Thursday 18 May 2017

A Remarkable View

Catch-up; we're still parked up in Winton with the family. We've been here a little longer than expected (4 weeks today) and winter has finally caught up with us with a very cold Antarctic blast blowing through the deep south this afternoon. I'm looking forward to seeing some snow soon, either here on the ground or when we eventually hit the road again. In the meantime thank God for diesel heaters and the family's power point; the electric blankets are heaven on a cold night. 

We've visited Queenstown at least a dozen times during the last few years and have managed to explore much of the surrounding countryside. But there's one road that we hadn't driven up; it's either been closed, the cloud has been too low, chains were required or we've just been too busy exploring elsewhere.

The Kawarau River outlet leaves Lake Wakatipu at Frankton with Peninsula Hill behind
While we were waiting for the family to arrive the next day we decided to finally check out The Remarkables Road, a 14km ski field access road that zig-zags its way up the side of the dramatic mountain range that forms a stunning backdrop to Queenstown.

Before we get to the access road though, we have to fight our way through the permanent traffic jam that passes by the airport and a shopping centre in Frankton. Next we join the queue to cross the single lane bridge over the Kawarau River, an inconvenience that will be a thing of the past by late next year.

State Highway 6 is the main route south from the centre of the South Island and it's always a bottleneck here at the bridge and especially during the ski season with skiers moving between town and the ski field. We'll see if it makes any difference to the traffic jams around Frankton in due course. I fear not as more and more planes bring in more and more tourists.

Anyway, back to the road. The views, as you climb, are absolutely stunning and it's hard not to stop at every corner to take them in. This is only a couple of kilometres up the road- you can see it weaving through the centre of the photo below- we're looking south down the Kingston arm of the S shaped Lake Wakatipu, with the Remarkables on the left and Cecil Peak across the water on the right, Bayonet Peaks are to the left of Cecil Peak and the exclusive development of Jacks Point is front and centre (click on the photos to enlarge).

The next stop is overlooking the Shotover River delta where it joins the Kawarau River directly below us and out of sight. The Lower Shotover Bridge on the main highway can be see centre right, with Morven Hill centre and some of Coronet Peak at the back right. The Wastewater Plant's settling ponds are also at the centre.

If you don't know Queenstown and were wondering what the perfectly formed terraces were in the above photo, they are reclaimed land at the end of the airport runway. That's the Frankton Arm of Lake Wakatipu, with Queenstown proper hidden in the shadows down the right hand side of the arm.

We climb higher and stop again, this time looking to the right with Lake Hayes taking centre stage. The Kawarau River flows out of sight to the right and off towards the Kawarau Gorge. And at the far back centre of the basin and again partly in the shade, is Arrowtown. Part of the Crown Range is on the right.

Here's a pano of the Wakatipu Basin with the road we're following below us. Can you see the cyclist coming into view- phew, now that would be hard work! Excuse the sun flare, I'm looking straight into the sun.

I wonder if you spotted the plane in the photo, two above? Just above the top bend in the river? It's a Jetstar plane and this will be the same company & time slot that brings David's daughter in from Auckland tomorrow. He had the not so bright idea of sending me to take a photo of it arriving tomorrow afternoon, now I tell him we'll use this one and pretend it was her plane! 

And look at those houses in the Lake Hayes Estate. They remind me of the song 'Little Boxes'-

Little boxes on the hillside
Little boxes made of ticky-tacky
Little boxes on the hillside
Little boxes all the same

Checking out Queenstown airport from above is very popular with sightseers and plane spotters alike because you're able to drive up the surrounding mountain roads and watch planes come in below you. The other viewpoint is near the top of the Crown Range, there the planes fly over the top of the range and then drop down in front of you and fly along the river corridor to the runway.

Here's the Lake Hayes Estate again, it's no wonder the main highway is so busy, there are roundabouts on the highway and the entrance roads lead off out of sight. The houses can't be seen as they sit lower down on the river terraces.

It's hard to imagine that it takes 14kms to reach the ski field which sits at 1280 metres above sea level. There are far too many switchbacks to count, and care must be taken, as much of the road has sheer drop-offs without railing. It's just as well 11kms of the road are sealed because once we hit the gravel, the road is diabolical, it's one continuous strip of deep corrugations and many potholes. David is not a happy chap.

But we've come so far so we must carry on (although David doesn't think so), and by the time we reach the carpark, we've had enough of bouncing about and don't feel like exploring any further....which means I can't bring you a stunning photo of the new Base Building!

We head back down, weaving all over the road and at varying speeds, as David tries to miss the potholes and ride over the top of the corrugations. If anyone saw us I'm sure they'd think the driver was drunk! We pull onto a newly flattened mound near the road and on the edge of a huge drop-off, it's seems too small to be a carpark, perhaps it'll be an area to fit chains although it seems a little high for that and they'll definitely need to put a barrier around the outside.

Across the valley in amongst the trees is Arrow Junction and nearby is the zig-zags of the Crown Range Road which crosses the range and passes through the Cardrona Valley to Wanaka, an hour away. 

The switchbacks take you up and across farmland on the Crown Range Plateau. here you can see the road cutting across the plateau and then start to climb through the range. The other lookout to watch planes from, is on that flat area just before the road heads inland. 

From the edge of our lookout I can see the road weaving down below us. To give it some perspective I waited until a car came into view, can you see it? Across at the back of the Basin, the sun is now shining on the autumnal coloured trees on the slopes behind Arrowtown.

Further on and Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown are ahead of us now, with Walter Peak across the lake, centre left. We have one more stop, there's a knoll ahead of us (and people standing on it) which has another great lookout over the airport. 

I leave David scanning for planes...

And join a couple of family groups on the knoll who are also checking out the planes and views below... 

It's not long before another plane heads in, this time one from Air New Zealand.

In between planes I take more photos of the views, this one is looking south again, towards the Kingston end of the lake. It's a lot higher this time, you can see the beginning of the road switching back and forward as it climbs the lower slopes. 

We watch a plane departing...

...and I take one last photo, a zoomed in shot of Lake Hayes before we head back to Arthurs Point and home...

 ...back through a traffic jammed Queenstown. Where else in the world could you see the surreal sight of paragliders floating down from above while you're fighting rush hour traffic through a busy city centre?


  1. I really loved the photo of the plane over the silvery braided river. JUST FABULOUS!

    1. Thanks Carol, I like the one with the autumn colours behind it.

  2. So glad I've found your blog. Me and my partner are selling up to do the same. Sick of all the bills and not having a life. So many fantastic places to explore and new back gardens to experience.

    1. Hi Gary, I'm pleased you found my blog too! Hope you're managing to read your way through all the posts. There's plenty of great information on places to visit and stay hidden in there. You can also use the search box on the right of the blog, just enter a place name or attraction and if we've been there all the posts relating to it will pop up. Enjoy, and best of luck as you transition through to living on the road. You'll never look back.

  3. It's great to see the QT weather picked up over Easter. We passed through during gloomy weather. Such a short visit we had... your pics are a great reminder of our stay there. Thanks for sharing. Tim


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