If you’ve been following us, you know that spending time outdoors, learning about animals, riding horses, and great views, is our idea of a perfect day. How could it not be anyone’s? And in Queenstown, that’s just what we were treated to! Choosing the South Island was definitely the best decision we made.
Steaming Away on Lake Wakatipu
We booked an afternoon with Real Journeys, starting off with a steam ship ride from Queenstown, along Lake Wakatipu, all the way to Walter Peak. The TSS Earnslaw is an original steam ship, over a hundred years old, and was used by the residents of Queenstown to ship anything from sheep, goods, people, horses. She is an iconic Queenstown landmark that is now a major tourist destination. The forty minute boat ride from Queenstown to Walter Peak provides a lot of “oooo’s” and “wooooow’s” while taking in the breathtaking lakeside views.
Starting Off With A Horse Trek
Of course, being the horse people we are, we booked the horse trek. Upon arrival, we were led to the stables, and lots of big, fat horses. How I loved how most horses in New Zealand were round, with big rumps! On this trek, we were with two absolute beginners, who have never been on a horse in their lives. And the number one rule of going on hacks is to follow the weakest rider. So, we just had to follow the leader.
These horses are extremely well trained that they just follow each other. They don’t veer away from their line, they don’t try to overtake, plus they are so wide that it’s like riding a couch. This was also the first time I rode using a hackamore, it was interesting, but the horses we were on were just so easy it made adapting a breeze.
It was a cold, foggy morning when we started out, which meant that during our trek, most of the mountain tops were hidden. But, the views were still amazing! We were joined by four resident dogs who would just run away and come back, surprising us with a multitude of finds. One time they carried back a rabbit carcass, just fur and bones. We saw a few rabbits scampering across the fields, and a multitude of native birds, including my new favourite, the Paradise Duck, whom you can always see in pairs.
After the hour-long trek, you’re treated to tea and biscuits beside the gift shop. Now, at Walter Peak everything is scheduled so precisely that you cannot just walk into the restaurant and ask if you could have lunch, like what we did. This request confused everyone, and got our horse guide upset that we couldn’t follow the rules. Well, what can you do when you have a starving ten year old? You MUST wait for your schedule. That was the only downside to the trip. You are accepted in batches at the restaurant, and if it’s not your turn, you just have to wait.
Sheep Shearing At Its Best
Right after tea and biscuits, the skies cleared, and the breathtaking Walter Peak (which is a mountain) presented itself in all its glory. We made our way to watch the sheep shearing demonstration. Part of the show was an explanation on how dogs are used in herding the sheep. Now THAT was the highlight for us! Two different dog breeds, two completely different techniques. One dog stares down the sheep to herd them into the pen, while the other barks and nips to get them into the pen. I started to feel guilty about not using my Border Collie, Apollo, to herd something on the farm!
Lunch With A View
You’re then ushered to the restaurant by the staff, where lunch is served. A buffet spread with the freshest vegetables, farm-grown meats, and mouthwatering desserts. Now, we’re not really buffet people, so I stuck to my bread, salad, cheeses, and a small piece of chicken. But I did go crazy on the dessert that ranged from sticky date pudding, to berry sorbet, to lemon tart! My daughter, who eats so little, couldn’t even fill one plate. And since my husband is on his keto diet, he devoured a plateful of meat that included lamb, beef, pork, chicken, and sausages.
The best part of lunch was the view! A bottle of New Zealand Chardonnay, endless views of the lake, cool, crisp breeze, now that makes for a beautiful lunch.
On the way back to Queenstown on the TSS Earnslaw, we were tired, or maybe a little tipsy, so we decided on an indoor table. Our daughter took a nap, and we had a cup of coffee while we discussed what to do when we got back to Queenstown.
From Horses to Fish
We chose to spend some time at the Underwater Observatory. This is a stone’s throw away from the dock of the TSS Earnslaw, and depending on how interested your child is, you can stay for five, or twenty minutes, it really depends on how much you enjoy watching fish!
They have a fish feeding vending machine that dispenses fish food, and we spent a few one dollar coins feeding the fish since it was mesmerising. You see trout, salmon, and eel swim up, swim down, and they are huge. You even see some ducks diving into the water to partake of the fish food. It was interesting to see the fish life of Lake Wakatipu, and they have a lot of informational signs about the different fish species.
To Sub-Zero Temperatures
On our walk back to our hotel, we came across and Ice Bar. How could we resist? A frozen room with ice sculptures, vodka cocktails for the parents, and an ice cold juice for the little one? Why not?
You have fifteen minutes inside the Ice Bar, which comes with beverages served in glasses made of ice. They provide you with coats, gloves, and if you want, a photographer. I lasted all of five minutes until I had to leave my husband and daughter behind. I love heat, I love the tropics, so this frozen room just didn’t agree with my bones. But it was an unforgettable experience for the little one.
Should You Do It?
Would I recommend a day out in Walter Peak? That’s a definite YES! It’s not just for the kids, but adults would love everything about it too! It gives a wonderful insight to the farm life of the New Zealanders, and how they manage and run their properties. Add on a good bottle of New Zealand’s South Island wine, and it’s the perfect adult afternoon. But book the first boat out in the morning. If you book the later schedules, there are more tourists that start pouring through. This way, it still doesn’t feel too congested and touristy.