48 hours in Queenstown

Skiing in New Zealand is nothing like Australia. Mostly, you don't stay in the snow, but in mountain towns below the snow fields.

Queenstown is the biggest and most popular of the towns and is the gateway to the Remarkables and Coronet Peak.

You can get there by flying direct from Melbourne, or via Christchurch where you can hook up with a coach service or hire your own car.

Once in Queenstown there are many things to do besides the skiing - restaurants, bars, shopping and adventure activities abound.

After years of trial and error, Robert Upe revisits Queenstown in a hypothetical 48 hours, sampling the best.

Day 1

7.30am: Breakfast at Joe's Garage. If you like the feel of the cafes in Brunswick Street, you'll be at home with bacon and eggs and a latte at the counter. Service can be a little haphazard when it's packed, just like Brunswick Street, but the coffee is the talk of the town. The arty/filmy crowd of Queenstown hangs out here. The cafe is next to the post office. It's a converted brown garage that has a spanner as the door handle.

8.30am: Shuttle bus to the Remarkables ski field. There are some steep drops off the unmade road and when it gets slippery the adrenaline levels can rise. However, in the hands of the shuttle drivers you always seem to feel safe. Shuttles pick up from many hotels. It's 28 kilometres from Queenstown to the ski field.

9.30am-3pm: Ski the Remarkables, but take time to admire the views of Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown. Good terrain for all levels, some steep chutes for experts. Homeward Bound is one of the run's most talked about by experienced skiers - it's 1.5 kilometres and often holds excellent snow. Starts near the top of Shadow Basin and ends on the access road with a shuttle ride back up. It's the quality of snow, rather than the steepness, which gives this run its good reputation.


4pm: After an early exit off the mountain head for apres drinks at the Minus 5 Bar at Steamer Wharf. It's probably colder in the bar than at the snowfield - that's because everything in there - including the bar and even the glasses - are made of ice. Drinkers are provided with jackets, mittens and huts. Bit of a gimmick, but good fun.

4.30pm: Back to the accommodation. In this case we've chosen to stay at a cosy cottage at Millbrook, a luxury golf and spa resort set in a rolling green landscape surrounded by white-topped mountains. Millbrook is about 20 minutes from Queenstown, however it is so good it doesn't really matter that you're out of town. The pool, spa, and fitness centre are a great place to unwind after skiing hard and the restaurants are award winning. Millbrook started life as a wheat farm and was transformed into a tent city so it could be used as a field hospital for NZ soldiers during World War One. These days it is all about luxury facilities, but the ambience of the place is what tops it off. For starters, the driveway is lined with more than 100 trees that are more than 100 years old. They include elms, sycamore and oaks. The par-72 champion-ship golf course can be used all-year round, however on some frosty mornings you may have to wait for tee off until the ground thaws. Mountain bikes are available and a good way to take in the peaceful landscape. (If you want to stay in town, high-end recommendations include Eichardt's Hotel in the town centre near the shore of Lake Wakatipu or the Heritage Hotel with elevated views over the lake).

7.30pm: Pre-dinner drinks at Bardeaux. It's everything you imagine a sophisticated snow bar to be - comfy couches and the biggest wood fire you're likely to come across. Great cocktails and wine list. Not too loud. Stay opens until 5am, so you can head back there for nightcaps. It's found in Eureka Arcade, a laneway off the The Mall that also is home to Barup, a super-trendy drinking spot that should be tried during the night.

8.30pm: Dinner at The Bunker in Cow Lane. It has log fires and fine dining. A Kiwi delicacy is the Bluff oyster, excellent when combined with a Kiwi sauvignon blanc. Bluff oysters are from the Foveaux Strait at the bottom end of the South Island and are harvested between March and August. If you don't fancy a sauvignon blanc, a local wine to try is actor Sam Neill's Two Paddocks label. He lives and makes his wine close to Queenstown and specialises in pinot noir.

10.30pm: Places with atmosphere for nightcaps include the cocktail bar upstairs at The Bunker, Bardeaux, Barup and the Boardwalk. If the hunger pains hit late into the night, there's a little burger joint called the Fergburger at one end of Cow Lane.

Day 2

9am: Shuttle bus to Coronet Peak. You can leave a bit later, in case you've had too much of Sam Neill's pinot, because the road to Coronet Peak is the best mountain road in the land. It's sealed all the way and only 18 kilometres from Queenstown.

9.30am-midday: Ski the Peak - there are great cruisers all over the place and the snow grooming on the main trails is very good. The M1 is the most popular intermediate route and is 1.8 kilometres from top to bottom. Beginners will like the Meadows area and experts should look for Exchange Drop. A full-day of skiing or boarding on the Peak would be worthwhile, but there's other business back in town.

12.30pm: Grab a quick lunch in Wakatipu Arcade in Queenstown. Several choices, including takeway wraps at Habebes. The arcade is suburban, so if it's not freezing the best bet is to venture outdoors and find a bench overlooking Lake Wakatipu. The lake is massive and a sight to behold. If time allowed, we would cruise it on the vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw.

1.15pm: Jet boat down the Shotover River. Fast paced and drenching.

2.30pm: AJ Hackett introduced bungy jumping to NZ decades ago and still has several jumps in Queenstown, ranging from the original 43-metre Kawarau Bridge jump to the 134-metre Nevis Highwire jump.

4.30pm: Fly by Wire claims to be the fastest ride in the world at 171km/h. It involves lying in a pencil-shaped rocket suspended by wires and flying it in a deep canyon.

6pm: Shopping - there are souvenir, T-shirt, clothing and mountain gear shops to browse. Enough to keep busy for days but if you want more journey to nearby Arrowtown, a gold-mining era town with lots of interesting alleyways. Many shops stay open late.

7.30pm: Dinner at Winnie Bagoes, a lively pizza restaurant terrific for families. Later in the night, the bar scene gets going at Winnies. There are pool tables and live entertainment. Find it in The Mall.