Queenstown likes to describe itself as ‘the adrenaline-rush capital of the world’. That sounds like fun, but I definitely had preconceptions of streets overrun with bungy jumpers, skydivers and snowboarders. Basically, I was expecting a cross between a too-cool ski resort and a seedy Faliraki filled with overcooked teenagers. Fun for a day to do something crazy and move on.

Turns out I was way off the mark. Queenstown (not Queensland, as I KEPT calling it) is achingly beautiful. Set on a lake, sparkling in the sunshine, with 360 degrees of snow-topped mountains, chic shops and bars, and an unusual but delightful combination of picturesque serenity and fun-filled adventure. I loved it.

Our trip had two main objectives:

  1. Do something fun; and
  2. Eat at world-famous Fergburger.

After a potter in town, we skipped the expensive Gondola ride and walked up the steep forest trail to the top for the stunning views and, more importantly, the luge. This was Super Mario Kart racing off the top of a mountain, made all the more authentic by Joe continuously singing Do-do-do-da-do-do-de-doo, which is, apparently, the Mario theme tune. We got a brief lesson on how to work what was, essentially, a sledge on wheels with a brake (cheating) and then we raced down the hill, squealing at every corner, much to the amusement of the passing tourists who were on the way to meet their (much more squeal-worthy) bungy rope. I won, though it turned out the luge had pushed Joe’s driving skills to the limit and he had crashed his little trolley into the wall. Embarrassing.

Back in town for dinner, Fergburger was calling and we joined the queue. Despite all the hype from the guidebook and various people we’d met en route (“burgers as big as your head”), they were without doubt the best burgers we have ever eaten. So the next night we went there again. Naughty.

We figured we’d earned it, though, after a strenuous day trip of white-water rafting. Once we’d donned numerous layers of wetsuit, we hopped on a minibus to the river – a drive which is listed among the top 20 most dangerous roads in the world (so they claim), complete with tight turns and sheer cliff drops. Plus plenty of chat from the guides about sheep (turns out rural Kiwis are just like the Welsh).

On the river, some fool let us go in the front, which put us alarmingly in charge of the raft’s power and direction, under the instruction of our genuine Maori guide, aptly named Chief. Unfortunately, Chief kept calling us “English pussies” and threatening we’d lose our spot if we weren’t up to the task, so Joe was determined to defend his national honour. After a teensy tiny (huge) steering fail, we got caught between two rocks mid river (a rock and a hard place, if you will… sorry), and then a bumper-car knock from the second raft wedged us even further. It was hard to tell if Chief was concerned or amused as he announced we all had to clamber onto the rocks to free the raft, and then jump back in quickly before it floated away. Success! Teething problems sorted, we got into our stride, splashing down river and swallowing as much water as we rowed. Great fun! And as an extra treat, we got a hot shower at the end – true luxury!

Finally, it was back into Barry for the long drive to the West Coast, complete with more stunning views and an incongruous soundtrack of ‘A Chorus Line’ bellowing out the speakers. “Tits and ass, got myself a fancy pair…”