Walk along the Kawaru River

If you’re looking for a leisurely afternoon walk, a middle earth fan whose not up to white water rafting, or simply rained out of a white water trip like we were, fear not as I have a solution for you. Enter the Kawaru River pathway (aka Gibbston River Trail) which starts with views of people jumping off a bridge, passes through more than a couple wineries, and stops along several scenic picnic spots on the river rim. It’s a great shorter walk/ hike to get outside and admire the Kawaru river… without partaking in the rough house activity of rafting it.

Where to park for the Kawaru River trail:

Google maps AJ Hackett Bungy Kawarau Bungy Centre and park in the same lot as the bungy bridge.

The parking lot is just 20 minutes outside of Queenstown along hwy 6 (toward Wanaka). The turn off for the parking lot will be on your left just after passing over the kawaru river bridge. (~23 km along hwy 6)

Trail info:

Distance: 2.25 miles/ 3.6 km 1 way. Go as long as you like though

Difficulty: Easy, little to no hills

Time: Allow at least 1.5 hours

Kawaru River Trail Directions:

Once you park, go ahead and wander down to check out any jumpers from the bridge as they leap from the historic suspension bridge, get caught up by their ankles on the bungy, and rafted back to the river side. Sign yourself up if you’re feeling daring and make use of the facilities around the bungy center.

The Gibbston River trail goes both ways along the Kawaru river actually crossing over the historic suspension bridge- and both directions make for a scenic walk. HOWEVER if you want the specific views in this post and/ or Lord of the Rings filming locations, you’ll want to skip crossing the bridge and actually walk up the parking lot from where you parked, to the East side where you’ll see a drive way for the Winehouse and then signs for the Gibbston River Trail.

The start of the trail

At first the trail is pretty close to the road but after a few minutes, it will turn off and cut down to the river’s rim. There it will meander along occasionally cutting away from the river before returning back to it. There’s a couple wineries you can stop at if interested, or even better do the wine & bike tour to see more of the river trail and more of the wines. Otherwise you’ll come across the first awesome view point (probably the best one) about 1 mile/1.7km in. There’s even a bench to mark the spot of a great view.

It was standing here that we were definitely able to see the scene at the end of the Fellowship where the party is rowing down the river Anduin and passes between the giant Argonath statues. (We were still disappointed as to not be able to raft ourselves down through the narrow canyon)

You can continue on for more views of the narrow river canyon with the next best view point being about mile 1.93/3km. Make sure to take the left trail junction (the one that says for advanced bikers only) to get to this view point. This section of trail is definitely the most interesting with a few little bridges here and there, loads of bunnies hopping about, and being some of the closest to the cliffs down to the river.

You can follow this trail for as long as you like, although we turned around once the canyon opened up about 2.25 miles into the trail. Overall it’s a flat easy trail with nice river and canyon views. We didn’t get a change to check out any of the wineries, but if I went back to Queenstown I’d definitely consider a biking trip down this river trail to see more of it and almost certainly be re-booking myself for the Kawaru white water rafting tour.

Unless you have a ride sorted out for getting back, return on the trail from whence you came to the bungy bridge carpark.

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Paragliding in Queenstown


An activity that I’ve wanted to do for years but wanted to experience for the first time somewhere truly epic. When we booked our trip to New Zealand, I knew this would be the place. The unique lakes and incredible mountains would make the perfect backdrop for my first open air flight. Best of all Queenstown is a mecca of paragliding with multiple take off hills and competitive pricing. (It’s cheaper to paraglide in Queenstown than it is in Utah) We almost didn’t get to fly due to prolonged bad weather for all 3 days we were visiting, but luckily the morning of our departure, the clouds lifted and the wind died down making for perfect conditions for flying.

Which paragliding tour to choose?

There are two mountains for take off in Queenstown- Bob’s Hill and Coronet Peak. I knew I didn’t want to do Bob’s hill as it isn’t very high and we’d get a similar view just from taking the lift up and luging. So with Coronet Peak our take off of choice- we had 2 companies to choose between. Coronet Peak Tandems and Skytrek. They were pretty evenly priced and reviews were mainly positive for both. Ultimately we chose Coronet Peak Tandems since they were a hair cheaper and we knew the price of our photos and videos wouldn’t cost too much compared to an unknown price with Skytrek.

Coronet Peak Tandems was AWESOME. They communicated wonderfully in the few days before our flight- texting us about weather conditions and rescheduling to a time that worked best for us. The pick up and drop off in downtown Queenstown was seamless and the flight was exactly as expected.

