Summer, winter, autumn or spring, Queenstown is a beauty to behold. For both tourists and locals, it has a spectacular vista and there are many things to do whatever your thing. For the adrenaline junkies, there’s jumping out of planes, flinging yourself of bridges, rafting, jet boating and skiing. If eating and drinking is more up your alley, then there are top restaurants and wineries to enjoy. There are also plenty of relaxing activities and stunning sights.
Here are the best things to do in Queenstown.
Soak In The Spectacular Views On A Gondola
The top of any Queenstown bucket list should be the gondola. Take the scenic ride up to Bob’s Peak to take in the scenic, panoramic views. You’ll be carried 450 metres above Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.
When you get to the top, choose from any of the fun activities on offer. Take a downhill ride on the Skyline Luge or settle in for dinner at Stratosfare Restaurant. There’s also the Skyline Stargazing experience, where stargazing guides lead you up Bob’s Peak where with telescopes, you’ll take in sights not visible to the naked eye.
Take It To The Slopes
Queenstown is home to three main ski areas, each offering varied alpine terrain and unrivalled scenery. The closest, Coronet Peak, is just a 20-minute drive from the town centre. One of the most exciting ski resorts, Coronet Peak lights up every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights when the sun goes down. If you’re feeling hungry, head to Heidi’s Hut at the base of the Rocky Gully T-bar. A local favourite for Italian-style après-ski, gourmet pizzas, pastas and soups are prepared fresh daily and pair nicely with their selection of local Amisfield wine and craft beer.
Experience big mountain terrain at The Remarkables, just a 30-minute drive from central Queenstown. Test out your skills at one of their seven parks, where you’ll find pristine snow. The Remarkables is the ideal field for everyone from first-timers to seasoned skiers and boarders. Stop for a coffee break at Rastus Burn or head to the Remarkables Restaurant, which has a daily menu with steak sandwiches, hearty burgers and comforting curries. It’s a firm favourite for a long lunch. Before finishing your day, head down Curvy Basin and stop by the Ice Bar, which has epic views, plenty of cold bevvies and Kiwi BBQ.
Cardrona is easily accessible from Queenstown, just a short drive from Queenstown. They also offer a shuttle service that takes you from your accommodation right to the snow. Cardrona has three wide, open basins and some of the country’s best terrain. Sitting high, its altitude makes for some of New Zealand’s best (and most reliable) snow conditions. If you want to stay right on the mountain, book a room at the Cardrona Alpine Apartments. These spacious units are equipped with self-catering kitchen facilities. Otherwise, head to Java for Allpress coffee or The Mezz after a day on the slopes.
Visit The Queenstown Gardens
Just a few minutes walk from central Queenstown are the tranquil Queenstown Gardens. Perfect for a morning stroll or an evening picnic with friends, the gardens are an excellent place to take in views of Lake Wakatipu. Along with bowling and tennis, there’s also the option of ice skating in the winter at the Queenstown Arena.
Get Your Adrenaline Pumping On The Shotover River
The Shotover River flows from the Southern Alps and runs through Skippers Canyon and flows into the Kawarau River, just east of Queenstown. The best way to experience the Shotover River is on the famous Queenstown jet boat ride. The ultimate in water sports, the Shotover Jet has been a hit with Queenstown visitors and locals since 1965. Hold on tight and marvel at the jaw-dropping scenery as you make your way through the incredibly narrow Shotover River Canyons. Hold on tight and take a spin in the iconic Big Red and marvel as the jaw-dropping scenery passes you by while you power your way through the narrow Shotover River Canyons.
Visit The Picturesque Town Of Arrowtown
Just a 15-minute drive from Queenstown you'll find one of the prettiest places in New Zealand—Arrowtown. Sitting in the Arrow Basin, the gold rush village is nestled below the peaks that surround the Arrow River. Explore the historic main street and marvel at the heritage buildings, many of which still have their original facades.
