After stuffing ourselves with Fergburgers, we were in the mood for something relaxing. It was still only 5pm and we had the whole evening to ourselves. We had the jet boat ride planned for another day, and other things like farm tours could not be done, as it was too late in the day. The only thing we were left with (except sitting at some cafe/shopping) was the Queenstown Hill. The Queenstown Hill is a place where you can not only get a fantastic view of Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown, but also undertake some fun activities such as paragliding, stargazing, biking and luge. You can hike to the top of this hill (Bob’s Peak) if you want to (it takes about 2 hours). But we decided for the more leisurely option of taking a gondola.
The ticket office for the gondola is on a higher level than the town center. We had to walk through the town center, climb a few steps, and walk up a road to get to the starting point of the ascent to the top of Queenstown Hill. While buying tickets for the gondola, you can also buy tickets for the luge, a fun kart ride downhill. We bought tickets for both, and we opted for one luge ride. We saw people riding the luge up to 5 times! It was that popular! You can buy tickets for the gondola/luge directly at the ticketing office, or you can visit discount websites which have specials going on every now and then. A popular website for this is BookMe.
The gondola ride was quite steep and within 2-3 minutes, we must have climbed 300-odd meters. Once at the top, we got a stunning view of the Queenstown area. There were quite a lot of people up there; almost all of them were tourists.
(view from the top)
(Queenstown garden and Lake Wakatipu)
(Queenstown hotels and houses)
(The Remarkables mountains)
(Lake Wakatipu and Remarkables)
After some photo taking, we continued to the luge ride. We followed the signs for the luge all the way to the back of the building, from where we first had to pick up a helmet. We then get onto a chairlift, which took us further uphill, to the starting point of the luge ride. It can be a little tricky getting on the chairlift, especially if you have never used one, or never gone skiing. You basically have to stand in the path of the oncoming chairlifts, and then as one comes near you, you sit on it quickly.
(picking up our helmets from various sizes)
(going up on chairlifts)
(scenic views can be seen from the chairlift)
(views from the chairlift)
(a person and a kid enjoying the Luge)
(The Luge track)
(scenic setting for a luge track)
(winding turns make the ride fun)
There are two options for the luge ride (Blue Track and Red Track). The Blue Track is for beginners and the Red Track is for people who have done luging before. We had opted for the Blue Track. After we were chair-lifted to the luge track, we got some quick instructions on how to accelerate and break the kart, while also getting familiar with our kart. And before we knew it, we were off. The luge does not go very fast, though the downward slopes make the speed and turns quite exciting. The karts must be going faster on the Red Track, which has a steeper gradient. There is some padding on the sides of the karts, so that nothing is damaged in case you were to bump into another kart, or drive into the side of the track. It is a safe and fun activity for adults and kids.
During the ride, we noticed that there were several benches and tables for sitting by the trackside. There were family members of people riding the luge on those benches. After our ride, we too relaxed on one of these tables, watching luges go by one after the other. We got some incredible views of Queenstown and the surrounding area from these tables/benches, and this place was actually better than the “official” photo taking spot on the lower level, where we disembarked from the gondola.
(beautiful views from the track)
(a beautiful summer day on the Luge track)
(taken from the Luge track)
(lovely combination of sunlight and cloud shadows)
(Queenstown Hill and Luge are must do’s)
We wanted to hang around at the top of Queenstown Hill until sunset, to see the night lights of Queenstown. But all the traveling and sight-seeing during a busy day that we had just spent made us feel very tired. So, after a few minutes, we decided to head back down via the gondola. Overall, the gondola and luge are great activities for everyone. The views are a bonus. My advice would be to make sure that you do not go uphill during dinner time, as tour buses pack a large number of tourists into the gondolas for an evening dinner at the top of the hill. Go up a little earlier and you will have a much more peaceful outing.