About flying with Coronet Peak Paragliding

There are 2 take offs on Coronet Peak- the main takeoff and higher take off. Make sure to choose the higher take off for the longest flight possible as well as to experience some acrobatic flight tricks. The higher take off is the highest paragliding take off in Queenstown and sits at 5,400 feet. This company has the most tandem flight records from Coronet Peak (vs. Skytrek) and has an incredible team of pilots with year of flight experience. They offer tandem hanggliding and combo flight deals for both hang gliding and paragliding.

Tour costs:

Higher take-off flight: $151 USD/ $236 NZD per person
All videos/ photos taken during tour: $40USD/ $60 NZD per person->
Latte in the landing zone: $3 USD/ $4.70 NZD

From the take off you have AMAZING views of Queenstown city, Lake Wakatipu, and the Remarkables mountain range- making this one of the big reasons for choosing Coronet Peak for take-off. The flights last around 20 minutes with the pilots doing their absolute best to keep you in the air as long as possible. All of the pilots we met on our tour (about 10 of them) were crazy passionate about flying and so excited to be in the air. You could tell they love flying- adding to the feeling that you will get the best absolute flight experience.

Tips for the best flight experience:

  1. Even if it is a warm day, pack a warm jacket or coat. It gets cold up there. Dress warm in general with pants and definitely closed toed shoes.
  2. Our pilots provided us with gloves and sunnies, but if you have a special preference for the look of your sunglasses in photos- pack a pair that fit well.
  3. You can’t have any lose articles AT ALL so if you don’t have a gopro mount for your clothing then you will just have to rely on the footage they take. If you don’t have zipping pockets to secure your phone, wallet, etc.. then your pilot will store your things in their bag for the flight.
  4. Morning is an excellent time to book for great lighting and to better weather.
  5. Schedule your tour for the your first day in Queenstown. Then if the wind/ weather isn’t right and they have to reschedule you, you have plenty of options.

Our experience with Coronet Peak Paragliding

We signed up for the 2nd tour of the day at 9:30 AM so we could sleep in. We met them just outside the art museum by their van where they picked up the 8 of us that were going at that timeslot. We drove about 10 minutes in that van to another location where we picked up the pilots and climbed into a larger bus/ van. We were all paired with our pilots based on body weight and height and take off location. It was then another short drive of 10 minutes or so to the very top where the higher take off tour was dropped off first.

Selfie with my pilot before our flight

The view from up top was just honestly incredible, I’m not sure if you can drive up there on your own since it is part of a ski resort/ dirt roads, but if you can, I highly recommend it. We figured out our order for take off and got a quick debriefing of how the flight would go. My pilot, Jack, explained that you will set your sights straight ahead and try to run toward it as the pilot pulls up the glider and gets ready for take-off. There’s no running off a sudden edge, in fact the take- off hill was actually pretty mild of an angle.

The flight

I didn’t time it but I’m sure I was up there for 15- 20 minutes. Jack explained a few things about thermals and how the warm air coming off the mountain offers lift (which you can definitely feel). The more thermal activity, the better as it will continue pushing you higher. He let me steer a couple times and we did some photos/ videos before moving towards the landing zone. The last descent we did some “tricks” which pretty much involved going into a sort of tight spiral with a couple of swings that bordered on going upside down. Basically I had no way to keep track of which direction was which, but it was very fast and VERY fun.

Photos from my incredible flight. The bottom picture shows Coronet Peak itself.
The landing

Upon landing you get very close to the ground and then sort of hop (what feels like jumping down off a 1 foot curb). I’d say it was easy but since my legs were all jelly from the flight still I kind of collapsed in a heap. Definitely don’t do that! My poor pilot struggled to get me back on my feet as the seat is really awkward and we still had to unclip everything! Haha

*It was a little embarrassing

Braden and his pilot with the landing zone smiling up from far below

Braden had the BEST flight of everyone in our group. His pilot, Rene, caught some awesome thermal energy and ended up at the same height as the peak where they could see all the way to Wanaka! With all the lift they got, their flight probably lasted 5 more minutes than mine and looked like an absolute best.

If you want to go with a pilot with the absolute most thrill and stoke- definitely ask for Rene. That being said, Jack was also great but a bit more reserved.

Some of the photos Braden got from his flight. We were so high up!
On the ground

Back on the ground of the landing zone there’s a small coffee shop where you can look over the gopro footage from your flight. We had about 15 minutes on the ground before the lower take-off flights met back up with us. Then it was a short journey back into town, again transferring vans to go into the center.

