Today we flew from Auckland to Queenstown, self-designated adventure sports capital of the world. Visitors come here to ski, to skydive, to ride in jetboats, and to bungee jump. The town itself is a bustling, crowded mass of restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops - exactly the sort of place we typically avoid. So after we landed (in snow flurries that delayed our arrival) we picked up our rental car and headed out of town.
We drove a dozen miles up the road to have lunch in Arrowtown, a small restored gold mining town that's no less touristy than Queenstown, but is considerably smaller. After lunch we drove back toward Queenstown to our hotel, located overlooking snowy mountains and the tumbling Shotover River canyon.
With only a couple of daylight hours remaining, we decided to take the wonderful drive out to Glenorchy, where we stayed during our last visit in 2011. It's renowned as one of the most spectacular drives in New Zealand, which makes it one of the most spectacular drives anywhere on the planet.
The road follows the shoreline of Lake Wakatipu for about 40 kilometers. At times you're at lake level, at other times you're driving high above the water, winding along a twisting single lane blasted from the cliffs. Across the spectacularly blue waters of the lake, you're treated to a constant panorama of the peaks of the Humboldt Range. It's not easy to keep your eyes on the road - and that's my only complaint about the drive: there are very few turnouts where you can safely get off the road and bask in the amazing views.