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Visiting Queenstown NZ, the home of Cameralabs!

PostPosted: Wed Feb 21, 2007 8:43 am
by Gordon Laing
Regular visitors to Cameralabs will know we're based in beautiful Queenstown, in New Zealand's South Island, and our camera galleries are packed with photos from the surrounding area! Since so many people seem to be organising trips to New Zealand, here's some tips for Queenstown and the surrounding area.

Around Queenstown

Queenstown is one of the most famous locations in New Zealand. Sure it has a reputation as a party or adrenaline activity town – and there’s plenty of both if you want it – but it’s also a spectacular-looking place with loads of photo opportunities. Here’s some highlights of the area that we particularly enjoy!

Skyline. Take a cable car (or a 45 minute hike) up to the Skyline which has the best views of Queenstown itself, along with a café, buffet restaurant, luge ride, tandem paragliding launch and several trails over the back of Ben Lomond. The view you’ll see will be familiar to any regular of Camera Labs as our main test shot.


It fits perfectly into a 35mm equivalent wide angle lens. If you spot someone with a tripod and selection of cameras in the corner, say hello! The light is best just after lunch at around 1-2pm - ideal timing after the 10am Earnslaw cruise and farm tour has returned!

If you fancy a good hike, there’s also trails from the Skyline up to the summit of Ben Lomond, although check first if you want to cross the saddle and head along the Moonlight Track instead as it may be closed. Don’t underestimate either hike though – both are quite challenging and there's little shelter or no from the punishing Sun. If you fancy a quicker route down, consider the tandem paragliding!

The Earnslaw: The TSS Earnslaw is a vintage steamship which makes regular journeys from Queenstown to Walter Peak for sheepdog and sheep-shearing demonstrations and various dining options – great fun and highly recommended. Again you’ll have spotted the Earnslaw in many of the Camera Labs reviews:


The Earnslaw departs Queenstown every two hours from 10am in Summer, so get yourself there if you fancy photos of it heading off towards Walter Peak; it returns around 1:20 later, so be there at, say, 11:20am or 1:20pm to see it arriving. The Farm Tours (recommended!) leave at 10am, 12 and 2pm in Summer and take approx 3.5hrs, but check times if you're visiting in Winter.

Shotover Jet - if you only do one thrilling activity in Queenstown, make it the Shotover Jet. This departs from Arthurs Point (although a bus will take you from Queenstown center if you don't have a car). It's simply enormous fun!

Arrowtown – half an hour’s drive outside Queenstown, this quaint gold rush town has a lot of atmosphere and some of the best restaurants in the area – probably the best of all being Saffron. There’s also a good hike from over the river, and you’re only a few minutes drive from the Gibbston Valley for some Central Otago wine tasting and some tasty vineyard lunch options...

Wine tasting - The Gibbston Valley is the nearest wine growing region to Queenstown and only about a half hour drive from town; Arrowtown's en-route too - see above. As with other wine growing regions around the world, there's plenty of tasting and tasty food opportunities.

The Winehouse and Kitchen just after the AJ Hackett Bungee does particularly good lunches. Amisfield vineyard (on the corner of the turning to Arrowtown before you reach Gibbston) is also a wonderful location for a late lunch (it's not open for dinner!), and their Arcadia Brut is one of the best Kiwi sparkling wines.

Another 20 minutes or so beyond Gibbston you'll reach Cromwell, the 'fruit basket' of Otago with fruit stalls by the side of the road and some particularly large examples as you enter the town! It's also where you'll find nearby Bannockburn, another wine growing region particularly noted for its Pinot Noirs. Several routes to Queenstown pass through Cromwell, so if you're heading through and are into wine, it's definitely worth the short detour to Bannockburn.

Glenorchy – 45 minutes drive from Queenstown along the edge of Lake Wakatipu brings you to the small township of Glenorchy and access to some of New Zealand’s (and the world’s) greatest hiking. This is true Lord of the Rings territory and the views are spectacular.

The most popular hikes are the Routeburn and Rees / Dart tracks, but if you’re not a multi-day hiker, you can still get a great impression by just driving up roads like the one to the Invincibles / Rees track trailhead, or to 'Paradise' and the Dart end of the Rees / Dart track. Many of these roads have small streams to ford though, which can turn into big streams after heavy rain or the winter snow melt. Be warned if you're in a 2WD rental car!