All in all, this is a must do in Queenstown. (I guess you could go sky diving but that’s a lot shorter than paragliding) It’s just the right amount of thrill without being terrifying with a super easy take off and landing.

Back on the ground after an incredible experience

Let me know in the comments below if you’d be interested in paragliding in Queenstown or if you have any questions about our experience!

Other articles on nearby spots:

Guide to Milford Sound

The hike to Roy’s Peak

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Luging at Skyline Queenstown

If you’re looking for a killer view of Queenstown without A. hiking or B. paying loads of money for a scenic flight- look no further than Skyline Queenstown. It’s right in town and makes for a fun outing any time of day. You can make reservations to dine in their restaurant, buy tickets for their insanely fun luge course, haul your bike up and mountain bike down, or just ride the gondola to the top for the best view of Queenstown and her lakes.

Queenstown Skyline Practical Information:

Gondola Hours: Open at 9AM daily. The last gondola down coincides with the restaurant hours.

Restaurant Hours: Lunch reservations are available from 11:30-1:30PM. Dinner reservations are from 4:30-8:45PM. All dining times are limited to 90 minutes.

Luge Hours: Open at 10AM daily. Closes from 6PM-8PM based on demand and sunset hours. Check their website for accurate closing time.

Gondola tickets: Adult- $28.50/44 NZD, child (ages 5-14) $16.80/26 NZD

Gondola+Dinner– from $64/99 NZD adult, $35/ 54 NZD children

Gondola +5 luge rides– Adults $43/67  NZD, child $31.50/ 49 NZD

Mountain biking: Adults $29/45 NZD, child $19.40/ 30 NZD

*Visit here for more deals and combo options as well as family ticket prices

*If you are thinking of doing bungee or white water activities- check to see if they offer combo tickets to get further discounts off these costs

*If you are in the area for several days, check the site First table (on your first day) for reservations and awesome discounts at the restaurant

*There are cheaper tickets for only 2 luge runs but trust me you want at least 5.

Our experience at Skyline Queenstown:

We unfortunately were not in the area early enough to catch reservations for the restaurant on First Table so I can’t attest to the food (although friends of mine went and said it was very good) we did however get to do the luge. Maybe it was the fact that half our tours in Queenstown were cancelled due to weather and we were happy just to do it, or maybe it’s because the luge really is the coolest cheap thrill you can find in Queenstown- either way I highly recommend it.

The gondola up itself is worth it (although you can hike for free). The ride is over in under 10 minutes and the views from the top are just insane. We were lucky to have a clearing in the week long rain and were up there close to sunset so the lighting was just brilliant.

The gondola spits you out like all rides in a gift shop. From there you can follow the path outside and down a slight hill to the start of  a short ski lift which you can ride (no tickets needed) even higher up the hill to the start of the luge courses. We grabbed some helmets for the luge and hopped on the lift which took another 10 minutes or less and had even better views than the gondola.

Riding the lift up over the luge hills

At the top of the lift station there are more toilets, a walking trail that has picnic tables along it if you choose to walk down, and the beginning of the luge course. For the first ride down you have to go in the left line where the explain the rules and working of the sleds and you start on an easier track. The line was about 5-10 minutes for explanations and we got released in small groups of 4 -6.

Luging at Skyline Queenstown

The ride is sort of a cross between go carting and an alpine slide if you’ve experienced one of those. It’s a wide cement track (perfect for passing slow pokes) with twists, tunnels, and a few short drops. The toboggan sled requires you to push forward to go forward and allows for steering which requires BOTH hands.* You can really go as fast or slow as you want just keeping mind that on tight turns if you feel the wheels lift up you might want to take it a little slower.

Depending on how fast you go, each run lasts between 1 minute to 3 minutes and there are 2 different runs you can take.

Video still from footage we took with a helmet mounted gopro

*Don’t plan on holding a camera or phone in your hands as it is impossible to operate at the same time. Instead if you have a gopro- make sure to bring your mount as there were several helmets that already had a gopro mount fitting for videos.

We did the slower track the first time through and then did the faster one the rest of our 4 rides. The line was never longer than 5-10 minutes and we had an absolute blast zipping down the track over and over again. Trust me, even 5 won’t feel like enough.

Once we’d finished our rides, we rode the lift up one last time in order to walk down to the gondola station and enjoy the views a little longer. Back at the station we got some gifts from the gift shop and hopped in the gondola for the ride back down.

All in all, the gondola and luge was a highlight of our trip to New Zealand and if you’re in Queenstown, it’s a must do. Everyone can go their own speeds so even the less thrill seeking members of your group can have an enjoyable ride.

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