Published on : Monday, July 3, 2017
The Queenstown region has always been a magnet for adventurers and entrepreneurs and these pioneers became the mainstay of New Zealand’s adventure tourism industry. World-first innovations such as commercial jet boating and bungy jumping have forged Queenstown’s enduring reputation as the ‘Adventure Capital of the World’.
Visitors have been flocking to Queenstown – in New Zealand’s Southern Lakes region – since the 1860s when gold was first discovered in the Shotover River. When the gold eventually ran out, many of those early prospectors decided to stay, captivated by the beauty of the Coronet Peak – skiing the heights above Queenstown with views that go on forever from the Back Bowls of Coronet Peak ski area.
Around the turn of the 20th century, it was the region’s many walking trails and tracks that created the early beginnings of the tourism industry. During the summer months, people would come from all over New Zealand and the world to experience the magnificent walks, including the famed Milford, Routeburn and Hollyford tracks.
But it was a different story in winter as Queenstown came to a virtual standstill while locals hibernated until the start of the summer walking season.
Over time, as roads and facilities developed, the town became a picturesque overnight stop for coach tours to Milford Sound which had become known as one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
It wasn’t until 1947, when New Zealand tourism pioneer Sir Henry Wigley – founder of transport operator Mount Cook Group – opened a commercial ski area within sight of the lakeside town at Coronet Peak that Queenstown began to develop as a year-round resort.
Sir William Hamilton – who later developed the modern jet boat – was called upon and used technical knowledge, determination, and more than a smattering of good old Kiwi ingenuity to build a rope tow for Coronet Peak from scratch.
With good access, reliable snow and a nearby airport, skiers flocked to Queenstown and it became a thriving winter ski resort, prompting new development including construction of several hotels.