Queenstown in May = Autumn leaves, mulled wine, stunning views, and a lot of Pinot Noir!
New Zealand for many people is a once in a lifetime, bucket list country to visit. But for me, it’s the place I now call home! I live in the North Island, and so a trip down to the South Island was an absolute must for me! I had been told how amazing it was, but nothing could have prepared me for the stunning views, incredible autumnal colours, and delicious wine!
Day #1 FRIDAY
We arrived in Queenstown on Friday having flown from Auckland to Queenstown that morning. Masks were still to be worn on domestic flights, but after travelling long-haul during lockdown, this was a doddle! The views from the plane window were amazing, and if the views were as good as this at ground level, I was in for a treat. TOP TIP – Sit on the left side of the plane from AKL>ZQN so you get the best views! Once we landed, we grabbed a taxi from outside the airport to take us to The Millbrook Resort in Arrowtown which is where we would be staying for the weekend.
The Millbrook is renowned for its luxury accommodation, incredible restaurants, impeccable customer service, as well as its highly sort after golf course which brings in golfers from all over the country! As we were a larger group, we were in two houses – half of us in a private residence and the other in a rented, 4-bedroom house. The rented house was stunning – beautifully kept, exceptionally clean and well stocked with everything we could have needed.
Mini Pub Crawl through Arrowtown
After checking into our house and a quick freshen up, we made our way into Arrowtown. Arrowtown is a lovely little town, only about 15 minutes drive from Queenstown airport with a very cute little high-street stuffed full of restaurants, cafes, bars and independent shops.
First stop on the weekends little Arrowtown pub crawl was the New Orleans Hotel bar. A lovely bar with a roaring fire and soft couches inside plus a sunlit terrace to the front. We sat outside on their terrace starting our weekend as we intended to continue… all together, with a drink, watching the sun dip behind the mountains behind us.
Next stop was The Fork & Tap – A lovely little pub with a great outdoor area that had huge wooden benches and a ‘UK beer garden vibe’. Throw in baskets full of blankets and warm patio heaters, it made for a lovely early-evening destination. I got a delicious glass of mulled wine which historically as a brit, I’ve only drunk at Christmas time whilst walking through a Bavarian Market somewhere, but amongst the autumnal leaves and cool Queenstown air – it was the perfect NZL winter warmer!
Night #1 Dinner Time
Everyone was starting to get hungry by now, so we all decided to head back to The Millbrook to shower, change and get ready for the rest of the evening. As we were a huge group (18 of us) we had booked a table at one of The Millbrook’s amazing restaurants – The Hole In One Café. We sat in their alfresco dining area surrounded by heaters and the cocktails got flowing! I ordered an Amaretto Sour – My fave cocktail and not even on the menu, but they were more than happy to accommodate me which was amazing. For dinner I had a delicious salad with a fresh salmon fillet… it was UNREAL!
Hitting The Town
Dinner done, there was only one option now that everyone was fueled on Mojitos, Amaretto Sours and Long Island Iced Tea’s – TOWN. As guests of The Millbrook, we took full advantage of their shuttle service from The Millbrook into town. We headed to a place called Winnies, a popular bar in town to have some drinks and a dance! It was great fun, the music was great and they even had a roof which opened up so you could see the stars.
Due to an early start, long day of travelling, several strong cocktails, a big dinner, and a couple of hours of dancing in town, it was definitely time to call it a night and head to back home to go to bed hoping to wake up ready and fresh (ish) for day 2!
Day #2 SATURDAY
After an amazing sleep in a super king size bed, myself and the rest of the house all gathered downstairs with a coffee, swaddled in our complimentary robes to discuss the antics and goings on of the night before. After getting the rundown from the previous evening, we headed over to meet the rest of the group staying in house 2 (via golf buggy) to get Day 2 underway!
Walk into Arrowtown
As the weather was in our favor, some of the boys went off to play golf / practice their chipping off the lawn, and the rest of us decided to walk back into Arrowtown for a coffee and a little shopping trip. The walk was actually really nice and much needed after a big dinner with lots of cocktails! We went for a coffee at a lovely little café called the Postmasters Cottage Café. It was adorable. Cute little wooden tables with Parisian style metal chairs, surrounded by a cottage garden full of flowers and fruit trees, it really was a lovely place for a coffee. Dog friendly with a huge choice of hot drinks, pastries, sandwiches and yummy goodies – it was hard to resist it all.
