The seventeenth at Millbrook is a nail-biting 187-yard par three that requires you to carry a lake corner and a very deep sand pot to reach a steeply knobbed green. The eighteenth is a 558-yard risk-reward par five that rises over a triple-bunkered hillcrest, then tumbles down to a green with two tiers that is fronted by a tree-shaded brook. The good news is that if you drown your approach in the home hole's brook, you're only a quick bump-and-run away from the Hole-in-One Bar, where you can drown your troubles.
On the morning of my second day at Millbrook, I packed up my clubs, popped out my squashy and headed across an arm of Lake Wakatipu to the Queenstown Golf Club, in Kelvin Heights. Perhaps the best kept secret about golf in New Zealand is that it's replete with little country courses that are incredibly scenic if not gravely challenging. (One of the hidden gems of the North Island is the unpronounceable but delightfully playable Ngaruawahia Club, near Hamilton.) The jewel of the South Island is this 6,487-yard course in Kelvin Heights, where vistas of the Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu keep making your jaw drop even if you keep failing to drop birdie putts on its very vulnerable series of short par fours and reachable par fives.
Queenstown touts itself as "the outdoor adventure capital of the world," and the Skyline Gondola, in the city center, is merely the most convenient means of being taken up, up and away. Local expedition outfits can provide you with endless opportunities to burst your lungs, bust your butt, break your neck or merely catapult your heart, soul and stomach into your throat. The surrounding area boasts five ski fields, three major bungee-jumping bridges and enough backpacks, parasails, fishing poles, jet boats, canoes, white-water rafts, helicopters and airplanes to equip every customer who ever set foot in an Eddie Bauer store.
Queenstown's newest and potentially most nausea-inducing thrill ride is called Fly by Wire. It is a bit like flying a rocket ship tethered to a slingshot. First, you are strapped onto a barrel-shape craft fitted with a sixty-horsepower airplane engine and a four-prong suspension cable. Then you are hoisted about 350 feet up a canyon, at which point you flip the release lever and soar through the sky at speeds of up to a hundred miles per hour.
I thanked the Lord that the continuing downpour precluded me from flying by wire, but it did not prevent me from sampling the local nightlife. Queenstown has a year-round population of just 7,500 people, but there are more than eighty restaurants, pubs and clubs huddled around the Steamer Wharf. After devouring a cut of Cervena venison dressed with mushroom risotto at the 19th, I puffed on a Cohiba at the Cigar Bar next door, then ambled to a windowless dive dubbed the Bunker, where I encountered members of New Zealand's smart set.
I have to admit, however, that my favorite establishment in Queenstown was a Tex-Mex joint called the Lone Star Café. The wall photos of Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings made me feel right at home. More important, I was able to order up some tequila and a bowl of jalapeños to nurse an oncoming cold. By the time I drove back to my cottage at Millbrook, I was flying unwired and ready to take on New Zealand's toughest course.
Wellington - Wedding The Winds
Whenever I told someone from New Zealand of my plans to visit their capital city, they replied with those same discouraging words. To my mind, that didn't sound like in formation: Windiness is universal in New Zealand. Virtually the entire nation lies within the so-called Roaring Forties latitudes (34°S to 47°S), which roil with warm, humid westerlies from the Tasman Sea and shiver with antipodean winds from the Antarctic.