After Invercargill, which we thought was lovely, we went to Kingston. It’s a little town in the Southern Lakes area, near Queenstown, Te Anau, Wanaka, and others. We were there in July 2016, for 12 days.
The Southern Lakes Region in NZ’s South Island, with kids
We got there at night, we could barely see a thing. It was hard finding the number on the house. And, remember, we had just decided to go to Milford Sound out of the blue, in the middle of the way. We were so tired we probably wouldn’t have appreciated anyway.
We unloaded the car, turned on all the heaters in the house, took a shower and slept. Next day, we woke up to an amazing blue sky, a great and warm house, clean, tidy, with big windows that gave us the most amazing views ever of the Lake Whakatipu. How can one not enjoy seeing (from the warmth of the house, of course) the blue skies, the sparkling blue waters of the Lake Wakatipu, the beautiful mountains that surround Kingston and the trees and birds all around?
I loved it from the first morning and I was super sad as we were leaving.
This is the house. It had almost everything we needed, it was clean and well cared for. Everything was easy to find and there were instructions on the fridge door. It had a lot of food we were able to use (like cans of coconut cream, rice, pasta, frozen veggies, etc), enough toilet paper for all our stay. The shower and toilet area are a bit cold, but it was fine if we turned the toilet heater on a few minutes before we were going to use it. I loved the house. Did I mention it’s waterfront? And the views? I also loved that I could keep working and watch them play by the river bed from the window. We could reach each other by shouting.
Lake Wakatipu in itself is an amazing thing. The blue and super clear water are so inviting it’s hard to resist. In fact, we did try to swim one day, but as you could imagine, it was freezing cold. It was winter, after all. It was around 7°C on land, the water was freezing. I mean, it was like knives stabbing you. All we could do was sit there and try to relax, but after around 15 minutes none of us could take anymore and we just went to the warmth of the air-conditioned living room.
We walked a few times around the bay and found so many interesting stuff (like an animal skull, beautiful colored stones, a penguin area – closed for humans, and loads more). There are a playground and a toilet there too.
In Kingston, besides the walk around the lake, we had coffee at the only shop in town, the Kingston café. Nice, warm and cozy. It sells everything, pretty handy, though a bit costly.
We drove a few times to Queenstown because it’s the closest town – sightseeing, grocery shopping, renewing car registration, posting post cards and all that. I need to say, Queenstown was my least favorite town in the area.
It’s a small city full of restaurants and shops. There are a few walks, a pretty park, the waterfront and the end. NOTHING free or cheap (like museums). And it was so crowded – by the way, it was ski season.
We loved Patagonia, the dessert place, with very sweet food. It got a bit too sweet for me, but it was still good.
We also loved Ferg Burger. The only problem: too crowded, we ended up eating on the street. It was cold, and not easy to manage, and people kept attempting to sit on our food, and well…. not nice. The burgers, though, were awesome.
Oh, I almost forgot! There’s The Empanada Kitchen by the lakefront and it was AMAZING empanadas. A bit small, but really good.
That’s all we did there. Eat.
No, really, we also went to the movies, to see Ice Age 5, but even the cinema wasn’t good.
Traffic was really bad, and we didn’t think Queenstown was worth it.
We went also to Arrowtown. It’s a super small town, but really charming.
There’s a museum (which we didn’t visit) and a Chinese Settlement Village, which is an outdoors ‘museum’ of the beginning of the Chinese migration to that area. It was super sad, but an amazing learning opportunity. Plus, it was a very beautiful walk. We walked from one side of the town to the other and it was pretty all the way.
There we bought some lollies at the Remarkable Sweet Shop. It was super crowded, but it had many sweets from different parts of the world, so different and fun! And sweet! We loved it. (by the way, there’s also a branch in Queenstown).
Then we had lunch at Arrowtown Bakery, and it was delicious! Plus, cheaper than a restaurant!
We loved Arrowtown.
The last place we visited in the area was Wanaka. We only went to see the Wanaka tree. Apparently, Wanaka tree is the most photographed tree in the world, and I can totally see why. It’s extremely photogenic, and the background is always beautiful. We spent around 30 minutes there and during that time, around 10 groups of people came around to take a photo of the tree.
We also ate at the Trout Bar and it was pretty good! The antipasto platter was the biggest we ever saw and really good. Not cheap, as it cost $45 for 2 (but it could feed 3 people easily) but the other plates were reasonably priced.
What I found out about this region is that it’s the prettiest place in NZ. There are many amazing places in this country, but this part of it goes beyond what’s possible to imagine. It’s incredibly gorgeous. The mountains surrounding the lakes – and, by the way, every lake has a different color, from the deepest blue to the most turquoise blue – with loads of trees of different colors, and roads, not counting, of course, the sky, which gives up a different show at every hour. Even though we didn’t really love Queenstown, we can’t deny its beauty.
The Southern Lakes region deserves a visit.
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Below you can watch our video. It shows a little bit of each place!