We walked a lot during our first two days in Queenstown. So on Day Three we were ready to rest our feet and ride. Before the day was over we would have ridden on seven buses and one gondola.
We have rented cars and driven all over on prior vacations. But this year we decided to leave the driving to others. And Queenstown is known for its reliable and efficient bus transportation. Besides, in case you haven’t heard, they drive on the wrong side of the road down here — just like Ireland, England, Japan and, as we’ll find out in a few days, Australia!
We walked down Frankton Road (OK, we did walk a tiny bit!) to the nearest bus stop and soon we were on the bus headed for the Frankton Transfer Hub. We bought two all-day passes from the driver of the # 11 line that runs between Queenstown and Frankton about every 15 minutes and then goes on to the Queenstown airport and further on to the Remarkables Park Shopping Centre. None of the locals ever shop in Queenstown where everything is pretty expensive. They all go to this shopping center. And it’s pretty convenient to take the bus to the airport if all you are carrying is a backpack. But we had lots of luggage and took the super shuttle to and from our apartment, also avoiding any walks to and from a bus stop.
You have a choice of three bus lines to transfer to at the Frankton Transfer Hub. They all run every 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the time of day. I thought I might have a few nice photo opportunities at Lake Hayes and so we climbed aboard the #12 Event Centre / Lake Hayes Estate line. There was one other passenger on board and she got off at the Events Centre. A few minutes later we came to a halt in the middle of a subdivision. “Lake Hayes Estate — end of the line,” said our driver. “Where’s the lake” I asked. He told us that it was a little more than a kilometer away but this bus wasn’t going there. He further explained that there wasn’t really anything there except the lake but if you really wanted to see it, then take the bus to Arrowtown which goes right by it. OK, my mistake. But it seems that I’m not the only one. Our driver told us that once or twice a week a tourist makes the same mistake. So we turned around and rode back to the Frankton Transfer Hub.
We waited for about 20 minutes and then hopped on the #6 Kelvin Heights line and then noticed a pattern developing. It was just the two of us and the driver. There are a lot of passengers on the #11 line that runs between Queenstown and Frankton but not much on the smaller lines. So we had a private tour of Kelvin Heights and our friendly bus driver pointed out the sights and told us his life story. He lives in Wanaka about 45 minutes away where he can ski every day during the winter. In the off-season he lives four days a week in Frankton where he supplements his pension by driving the bus.
Kelvin Heights is the peninsula that separates Frankton Arm from the rest of Lake Wakatipu. Most of the houses we passed are in the million dollar range and our driver pointed out where some rich people live and also where a Hilton resort will soon open. We went as far as the Queenstown golf course on the tip of the peninsula and then turned around and headed back to Frankton.
The only other bus line available on the Frankton Transfer point is the # 10 Arrowtown line which we planned to take tomorrow. So we boarded the # 11 again to take us back past our apartment and on to to Queenstown.
The Connectabus terminal in Queenstown is on Camp Street in front of the O’Connells Shopping Mall. From here you can take either the # 8 bus to Arthur’s Point or the # 9 to Sunshine Bay and Fernhill. We grabbed a bite to eat at O’Connells Mall and then boarded the bus to Arthur’s Point. The bus took us up Shotover Street which changes its name at the edge of town to Gorge Road. After a few miles we came to a bridge where we could see some of the famous Shotover Jet boats on the Shotover river. There were a number of restaurants and hotels on the other side of the river. The road goes on to the Coronet Peak Ski Area but our bus turned around at the last hotel and headed back to town.
The #9 bus route took us along the Lake Esplanade to Sunshine Bay where we got off to take some photos. The bus driver told us that he just goes around the Fernhill Road loop and will be back in five minutes to pick us up. And he did. There are a lot of hotels on this route and so there were many more passengers on this line.
Our next adventure was to take the Skyline Gondola up Bob’s Peak for the spectacular view of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu. At the end of the gondola ride there is a chair lift that continues up the hill. Also a restaurant, a bungy jumping spot, a luge course and of course a gift shop. There’s also a sky diving spot nearby. We looked at the view, browsed in the gift shop and then returned to earth via the gondola.
Our last bus ride of the day was the # 11 again up Frankton Road to our bus stop at the Kingsgate Hotel. Then that five minute walk again back to our apartment. It was an interesting day but we realized that we were rather limited by not having our own car and not being able to go wherever we wanted. And we also couldn’t just stop and take pictures outdoors whenever we wanted. I took a lot of photos that day but most of them did not turn out well because of the glare and reflections caused by the windows inside the bus. It was a nice change of pace from the first two days, however, and our legs were not sore that night!