Exploring The Area In Queenstown

There is no better place to appraise Queenstown than from the Skyline Gondola (® 03/441-0101; www.skyline.co.nz), which takes you up to Bob's Peak. The view is breathtaking. You can stay for lunch or dinner at the buffet restaurant or cafe (see "Where to Dine," later). The gondola operates from 9am until the restaurant closes around midnight, with a round-trip fare of NZ$16 (US$8.80) for adults, NZ$5 (US$2.75) for children. The complex includes shops and an 800m (2,624-ft.) luge. The 30-minute thrills-and-spills film Kiwi Magic shows hourly from 10am.

The Kiwi & Birdlife Park iff, Brecon Street (® 03/442-8059; www.kiwibird. co.nz), is in tranquil 3.24-hectare (8-acre) surroundings near the base of the gondola. Allow 30 to 40 minutes to see the birdlife and reptiles close at hand. Admission is NZ$15 (US$8.25) for adults, NZ$6 (US$3.30) for children 5 to 15, and NZ$30 (US$17) per family. It bills itself as New Zealand's leading live kiwi display, but I think Willowbank Wildlife Park in Christchurch (p. 341) is better.

If wildlife is your passion, take the 20-minute drive out to Kelvin Heights to Deer Park Heights ¿ftff (® 03/442-2005; www.thedeerpark.co.nz). Pay just NZ$20 (US$11) per car at the toll gate and then drive 5km (3 miles) through herds of red deer, wapiti, fallow deer, and the goatlike Himalayan thar that roam in large enclosures on 800 hectares (1,977 acres). It's a working farm, and you'll see animals at all stages of development. There are also tame animals that enjoy being fed by hand. All this plus spectacular views from 550m (1,804 ft.) above Queenstown, an old Korean film set, several filming locations for Lord of the Rings, and bountiful picnic spots. The scenic tours are from around NZ$50 (US$28) per person, and a jet boat and 3-hour scenic tour combo (departing Queenstown at 10am and 2pm daily) is NZ$124 (US$68) for adults and NZ$64 (US$35) for children.

Goldfields Mining Centre , in Kawarau Gorge (® 03/445-1038; www. goldfieldsmining.co.nz), is open daily from 8am to 6pm. The goldfields of this region were among the richest in the world in the early 19th century, and Gold-fields is the official gold-mining demonstration site. It's a 40-minute drive through the Kawarau Gorge on the way to Cromwell, so if you're on your way to Wanaka or Dunedin, stop in. It costs NZ$14 (US$7.70) for adults and NZ$6 (US$3.30) for children. Jet-boating from here costs NZ$75 (US$41) for adults, NZ$39 (US$21) for children.

If you have an interest in the arts, take the self-drive Wakatipu Arts Trail tfftjp, which takes you through the pretty back roads between Queenstown and Arrow-town, visiting seven well-known artists and craftspeople. Pick up the brochure from the visitor center and allow at least a morning to appreciate fine watercol-ors, oils, wood art, and jewelry.

IN NEARBY ARROWTOWN

For an enjoyable outing and a less hectic pace, drive out to the once-thriving gold-mining town of Arrowtown. It sprang up on the banks of the Arrow River when gold was discovered here in 1862. Many of the quaint original buildings remain, along with stunning avenues of trees planted in 1867. In autumn, the whole town glows with colorful foliage. To get a better understanding of the town's history, go to the Lake District Museum fjp, 49 Buckingham St. (® 03/442-1824; www. museumqueenstown.com). Admission is NZ$6 (US$3.30) for adults, NZ$1 (US55i) for children; it's open daily from 8:30am to 5pm.

Although there is no longer a Chinese community in Arrowtown, you can take a stroll in the restored Chinese Camp, on Bush Creek at the northern end of town. The camp was once occupied by the Chinese gold-mining community in the late 19th century. Look out for Ah Lum's General Store and the tiny dwellings tucked under rocky outcrops.

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