One of the top-visited places in New Zealand, and especially in the South Island, is Queenstown. We weren’t sure what we were in for, an over-hyped disappointment or a pleasant surprise. It turned out to be somewhere in between for us. Turns out, there are plenty of awesome things to do in Queenstown.
We really enjoyed the city and made many comments that are was a place we wouldn’t mind living, simply because it is small and within 10-20 minutes in any direction, you are out of the city and into the countryside.
The town definitely has a culture to it but you don’t have to be a heavy party-er to enjoy it. It is known for its adventure activities, boasting 200+ options for you to consider during your stay.
If you seek adrenaline, you will get it here. Whether it is an adventure you seek or a more laid back visit, there are things for you to do.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet New Zealand (Country Guide)
20 Things to do in Queenstown, New Zealand
Table of Contents
1. Ride the Skyline Gondola
Taking a trip on the Skyline Gondola for a scenic overview of Queenstown is a must-do on your visit. The trip up on the gondola offers some good views, but you are rewarding with clear, unobstructed views from the top of the surrounding area.
The bonus is you can spend a lot of time up there. They have a variety of activities to do including luging, hiking, dining and shopping. Take a wander through the specialty shops for the perfect souvenir or go for a hike and watch the groups of mountain bikers take on the trail.
It is also an amazing spot to watch the sunrise from and they also offer to stargaze.
Ride the Queenstown gondola to a skyline restaurant for a midday or evening meal, and enjoy scenic views over Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables range. At Stratosfare Restaurant and Bar, perched on Bob’s Peak, high above the mountain town, settle in for a 4-course buffet lunch or 6-course buffet dinner of local specialties. Each table in the restaurant’s tiered seating area boasts prime views, including Coronet Peak.
2. Visit the Remarkables
Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu are surrounded in the south by an impressive mountain range, known simply as the Remarkables for there remarkably dramatic appearance.
The mountains dominate the skyline wherever you are in Queenstown, with the highest peak rising to well over 2000 meters in height. You can hike through the mountains, watch the sunset over the range, and in winter, take to the ski fields.
Soar to new heights on a 20-minute helicopter tour and alpine landing in the Remarkables, a mountain range that dominates the eastern skyline of Queenstown. Hover up close to the eponymous peaks and land 5,046 feet (1,538 meters) above Lake Wakatipu with unparalleled views stretching all the way to the Southern Alps.
3. Climb to Coronet Peak
Rising to just over 1600 meters in height, Coronet Peak is one of the most distinctive mountains in the Remarkables range. It’s located close to Arrowtown and is home to one of the best ski resorts in the country.
One of the best things to do in Queenstown in winter is to take to the slopes, and the ski fields at Coronet Peak are the best place to do it.
The ski season generally runs from June to October, and it’s a great place for winter sports because there are slopes for all abilities. If you’ve never skied before, then you can learn at Coronet Peak, but if you’re looking for an exhilarating black run, you can find that too.
The facilities here are excellent, with ski lifts, gear rentals and everything else you would expect, and with it being just 25 minutes drive from Queenstown, it’s easily accessible too.
Soar above Queenstown on a hang gliding adventure from the Coronet Peak ski field. Available during summer months (September to April), this tandem hang gliding tour takes off from the area’s highest commercial flight site. Pair up with a qualified guide and enjoy a stunning and scenic flight.
4. Hike the Ben Lomond Track
The Ben Lomond Track is one of the best things to do in Queenstown if you are looking for an adventurous day hike.
At 1750 meters in height, Ben Lomond is one of the biggest mountains in the range around Queenstown, and it makes for a tough hike as you’ll gain almost 1500 meters in elevation along the trail.
The hike will take you a full day, with 7 miles to cover from the start point in Queenstown. Be prepared for adverse weather changes, even in summer, and take plenty of supplies to keep you trekking for the day.
5. Take a Wine Tasting Tour
Queenstown is located in an area called Otago Central. This area is well known for its wine production and a short drive outside of the city will find you in the heart of wine country.
You will find the beautiful vineyards are hard to miss and a great way to spend the afternoon. There are a couple of options for checking out the wine areas, either by renting a car or joining a wine tour. Most of the wineries offer wine tasting during the day so don’t be shy, set off on your own and make some stops. Their tastings include their full line up for a small fee and an opportunity to grow your palette.
Eat, drink and be merry on New Zealand’s stunning South Island with this wine and cheese tasting experience in Queenstown. With your pre-loaded tasting card in hand, sample over 80 different Champagnes, sparkling wines, whiskeys, ports, and sherries. Relax in leather chairs and enjoy the complex balances of scents and flavors in your glass. Taste award-winning wines from across New Zealand and beyond, accompanied by a broad selection of delicious cheeses.
6. Go Bungy Jumping!
Queenstown offers you an abundance of Bungy Jumping opportunities for whatever thrill or scene that suits your fancy. The most famous is the Kawarau Bridge Bungy that is just outside of the town. This is the location wherein 1998, AJ Hackett and Henry van Asch launched the World’s first Bungy Jump.
