Queenstown is leading the way in ecotourism - here is how to embrace it
With lofty goals to become carbon free, Queenstown is primed to become a leading ecotourism destination.
Rushing ahead, my kids flitter around the back of Sherwood Queenstown, a renovated 1980s motor inn. They dash over a picture-book bridge and into a wild garden to inspect modest rows of purple kale, clumps of apple-green spinach and tiny seedlings in a hot house. Painted stones mark the blooming rows.
Surrounding grass is unkempt. Although the view of a reflective Lake Wakatipu is pretty, the garden is anything but. It’s practical, purposeful; exactly the way it should be. And the motel-turned-hotel feels much the same, which is exactly why I love it. Sherwood is the epitome of sustainable tourism and an example of what Queenstown’s future may look like. By 2030, the local council hopes to have a carbon-zero tourism industry.
The strategy aims to address the large number of holidaymakers who visit and takes into consideration flights in and out of the district, and transport within. It’s impressive, especially the focus to remove carbon rather than simply offset it.
Sleeping soundly at Sherwood Queenstown
I’m in New Zealand/Aotearoa on a two-week road trip from Christchurch to Queenstown, zipping over alpine passes and snaking up mountain roads. Yet it’s Sherwood I’m most excited about, lured by its ethos: “The wellbeing of our community and environment are fundamental…” As I open the door to my ground-floor room, I’m happy to discover minimal but cool furnishings that have a slightly industrial vibe.
The walls are lined with carbon-neutral cork, the carpet is created from recycled fishing nets and linoleum, and the curtains are old woollen military blankets. Sherwood’s ‘eco’ credentials stretch beyond aesthetics, too. “At the time of the refurbishment we were the largest private install of solar panels in the country,” says Hayley Scott, general manager of The Sherwood Group. “We also installed a dedicated dark-fibre internet connection to provide free wi-fi to guests and allow us to remove TVs in the majority of rooms – which mainly end up in landfill.”
A clean and green dining experience
Even if you’re not bedding down at Sherwood, it’s worth visiting for a meal, with the restaurant serving produce either grown onsite, foraged nearby or bought from local farmers. Sherwood’s owners aim to be zero-waste, and 100 per cent of organic restaurant waste is returned to the property’s aforementioned kitchen garden.
This ethos extends to the bar, with more than 60 per cent of the stocked wine bottled in-house. Future plans include starting an additional, larger veggie garden and dedicating the restaurant’s main tap beer to a local brewery that’s developed a custom brew from wheat and hops grown in Queenstown. As for the dining, the atmosphere is inviting and the menu is ‘hyper-seasonal’.
Volunteering with Whakatipu Reforestation Trust
A short drive from Sherwood, I pull up at a reserve in Arrow Junction and follow my excited children down a track. We are warmly greeted by a Whakatipu Reforestation Trust volunteer, who gives us gardening gloves and shows us how to plant small native trees and shrubs on the hillside.
We’re partaking in a community day that’s open to locals and tourists, with the goal to restore biodiversity to land that was once degraded by gold mining and other practices. Since 2015, the trust has planted more than 80,000 natives in the Whakatipu Basin.
The kids thrive on getting their hands dirty, while I enjoy being involved in a wholesome, worthwhile cause; it makes for a wonderful alternative to a typical tourist activity. Morning tea is called and we enjoy scones before vowing to help out next time we’re in town.
More ways to go green in Queenstown
Visit the wildlife sanctuary at Kiwi Park
Converted from a rubbish tip in 1984, Kiwi Park is a wonderful introduction to New Zealand’s native birds and reptiles. More than 15,000 native trees have been planted to restore the site, and you can now wander the sanctuary meeting wildlife such as the shy kiwi and endangered kea parrot. Stay for the daily conservation show to learn how locals are working to eradicate pests.
Dine on ethically sourced fresh food at The Dishery
With tables sprawling from a stylish cafe into a garden patio, The Dishery invites travellers to hang a while and enjoy lamb ribs, lemon sole, truffled potatoes and more. Located in the historic municipality of Arrowtown, the cafe specialises in ethically sourced fresh food from suppliers in Central Otago and elsewhere in New Zealand. It’s open for breakfast, brunch and lunch, and is popular, so reserve a table.
Embrace sustainability at Cardrona Alpine Resort
Whether you’re visiting Queenstown for skiing, mountain biking or hiking, Cardrona Alpine Resort is an example of how sustainability can be embraced in the mountains.
The resort has removed landfill bins and plastic, including single-use coffee cups, and installed recycling and compost bins everywhere. The resort also offers free shuttles during winter and encourages carpooling, with dedicated hitchhiking spots.