Enjoy Queenstown's City Centre
There’s plenty to do in the city centre, from grabbing breakfast at local favourite, Vudu Cafe and Larder to wandering into shops along the main street. Don’t miss SLOW, a concept store on Beach Street, which stocks plenty of Scandinavian, American and Canadian clothing brands, coffee table books and homewares. They also have a cabinet full of vegan and wholefoods and coffee.
For a casual dinner, you can't go wrong with fish and chips at Erik’s before strolling along Lake Wakatipu. For something more formal, Rata is our go-to. The contemporary menu features locally-sourced seafood and hearty meat and cheese dishes.
Take Things High And Go Ziplining
If you’re looking to get out into the beautiful outdoors, (you’re in Queenstown, after all) be sure to book yourself in for some zip lining adventures with Ziptrek. The Canadian company originally opened in Whistler before expanding to Queenstown. The views are unparalleled and the team is focused on educating visitors on local sustainability efforts. Each line begins with a quick lesson on how we can reduce our environmental impact. We recommend the Kea Tour, which includes six zip lines, finishing with a ride that descends 30 storeys at speeds of up to 70kph. It’s definitely an epic way to take in sweeping views of Queenstown and admire the pine trees as you fly past.
Sample New Zealand’s Best Pinot Noir
Central Otago is undoubtedly New Zealand’s most beautiful wine region and you have your pick of wine tours, tastings and cellar doors. A few of our favourites include Gibbston Valley, which is one of the region’s oldest wineries, Amisfield for its beautiful rose and beautiful dining as well as modern Akarua Winery.
If you’re looking to join a tour, Alpine Wine Tours is one of our favourites. Taking you to a mix of boutique vineyards and well-known wineries, you’ll find yourself sampling Pinot Noir from one of the top three destinations in the world. Is there a winery you’re desperate to visit but want a guide to take you there? The Queenstown Wine Trail offers a fun, personalised and friendly sightseeing tour of vineyards and wineries in Queenstown and Central Otago.
Soak Away Your Troubles At The Onsen Pools
Whatever you do, make sure you book in a visit to the Onsen Pools. Located high on a cliffside overlooking the magnificent Shotover River canyon, they are the perfect antidote to a weekend of Queenstown adventures. The pools have seen a refresh in recent years and the experience is similar to that of authentic onsens in Japan. If you’re looking for a date idea with a view, these pools will be right up your alley.
Book Your Stay at One of Queenstown’s Best Hotels
Take your pick when it comes to accommodation in Queenstown. We’re partial to Eichardt’s Private Hotel (pictured). This Queenstown icon is home to luxurious suites, apartments, residences, and a penthouse. The luxurious Penthouse, which has 24-hour butler service, a private chef and its own elevator to the hotel’s restaurant.
For a relaxed and unique place to unwind, The Sherwood is set on three acres of alpine hillside overlooking Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables range. The in-house restaurant sources its ingredients from the garden on site.
QT Queenstown is the pinnacle of Queenstown cool. Sitting pretty in nature’s playground, this lush lakeside resort emulates nostalgic alpine and après-ski ambiance. Take in the views of Lake Wakatipu after a hard day's slog on the snow with a flute of Champagne Mumm at the elegant Reds Bar. Nab a lakeside room at this quirky boutique hotel and in the morning, take in the crisp South Island air on the balcony and make your way down to Bazaar for an interactive buffet breakfast that dreams are made of. A quick walk from the city centre, stay and play at QT for luxury with a side of whimsical.
Or, get on board with the small hotel trend and book a stay at mi-pad in the heart of Queenstown. This smart, sustainable hotel has everything you need and nothing you don’t. Your mobile phone acts as a digital concierge. All you have to do is download the app, mia to check in, access your room and quickly change the lighting and temperature. Everything is consciously designed and carefully considered with perfectly compact rooms and spectacular views.
See A Live Gig At Yonder
If you’re looking for something to do in Queenstown at night, look no further than Yonder. This all-hours establishment is buzzing from morning till night. Start with dinner—their experimental kitchen caters to all dietary requirements without compromising on flavour. With a menu inspired by all their favourite dishes from their travels, you’ll want to sample everything. Linger over drinks and live music, that’ll have you dancing until the wee hours of the morning.
