You will often hear the phrase “Queenstown, adventure capital of the world” on your visit to New Zealand. And there’s a good reason why it’s so well-known to thrillseekers
Queenstown is the home of many world-first innovations like commercial jet boating and bungy jumping. It’s been a magnet for adventurers and entrepreneurs for many years, and the adventure tourism industry is constantly evolving here.
Today, there are almost endless possibilities for adventure here... As the saying goes, if you can dream it, you can do it. Though I’ve yet to find extreme ironing tours, you can take part in pretty much every other adventure activity in Queenstown.
Of course you can go kayaking, skiing, zip lining, and mountain biking, like you can in any adventure town. But in this article, we’ve tried to highlight the top Queenstown activities and tour providers that are unique to the area, or that have a long history here.
One of the top adrenaline activities Queenstown has to offer is this tandem skydive above Lake Wakatipu and the phenomenal Southern Lakes.
The literally breath-taking freefall will last for around 45-seconds as you hit speeds of up to 200 kph! Once the chute opens, you can catch your breath and relax on a slow descent back to solid ground.
There are few better places to try this once in a lifetime experience. You can choose between 12,000ft or 15,000ft jumps - the higher you go; the longer you freefall.
From NZ$ 379
A jet boat on the Shotover River
Reaching speeds of up to 90 km per hour (55 mph), this is one of the most popular Queenstown activities as it’s affordable and accessible for almost everyone.
Enjoy 360-degree spins and great views on the Lake Wakatipu tours, or head down narrow canyons on the tours that include transfers from Queenstown.
Many Queenstown jet boat tours are family friendly, too as they allow kids aged 3+ when accompanied by an adult.
This tour will see you flying across Lake Wakatipu in a high-speed jet boat, with hairpin turns along the Kawarau and Shotover River. It’s one of the most popular jet boat tours as it departs from the main pier in central Queenstown and takes just one hour.
From NZ$ 129
Also operating from the Queenstown Wharf, Real NZ runs the cheapest jet boat tour in Queenstown. There are crazy 360-degree spins, as well as more peaceful highlights like The Remarkables, Cecil Peak and the Kelvin Peninsula.
From NZ$ 119
Jump on a shuttle bus from downtown Queenstown to the mighty Shotover. From here, you will enjoy a white-knuckle ride along the Shotover River with some fun tricks and fishtails thrown in for good measure.
With plenty of 5-star reviews, Shotover Jet is one of the most respected companies in Queenstown.
From NZ$ 142.57
On this tour you will be taken along the infamous Skippers Canyon Road, to take a 30 minute jet boat ride through the narrowest canyons of the Shotover River.
Skippers Canyon is known as the richest gold bearing canyon in the world, so you not only get the boat ride, but also an interesting guided tour into the history of the area.
From NZ$ 189
The half-day Dart River wilderness safari from Glenorchy is the most expensive of these tours but it has lots of inclusions. You will get a scenic drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy, a nature walk with a naturalist guide, and of course the jet boating itself.
From NZ$ 286.16
If none of those are extreme enough for you, why not try the Shark Ride with Hydro Attack?
A semi-submersible that reaches speeds of 80 kph on the water, leaps, side rolls and makes tight g-force turns, then dives below the surface at speeds of up to 40 kph.
It’s a good option to avoid the crowds as it’s just you and the pilot in the torpedo-like vessel. It’s also unique to Queenstown - they are the world’s first commercial operator of the Seabreacher X watercraft.
Shark Rides depart from Queenstown Bay, located on the lakefront in central Queenstown.
From NZ$ 155
Canyoning New Zealand offers an amazing half-day canyoning tour of the Gibbston Valley.
If you haven’t tried canyoning before, it involves abseiling, rappelling and sliding down waterfalls, as well as jumping into pools.
It’s a lot of fun, but you need to be moderately fit as there is some climbing and swimming involved
It’s just 20 minutes from downtown Queenstown into Gibbston Valley's wine country, so you will spend the majority of the tour on the activity.
From NZ$ 219
You can also do a full-day Queenstown canyoning tour to Mt Aspiring National Park, taking around 8 hours, including lunch and transfers (NZ$ 450).
There are some amazing opportunities for off-roading in Queenstown - just make sure to go with a reputable company as rental vehicles aren’t insured on offroad tracks.
This half-day Wakatipu Basin 4-wheel drive tour from Queenstown is run by Nomad Safaris, off road specialists that offer trips to Skippers Canyon and the lesser-known Macetown.
On this special LOTR tour you will get to visit prime filming locations from the trilogy, as well as the Remarkables mountain range, Deer Park Heights, and Kawarau Gorge. On a stop in Skippers Canyon, you will also get to mine for gold and ford the Arrow River.
From NZ$ 252
If you prefer to be in the driving seat, jump on a Suzuki sports quad as you’re led around Queenstown's dirt tracks by an expert guide. Test your skills with creek crossings and hill climbs up in the mountains of the Kawarau Gorge.
From NZ$ 239
Bungy jumping in Queenstown is an absolute must. The world’s first-ever commercial bungy jump was run here by AJ Hackett in 1987. If you’re going to try it once in your life, this is the place.
The most convenient bungy from Queenstown, this 47 metre high bungy on the side of a mountain is located at the top of the Skyline Queenstown. Take the gondola to the top then jump off any way you want on this freestyle bungy.
