Whether you are looking for the ultimate adventure holiday or you want to recharge and unwind in a beautiful setting, there are endless possibilities in Queenstown. Home to some of the best views in New Zealand, Queenstown is a vibrant city set against a dramatic mountain landscape. Brimming with fine wine, tasty eateries and activities to get your heart racing.
This article includes the following sections:
- Key facts about Queenstown
- Queenstown must-do activities
- Queenstown walks
- Day trips from Queenstown
- Transport in Queenstown
- Where to stay in Queenstown
- Restaurants in Queenstown
- A little bit of Queenstown history
- Getting to and from Queenstown
Where is Queenstown
Queenstown is located in the Otago region of New Zealand’s South Island. It sits around the idyllic Lake Wakatipu. It has a humble population of 16,000, although it usually sees over 3 million tourists pass through each year. It’s no surprise that tourism is booming when you look at the plentiful offerings available. Famous for world-class skiing, delicious wines, and epic walking tracks, your trip to Queenstown is sure to be jam-packed with new experiences. Summer is the peak season which runs from December through to February. Although, Queenstown is the perfect winter destination, especially if you’re an avid skier. Hit the slopes at Coronet Peak & The Remarkables for a day of fresh snow on the mountain, followed by a warming glass of local Pinot Noir.
Queenstown activities and attractions
You’re never too far from an epic tourist attraction in Queenstown. But there are some activities not to be missed! Here are our top picks:
For all the thrill-seekers out there, try bungee jumping in the place where it all began. New Zealander A.J. Hackett was an adventure sports pioneer, making bungee jumping famous while simultaneously putting New Zealand adventure sport on the map in the 1980s. Tackle New Zealand’s highest Bungy, surrounded by breathtaking mountain views.
Gondola and Luge
Admire Queenstown’s views from above on the Queenstown Gondola. This is the steepest cable car in the Southern Hemisphere. You can enjoy a drink at the top while you soak up the spectacular views. If you prefer something a little faster, take a ride back down in the Luge. This purpose-built Luge is guaranteed to give you an adrenaline rush that will keep you wanting more!
Make the most of Queenstown’s scenery and sail through Lake Wakatipu.
Travel back in time on the iconic TSS Earnslaw. This 100-year-old steamer is one of the oldest tourist attractions in Queenstown. It’s the best way to experience the natural landscape surrounding the city.
Onsen hot pools
Reset and recharge at the tranquil Onsen Hot Pools. Tourists and locals flock to this luxurious day spa, and for good reason! This unique hot pools experience overlooks dramatic views of nearby mountains —the ultimate treat on your vacation.
If golf is your thing, take your pick from 6 courses in and around Queenstown. Whether you’re a golfing pro or a casual player, there’s a course for you. Choose from Millbrook Resort, Arrowtown, Jack’s Point and The Hills. Or, get in a round of golf while soaking up the picturesque views of Lake Wakatipu at Queenstown Golf Club.
Cycling - Queenstown trail
Explore Queenstown and immerse yourself in nature by taking a scenic bike ride through the Queenstown Trail. This is 130km of spectacular scenery. Cycle part of it or tackle the entire 4-day trail. This is a unique way to see and enjoy all that Queenstown has to offer.
Explore the mountains
To get the best views, head up to the mountains and embark on an epic hike. Ben Lomand is Queenstown’s most famous peak, named after another renowned peak in Scotland. Hundreds of visitors climb the summit to the top for outstanding views. Walter Peak, Cecil Peak and Mt Nicholas are some of the other mountains to put on the top of your Queenstown itinerary.
Be sure to pack your walking shoes when visiting Queenstown. There are so many great hiking trails in the area for every fitness level. The lookout points will have you mesmerised.
Locals and tourists flock to Mt Crichton Loop Track. Tackle the trail, soak up the scenery, and breathe in the fresh mountain air. You’ll travel through stunning native bush and tower above the idyllic lake views. Allow up to 2.5 hours for this hike.
If you’re looking for something a little more demanding, hike up Queenstown Hill. The incredible view from the top will make it all worthwhile. Allow up to 3 hours for the hike, and be sure to pack for all eventualities; weather conditions can change in a minute.
If you’re looking for a longer hike, give the Moonlight Track a try. The estimated time to complete is 4-5 hours. A moderate level of fitness is required for this hike.
Take advantage of a blue sky day and explore the Ben Lomond Walkway. This all-day hike is on the difficult side but well worth it for the spectacular views you will experience along the way.
Explore Jack’s Point Trail, an epic hike that you can tailor to your schedule and fitness level. Choose from long walks to more accessible tracks. Whatever your preference, you can pick a hike you’ll love and enjoy the incredible views on offer.
Day trips from Queenstown
Although Queenstown itself has plenty to offer, there are some epic day trips worth exploring.