Walk Kelvin Heights Peninsula
You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to Queenstown walks. Some trails are a bit more than a stroll, while others are more challenging uphill hikes towards far-off peaks.
A few of our favourites include the swoopy Kelvin Heights Peninsula. The gorgeous, relatively easy 3km walk has everything you could want in a walk, with secret beaches ideal for summer picnics, a huge range of sculptures and boardwalks. Look no further for a fun free thing to do in Queenstown.
For something a bit more intense, the four-hour return hike along Jack’s Point rewards you with gorgeous views of Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding alpine landscapes. This one starts in Jardine Park, which is at the end of Jack’s Point Golf Course. The full circuit walkway leads to grasslands, tight corners and scattered scrubs.
A local favourite, right at the heart of Queenstown, is the Queenstown Hill Time Walk. The three-hour return journey begins on Belfast Street and will introduce you to the iconic Basket of Dreams sculpture. At its highest point, you’ll get a 360-degree panorama of The Remarkables, Cecil Peak, the Frankton Arm, and Queenstown Bay.
If you’re after something a bit more challenging, the Routeburn Track is 33km and will take you anywhere from two to four days. It’s the ultimate alpine adventure and takes you through ice-carved valleys and underneath peaks of the Southern Alps. This Great Walk is only a short trip from Queenstown and links Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks.
Try The Famous Fergburger
One way to fill that belly is at the iconic, world-renown Fergburger. Open 21 hours per day, make sure you come hungry because these burgs are the size of your head and well worth the inevitable wait. With a menu that includes everything from beef to chicken, falafel and cod, cleverly named The Godfather, there’s something for everyone at this Queenstown institution. Call in your order, grab it from the pick-up window and head to the lake. With Fergburger and Fergbaker both staples, there are also rumours that a Ferg bar is in the works.
Or, Luxe It Up With A Lakeside Long Lunch
If you're celebrating a birthday, anniversary or just feel like treating yourself, make a beeline for Botswana Butchery. Combining premium produce, delicious wine and local ingredients, come for the Butcher's Block and stay for the Wildflower Honey Crème Brûlée. Using the finest of Central Otago ingredients, this lakeside restaurant has made its name as a stalwart in the Queenstown dining scene. If you're lucky enough to come with a big group, skip to the banquet menu where you can try the best of everything. From arancini, Peking duck, Angus ribeye, and dessert to top it all off, you can expect to be rolling out of this plush restaurant in a big fat food coma.
Go Bungy Jumping Off Kawarau Bridge
Located just over 20 minutes from central Queenstown on State Highway 6 in Gibbston Valley, the Kawarau Bungy Centre is the home of bungy jumping. This is where it all began and the best place to take a leap of faith. The AJ Hackett Bungy Centre clings from a cliff face above the gorge, allowing you to get up close to the action. If you’re on a mission to test your limits, this is the place to do it.
The team have been throwing people off things since 1988. When you jump with AJ Hackett Bungy, you jump with the most experienced bungy company in the world. Not into bungy? The zipride is another option that will have you bolting down a 130m line at over 60kms an hour. With three lines side by side, you can even race your mates and get creative with your form.
Head to Middle Earth by Helicopter
Take a heli tour with Alpine Adventures to Earnslaw Burn, which was used as one of the magical locations featured in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Holding the only landing rights to this magical spot, walk the footsteps of Bilbo and his company of dwarves. With surreal views throughout the year, see native tussock and rolling country fields in the warmer months and land on glaciers and pillowy snow as it gets colder. You will even get to enjoy an unforgettable picnic under a hanging glacier and numerous waterfalls—dip your toes in if you dare.
If all that adventure-seeking has you thirsty, check out our round up of the best bars in Queenstown.
Image credit: Destination Queenstown, Miles Holden, Sara Orme, Eichardt’s Hotel, Ziptreck, Alpine Adventures