Queenstown must be one of New Zealand’s best kept secrets. Tucked away at the bottom of the South Island is what can only be described as a gem amongst the mountains.
Jenny and I, as well as a handful of others from the Kiwi bus decided to call this place home for a while.. It didn’t take me long to realise we had made the right decision!
For our first couple of weeks a few Kiwi Bus people were still in town, so before settling in to any routine, we used that opportunity to play in the adventure capital of the world and find our feet (and favourite bars) in Queenstown.
Slowly but surely the crowds dissipated and there was only a handful of us left – the long termer’s. It felt very odd at first, we were used to recognising people around town; our friends, and now we knew no one.. we were like the new girl at school and we didnt like it!!
Our plan from now was to settle into jobs, find a house we could all share and live a pretty ordinary yet extremely extraordinary life on the other side of the world.
It became clear to us very quickly that work was hard to come by and houses were so highly priced only the rich could afford. How did backpackers so often do this?
With that in mind we began hostel hopping. There’s a strict policy between hostels here that nobody stays longer than 2 weeks, so because of that and the lack of job offers flooding our way the struggle to get settled began.
YHA lakefront was our first home. The hostel is amazing and is where our little kiwi family began. Megan and George, from the Kiwi Bus joined us here and we met Camilla. Job searching was main priority for all of us so most of our days were filled with CV writing, handing out CVs around town or simply applying for jobs online. It felt boring and tedious and so much harder than I or any of us had predicted!! Lakes Weekly, a local magazine filled with town news, jobs and advertisements became our weekly booster. It’s here where new jobs were listed and houses or rooms for rent filled the pages giving us the kick we needed to keep our chins up and continue looking..
We viewed so many houses, some so grand we didn’t know what we were doing there and some so disgusting that I would of paid someone to get me out. However there were some that were so ideal I couldn’t help but let my excitement grow when we handed in our application forms. Yet time and again we were knocked back and refused the house, never really understanding the reason why!!
We’ve moved hostels twice in that time, however much we pleaded YHA couldn’t keep us, so we packed up and moved to Aspen Lodge a very cool spot were we paid a little extra for our own semi private living space and rooms. It was a taster, a tease even, of what we could have – exactly what we were looking for.. But never would we be able to afford those prices over a long period so we were off again to another hostel.
This time however things were a bit different, Black Sheep hostel offered long term accommodation and as there was 5 of us, moving into an 8 bed dorm didn’t seem to bad. It was the first time I personally felt settled, still living out of a bag but with a home of sorts to head back to.
This is actually when things started to fall into place jobs wise. Both Megan and I had interviews at the notorious ‘Ferg’ Empire (Google it) and both got the job. Camilla got a job at Skyline – number one on the tourist to do list. And Chloe, a new member of the family got a job at one of the hottest clubs in town. Everything was falling into place – just a few of us left to get jobs and then to conquer the housing crises!!
Months passed at Black Sheep, we formed a large group of friends and it seemed like it was a party time all the time!! BBQs were a regular occurrence, large family dinners where one person would cook became the norm, we started to feel as if we were in one huge family. Life became very easy!
So the search continued..
We came across Pinewood housing a while back and put our name on yet another waiting list for long term accommodation. We didn’t hold out much hope as it was just another list at another place.
But then the phone call came and it was all go.. We had minutes to think about whether we wanted the two beds on offer or they would go to someone else.. The pressure was unreal!!
The dream was to stay together and find a house for all of us but that wasn’t the reality. A group decision was reached; Jen and I would move out of Black Sheep and into Pinewood. We would then push hard to get the rest of the family in.. Mission accepted!
Pinewood was perfect, a big house with 5 bedrooms and room enough for 12 housemates, a kitchen, dining room and lounge – just what we were searching for. It felt amazing to officially move into somewhere, unpack our bags and hang our clothes up – oh the novelty! There was still one part of the puzzle missing – the perfect housemates! Mission ‘get the family in’ commenced..
The first bed became free a few days after we had moved in.. Camilla took this and the three of us began sharing a room. Already we were happier! We rearranged the room, shopped for homely bits, filled our cupboards with food and felt half way to being settled.
Over time people moved on, rooms in our house became available and we pleaded with Pinewood to let our friends move in. First Georgia, then Megan and lastly Chloe.. We had done it, we were all living together – the house became perfect!!
We were so lucky with the other housemates as well, an amazing bunch of people that we clicked with from the start.. We were so so lucky to have landed on our feet, it’s not very common for newbies in Queenstown and a lot tend to give up and leave!!
