Family Fun At The Queenstown Gondola
A trip to the top is now something of a rite of passage for any visitor in Queenstown.
For nearly 50 years the iconic Queenstown Gondola has soared more than 400 metres above Queenstown, taking intrepid families, view-seekers, adrenaline junkies, restaurant buffs, hikers, bikers and a whole cascade of other travellers to the summit of Bob’s Peak.
A short five minute walk from the centre of Queenstown, one of the city’s most encompassing activitiy complexes has been growing and thriving since it first opened as a humble chalet resort in the late 1960s. Today, there is such a range of things to do that a trip to the top is now something of a rite of passage for any visitor in Queenstown.
Rising sharply, visitors to Southern Hemisphere’s steepest cable car, ascend quickly to the roof of the Wakatipu Basin, as the suburban patchwork of houses and shops below melt away into a white haze along the shores of the Lake. On the way up, the magnificent passes of the Remarkables Mountains and Cecil Peak come into full view; a stunning reminder of the wilderness in which Queenstown exists.
Exiting the gondola cabin and heading onto the viewing platforms atop Bob’s Peak, the panoramas of Wakatipu extend even further. This provides the perfect opportunity to snap that must-have family photo, either with some of the most dramatic snow-tipped summits in all of South Island looming in the background, or the deep blue hues of Lake Wakatipu extending into the distance.
Later, families can turn their attention to the wealth of wholesome attractions, ranging from cultural introductions to local Maori customs, to high-energy mountain descents back to Queenstown itself. Food wise, visitors are invited to the Market Kitchen, where a whole host of various worldly cuisines converges to create a gastronomic experience that’s got something for the whole family – no matter what they fancy. Tandoori grills simmer and steam with flavours from the Indian subcontinent and pizzas emerge endlessly from the all-new Italian oven, while the on-site pastry chefs cook up regular batches of super-fresh breads, croissants and other delectable delights.
After food, many head for the Skyline theatre, where performances of the formidable Haka war cry form the pièce de résistance of the Maori culture and customs presentations. During the show, kids and adults alike will be enthralled by a montage of carved Maori totems and wild, tattooed locals, who tell the stories of the mystical beginnings of South Island’s indigenous Polynesians and their immersive, legendary folklore.
Visitors can also consider taking one of the popular hiking trails that start from the Queenstown Gondola complex. These range from easy-going afternoon nature walks, like the Loop Track that meanders its way for 30 minutes around the Gondola building itself, to more difficult day-long hikes, like the Ben Lomond Summit route that climbs nearly 2000 feet to offer up some of the most stunning and hard-fought views over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.
For serious walkers though, it’s the Moonlight Track hike that presents the most challenging of the lot. Wending its way around the crest of Ben Lomond peak, it eventually drops down into the high valleys of the Southern Alps, where guests can spy out the roaring Shotover River and clusters of the old mining towns that once made Otago rich.
But the fun doesn’t stop there, because the Skyline Gondola carries bikes too! From the summit there’s access to no fewer than 14 individual mountain bike routes, each shooting off in different directions around the mountains and forests of Ben Lomond and Bob’s Peak. Longer and slower green runs allow visitors to return to Queenstown through the woods of the Ben Lomond Reserve, while there are plenty of high-adrenaline black tracks for the more advanced riders in town.
For less demanding fun, families look straight to the winding cement tracks of the Skyline Luge, which skirts its way around the mountainside to the base of a separate, dedicated chairlift. Here, adrenaline-junkies can opt for the speedy advanced track, while view-seekers can take the slower scenic descent, both using one of the Skyline Gondola’s trademark luges, with their unique handlebar braking systems and cool, streamline design.
In short, the Queenstown Gondola has shouldered its way to the forefront of family-fun activities in the town, offering much more than just a scenic trip to the peaks above Wakatipu. Atop the summit, high speed luges dart past diners in the Market Kitchen, while seasoned bikers embark on the rocky trails, and gutsy paragliders gear up to descend back to town the daring way. This is a place, quite literally, bursting with activities.