Chilly out, party on

Ballarat Trading Co, a gastro pub with a courtyard and outdoor seating in Queenstown's pedestrian mall.
Ballarat Trading Co, a gastro pub with a courtyard and outdoor seating in Queenstown's pedestrian mall. 

A big day on the slopes can become thirsty work, but finding a spot to relax afterwards is not a problem in Queenstown, writes Andrew Taylor.

An Englishman, an Irishman and a German walk into a bar in Queenstown.

In the centre of New Zealand's South Island snowfields that scenario is no joke, as thousands of skiers, snowboarders and resort staff from around the world descend the slopes daily to drink, dance and do just about anything but get a long night's sleep.

Heidi's Hut, a mountain chalet  at the base of the Rocky Gully T-bar.
Heidi's Hut, a mountain chalet at the base of the Rocky Gully T-bar. 

Skiing is thirsty work and with more than 40 bars and pubs, Queenstown has no shortage of options. We asked locals to choose their favourite watering holes.

UP HIGH

It's hard to beat the view from the top of the Alta chairlift at the Remarkables, especially with a glass of mulled wine from the local Amisfield vineyard in hand.

Admittedly, some visitors opt for BYO, such as the group of Irish snowboarders who offered a hip flask of whisky on the Alta chair.

But with bratwurst and bacon on the barbecue and a selection of New Zealand beers, the Ice Bar is a picturesque spot for resting weary thighs between runs, especially on bluebird days when the sun is shining on fresh, powdery snow.

Across the valley at Coronet Peak waits a wood fire and mulled wine at Heidi's Hut, a mountain chalet at the base of the Rocky Gully T-bar. A six-course degustation dinner kicked off with a Bellini cocktail is offered on Friday nights, with guests driven by bus to the chalet from the Coronet Peak base building.

APRES SKIING

Apart from snow, the most important aspect of skiing is your first bevvie once you unstrap your skis or snowboard, says Ro, a ski instructor at the Remarkables. "It's just a little drink that's nice to have at the end of a good day really shredding on the mountain."

Ro says the big fireplace and pool tables makes Searle Lane (15 Church Street) ideal for winding down and sampling the local beers from the Arrow Brewery. The bar's website says it's the place to meet someone who has lived in Queenstown for longer than three months.

Ro also recommends Pig & Whistle Pub (41 Ballarat Street) for its 17 different beers on tap, outdoor deck overlooking Horne Creek and decently priced pub grub.

BEST VIEWS

On the edge of Lake Wakatipu, the Boiler Room (88 Beach Street) has a sunny outdoor deck with a view and a seasonal wine menu featuring drops from central Otago and Hawke's Bay.

"It may get a little rowdy later on in the night but just at the beginning it's usually nice, then the Ballarat for a lovely pint of Guinness," Ro says.

The Ballarat Trading Co. (7-9 The Mall), a gastro pub with a courtyard and outdoor seating in Queenstown's pedestrian mall, is a Sunday favourite with a roast, quiz and happy hour.

Eichardt's (2 Marine Parade) is another lakeside pub with an eclectic menu based on local produce (anyone for Tahr Tartare?) and a well-stocked bar.

Faced with a pair of ailing, sniffly customers, barman Gary mixes hot toddies with dark rum and whisky as well as lemon, cloves, cinnamon and topped up with Earl Grey tea to suit individual tastes and afternoon work commitments.

"We actually make a hot apple toddy, which is on the cocktail list, but what we had was more akin to the classic toddy," he says.

COOLEST TUNES

Tardis Bar (Cow Lane) won't please fans of '80s cover bands and chart-topping pop.

But its playlist of hip-hop, reggae, dancehall and drum'n'bass gets the thumbs up from Matakauri Lodge head chef Jonathan Rogers.

"It's dirty and dingy but the best music in town. It has a really good sound system, too."

Rogers suggests fans of alternative rock try Zephyr (Searle Lane), one of Queenstown's newer bars, fitted out with crates of Speight's beer and materials from Christchurch buildings demolished after the 2011 earthquake.

COCKTAIL MADNESS

Muddled, shaken or stirred, the mixologists at Bardeaux (Eureka Arcade) and Barmuda (Searle Lane) are pretty handy with a cocktail shaker and paper umbrella according to Luke, a ski instructor from England.

But Luke says Queenstown's best barman calls the Naughty Penguin (Cow Lane) home. "He'll read you inside out and give you the best cocktail you want."

The Bunker (Cow Lane) gets the thumbs up from Gary for its cocktails and late-night drinks: "Sometimes it gets a bit racy, but usually the drinks are of a good standard."

At the other end of the spectrum, Gary says Harry's Pool Bar (8 Brecon Street) is a no-fuss, after-work option. "Sometimes you want to dumb it down," he says.

"You just want to go for some easy beers or play pool."

RISING FROM THE ASHES

A fire in the kitchen of Fat Badgers Pizza destroyed the World Bar and its collection of memorabilia in May. But it is still possible to order the bar's signature cocktails served in teapots from pop-up venue The Find, a little further down Shotover Street.

A late happy hour from 9pm to 10pm serves $NZ4 ($3.50) beers and half-price teapots to night owls, with DJs providing the tunes to burn up the dance floor.

The writer travelled with assistance from Air New Zealand and Destination Queenstown.

TRIP NOTES

GETTING THERE

Air New Zealand flies to Queenstown direct from Sydney. airnewzealand.com.

STAYING THERE

Accommodation ranges from camping (chilly in winter) and backpacker hostels such as Nomads (nomadsqueenstown.com) and the two YHAs (yha.co.nz), where prices begin at about $25 a night, to the more upmarket four-star Hotel Novotel Queenstown Lakeside (novotel.com), with rooms from $175 a night. Alternatively, max out the credit card and enjoy the five-star luxury of Matakauri Lodge (matakaurilodge.com), from $NZ595 ($524) a night for a lodge room, or Blanket Bay (blanketbay.com), which has rooms from $NZ775 a night.

More information

queenstownnz.co.nz

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