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Queenstown – Where The Big Kids Play

February 21, 2011 by Chelsea Slone

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Our second stop in New Zealand was a thrill seekers paradise in the South Island called Queenstown. The young and active vibe of the people make you want to stay here for months as well as having unlimited things to do including bungie jumping, parasailing, sky diving, jet boating, canyon swinging, white water rafting, canyoning, and much more. This adventure happy place is definitely where the big kids play.

During our visit here we decided to go jet boating through the Shotover River Canyons, white water rafting, and take a day trip to the incredible Milford Sound. As much as we wish we could have done it all, we were trying not to spend a life’s savings in one place… It would be easy to do here!

Jet boating through the narrow Shotover River Canyons was such an exhilarating experience! The specialized boat is powered by two Buick 3.8 litter V6 supercharged engines producing 520 horse power. The steering and control is maintained by two Hamiliton 212 jet units thrusting out 760 liters of water per second. With this design it makes the boat able to travel up to 60 mph in 10 cm of water…. Allowing 360* spins through the canyons. It was awesome! I couldn’t stop screaming, and Tyler, sitting on the outside set of the boat, was convinced the driver was going to hit at least one of the huge boulders sticking out from the narrow canyons. Haha, but we lived to tell the story!

Our white water rafting trip on the Shotover River was tons of fun! The trip began with a bus ride up into Skippers Canyon, well known for it’s incredible twists and turns and narrow cliff edges. They say the journey to the rafting site is part of the thrill of this rafting trip as the roads have hardly changed since the days when the canyons were mined for gold. Our white water adventure was on the Shotover river, which runs through Skippers Canyon, and is known as one of the richest gold bearing rivers in the world. So as you can imagine half way through the trip I was contemplating falling out to make my fortune. Hehe… Our favorite part of the actual rating portion, other than all of the intense rapids, was a 557 foot long tunnel we went through before we shot off into the thrilling Cascade rapid, very exhilarating! Overall, it was a great rafting experience in Queenstown.

During our time in Queenstown we took a beautiful day trip to Milford Sound. They say it’s a five hour drive, and no one will tell you any different, but as we made the drive we realized we would be there in three hours at the rate we were going and then we saw the huge sign “Allow two hours for the next 100 km”. We immediately looked at one another with a digested face knowing that sign probably meant windy roads and I’m very prone to car sickness. Ugh! But as we began the drive through the last 100 km we realized it wasn’t very windy… It was gorgeous. Gravel areas were all along the road every few miles made for stopping to take pictures or just enjoy the scenery, and there were several different walking trails you could stop and take to see even more beautiful lakes and waterfalls. When we arrived at Milford Sound for a boat ride through the area it was just the icing on the cake of beauty. The boat took us through the picturesque mountains seeing all of the stunning waterfalls, and adorable seals lying on the rocks to rest.

During our trip to Milford Sound we learned quite a few interesting facts and we were also able to visit the newly renovated floating underwater discovery center. The center contains panels of Milford Sound’s intriguing history and facts about the area and it’s inhabitants, but the most fascinating part of this center was the underwater viewing chamber. After a brief history lesson you are given the chance to descend down a spiral staircase 33 feet underwater into 360* views of a rich marine ecosystem. It was incredible! While we were down in the chamber we saw the rare black coral commonly found in this region, it was beautiful.

One of the most fascinating facts we were told was that Milford Sound is actually not a sound it is a fjord. A fjord is a valley formed by glacial activity while a sound is a valley created by rivers. Milford Sound was founded by Captain John Grono who discovered in around 1812 and named it Milford Haven after his home in Wales. Years later Captain John Lort Stokes settled in this area with his wife renaming the area Milford Sound, and since then the never has never changed even being scientifically incorrect. Stokes built a home and hotel with hopes people would want to visit the beautiful place, and they did. He created a trail people could take to visit Milford Sound, and today the trail is still used by many trekkers wanting to visit the area on foot. Around sixty years later a tunnel was developed through the mountains making it possible for visitors to drive to the area. Milford Sound is one of the wettest inhabited places in the world receiving an average 26 feet of rainfall a year. The rainfall creates many beautiful temporary waterfalls in addition to the permeant waterfalls located here. The striking beauty of the area makes this an exceptional place to see.

Queenstown was one of our favorite stops in New Zealand for so many different reasons. We loved the vibe of the young adventurous personalities found in the locals, the many thrilling activities, and the incredible scenery found within and all around the area. Next stop… Franz Josef, glacier town.

Cheers!

T+C

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