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The Guardian Above

13 Aug 2014

Towering over Queenstown like an official guardian is The Skyline Queenstown. A building constructed in the early sixties as a tourist stop, accessible by bumpy road and transported by old vans with a gradient of 1;4.5, prompted an innovative company to construct a cableway to the top of Bob’s Peak from near the centre of the town and open it in 1967.

The Skyline experience is on the majority of visitors’ “must do” lists, and not only is the view spectacular but the activities at the top are fun and interesting.

It had been around seven years since my last trip up the cableway and I was very excited when we jumped inside the gondola and headed up the cable to see what was on offer that evening.

When travelling, the first thing we like doing is eating, and the buffet at The Skyline Queenstown is legendary. The choice of local fare is mind-boggling. One really needs to put aside some time to admire the spread – starters, hot and cold mains, desserts, cheese boards and a great selection of beverages. My roast lamb was superb; following it up with a boysenberry cheesecake, I was more than satisfied.

After dinner, it was out on the balcony to feel the fresh air and further admire the view we had enjoyed during dinner. The panorama of the whole Wakatipu Basin is magnificent from this amazing vantage point, with viewing platforms that provide photo opportunities for all. Next to the main building, if you’re lucky, a bungy jumper may leap from the tower situated right beside the complex. This adds to the attraction, and you may partake in this original New Zealand pastime if you need an adrenaline rush.

After surveying the landscape, it was into the theatre to enjoy the Kiwi Haka performance. After a traditional Māori greeting we were taken on a journey detailing the arrival, lifestyle and culture of New Zealand’s native people. Crowd participation is encouraged and of course as the name suggests a traditional Māori Haka is performed.

By this time, it was dark enough to be taken outside to partake of the Stargazing option. Not one to have ever been a budding astronomer, I was a little skeptical, but the clear, unpolluted skies of Queenstown provide the perfect setting for Skyline Queenstown’s new stargazing experience.

With Skyline’s magnificent location and Queenstown’s long winter nights, I really enjoyed the new Skyline Stargazing tour and was able to get closer to another world than ever before.

“The view from Skyline is out of this world and this is an opportunity to explore the night sky from a rare and unique position,” says Skyline General Manager Lyndon Thomas.

Perched high above Queenstown, and surrounded by snow-capped mountains, keen stargazers at Skyline will have the opportunity to access a ‘hidden world’ not seen by the naked eye and impossible to see in many other locations around the world.

Skyline Stargazing takes visitors to a specially constructed area high above the main complex, where there is no trespassing light, allowing for an unbelievably clear view of the night sky. Top-of-the line telescopes give stargazers the chance to view an amazing array of stunning sights, from the iconic Southern Cross to nebulae, planets, the Milky Way and other galaxies.

Co-Ordinator Matt Hall says winter was an exciting time of year to explore the night sky. “The centre of our galaxy sits right above us in the winter months,” he says. “There’s simply so much on show for us and we’re able to actually look into the past, something which blows most peoples’ minds!”

Mr Hall joined Skyline Stargazing from the Mt John Observatory at Lake Tekapo and brings with him over four years’ experience as an astronomy guide. “This is a really exciting tour, tailored to suit the needs of each individual group, from first-time stargazers to the more experienced.”

The clear views are provided by two portable high-powered Celestron telescopes brought in specially from the US, which can automatically track points of interest, giving everyone time to see the sights. Guests on the outdoor tour will have no trouble keeping warm, with high-quality Canada Goose down jackets provided.

Skyline General Manager Lyndon Thomas says that mankind had always been fascinated with the stars. “With most not easily viewable from major cities or requiring a journey to an out-of-the way observatory, Skyline Stargazing has universal appeal,” he explains.

“Queenstown is the adventure capital of the world with an excellent selection of restaurants and bars, but there aren’t too many tailored options when it comes to enjoying our natural surroundings at night.”

The guardian of Queenstown is certainly one of the most interesting venues available. Give yourself time to enjoy this amazing attraction.