Glenorchy is situated just 45 minutes north of Queenstown. The stunning landscape might seem familiar to the Lord Of The Rings fans. Famous for its red beech forests, lake views and mountain peaks. You won’t regret venturing out of Queenstown for the day to visit Glenorchy. But, be sure to allow some extra time to stop and admire the views along the way.
Arrowtown is a short 20-minute drive from Queenstown airport. Reminiscent of the wild west, Arrowtown is full of saloon-style boutique shops and eateries. It’s the perfect place for some window shopping. Make some time to visit the Chinese Miners’ Village and learn about the Gold Rush in 1869. Arrowtown is a must-do when visiting Queenstown; plan your visit when you’re on your way to Wanaka.
Explore the quaint township Wanaka, just over an hour's drive from Queenstown. Book in for a complimentary wine tasting and walk through the beautiful grounds that gaze out to views of Lake Wanaka. Get a picture of ‘that Wanaka tree’. If you’re a lover of fine wine, be sure to visit the Rippon vineyard. And remember, no visit to Wanaka is complete without a pie at the Doughbin Bakery.
Getting around in Queenstown
If you’re staying in the centre of Queenstown, you can walk around the city easily. You can also rely on public transport or jump in a taxi to get you to and from the airport. Be sure to check the timetable so you can make the most of your visit.
If you’re planning on exploring the surrounding areas, it may be easier to hire a car. You can hire a vehicle conveniently from Queenstown airport. Enjoy the freedom of running to your schedule, and make as many stops as you like, exploring all the nearby gems.
Staying in Queenstown
You can visit Queenstown on any budget. There is plenty of accommodation available, everything from pure opulence to basic dorms.
If you want a taste of luxury, stay at the Kamana Lakehouse. Towering above Lake Wakatipu, this hotel has some of the best views in town. Peaceful yet vibrant, the lake view rooms will take your breath away. For an extra treat, opt for a room with a private outdoor tub. Even if you stay elsewhere, you can still get a glimpse of the stunning views by visiting the bar during happy hour or dining at the restaurant.
Check our Airbnb and live as the locals do. Whether you’re looking for a tiny house, charming cottage or entire house, there are endless options to suit you.
For those on a budget or tourists who don’t plan on spending too much time in your accommodation, stay at one of the backpacking hostels. Nomads Queenstown is highly rated.
Eating out in Queenstown
Queenstown is a foodies heaven. With delicious restaurants scattered throughout, prepare to eat and drink your way around the city!
Get the taste of New Zealand at the award-winning Rata. A must-see when visiting Queenstown loved for its unique take on local cuisine. The delicious dishes on offer are guaranteed to tickle your taste buds.
Order a hot chocolate at Patagonia. An artisan chocolate maker loved by locals. They have spent 14 years perfecting the best hot chocolate, which is the best in the city.
Don’t forget to grab a burger at the famous Fergburger. There’s a reason for the long line outside; this burger bar means business! The menu has every kind of burger you could imagine; this is not something to be missed.
The Otago region is famous for producing delicate Pinot Noir. Take a tour around the local wineries and sample the local wine. Visit Gibbston valley winery and get lost in New Zealand’s largest wine cave. Taste the famous Pinot Noir from Amisfield. Or Make a day out of tasting fine wines and visit nearby wineries Stoneridge Estate and Rockburn.
The first European settlers arrived in Queenstown around 1860. The town began booming a few years later after gold was discovered in nearby Arrowtown. People came from all over to hunt for gold. When the Goldrush era dwindled, the town regressed.
French gold miners left their mark by producing wine in the Otago region. The famous Pinot Noir flourishes in the mountain climate of Queenstown. Nowadays, wineries are all over the area, drawing in wine lovers from New Zealand and beyond.
The first skifield, Coronet Peak, opened in 1947, although there was little tourism at this time. Coronet Peak is now one of New Zealand’s most popular ski resorts.
In the 1980s, the population was more than half that it is now. A.J. Hackett opened a bungee jump site that was suspended from Kawarau Bridge in 1988. Since then, adventure sports have popped up all over the city, contributing to Queenstown’s title as the world’s adventure capital. Thrill-seekers travel far and wide to get a taste of New Zealand’s adventure spots.
Queenstown’s history has shaped the tourism industry of New Zealand. With over 3 million tourists travelling to Queenstown every year to experience this charming city. A summer paradise or winter wonderland, you can visit at any time of the year.
How to get to Queenstown
Queenstown is a treasure trove of adventure, a tourist hotspot and arguably one of the most beautiful places on earth. With its unmatched views, tourist attractions galore, delicious eateries and local wines, this vibrant city has so much to offer.
Queenstown is a well-connected destination, with domestic and international flights coming and going every day. Whatever your travel preference, you can get to Queenstown very easily.
Make your journey to Queenstown a great one. Explore New Zealand’s North Island by train before flying down to Queenstown.
Alternatively, you can catch the Interislander Ferry from Wellington to Picton and take the scenic drive to Queenstown. Travel the scenic coastal roads through Blenheim, Kaikoura, and Christchurch, then travel inland onward to Queenstown.