Regular visitors to Cameralabs will know we're based in beautiful Queenstown, in New Zealand's South Island, and our camera galleries are packed with photos from the surrounding area! Since so many people seem to be organising trips to New Zealand, here's some tips for Queenstown and the surrounding area.
Queenstown is one of the most famous locations in New Zealand. Sure it has a reputation as a party or adrenaline activity town – and there’s plenty of both if you want it – but it’s also a spectacular-looking place with loads of photo opportunities. Here’s some highlights of the area that we particularly enjoy!
. Take a cable car (or a 45 minute hike) up to the Skyline
which has the best views of Queenstown itself, along with a café, buffet restaurant, luge ride, tandem paragliding launch and several trails over the back of Ben Lomond. The view you’ll see will be familiar to any regular of Camera Labs as our main test shot.
It fits perfectly into a 35mm equivalent wide angle lens. If you spot someone with a tripod and selection of cameras in the corner, say hello! The light is best just after lunch at around 1-2pm - ideal timing after the 10am Earnslaw cruise and farm tour has returned!
If you fancy a good hike, there’s also trails from the Skyline up to the summit of Ben Lomond, although check first if you want to cross the saddle and head along the Moonlight Track instead as it may be closed. Don’t underestimate either hike though – both are quite challenging and there's little shelter or no from the punishing Sun. If you fancy a quicker route down, consider the tandem paragliding!
: The TSS Earnslaw
is a vintage steamship which makes regular journeys from Queenstown to Walter Peak for sheepdog and sheep-shearing demonstrations and various dining options – great fun and highly recommended. Again you’ll have spotted the Earnslaw in many of the Camera Labs reviews:
The Earnslaw departs Queenstown every two hours from 10am in Summer, so get yourself there if you fancy photos of it heading off towards Walter Peak; it returns around 1:20 later, so be there at, say, 11:20am or 1:20pm to see it arriving. The Farm Tours (recommended!) leave at 10am, 12 and 2pm in Summer and take approx 3.5hrs, but check times if you're visiting in Winter.
- if you only do one thrilling activity in Queenstown, make it the Shotover Jet. This departs from Arthurs Point (although a bus will take you from Queenstown center if you don't have a car). It's simply enormous fun!
– half an hour’s drive outside Queenstown, this quaint gold rush town has a lot of atmosphere and some of the best restaurants in the area – probably the best of all being Saffron. There’s also a good hike from over the river, and you’re only a few minutes drive from the Gibbston Valley for some Central Otago wine tasting and some tasty vineyard lunch options...
- The Gibbston Valley is the nearest wine growing region to Queenstown and only about a half hour drive from town; Arrowtown's en-route too - see above. As with other wine growing regions around the world, there's plenty of tasting and tasty food opportunities.
The Winehouse and Kitchen just after the AJ Hackett Bungee does particularly good lunches. Amisfield vineyard (on the corner of the turning to Arrowtown before you reach Gibbston) is also a wonderful location for a late lunch (it's not open for dinner!), and their Arcadia Brut is one of the best Kiwi sparkling wines.
Another 20 minutes or so beyond Gibbston you'll reach Cromwell, the 'fruit basket' of Otago with fruit stalls by the side of the road and some particularly large examples as you enter the town! It's also where you'll find nearby Bannockburn, another wine growing region particularly noted for its Pinot Noirs. Several routes to Queenstown pass through Cromwell, so if you're heading through and are into wine, it's definitely worth the short detour to Bannockburn.
– 45 minutes drive from Queenstown along the edge of Lake Wakatipu brings you to the small township of Glenorchy and access to some of New Zealand’s (and the world’s) greatest hiking. This is true Lord of the Rings territory and the views are spectacular.
The most popular hikes are the Routeburn and Rees / Dart tracks, but if you’re not a multi-day hiker, you can still get a great impression by just driving up roads like the one to the Invincibles / Rees track trailhead, or to 'Paradise' and the Dart end of the Rees / Dart track. Many of these roads have small streams to ford though, which can turn into big streams after heavy rain or the winter snow melt. Be warned if you're in a 2WD rental car!
Above: Harris Saddle on the Routeburn track.
Above: Dart River on Rees / Dart track
. Everyone goes to Milford Sound, and justifiably so, but as a consequence it can seem a bit busy at times. For a more peaceful Fjordland experience, visit the only slightly less spectacular Doubtful Sound. There’s considerably fewer people there and the overnight cruise
option is superb, with Kayaking and plenty of wildlife spotting
opportunities – bring a wide lens for the landscapes and a long zoom for the wildlife, along with a waterproof option if you take a camera out on a kayak.
You can see some stills from Doubtful Sound taken with the Sony N2 in the middle of its video tour
, and also a video clip from the deck on in the middle of our Fujifilm F30 video tour
. For the perfect Fjordland experience, I'd do an afternoon cruise on Milford Sound and an overnighter on Doubtful.
I hope that's given you some ideas!
Cameralabs' Gallery locations
The photos in the Cameralabs Review Galleries are taken around Queenstown. If you're visiting here, why not check them out?!
First step: open this Gallery page
The first shot used to be of the America's Cup Yacht NZL14 - the yacht that competed in the America's Cup in San Diego in 1992 - but it's now in semi-retirement across the lake by the Gardens. Since then I've slightly repositioned my location on Steamer wharf to capture some of the other boats docked in its place.
The second shot is taken from the Beach off Marine Parade.
The third shot is of the TSS Earnslaw
approaching its dock at Steamer Wharf. The farm tour to Walter Peak Station is highly recommended!
The fourth shot is a portrait taken from various locations depending on conditions.
The fifth shot is a macro photo of a VIA Mini ITX motherboard!
The sixth shot is an indoor portrait taken in Whitcoulls Newsagents on Beach Street.
The seventh shot is taken inside Dux De Lux
on Church Street - great micro-brewed beers!
The eighth shot is taken inside the church at the top of Church Street.
I also use a variety of locations around Queenstown to film sample videos. My first handheld pan shows the boats around Steamer Wharf. My tripod-based pan is again from the Skyline Gondola, and I also now use the loading bay area to test the tracking capabilities of approaching cable cars. The indoor handheld pan is filmed inside Dux De Lux, and the tempting looking coffees and sandwiches are filmed at the excellent Vudu cafe. Vudu Cafe and its recent counterpart, Vudi Cafe and Larder are two of my favourite places to go in Queenstown for coffee and brunch.