So Pinewood was home, Ferg Bakery was work and the 10 people we lived with were family, the extraordinary life was in full swing!!
Daily life ensued as it would in any other town, except these days we were living in Queenstown, the town that continuously blew me away and had me saying ‘oh stop it Queenstown’ every day of the week!
A 10 minute walk from our house would get you to the centre of town, from here the possibilities were endless. Some days I found myself walking around the incredibly beautiful lake Wakitipu and Queenstown gardens.
Every Saturday a quaint market was set up and attracted a pretty big crowd, it was so nice to wander around or sit on the grass listening to live music and watching the world by. What an incredible town we live in!
Arrowtown is the nearest, a super quaint town that feels as if you have jumped back to when the Cowboys and Indians were around. One of my most memorable visits was during autumn when the town was so picturesque, the autumnal colours were like nothing I’d ever seen before!!
We visited Wanaka quite a few times, either for incredible second hand clothes shopping, visiting the famous Wanaka Tree or for stunning walks around the stunning Lake Wanaka. It felt good to get a car and just explore our surroundings, after all this was our neighbourhood.
The furthest a’field we drove was to Glenorchy. This is one of the most scenic drives in New Zealand with so many beautiful views to admire. The road winds along steep hillsides by lake Wakitipu’s edge and, with many twists and turns, provides constantly changing, mind-blowing views. Cecil Peak and Walter Peak, come into view on the opposite shores just 5km along the way. A third, Mount Nicholas, is visible nearer Glenorchy. You can actually drive to Paradise from here, a place where many Lord Of The Rings Fans would recognise, but we stopped so often to admire the views we left it a bit late for that extra 20km drive.
We also had the opportunity, using our kiwi bus tickets to travel even further south from where we were living and explore Milford Sound, Dunedin and Invercargill. Jen and I took 3 days off work and took the adventure South..
A day at Milford Sound was first, easily the most famous of all the fjords in NZ, driving through the national park was awe inspiringly beautiful, stopping all the way along for incredible photo opportunities and snowball fights 😉
Reaching the Sound was breath taking, the waters so still and the steep cliffs reach out of the water so dramatically it leaves you pretty speechless.. The weather wasn’t perfect for us, they say you either need perfect blue sky or a super rainy day that makes the hundreds of waterfalls flow with added oomph! It was still dramatic and felt as if we were flowing through the set of Jurassic Park – a huge tick off our bucket list!
We then drove onto Invercargill, a very strange town with very little going on, we spent the night here and then moved on. The following day was all about the journey, driving us down to the southern most tip of New Zealand, past extreme coast line and through wonderful farm land. We saw so much, both Jen and I can now say we’ve been to the northern most tip and the southern most tip of the wonderful land that is New Zealand – pretty extraordinary!
We finished up in Dunedin, known for its Scottish and Maori culture as well as beautiful Victorian and Edwardian architecture. It’s a big student city and straight away we loved the feel of the place. Busy, with lots to see and do we walked and explored the city as well as having a cheeky trip to the Cadbury factory and a shopping mall!!
If we weren’t out exploring or spending all our cash over lunch time treats we were spending time as a family in our wonderful little home. We celebrated half Christmas together which is a tradition thats come about probably because of all the English living in town. It’s cold, it’s usually snowing and therefore for us Brits it feels like Christmas.. Also, any excuse for a roast am I right!? So we cooked up a storm, each bringing a little dish to the party. We had a tree, Christmas hats and Elf was on the tele. A pretty perfect day in my eyes!
Of course there were nights out, Thursday became our night of choice, not crazy busy in town with tourists but still good vibes within the bars. Sometimes a handful of us or sometime the whole house would hit the town – it was rare to have a bad night out. And now we had the freedom of our own house we were able to have many a house party. So much fun, we had friends in this town now and our parties were a huge success. Beer pong and flip cup being a set feature!! We even threw a huge joint 90s themed birthday party – the fancy dress was on point. That will forever be one of my favourite nights!
My walk to work was phenomenal – paraglider’s float effortlessly above your head, the incredible Remarkables mountain range to the left that filled with snow more and more everyday and the most stunning views of Lake Wakitipu ahead of me, shimming in the winter sun! A view like that never got old!
Then I would get to work and be greeted by hoards of tourists queuing up for the infamous Ferg Burger or wanting to try one of the ‘tastiest pies in New Zealand.’ There was never a dull day!