Above: Harris Saddle on the Routeburn track.


Above: Dart River on Rees / Dart track

Fjordland. Everyone goes to Milford Sound, and justifiably so, but as a consequence it can seem a bit busy at times. For a more peaceful Fjordland experience, visit the only slightly less spectacular Doubtful Sound. There’s considerably fewer people there and the overnight cruise option is superb, with Kayaking and plenty of wildlife spotting opportunities – bring a wide lens for the landscapes and a long zoom for the wildlife, along with a waterproof option if you take a camera out on a kayak.

You can see some stills from Doubtful Sound taken with the Sony N2 in the middle of its video tour, and also a video clip from the deck on in the middle of our Fujifilm F30 video tour. For the perfect Fjordland experience, I'd do an afternoon cruise on Milford Sound and an overnighter on Doubtful.

I hope that's given you some ideas!

Cameralabs' Gallery locations

The photos in the Cameralabs Review Galleries are taken around Queenstown. If you're visiting here, why not check them out?!

First step: open this Gallery page.

The first shot used to be of the America's Cup Yacht NZL14 - the yacht that competed in the America's Cup in San Diego in 1992 - but it's now in semi-retirement across the lake by the Gardens. Since then I've slightly repositioned my location on Steamer wharf to capture some of the other boats docked in its place.

The second shot is taken from the Beach off Marine Parade.

The third shot is of the TSS Earnslaw approaching its dock at Steamer Wharf. The farm tour to Walter Peak Station is highly recommended!

The fourth shot is a portrait taken from various locations depending on conditions.

The fifth shot is a macro photo of a VIA Mini ITX motherboard!

The sixth shot is an indoor portrait taken in Whitcoulls Newsagents on Beach Street.

The seventh shot is taken inside Dux De Lux on Church Street - great micro-brewed beers!

The eighth shot is taken inside the church at the top of Church Street.

Video locations

I also use a variety of locations around Queenstown to film sample videos. My first handheld pan shows the boats around Steamer Wharf. My tripod-based pan is again from the Skyline Gondola, and I also now use the loading bay area to test the tracking capabilities of approaching cable cars. The indoor handheld pan is filmed inside Dux De Lux, and the tempting looking coffees and sandwiches are filmed at the excellent Vudu cafe. Vudu Cafe and its recent counterpart, Vudi Cafe and Larder are two of my favourite places to go in Queenstown for coffee and brunch.


Overnight on Doubtful Sound

PostPosted: Wed Feb 21, 2007 10:02 am
by Bob Andersson
As Gordon says, the overnight trip on Doubtful Sound is special. Real Journeys ( run the trip and it may be useful to consider booking early.

If you are passing through Te Anau you may also want to visit the Fiordland Cinema. It only shows one film called Ata Whenua (Shadowland) and it concentrates exclusively on Fiordland. The bulk of the photography is taken from helicopters and the technical team was also involved in some of the Lord of the Rings work which speaks to the quality.

Handily, if you don't want to spend 45 minutes of your time in NZ at the cinema, you can buy this film at the premises on DVD. As far as I am aware this DVD is not available elsewhere. Recommended.


PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 9:07 pm
by Thomas
Oh boy, I missed the DVD!
Although the visit to the Milford Sound was wet, wet, wet (as you can see here) :cry:
plus the flight over Doubtful Sound (whih should have been my birthday present from my wife) was canceled due to strong winds :cry: :cry:
I was sooo depressed that I forgot your tip to buy the DVD :cry: :cry: :cry:

PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 9:29 pm
by Gordon Laing
Thomas, there's only one thing for it - you HAVE to come back!


PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2007 8:59 pm
by antman
When I get Camera I will be sure to post some pictures of Auckland as well :)

I recommend a Horse Riding trip near Glenorchy!

PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2008 12:55 pm
by StepkeWindsurfer
Hi there, Gordon and everybody else reads this

I am new to this forum, as I just had a discussion with a colleague, whether Cameralabs was located in QT or in London. Since I had previously recognized in the sample shots the lake and the mountain from my and my wife's visit to QT back in January 2007, I was sure it was QT!*
For affirmation, I searched for "Queenstown" and "cameralabs" - and hit this thread.

