Head up the mountains for world-class skiing and snowboarding, cycle through tracks overlooking alpine lakes or hike to some of the most breathtaking views in the world.
Once you’ve spent some time marvelling at the spectacular scenery, venture outdoors and experience some of the exciting activities Queenstown has to offer. As the adventure capital of the world, you can choose from the full range of extreme sports in Queenstown or simply enjoy swimming and boating in the lake in the summer.
If you’re after more relaxing activities, try the local pinot noir or soak in a hot pool overlooking the mountains. The list of things to in Queenstown never seems to end, however here are some of our favourite ideas to get you started.
Bungy jumping from the Kawarau Gorge suspension bridge
If you’ve ever considered bungy jumping, Queenstown is the place to do it. Kawarau Bridge is the iconic home of bungy jumping in New Zealand, and visitors queue to jump off the 43m-high bridge themselves.
If you don’t want to jump, it’s still worth visiting – watching other people jump makes for an entertaining pastime and (as always in Central Otago) the views are beautiful. There is also the option to swing from the bridge or, if you want to attempt New Zealand’s highest bungy, head to Nevis in Gibbston Valley for the 134m jump.
Tasting local wine in Gibbston Valley
Central Otago is renowned for its pinot noir and there Queenstown makes a great base for discovering the local wine. Start with Amisfield and Akarua wineries close to Queenstown for beautiful wine and delicious food.
Then head slightly further out of town to Gibbston Valley to continue tasting some of the best pinot noir in Central Otago. There are many wine tours available if you don’t want to drive, or you can cycle from Arrowtown through Gibbston Valley, stopping at wineries along the way.
Coronet Peak ski field on a sunny day
Queenstown is home to some of the best ski fields in New Zealand and one of the longest ski seasons in the Southern Hemisphere. Choose between Coronet Peak, the Remarkables and Cardrona for varied terrain, world-class infrastructure and stunning alpine scenery.
All three have good beginner options while those looking for more advanced terrain can opt for Cardona, the Remarkables or Treble Cone (near Wanaka). Just keep in mind that peak ski season runs from late July to September, depending on snowfall.
The TSS Earnslaw Vintage coal-fired Steamship on Lake Wakatipu
For a different perspective on Queenstown, get out on the water. Taking a cruise on the TSS Earnslaw is the most popular lake activity, with the historic steamship stopping at a farm on the far side of the lake for lunch.
Otherwise, there are several other options, relaxing scenic boat rides, romantic dinner cruises and the adrenaline-inducing hydro-attack shark ride. In the warmer months, you also have the options of kayaking, paddle boarding or windsufing on the lake.
A jet boat on the Shotover River
For the ultimate on-water adventure experience, weave through the rocky walls of the local canyons on a jet boat with mountains towering above you. The boats power through the rivers at up to 90km / hr making for an exhilarating experience with unsurpassed scenery.
Shotover Canyon near Arthurs Point is a popular choice only 10 minutes’ drive from central Queenstown. Otherwise, head to Skippers Canyon and learn about local goldmining history, see several Lord of the Rings Locations and discover a beautiful canyon, not easily accessible by car.
Flying over the Southern Alps
For the best views of Queenstown, you need to get up high. Start by going up the Queenstown Gondola to Bob's Peak, then consider going even higher.
You could do a scenic flight for stunning views across alpine lakes and remote peaks. Or, opt for a helicopter ride and land on an isolated snowy mountain for a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.
Another option involves going a bit further afield and flying from Queenstown to Milford Sound for epic views over the Southern Alps and the beautiful sounds. More adventurous travellers may prefer paragliding or skydiving to see the gorgeous scenery from the air, unobscured by a screen.
The outlook from Onsen Hot Pools
Soak in a hot tub with sweeping views over the Shotover River at Onsen Hot Pools in Arthurs Point. Wooden hot tubs are perched on the hillside, open to the surrounding countryside. It’s a luxurious, tranquil experience and a wonderful way to recover from skiing, adventure sports or strenuous hikes.
Relax with a glass of wine or ice cream and visit at night for a romantic experience. Or, if you’d prefer unwinding in a hot pool with a lake view, head to Kamana Soak in Fernhill instead.
A small hut in the historic Chinese settlement in Arrowtown
A former goldmining town, Arrowtown offers a unique view of the region’s history. The Lakes District Museum in the centre of town stretches through three historic buildings and its interactive exhibits cover early Māori life and the harsh pioneering days of the European settlers and goldminers.
At the edge of town, you can visit the historic Chinese goldmining settlement where Chinese goldminers were forced to live in huts along river. Many of the huts have been restored, giving visitors some insight into the area. You can also go panning for gold in the Arrow River – just hire a pan from the museum.
On the Ben Lomond Track
If you enjoy hiking, spend a day climbing the to the summit of Ben Lomond. Not only is it a beautiful hike, but at the summit you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views over Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountain ranges.
The trail begins in the trees and continues through alpine tussocks and shrubs. The track becomes steeper between the Ben Lomond Saddle and the 1,748m summit. The hike to the summit takes 6-8 hours return and alpine equipment may be needed in the winter.
Cycling along the Gibbston River
One of the best ways to explore the wider Queenstown area is by bike. The Queenstown Trail is a series of seven, off-road cycling routes that link Queenstown with Arrowtown and Gibbston Valley wine country. Spanning 130km, these trails are graded from easy to intermediate, making them a wonderful way to reach the major sites.
The easiest, flattest route is the Lake Wakatipu Ride which starts in central Queenstown and follows the lake to Kelvin Heights, with frequent cafes along the way. More adventurous, but equally scenic routes, include trails along the Kawarau and Shotover Rivers and the Gibbston River Wine trail.