It became an international sensation and took the World by storm. Today the sport is internationally recognized and extreme and the best place to partake in it is right here in Queenstown. They offer 3 different sites to give it a try ranging from 40m to 134m.
Go bungy jumping in New Zealand from the Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge, the original site of the Queenstown bungy jump. Experience the ultimate Queenstown challenge, transforming from nervous to elated as you plunge 141 feet (43 meters). Choose from a variety of options, including a water touch or full immersion in the gorgeous Kawarau River. It may just be the best thing you’ve ever done!
7. Play Some Golf
Another popular past time in Queenstown is golfing, as the city has many of the best golf courses in the country within a short drive of the center.
The city is sold as a year-round golfing destination, and there are several beautiful courses to enjoy, with lakeside views and mountain backdrops.
Surrounded by rocky slopes and tussock grass, with dramatic views over Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables mountains, Jack’s Point Golf Club offers a premier golfing experience. Spend a leisurely morning or afternoon at one of the top-rated golf courses of the South Island, located just minutes from central Queenstown. The 18-hole green challenges as an impressive par 72 championship course.
8. Eat a Fergburger
Simply put, you can’t visit Queenstown and not try a Fergburger. It is like a right of passage for your travels in New Zealand. The restaurant itself is nothing special, just a small location with not enough seating or room for the number of people it serves a day.
The burgers, on the other hand, are excellent. They offer a variety of preparations for everyone’s preference and if you don’t like beef, no worries, they offer varieties in chicken and fish.
Don’t let the long queue deter you, your visit will be worth the wait. Read about our great experience at Fergburger!
9. Ride a Shotover Jet
For an adrenaline rush like no other, then one of the most adventurous things to do in Queenstown is to explore the Shotover River Canyon on a jet boat.
The Shotover Jet takes thrill-seekers through the spectacular canyon, as you cross under the high walls along the river at top speed, reaching well over 50 miles per hour.
The jet boats are incredibly maneuverable and will have you spinning in circles and taking sharp turns, as you race through Shotover Canyon. Be prepared to get soaked!
Take a jet boat ride on the Shotover River during an extreme ride, and make use of transport from Queenstown. Experience adrenaline-fueled fun as the jet boat skims the water’s surface at high speed and fishtails into 360-degree spins. Hold on tight as the captain maneuvers the jet boat over rapids and through narrow canyons during one heart-pounding adventure you won’t soon forget.
10. Catch A Sunset from Downtown
Queenstown is scenic with the remarkable mountains lining the town and Lake Wakatipu. On a perfect day, you can catch a beautiful sunset right from the beach in downtown Queenstown that will light the mountains right up in front of you.
This is one of the best spots for viewing the sunset and you will often find locals playing music on the wharf.
Alternatively, you can wait to take your gondola ride until just before sunset for a chance to capture the colors from a different vantage point. Regardless of where you choose to watch the sunset, you will be awarded pretty outstanding views.
No matter how you choose to enjoy Queenstown, you will find that there are a variety of activities, tours, and adventures to suit everyone. have you been to Queenstown? What are your top things to do while there?
On this sunset kayak tour, experience the serenity of Lake Wakatipu at the end of the day, when most visitors have left. Listen to birdsong as you paddle along the shoreline, and watch the changing colors of the sky reflected in the water.
11. Check Out Glenorchy
The town of Glenorchy is a one hour drive along the scenic shores of Lake Wakatipu, and it’s one of the best things to do in Queenstown. It’s a small town, with a resident population of under 400 people, but many more tourists during the peak summer season.
The drive itself is one of the best reasons to visit, as it’s one of the most breathtaking roads in the South Island. If you are looking to see small-town New Zealand life first hand, then this is the place to visit.
It’s also a hotbed for outdoor activities, and there are many excellent walking tracks along the lake and into the mountains that start in Glenorchy.
Instead of trying to negotiate these unfamiliar (and sometimes dangerous) country roads on your own, get a driver who knows the region on this half-day drive. Spend some time exploring Glenorchy’s shops and cafes, and take advantage of some remarkable alpine photo ops.
12. Stroll the Queenstown Gardens
Found on a small peninsula overlooking Lake Wakatipu by the city, the Queenstown Gardens are a great place to spend a quiet morning or afternoon.
The botanical garden dates back to the early days of Queenstown’s founding, as the gardens were opened in 1867. Today they are full of native and foreign species, including oak trees brought over from England.
You can stroll along the quaint paths that run through the Queenstown Gardens, stopping off at the small memorials and ponds as you take in the peace and quiet.
13. Spend a Day on Lake Wakatipu
Queenstown is located on the shores of Queenstown Bay, which is part of the enormous Lake Wakatipu. This is one of the largest lakes in New Zealand, and one of the best things to do in Queenstown is to explore Lake Wakatipu.
The country’s longest lake, Wakatipu stretches for almost 50 miles in length and forms a spectacular background to Queenstown. The lake is surrounded by the tall peaks of the Remarkables mountain range, and there are several small islands located across the water.
There are many ways to enjoy the tranquil lakeside beauty, from walking or cycling around the edge to hiring kayaks or canoes. You can even take a boat cruise across the lake, allowing you to just sit back and enjoy the scenery passing you by.