*In the past months I previously read the tests for Canon EOS 40D, Panansonic Lumix FZ18 and LX2. So first: Congrats and thank you for this website with profound and very helpful information!

We truly loved our 4-week trip to NZ. We did a lot of hiking (the Heaphy Track near Nelson, the Banks Peninsula track near Akaroa; the Routeburn we had to cancel due to a flue), but one of the highlights that I want to recommend here for QT was definetely a horse riding with Back Country Horses along the Shotover River under the famous mountain ridge (that were the Misty Mountains in the Lord of the Rings).
I recommend to have at least some basic experience in riding to get most out of it. And please, be nice to the horses (-;

Our trip to Milford was also a wet one (I mean, there is 8000mm of rainfall per year in the Sound, so it is no surprise (-; ), but the bus driver (bus for a small group of 8 persons; he was a former employee of the DOC) was such a good entertainer, that we had a lot of fun throughout the whole day.

I'd love come back to NZ one lucky day - for we have to do the Routeburn once in our life! - And, of course, to catch some views of the beautiful landscape with our eyes and our cameras.

Best regards
Stephan from Lübeck, Germany

PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2008 1:03 pm
by StepkeWindsurfer
And P.S.:

Yes, we also saw the movie in Te Anau.
I can also recommend it!

Best regards

PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2008 11:20 pm
by Gordon Laing
Hi Stephan, welcome to the Cameralabs forums!

Glad you had a great trip to NZ!

And yes, we're based in Queenstown, although previously I was based in London...

On a side note, how was the Heaphy track? I've not done that one yet...

PostPosted: Tue Apr 29, 2008 3:06 pm
by StepkeWindsurfer
Gordon Laing wrote:On a side note, how was the Heaphy track? I've not done that one yet...

I liked it very much, especially for its varitey of landscapes. The only thing that really bugged me were the sand flie attacks down by the river mouth at the sea. They were eatin' me up :shock: :D !

But besides from this I can highly recommend to do this walk! :mrgreen:

I have some pictures here with me, but this forum does not allow to upload them.

P.S.: In the meanwhile I was to HongKong* and bought an Canon PS S5 IS (my S1 was broken). Despite the better wide angle and optics of the Lumix FZ18 the S5 won due to its better movie mode. Thanks for your reviews.

*It is a pity, I was only halfway down to NZ from Europe, otherwise I would have dropped in for a coffee :wink:


PostPosted: Sun Mar 08, 2009 8:57 pm
by Bjorn van Sinttruije
Can't wait to visit Queenstown Gordon. Great thread!

- Bjorn -

PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2009 10:47 pm
by San
my gf is coming from that thailand to pick her A300 i got her for her birthday, we doing a 10 day road trip around the south island, we will be staying in queenstown for 2 days one of the day is the american's day, 4th of july. hopefully my skills improve and will post up some photos.
thanks for Tips. i will try to visit all those site if whether permits, crossing my fingers there wont be any road close

PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2009 11:27 am
by Gordon Laing
Hi San, you'll arrive in the middle of our winter festival, so there should be some entertainment on (a bit quaint compared to Welly, but still fun!), and don't forget the skiing at Coronet and The Remarks! Watch out for me shivering up at the Skyline Gondola balcony...

PostPosted: Thu Jul 16, 2009 11:13 am
by San
didnt get to stay in Queenstown for long and didnt get much photos there, except goats and deers up some hills... and some photos of people playing with fire stick thingy in the city.

my best shots were on the way to Milford Sounds.

PostPosted: Fri Oct 30, 2009 9:41 pm
by dsjose

Very interesting article, you must make a journey to these places, the images are great worth knowing a place like this.

A hug.

PostPosted: Fri Oct 30, 2009 10:13 pm
by Thomas
Hello dsjose, and welcome to the friendly Camera Labs forum!
To enjoy your stay here please have a look at the house-rules!
Indeed, NZ (and QT) is a very recommendable place to go. I've been there for four weeks and couldn't get enough of this country!