When I first decided to come backpacking in New Zealand, I never expected to find a temporary home in the Land of the Long White Cloud. New Zealand seemingly has this effect on many – especially my current home of Queenstown. This bustling little resort town tucked into the Southern Alps seems to be home to more Irish, British, Canadians and Aussies than it does Kiwis.
Many visitors to Queenstown would quickly seem to understand why so many backpackers and those on working holidays in New Zealand seem to never leave. Queenstown is hands down one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand – which is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in the world.
The stunning views and jaw dropping vistas that surround Queenstown are surely part of the draw, but it’s only those that really settle down in QT that get it. Yes, the views that surround Queenstown – the sunsets across Lake Wakatipu, the snow capped Remarkables Mountain Range, the tempting summits of Cecil and Walter Peak – those views are absolutely part of the appeal.
Yet for me – and I believe many others – it’s both what lies beyond those views and what those views open up that are the real draw to living here in this far away corner of the world.
It’s the lifestyle.
It’s the evening runs, the weekend missions into the backcountry, the hikes, the climbs, the casual community races, the epic mountain bike adventures and the overall outdoor focused, adventure influenced and healthy lifestyle that become an influential part of life in Queenstown. It’s that lifestyle that draws so many in and holds them here for much longer than they anticipated.
To get a taste of this lifestyle, you need not look any further than a climb up Ben Lomond just outside Queenstown. This 1,748 metre summit is literally accessed directly from town.
A well graded trail will lead you to a summit that feels miles into the backcountry in about three hours.
Climbing Ben Lomond in Queenstown
This view comes just after passing the Skyline complex at the top of the gondola. If you’re keen to save about an hours worth of hiking through the forest, you can take the Skyline Gondola up through the Ben Lomond Forest for about $15.
After about an hour views of Lake Wakatipu and Cecil and Walter Peak will open up behind you.
Looking south towards the Remarkables.
The hike to Ben Lomond’s summit should not be tackled during the winter unless you’re prepared for ice, snow and alpine climbing.
These photos are somewhat deceiving as the ridgeline was essentially snowless all the way to the summit.
After about two hours of hiking you’ll reach the Ben Lomond Saddle with views opening up into Skippers and Shotover Canyons. From here you can carry on to the summit in about an hour or drop down through alpine tussock into farmland and onto the Moonlight Track which will lead you to Arthurs Point. It’s a solid three hours to Arthurs Point and from here you’ll have to hitch back to Queenstown unless you’ve arranged transport.
The photo above shows the ridgeline you follow to the summit.
Looking north towards Mount Earnslaw…
View of Moke Lake and the mountains beyond…
Summit views – 1,400 metres above Lake Wakatipu.
Expect a return trip from Queenstown to take no less than five hours.
Don’t rush it – take your time, bring a packed lunch and take in the exceptional views from what seems to be the top of the world.
Have you climbed Ben Lomond? Can you suggest any other hikes around Queenstown? Let us know in the comments section below.