Explore Queenstown nature on a half-day walking tour along the shores of Lake Wakatipu. Enjoy views of the Remarkables mountain range as you take an easy route through native beech forest and learn about South Island flora and birdlife. Soak up the water views and hear Maori legends of the lake. Your morning or afternoon tour includes a snack plus hotel pickup and drop-off.
14. Hike the Queenstown Trail
The extensive Queenstown Trail is the best way to see the local area, as this long cycling route stretches for almost 70 miles, connecting some of the best sights and towns in the region.
The trail can take you to nearby locations such as the lake, to Arrowtown in the countryside and to some great natural sights. Grab a bike and get out pedaling to enjoy the fresh air and the natural beauty of Queenstown.
15. Visit Nearby Arrowtown
One of the best things to do in Queenstown is to take a trip to nearby Arrowtown. You can cycle along the Queenstown Trail or you can take a scenic drive through the countryside and mountains to get here.
Arrowtown dates back to 1862 when the height of the gold rush in the Otago region was bringing in settlers looking to make their fortune in the South Island. The town saw a huge decline when the boom ended, but the remarkably well preserved colonial buildings have in recent decades seen it became a tourist hotspot.
It’s a unique historic place to visit, with charming streets lined by old fashioned shops and houses, and a great local museum that will help you delve into Arrowtown’s gold mining heritage.
Visit Arrowtown and Wanaka on a half-day tour from Queenstown that explores local history and one of New Zealand’s most exciting adventure destinations. You’ll have time to stroll Arrowtown’s charming main street, built during the town’s 19th-century gold rush, then enjoy an hour of free time to see Wanaka.
16. Peruse the Milford Galleries
If you’re looking for a change from outdoor activities during your stay, then one of the best things to do in Queenstown is to visit the Milford Galleries. The Milford Galleries are found in the center of Queenstown and are open all through the week.
There are several galleries to peruse at your leisure, with the primary focus of the exhibitions being to display the work of modern New Zealand artists, from both the surrounding region and from other parts of New Zealand.
If it’s a rainy day it’s a great place to visit, or if you’re interested in seeing another, more cultural side to the city, then this is the place to go.
17. Take a Scenic Flight
For a more relaxing experience in Queenstown, then why not take a scenic flight?
Although not the cheapest activity out there, it’s an exceptional way to see the best of Queenstown, as you soar high above the city and across the spectacular scenery that the region is so famous for.
Climb high over the Remarkables mountain range, fly over the entirety of Lake Wakatipu and have the best view of Queenstown.
The glacial waters, soaring cliffs, and thundering waterfalls of Milford Sound are spectacular from all angles, and this half-day tour takes in all the highlights. Enjoy thrilling aerial views of the Fiordland National Park on a round-trip flight from Queenstown, and marvel at Mitre Peak, Bowen Falls, and Mount Pembroke on a scenic Milford Sound cruise.
18. Head to Lake Wanaka
Less than an hour’s drive through mountains and gorgeous scenery is New Zealand’s fourth-largest lake, Lake Wanaka.
This is one of the best things to do in Queenstown, as the beautiful road from the city is one of the best journeys to make in the region. The main town is Wanaka, which is the tourist hub for the lake but surprisingly quiet in comparison to Queenstown.
There’s a lot to do around Lake Wanaka, including water-based activities, mountain climbing and hiking to name just a few.
Kayaking on serene Lake Wanaka, with its clear waters and beautiful coastline, is a great introduction to kayaking. Beginners and those with more experience will enjoy a calm half-day tour approximately 5.5 miles (9 km) around the lake. Take in the views while experiencing the unspoiled nature that New Zealand is famous more, but without breaking too much of a sweat.
19. Learn Bungy History at Kawarau Gorge
A fifty-minute drive to the east will bring you to one of the best things to do in Queenstown, the Kawarau Gorge.
Found along the Kawarau River, this is one of the most dramatic sights that you can find in the area, and you’re guaranteed to be blown away by the natural beauty.
The blue, turquoise waters of the river are churned up as they pass rapidly through the steep, rocky walls of the gorge, and it’s a marvelous sight to see from lookouts above.
The Kawarau Suspension Bridge spans the river and dates back to the late 19th century. In more recent years, this was the bridge where famous New Zealander AJ Hackett opened the first commercial bungee jump in the world in 1988.
20. Try Out Skydiving
Thrill-seekers won’t want to miss out on the chance to throw themselves out of an airplane when they are visiting Queenstown, because this is one of the best places in the world to skydive.
Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand, and alongside bungee jumps and jet boats, skydiving is one of the top activities for adrenaline junkies to take on.
You’ll enjoy spectacular scenery as you rise high above the lake and the mountains, before hurtling through the clouds and skydiving above the magnificent landscapes.
Skydive in Queenstown, New Zealand’s outdoor adventure capital, and jump from 9,000, 12,000, or 15,000 feet. After a safety briefing, board a small plane and tandem skydive with an experienced guide. Free-falling at terminal velocity, you reach speeds of up to 124 mph (200 kph), then relax as you soak up views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables mountain range.
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