My 8 hour shifts were insane, constantly busy, sometimes for hours we would have a queue out the door. And its popularity – all from word of mouth and also honestly, the food is just so damn good!! It was intense and hilarious working at Ferg Bakery – like nothing I’d ever experienced before. The demand was huge but the relaxed attitudes of New Zealanders made the days easy and enjoyable! I’d found myself the most unique and perfect job for my time in Queenstown!!
Work was good, constant hours made for a steady income and a solid home made for many amazing treats, most notably the locals discount 😉 (discounts for residents)
This meant nights out where cheap and discounts on food allowed us to enjoy this incredible lifestyle that little bit more!! We really were living the dream – how was I ever going to leave!?
Being a local had more perks than I would of ever guessed.. One of the biggest being NZone, one of the biggest skydiving company in NZ putting a huge 50% discount on for residents that wanted to throw themselves out of a plane.. We had one month to decide, but really very little persuasion was needed.. It’s always been a dream and when a discount like that comes along its hard to refuse!! Who knew I was such an adrenaline junky, first the Nevis Bungy Jump and now, because of a bargain I can’t turn down a sky dive – look at me go! People jumping out of a plane in this town is just an everyday occurrence. Can’t be that bad can it? (I’ve taken you every step of the way in my previous blog)..
By this time the mountains surrounding us no longer had a light spattering of snow but were transformed under great white blankets of the stuff! The snow had arrived, a little bit behind schedule but this meant ski season now could really start!
There became an amazing buzz about town, it was busy all the time and seeing people in full ski gear, carrying their skis and boards was so unfamiliar to me it filled me with excitement!! Quickly this became the norm, people filed into Ferg Bakery during my morning shifts ready to hit the slopes, geared up to the max, some didn’t even take their goggles off to order their morning coffee and bacon & egg baps 😉
Who was to know that soon enough I would be one of those people!
NZ Ski, the company running the show put on an incredible offer for beginner skiers, $500 for 8 lessons on either of the two mountains in town and then for an extra $100 an all access ski pass to three different mountains. We lived with 2 ski instructors and they told me this offer was too good to be missed – and I’d always wanted to ski.. So I did it, while living in a ski town I learnt to ski. An absolute dream come true and I think one of the best things I’ve ever done!!
I loved every second of it and picked up the basics pretty well. Once I finished my course of 8 lessons I had free rein of the slopes and that felt amazing. Any time off I found myself up the mountain, usually with Megan who has skiied all her life, and slowly but surely we built my confidence up together and hit some of the bigger runs – what a feeling!!
As the slopes are so accessible from town this quickly became what I would do on my days off, I had to pinch myself a lot of the time living in this town. If I wasn’t jumping off ledges or out of planes I was learning to ski!!
And with this as the view can you really blame me..
Time flew by and suddenly ski season was nearing its end, holiday makers around town started to thin out, and children returned back to school, it felt as if the town was beginning to whine down. Our time was also coming to an end. I wasn’t even slightly ready to leave and if I was able to spend the entire year here I so easily could – I’ve officially fallen in love with the place!
All of a sudden August came, and our 6 months in New Zealand was drawing to an end – it was time to pack our bags and summon up the courage to say goodbye to this incredible family we have made here! Of course we dragged it out to the bitter end, leaving drinks, parties, dinner after dinner after dinner, but saying goodbye to that group of people was pretty heart breaking and we needed to make sure it was done properly..and thoroughly! (Also Queenstown has a lot of restaurants – girls gotta try them all).
The most memorable will be the family trip to Skyline restaurant sitting right on top of Bobs peak and overlooking stunning Queenstown! As both Jen and Camilla worked there we were given a few perks, a huge discount off dinner and a free Haka show!! Amazing as we would of never been able to afford dinner at such an amazing place, the food was incredible and it was made even better being surrounded by the family!!
And then our time was up, it was time to head to Auckland and continue the rest of this journey, before I go I’ve got one last thing to say about the town the stole my heart..
Queenstown has the most friendly atmosphere I have ever encountered anywhere in the world with everybody helping each other out. Crime pretty much doesn’t exist here either. Everyone has so much trust in each other that I’ve even seen people leaving their car keys in the ignition whilst shopping in the supermarket! I fell in love with this place and I am heartbroken to be leaving, but my adventurous soul is calling for more. I had such a great time here, yes it is expensive, but you sort of just deal with it and after a while you don’t mind paying an extra dollar for a beer because when you drink it you can enjoy the incredible views over the Remarkables. Yes it can get crowded, but there are more than enough places here where you can escape and hardly meet anyone during a whole day. Queenstown I’ll forever miss you, but I hope to be back soon!