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Queenstown: the adventure capital of the world is like a seductive magnet


February 24, 2012/5.26

Above Unwinding in the hot tub at the St Moritz Hotel in Queenstown.

It’s like a dream come true. My dawn charter flight makes its final approach into Queenstown Airport, which has just been voted among the best approaches in the world.
   This spectacular New Zealand resort is the adventure capital of the world and I am blown away by the summer scenery.
   It’s no wonder Queenstown, with its magnificent scenery and high-octane activities, is ranked eighth on Lonely Planet’s list of top 10 places in the world to visit this year. Queenstown is no longer just a winter skiing destination. It offers fuel-injected fun all summer long.
   My limousine arrives at St Moritz, the hotel with the best five-star views in town. The lake view suite has spectacular views.
   I stroll into town for the best biggest breakfast at Fergburgers Café. Just ask for the fluffer.
   Next on the list: a thrilling Kawarau jet-boat ride, which hits speeds over 90 km/h and does 360 degree spins, producing squeals of fun from others in the boat. Boat driver Kevin tells me Kawarau is the longest-running commercial jet boat company in the world. They leave on the hour from the wharf right by town.
   It gets even better. Guide Pete Hitchman takes me into the bush on one of his You v. Wild survival tours, based along the lines of the Bear Grylls TV programme. On the Sam Summers track, Pete teaches how to survive. He shows how to make an aspirin from a tree, which plants can be safely eaten, and what plant to use as an antiseptic and how to filter water. He lights a fire, by friction with a shoe lace. It feels great being outdoors enjoying nature in the wild.
   I’m exhausted. Back in town I sip a latte outside Vudu Cafe and watch a stream of paragliders float off gondola hill. I glance up the gondola and decide to hire a bike and hit the forest tracks in the high-octane new mountain bike park from the gondola back in to town. It’s a big adrenalin-buzz; so steep—even on the beginners’ green track—but exciting.
   By afternoon’s end I soak in a hot tub at St Moritz. This is the best place in the world right now. This adrenalin-junkie, sexy, love-making capital of the world is so seductive for activity-lovers who embrace the staggering beauty of this wild destination.
   Refreshed, I wander down to Steamer Wharf to eat at Wai restaurant for yummy whitebait and salmon, washed down by a buttery Spy Valley chardonnay. Superb hostess Katie suggests going to the Sub-Zero Ice Bar for a drink, or possibly a trip on the steam ship Earnslaw, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary this year.
   Around the waterfront, couples stroll arm in arm; girls in bikinis and guys in baggy shorts get the last of the sun on the lakeside beach. The setting sun casts a rosy tint over the rugged Remarkables. This picture-postcard resort destination is a mecca for people with a lust for high-octane excitement.
   At dusk I unwind with a back massage at Sofitel. They were named last year by Travel & Leisure as having the best spa in the world. Michelle is an outstanding massage expert and worked on all my bumps and bruises from a gloriously hectic day. Tired but inspired, I plod back to my fabulous St Moritz suite, flop onto the bed and ponder my potential conquests for the next day.
   Who knows what I will get into: skydiving, paragliding, rafting, hang gliding, bungee-jumping, canyoning, horse-trekking, mountain-biking, water-skiing, sailing, deer hunting, canoeing, mountain-climbing, kayaking, fly-fishing, ice-skating, luge or river-surfing?—Kip Brook, Word of Mouth Media NZ

Kip Brook is an occasional contributor to Lucire, and a London bureau chief correspondent.

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