Price not currently available
1.5 hours (includes gondola travel time)
At just 43 metres, this is the shortest bungy in Queenstown, but Kawarau Bridge is the original site of the Queenstown bungy jump.
You can dip in the water, go for a full immersion, or even go tandem on this bungy. It’s still easily accessible as it's just a 20 minute drive from Queenstown.
From NZ$ 220
Self-drive: Allow 1.5 hours/ Bungy Bus: Allow 3.5 hours
Nevis is New Zealand’s tallest bungy (and the 3rd biggest in the world), with a vertigo-inducing height of 134 metres. You’ll get a stomach-churning 8.5 seconds of free-fall on this ginormous bungy!
It's located on the Nevis River, about 1.5 hours from Queenstown - you can only get there via a tour on a 4WD bus due to its remote location.
From NZ$ 290
Another one for thrill seekers at Nevis is the completely bonkers Human Catapult. Experience up to 3 G's of force as you are propelled 150 metres out into the Nevis Valley on a giant catapult.
You will reach speeds of up to 100 kph in 1.5 seconds, before being pulled back by the bungy line.
As with the bungy, you will need to take the tour bus from Queenstown as the roads aren’t suitable for cars.
From NZ$ 230
A little less intense than a bungy, but just as exciting, are the canyon swings in Queenstown. Rather than being snapped back by the bungy, you are caught by the momentum of the special rope and cable system suspended between two cliffs.
From a 109 metre high platform, you’ll free fall for 60 metres into the canyon before being caught by the giant rope swing. You can also do a tandem swing with a friend.
From NZ$ 229
You can also do swings at the Ledge (when open), and Nevis (NZ$ 245) - one of the biggest swings in the world with an arc of around 300 metres.
Paragliding over Queenstown
If you want the epic views of a skydive without the heart-pumping fear, then paragliding is a fantastic alternative. You can choose between a quick trick-filled ride, or a more relaxed glide - just ask your instructor.
G Force Paragliding have been in operation for over 25 years and are the number one name in the sport in Queenstown.
Take-off from the top of Bob’s Peak after catching the Skyline Gondola, then enjoy the views as you soar over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.
Tours run daily all year round, but they are of course weather dependent.
From NZ$ 299
Allow 1 to 2 hours
Sky Trek offers paragliding flights from New Zealand’s highest commercial launch site at 4000 ft up Coronet Peak. They are also the only providers of tandem hang gliding experiences in New Zealand - probably as close to flying like a bird that a human can get.
From NZ$ 299
The luge is the number one favourite family activity in Queenstown. After taking the scenic Queenstown gondola, you can ride back down the mountain in one of the purpose-built little carts, racing family and friends as you go.
Prices start at NZ$ 71 (NZ$ 49 for children) for the gondola and two luge rides, but we’d absolutely recommend getting the unlimited package for NZ$ 99 (NZ$ 69 for children) as you won’t want to stop!
There are also packages for lunch, dinner, night luge, and family discounts. It’s an absolute top thing to do in Queenstown so make sure it’s on your itinerary.
From NZ$ 71
Plan for an hour - stay for most of the day!
The Luge is open to people of all ages and abilities and the Skyline complex is wheelchair-friendly.
Queenstown is a paradise for mountain lovers, with amazing walks up Queenstown Hill and day hikes like the imposing Ben Lomond.
Climbing Queenstown offers a half-day small group rock climbing tour, no experience is necessary and all equipment is provided.
The location will be chosen according to your ability, so you can enjoy a tailored rock climbing experience looking over the Lake Wakatipu basin.
Also operated by Climbing Queenstown, this guided snowshoeing experience takes you across the Remarkables Mountain Range.
The amazing guides will make sure to get you to the best photo spots in picturesque areas like Jagged Edge Ridge.
This is a great way to avoid the crowds in Queenstown and see a completely different side to the area.
From NZ$ 478
This thrilling river adventure has grade 3 to 5 whitewater rapids (depending on rainfall).
You will venture out on a half-day trip by 4x4, from Queenstown through Skippers Canyon to the river.
Real NZ offers this eco-friendly whitewater rafting tour, where you will also raft in darkness through the 550-foot Oxenbridge Tunnel.
From NZ$ 219
If it’s your first time rafting, or you just fancy something a little more tame, Kawarau River is much more relaxed with grade 2 to 4 rapids.
The Kawarau River has spectacular scenery and is best known as the River Anduin in the Lord of the Rings films, but also contains New Zealand's longest commercially rafted rapid.
On this combi-tour you will also get to enjoy a 40 minute jet boat trip to the start point before your two hour rafting experience on the Kawarau River.
From NZ$ 219
Both include round-trip transfers between Queenstown and the rafting base, professional guides, and all safety equipment.
If you want to get closer to the rapids, you can also bodyboard, or ‘riverboard’, around 12 kilometres down the Kawarau River.
Serious Fun Riverboarding offers this inventive adventure sport, where you can try to surf on standing waves, ride whirlpools and catch underwater currents - why let not being near the sea stop you from surfing in Queenstown?
From NZ$ 255
For one of the least scary adventure activities in Queenstown, head to Lake Wakatipu for a spot of parasailing. Para Flights offer solo, tandem and triple flights so you can enjoy the tranquil views with up to two friends.
You will get to an altitude of around 600 ft as you follow local guides Quinn and Gravy on the Red Dragon boat. It’s one of Queenstown's oldest adventure activities that’s been in operation for over 30 years.
From NZ $199