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Queenstown Area

Queenstown is a resort town in the Otago region in the southwest of New Zealand's South Island. It is located on the north-eastern shore of Lake Wakatipu, around the Queenstown Bay inlet, and is backed by the Remarkables mountain range, making it's setting one of the most picturesque in the world. The urban area, with a population of around 14,300, has developed ever since the 1970's from a sleepy lakeside town into a leading resort.

Queenstown is a global centre for adventure sports, which in the surrounding area include bungy jumping, jet-boat trips and white-water rafting in summer and skiing and snowboarding in winter. Although the town began life during the 1860's gold rush, it's more recent growth has been due to the demands of tourism. Despite this, it still retains the charm of a small town and maintains its links with earlier times.

The photos above are taken from a trip up the Skyline Gondola. The gondola takes visitors up to an observation deck on Bob's Peak, rising some 450m (1,476 feet) in a mere 730m (2,400 feet). From here, it is possible to see outstanding views over the town itself, as well as over Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables. The observation deck has a restaurant and café and outside, it is possible to view various activities including bungy jumping from 'The Ledge' and the paragliders descending from the peak. For the land-based thrill-seeker, it is possible to take a ride downhill on the luge.

Whilst the Skyline Gondola certainly offers a great view of the town, there are many other attractions in Queenstown to see. Below the gondola terminal is situated the Kiwi and Birdlife Park which is home to several kiwis and other endangered native birds (due to the fact that the kiwi is nocturnal and the display case was consequently dark, it was not possible to photograph New Zealand's national bird very easily!), Queenstown Gardens are a popular place to relax within walking distance of the busy town and are set on a glacial moraine peninsula (below centre of top photo). Below the Maintown Pier (where boat cruises on the lake run) is Underwater World, where a viewing lounge 5m (16 feet) below the surface of the lake enables visitors an opportunity to view life under the surface of the lake. From the Maintown Pier runs The Mall, a pedestrian-only street lined with souvenir shops, restaurants and cafés. Along here are an number of old colonial buildings. The aforementioned Lake Wakatipu, which is the second largest of the southern glacial lakes, after Te Anau, was originally the main means of communications with the town during the mining boom, but today plays a role in recreation. However, one relic of the mining boom remains in the form of the TSS (Twin Screw Steamer) Earnslaw. This paddle steamer, known as 'the lady of the lake' was launched in 1912 and today is used for cruises on the lake of varying lengths.

The photo above shows the Remarkables. Their steep rugged slopes drop right down to the lake's edge, leaving Queenstown on one of the few areas of relatively flat land in the area.

The photos above are of the 43m (141 foot) Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge bungy jump, near Queenstown. Although the Nevis highwire bungy is higher at 134m (440 foot)/(accessed by shuttle-bus from Queenstown), the bungy jump at Kawarau Gorge is more famous (and easily accessible by public road). The site was the world's first commercial bungy jumping site and is indeed considered the home of bungy jumping. The bridge itself was completed in 1880 and formed an important access route to the central Otago goldfields. It became out of use as the main bridge over the Kawarau River here after 1963, when it was replaced by a new highway bridge, serving State Highway 6. The old bridge also forms part of the Queenstown Trail, which passes over the river here. The bungy jump is run by the A. J. Hackett company, whose New Zealand founder it's name bears brought bungy jumping to global appeal when he illegally dived from the Eiffel Tower in 1986, suspended by a rubber cord strapped to his ankles.

The final two photos on this webpage are of Arrowtown, 20km (12 miles) from Queenstown. Set amongst hills on the banks of the Arrow River, this is the most well-known and best-preserved gold-mining town in the area. During the height of the gold rush, Arrowtown's population peaked at over 7,000 and it became the centre of a larger municipality covering other settlements which are now only ghost towns. It is one of the few boom towns which neither became a ghost town, nor became overrun by more modern developments. There are many well preserved buildings here, which were used by European and Chinese immigrants who came here for the gold rush. The main street in the town has many old colonial shops and buildings at one end, whilst at the other, small miner's cottages built of stone and dating back to the 1860's and 1870's can still be seen. When the West Coast gold rush started, many of the European miners left Arrowtown and so to fill in the shortage of labour, many Chinese miners were invited to work here. The Chinese miners played a big part in Arrowtown's history after 1865 and their legacy can be seen in the form of the town's Chinese Settlement with its preserved and restored stone cottages, an outhouse and Ah Lum's store. Arrowtown is also the home of the Lakes District Museum (and the town's visitor centre), which documents the history of both Arrowtown and Queenstown, with displays which include covering the gold rush, the country's first hydroelectric plant (built in 1886 in the local municipality), the area's geology and agriculture.

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