Fueled on caffeine with shopping bags clutched in one hand and after a quick trip to an alcohol shop to stock up on booze for the weekend, we walked back to the house to meet up with the rest of the group and get ready for an amazing lunch the host had planned.
Lunch at Akarua Winery
I had heard such good things about the wine in Queenstown that I was really excited to head to the Akarua Winery for lunch. We had booked a table in advance and opted for the 2 course set menu. We had haloumi and pear salads to start followed by an ENORMOUS amount of perfectly roasted veggies, slow cooked beef short rib and a leg of lamb. It was so so yummy, not only was I so distracted by food I forgot to photograph it, but I also genuinely had to unbutton my jeans afterwards! To be expected, the wines at Akarua were divine. We had quite a few different bottles floating about the table, but the ones I tried and loved were their 25 Steps Pinot Noir 2019 and their Akarua Rosé Brut NV.
After a long lunch we headed back to The Millbrook to have a couple more drinks and start thinking about the evening plans ahead.
Night Out No#2 In Queenstown
Queenstown has lots of great options if you are looking for a fun night out, having been to Winnies the night before, we knew what to expect and where to go – however this was a Saturday night, and town was considerably busier than the night before!
First stop of the evening, The Sundeck. A cool outdoor bar with fire pits, a house DJ and amazing drinks… what more could you want? On the smaller side though, our large group took up 1/3 of the bar but it was such fun. Dancing and drinking countless coconut margaritas we were all having an amazing time. As it got later, everyone was keen to move on to the next bar and really by this point we had 1 option (in our minds anyways) back to Winnies to dance to some 90’s and 00’s classics. Winnies was far far busier this evening but the atmosphere was epic!
Getting food at the end of a night out is just as much a part of the night out as the actual ‘night out’. I had been told about an amazing bakery and pie shop in town which was a must-go over the weekend – The Fergbaker. OMG the pies were incredible, and clearly this was the place to go as there were people queuing out the doors at 2am waiting in line for a pie or toasted bagel.
A quick Uber home and it was already the end of day 2. Days seemed to be shooting by, and tomorrow would be our last full day before we headed home!
Day #3 SUNDAY
Wander Around Queenstown
Safe to say today was a slower start to a day – most people were feeling a little fragile and so we spent a good chunk of the morning just all hanging out at home, had a big fry up breakfast and chatted about the bits we remembered from the night before…
Tummies full, a handful of us decided we wanted to see Queenstown a little more and so made our way into town to explore. It was a lovely sunny day, and probably the warmest day we had in Queenstown. We grabbed a fresh juice and walked through town. It was nice to just wander, see the area and enjoy the sunshine. After a trip to a haunted house was quickly dismissed, we decided that we all wanted to go up The Skyline Gondola to check out Queenstown from above.
Go Up The Skyline Gondola
I have never been in a Gondola unless it was skiing in La Plagne or other parts of Europe, however we were told the views were amazing from the top and so this was a must! It costs $44 per adult for a round trip but it’s lovely, and worth the money. There is a café, lookout balcony and chill out areas at the top, all of which are gorgeous on a crisp sunny day! The view was pretty breathtaking – from the top all you can see is the vast mountains and surrounding sea, it really was stunning!
It was getting close to lunchtime by now, and so we decided that we would head back down to earth and grab a quick bite to eat, before heading home. We got some yummy sushi and wandered around the shops before getting a taxi back to The Millbrook for an afternoon with the rest of the group.
The Last Supper
Being a large group, restaurant bookings had to be done in advance as we soon discovered when we attempted to find a table at a restaurant (last minute) on the Sunday evening. Everywhere, including The Millbrook’s own restaurants, were fully booked and so we turned to Plan B – A Thai takeaway from Arrow Thai Food. This turned out to be a great idea. Not only was the food delicious, but it meant that everyone could stay in comfy clothes, keep drinking and playing games. What better way to spend a Sunday with your friends!
Before we knew it, it was Monday morning and it was time to leave. We had an awesome time down south and it was such a lovely way to spend a weekend. Queenstown, I will be back to sample more pinot noir, explore more of the town, maybe even go skiing…who knows, watch this space… UNTIL NEXT TIME!
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