as an optional pick up from anywhere along the trail.
P: +64 3 442 0339