Having lived in Queenstown for over a year I have been itching for a ride on ‘The Lady of the lake’ I have continuously watched the old steam boat chug up and down the lake, blowing her horn and letting all the land dwellers know that she is out enjoying herself once more, it was now the time to book a Friday night dinner with one of my girlfriends and get out on Lake Wakatipu. After eagerly waiting the whole day for the stormy weather to clear we stood watching the Earnslaw make her way around the bay and dock so we could board. It was raining, blowing a gale and looked set to be a rocky passage across to Walter Peak, however just like that, Mother Nature tackled those clouds and gave us a little light show for our outbound journey. Perfect for some misty, moody photos and an oppourtunity to explore the deck. A fresh dusting of spring snow made for a beautiful backdrop on our journey. The story behind the Earnslaw is quiet impressive and you can learn all the facts in the mini museum at the front (sorry captain I mean Bow of the ship) The TSS Earnslaw was built in 1911 in Dunedin, she was then dismantaled and delieved to Kingston where it took a few months to reassemble the ship. The Earnslaw was launched for the locals on the 18th October, 1912, the same year as the Titanic, would you believe it! People traveled from all over to watch this beautiful and majestic ship make her way into Queenstown, after a few toots of her horn the Lady of the lake was off on her maiden trip, it is incredible that she is still going today and is in tip top condition. Now if you are wondering what TSS stands for it means Twin Screw Steamship and she takes one tonne of coal an hour, that’s some going for the guys shoveling to keep her going. Not only has our lady hosted many a celebrity including Queen Lizzie herself, she has also starred in films such as Indiana Jones and King Kong, not bad for a 100 year old ship now is it.
I was so excited to board, never having stepped foot on the boat I didn’t really know what to expect. Oh she did not disappoint she is a beauty! You can take a window seat for the most scenice lake crossing you will ever experience or wander around exploring all the nooks and crannies, reading, watching the guys fire her up and even grab yourself a cheeky wave from the captain. I walked round and round the deck multiple times, camera glued to my face taking in the sheer beauty of Walter peak and Queenstown centre from afar, knowing you are in the safe hands of the captain you are able to enjoy the view and the nature surrounding you. Walter peak station was slowly coming in to view and this is when my stomach started going crazy, I knew there was food waiting for me and I was excited, any sign of a buffet and I am one happy chap. We were greeted at the door by the friendlsiest of hosts, seated, wined and most certainly ready to be dined. I allowed myself to sample the food before taking photos of everything I put on my plate. Walter peak station sure knows how to put a good spread on, entrees, salad, vegatables, fresh prawns, a cheese & meat board, fresh homemade bread and a whole area for meat plus the addition of two smiley chefs cooking up an abslute storm on the open fire. There was plenty of beautifully seared Cardrona Lamb and rare beef slices, fresh fish and chicken also on the menu you are sure spoilt for choice, and guess what? You can return for more, I made sure I managed to sample a little of everything, didn’t want to be missing out now did I. While taking everything in I had a keen eye for what others had on their plates and made sure i got to experience the same, after writing this i totally understand if I’m never invited to a buffet again. Now now lets not forget about the sweet tooth, there is plenty to satisfy in the sugary haven of the dessert section. Mini Pick & Mix, mini chocolate mousse, mini creme brulet, mini sticky date pudding, notice the focus on mini that means you can have more than one and not feel guilty about it. The desserts were equally as delicious as the savouries, hats off to the chef!
The rain had manage to keep itself at bay so we took the opportunity to roam around the grounds before watching the farm show. I have always been a massive lover of farm animals especially sheep, so the gift shop was enough for me, sheep EVERYWHERE! Outside the farm dogs work hard to round up four sheep from over the hills, in my element having pushed to the front I didn’t miss the chance to ask the farmer everything and anything about his dog and sheep. Now to the juicy bit, the farmer diverted all attention to the stage where he carefully had a sheep between his legs, at this point i was nearly wetting myself with excitement, after reassuring us that she was comfortable he got to work prepping her for summer. I was amazed at the size of the coat he managed to get of her and laid out i couldn’t resist to pocket a wee bundle as a souvenir.
It was time for the stars to lead us back to Queenstown. The Lady lit up in all her glory. After enjoying a little sing song around the piano, I relaxed into the comfy booths on the lower deck. Back upon dry land and revelling in an amazing night on board the TSS Earnslaw I watched the festoon lights fade away. Real Journeys, the staff and the lady herself made for an excellent night away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Queenstown.
This article was originally written for http://www.queenstowninsider.com