Queenstown is known as an adventure hub in New Zealand. And while we enjoyed some incredible thrills here, we were on the lookout for a way to wind down the evening after all that bungee jumping, climbing, hiking, luging, and cycling.
Our trip on the TSS Earnslaw nailed that, providing us with some quintessential New Zealand experiences all while fueling us up for tomorrow’s adventure. When Real Journeys invited us as their guests at Walter Peak Farms, we were delighted to hop aboard the TSS Earnslaw and set sail for BBQ!
Discovering the TSS Earnslaw
The excursion started with a voyage across Lake Wakatipu on this vintage steamer. We thought it was just going to be some little boat ride but the ride on this old ship was all part of the fun. History enthusiasts will particularly enjoy the trip, as the historic TSS Earnslaw is a steamship that was launched in 1912 (the same year as the Titanic!) The Earnslaw was formerly used in its South Island location primarily to move sheep, passengers, and goods to and from isolated farming communities.
Eventually a road was constructed, and thus, the steamship was no longer an efficient means of transportation. In 1968 the now obsolete TSS Earnslaw was headed to the scrapyard. But then the Fjordland Travel (now Real Journeys) stepped in to lease and later purchase this old beauty and give the ship the TLC it needed. Throughout the rest of our travels in New Zealand, we often saw many references to the TSS Earnslaw throughout museums and plaques. The ship really has a strong reputation around these parts yet we had no idea prior to our voyage across the lake!
Today, the TSS Earnslaw is the only coal fired steamship in operation in the southern hemisphere! Another fun fact: movie buffs may recognize the steamship as it was used in Indian Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
A highlight during the steamship ride is standing on a platform to observe the men hard at work in the boiler room, as the ship still runs on coal. You can freely walk right above all that coal shoveling and get a glimpse at all the action.
Be sure to spend some time on the bow of the ship as well! We were pleasantly surprised that we were the only passengers to take advantage of incredible views from the front of the ship. Most passengers in the comforts of the interior during the transit.
Walter Peak Farms Gourmet BBQ Dinner
Upon arriving at the farm, you’ll have just a few minutes to admire the well manicured flowers lining the way to the expansive restaurant. But we couldn’t dally too long, as we had some business to take to… the BBQ!
Dinner takes place at Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant, which is more of a charming farmhouse then a restaurant. Now, it’s chow time! Come hungry and wear your fat pants because you’re going to want to eat everything! The meal is served buffet style and is all-you-care-to eat.
There were all sorts of cold starters and appetizers ranging from salads to seafood. Two solid options were the tomato and mozzarella salad and the baby spinach with lentils, hazelnuts, pomegranate & feta.
But it was some of the more fresh seafood that really won us over. We filled our plates with shrimp cocktail, clams, smoked salmon and even pickled octopus seasoned with fennel and paprika!
Mains consisted of everything from steak to rack of lamb, local fish to pork & chicken, which were all expertly grilled on the spot. We were curious to see how the Kiwis would do BBQ. We can confirm it was a job well done yet the meats thankfully were not. All was juicy and tender! Being in New Zealand, you have to try the lamb. But don’t snub the steak either, as that seemed to be favorite among us and fellow diners.
Typical BBQ sides like corn on the cob, green beans, and potatoes were available for the taking too. A small detail we quite enjoyed was the condiment table – I think there were at least 25 different sauces to dip all that meat into.
But, perhaps my favorite were the artisan cheeses and desserts! I’m a bit of a cheese fiend and they had all my favorites but what was really nice is that they all seemed to be locally produced versions. So I got to sample different cheeses from all over both the North and South Island.
If you are to ever have dinner at Walter Peak Farms, don’t gorge too much on this endless supply of meats and cheeses. The artfully presented sweet options were truly decadent and worth leaving room in your belly for. Its hard to pick favorites but I’d probably have to go with the chocolate creme brûlée.
With the varied menu of all the variety of food we consumed that night, I’m still not exactly sure what exactly defines “New Zealand BBQ” but I can tell you that what we ate at Walter Peak farms was damn good!
Sheep Shearing Demonstration
After the meal, it’s time for the sheep shearing demonstration! Visitors make their way to the neighboring barn where a retired farmer gives you a little show with his faithful dogs. Before the sheep sheering demo begins, he has his trained dogs corral sheep from the meadow to the barn. The dogs ran out into the darkness beyond what any of us could see. We all doubted the canines’ capabilities. Yet minutes later, there they were with a good half dozen sheep in tow! Pretty neat!
Then the shearing begins! You really get an appreciation for the technique required to shear a squirmy sheep. The sheerer managed to get the sheep still and then raced to get shed its wool coat right off of her. It doesn’t get much more “New Zealand” than this, lol.
Following the sheep shearing demo, it’s time to head back to the TSS Earnslaw for the trip back to Queenstown. During the return voyage, there is a pianist that plays classic tunes accompanied with songbooks for all the passengers. We thought it was a little random and funny, but we grabbed a beer from the bar and joined right in to sing “She’ll be coming ’round the mountain!” It was a fun way to wind down the night.
If You Go to Walter Peak Farms:
We give a good review and would definitely recommend the Walter Peak Farms to those looking for a unique dining experience while in Queenstown. The Walter Peak Gourmet BBQ Dinner is a tour offered by Real Journeys starting at $120 NZD for the four hour experience. This includes the roundtrip ride across the lake on the TSS Earnslaw, dinner, and farm show. Beer, wine, and alcoholic drinks were extra yet reasonably priced. The dinner events start at 4pm, 6pm, or 8pm, depending on the time of year, so check their calendar. There’s also a similar lunch version during the day which starts $95 NZD, which is a little easier on the budget.
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