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This post is part of our Australia/New Zealand Series. You can find the rest of the series here.
On Day 7 of our trip, we took an early morning flight from Brisbane to Queenstown, New Zealand on Virgin Australia. We crossed a few time zones during the flight and arrived in the afternoon. We picked up our rental car and checked into the Doubletree Queenstown. After dropping our bags, we decided to head over to Queenstown Hill to watch the sun set from high above town. Then, we rewarded ourselves for the hike with a nice, juicy Fergberger. Come along for our first day in New Zealand.
- Air Travel/Transportation – How we got there and how we got around
- Accommodations – Where we stayed
- Adventures – Write-ups of the activities we enjoyed during our visit.
Virgin Australia: BNE-ZQN – 10,900 Etihad Miles + $94.02 each
For this flight, we decided to book economy seats on Virgin Australia. To set up the booking, we transferred Citi Thank You points earned from the Citi Thank You Premier Card to Etihad miles. Etihad has a relatively hard-to-find award chart for Virgin Australia. Fees are a bit high, due to the Australian departure tax.
EZ Rental Car – 5 days/18,030 Citi ThankYou Points
We rented a car using Citi ThankYou points at 1.25 cents per point. We picked the car up just outside the terminal, and were off to the hotel. A couple things to know about renting a car in Queenstown:
- Definitely rent a car! The drives are very scenic, and you will be able to explore a much wider area.
- You may need an international driving permit. It costs $20 and is good for one year. EZ Rental car did not require me to show it, but their website did say I would need it. Better safe than sorry.
Doubletree Queenstown – 5 nights/24,000 HHonors Points per night
We went directly from the airport to check in at the Doubletree Queenstown (full review coming soon). The hotel is a short, 10 minute drive from the airport. The Doubletree shares the same space as the Hilton Queenstown, and Diamond members have access to all amenities of both properties!
The hotel sits right on the banks of Lake Wakatipu. Our room was a mini suite, with a living room and a small balcony overlooking the beautiful lake. When we checked in, the front desk agent gave us two free drink vouchers per night and reminded us that elite members get free breakfast.
This hotel is a fantastic value at 30,000 points per night. We took advantage of the 5th night free benefit to lower the cost even more!
After checking into the hotel and grabbing a couple glasses of local wine at the bar, we decided to hike up to the top of nearby Queenstown Hill. We figured that we could make it to the top to see the sun set if we hustled.
The drive from the Doubletree to the Queenstown Hill trailhead only took about 15 minutes. The trail picks up on Belfast Street, near the back of a neighborhood on the Northeast side of downtown Queenstown. Use google maps to find it, because you may miss it otherwise.
The trail starts out a bit steep, but it evens out pretty well as it snakes among the massive trees. Signs along the path give glimpses into the history of this region of New Zealand. The whole walk up took just under an hour, including a stop at the “Dream Basket,” a work of art made with iron and stone.
Views from the summit were absolutely breathtaking, with panoramic views of the Remarkables Mountains, Lake Wakatipu, and the Kawarau River. We both agreed that the view from Queenstown hill was the most strikingly beautiful natural landscape we had ever seen! If you make the trek to the summit, be aware that it can get very windy. Bring layers if you plan to spend much time enjoying the views from the top of the hill.
Dinner – Fergburger
Once we had our fill of scenic views, we headed down the mountain to fill our bellies at the legendary Fergburger. Established in 2001, this hole-in-the-wall burger shop in the heart of Queenstown has grown to world-wide fame. We arrived after 10pm (open 21hrs/day) to find a line out to the road! When we reached the counter, I noticed a guestbook open to a single page with signatures from eight different countries.
The menu features burgers ranging from a standard hamburger, to more exotic offerings like lamb, venison, cod, or pork belly burgers. I went for the standard Fergburger w/ Cheese and some onion rings, and my wife picked the Tropical Swine. The burgers were huge, juicy, and delicious! It may be a bit “touristy,” but definitely visit Fergburger during your time in Queenstown!
We enjoyed our first night in Queenstown. Despite being a bit tired from a day of traveling, I’m so glad that we hiked up Queenstown Hill! The views are 100% worth the effort, and you can reward yourself with a delicious Fergburger afterwards. Cheers!