Saturday, 13 May 2017

Queenstown Lakes in Autumn


We headed off to Queenstown on Easter Monday both looking forward to seeing David's daughter (who we haven't seen in a year or so) and her partner when they arrived off a plane from Australia, the next day. Our Winton family also drove through for a couple of days of family time too.

We stopped at a very busy Cromwell dump station on our way out of town and then made our way back to the main road, past the autumnal looking Bannockburn vineyards.

The road through the Kawarau Gorge is also known as 'The Golden Highway' due to its gold mining history but at this time of the year, it also reflects the beautiful colours of the poplars and willows that contrast against the stark grey rock faces and brilliant blue of the river that flows through the gorge.

We stopped at Lake Hayes for lunch, we've stayed here a couple of times but for this visit we're heading to a campground so we can chill and relax without the worry of having to park in the allocated space and move after two nights.

It was a brilliant blue sky sunny day with just a slight chill, the cloud hund low around the Remarkables but dissipated soon after this photo was taken. Whenever we stop, I'm always out and shooting photos straight away. It's been proved too often that if I wait until after that cup of tea or lunch, the scene will change and the moment gone forever.

The next day I came back to Lake Hayes to get a few more photos of the autumn colours.

I also stopped at another little rest area half way along the lake where I'd seen a bright blob of brilliant yellow...

...and found not only the willows on the lakeside above but this beautiful setting below. With the lake's walking trail passing along the front of the property and the reserve on another side it's no wonder there were numerous signs telling people to 'Keep Out'. Unfortunately there are a few overseas tourists who have no idea of personal space (or couldn't read) and were clambering over the garden at the front of the house.

After lunch at Lake Hayes we moved on to our regular campground when we're not freedom camping, the Top10 at Arthurs Point, just above Skippers Canyon on the Shotover River. Queenstown campgrounds are always busy and I'd booked our usual site a few weeks ago, the one we can neatly slot into without too much hassle as all the sites are reasonably small and tight. 

'Yes, Mrs Evans you can have your preferred site #41, no, that's fine, no problems, we look forward to seeing you again' 

...except they forgot to tell me they've added a nice little toilet portacom over the clearway. 

With a little maneuvering David managed to park the van in perfectly but luckily we arrived early afternoon as it was chaos later when the rentals vans started arriving. As it was we had a guy drumming his fingers on the steering wheel of his rental as he waited to pass us to another site. Impatient bugger!

The camp have also put in a new dump station but unfortunately while the previous one was bad enough for access, there's no way we'd fit into this one. Luckily we'd done our business at Cromwell.

As the afternoon wore on, the rentals filed in...

...until there wasn't a site to spare...

Being able to back in off  the clearway is not the only reason we like our preferred site, this is the only site with a hedge on either side too, so it's great for privacy. Being tightly packed in like sardines is not our idea of camping but we've found out, that if we want to do a few things in Queenstown and/or are there for a few days and want to have no worries, this Top10 suits us fine. And actually when you're totally self-contained you can keep your own space or get involved as it suits. 

We weren't due at the airport until mid afternoon on Tuesday so I left David relaxing and went for a drive through to Arrowtown to check out the autumn colours.

Arrow River
The Arrowtown Autumn Festival was due to start the next day with the big finale on the weekend. 

We've attended the festival twice before and had we not been tied up with family this year, we'd have probably gone to this one too. Well, gone to the NZMCA rally associated with the Festival anyway, just to enjoy the camaraderie and to see Prue & Harry again (who organise the rally).

Although it doesn't look like it from here, the little town was full to overflowing with every spare space taken by cars, rental motorhomes and buses, many parked along the river bank below the main street, with dozens of people crowding the footpaths and shops and this wasn't even the Festival proper! 

Having seen it all several times before, I made a hasty retreat to the cenotaph above the town to take some scenic shots.

Once finished there, I headed for Lake Hayes (photos at the beginning of the blog) and then home stopping to take a photo of this stone cottage I'd spied as we passed a clearing yesterday.

Not for the first time this season, I've felt autumn wasn't quite firing on all cylinders. Yes, there was still lots of colour but many trees had already shed their leaves and other weren't colouring up before dropping theirs. I guess I've been spoilt having now experienced three Central Otago autumns.


  1. Hi! May i know if i were to travel to queenstown/ arrowtown in mid may, will there still be autumn leaves? And will i still be able to see snow capped mountains in the hooker valley track?

    1. Most of the mass autumn colour will be gone, though a few trees will still have a little colour left. There will be snow on the mountains around the Hooker Track, there might even be an early snow fall down at track level.


Thanks for taking the time to comment, it's much appreciated.