Any visitor to Queenstown will want to spend some town outside enjoying the scenery and some active activities is a great way to do that!
There is a whole range of wild adventure activities like the Queenstown bungy, canyoning, and jet boating (which we have a whole post on), but in this article, we are going to be looking at outdoor activities like cycling, fishing, and water sports.
You can do many of these pastimes on your own: just hire a mountain bike, rent an SUP, or simply lace up your hiking boots. But, if you're new to any of these sports, there are lessons and guided activities available in Queenstown too.
So without further ado, here’s our list of the best outdoor activities in Queenstown.
Of course, one of the easiest ways to see Queenstown’s surroundings is on your own two feet. The best-known hiking route in Queenstown is the Ben Lomond Track.
Starting from the top of the Skyline gondola, this 5 to 6-hour return hike is quite challenging, but the views make it more than worthwhile. For a shortcut, the 4-hour return hike to Ben Lomond Saddle has the same stunning views with an elevation gain of just 536 metres.
For more views over Queenstown and Lake Whakatipu the easy 5-kilometre-return hike up Queenstown Hill is great for families, as well as couples looking for that perfect sunset moment.
Other short hikes include the Moke Loop Track and Mt Crichton Track, while the multi-day Routeburn Track, or the Motatapu Track offers something a little tougher for keen hikers.
If you’re after something a bit shorter or travelling with kids, there are also several short (but beautiful) walks around Queenstown.
Always check with the DOC office in Queenstown for the weather and trail conditions before you set off on a longer hike.
If you’re looking for what to do in Queenstown in winter, the obvious answer is hitting the slopes. As one of the few places in this part of the world with reliable ski slopes, the mountains of the South Island are increasingly popular in the winter months.
Coronet Peak is the most accessible place to go skiing in Queenstown; New Zealand's first commercial ski area hasn’t lost its appeal since 1947. You can do everything from beginner lessons on fresh snow, to night skiing on floodlit trails.
Get around on modern and easy to use chairlifts with different ski packages for all ages. The snow can be a bit harder here than in the Remarkables, but for skiing in Queenstown, you can get much more convenient than Coronet Peak.
Just 45 minutes from Queenstown, the Remarkables mountain range is a fantastic place to hit the slopes. With plenty of options to go off-piste, the Remarkables are renowned for their freeride runs, and often host the Freeride World Tour. Top runs like the Stash, make their way through the trees with features, jumps, and transitions.
Even if you don’t ski or snowboard, there are plenty of outdoor activities on the Remarkables. You can do a snowshoe walk up to scenic Lake Alta, try out a Yooner (a seated combination of sledding and skiing), or visit the Remarkables Lookout with a sightseeing pass. For families with younger children, you can also try tobogganing in the separate sledding area.
Other top spots to go snowboarding or skiing near Queenstown include the towering Cardrona, Snow Farm and Treble Cone.
Ski season: June - October.
Don’t panic if you are visiting Queenstown out of ski season. In summer the mountains are transformed; the ski-runs disappear, but the mountain bike trails make for an excellent replacement for thrill-seekers. Queenstown mountain biking is extremely popular, attracting both novices and pros from all over the world.
Visit the world-class Queenstown Bike Park at the top of the Skyline Gondola - Red Bull named it one of the top 10 bike parks in the world. Hire a bike and take on over 30 downhill MTB trails, making your way over down the side of the mountain.
Another popular spot for mountain biking in Queenstown is Coronet Peak. The downhill, enduro and cross-country trails here are perfect for any level. Beginners can take it easy on wide trails, while the tougher grade 5 Coronet DH trail and grade 6 Slip Saddle are filled with berms and expert-level features.
A little further away, take a 7 mile drive along the Glenorchy Road from Queenstown to find the cross country trail network, appropriately named, ‘7 Mile’ Scenic Reserve Mountain Bike Park. This free-to-use local favourite is open year-round with grade 3 to 5 tracks for all levels of experience.
Season: December - April, some lower-level bike parks are open year-round.
It’s not just all about mountain biking in Queenstown, there’s an extensive trail network for cycling around the lakes and mountains too. From short rides, to multi-day tours, you can find pretty much any bike-hire option to suit you.
Get e-bikes to take the strain, book a half-day hire for a short ride along the lakefront, or explore a little further with a self-guided tour - bikes, routes, and transportation are included.
For an epic 4-day journey by bike, start from Lake Wakatipu on a 130 km journey through off-road trails. On the epic Queenstown Trail you will make your way to Gibbston via the historic Arrowtown, whilst taking in some of the most scenic alpine vistas in Otago. You can split it into smaller sections too if the whole thing sounds a little daunting.
If you’re looking for something a little more relaxed, you can book a self-guided tour of the Valley of the Vines. Travel by shuttle with a local guide from Queenstown, before heading off on a gentle bike tour of Arrowtown and Gibbston Valley.
This tour will take around 7 hours, all travel, bike hire, tastings, and local guides are included from NZ $99.
During the summer months, water sports are a really affordable and popular way to spend time outdoors in Queenstown. If you have good balance, SUP board hire only costs NZ $25 for 45 minutes - but be warned the water can be quite cold!
You can also rent kayaks on Lake Wakatipu, a two-person kayak will cost around NZ $50 for 45 minutes. You can go a bit further, travel in pairs, and stay warm and dry. Another spot to try kayaking is the peaceful Moke Lake, jump on a half-day kayaking tour from Queenstown to enjoy a self-guided paddle around this out-of-the-way spot.
For something a bit more exciting, you can also go on a full-day 'funyak' adventure on the Dart River. The tour includes a trip on an inflatable canoe as well as a speedy jet boat trip within the UNESCO-listed Mount Aspiring National Park.
One of the cheapest Queenstown lake activities is swimming, but as previously mentioned it’s only advised for the thick-skinned! Take a dip in the water at Queenstown’s main beach for stunning views of Cecil and Walter Peaks - it can get busy here in the summer though.
Other great swimming spots in Queenstown include Sunshine Bay, Bob's Cove, Kelvin Heights beach and Moke Lake.
Another one of the most popular outdoor activities in New Zealand is golf. There are plenty of courses to choose from in and around Queenstown, some of the fairways even act as the host destination to the New Zealand Open.
Most of the golf clubs in Queenstown are open year round, and you can hire golf clubs, trundlers and electric carts if needed.
If you really want to experience the best there is, there’s also the Hills Golf Club. This exclusive course is set in a glacial valley over 500 acres. Although it is a private club, a limited number of bookings are available for visitors.
For something unique to Queenstown, try a spot of heli-golf at the Over The Top course. This course will see you land by helicopter in the alps at 4500 ft, before attempting the Par 3 golf hole. All clubs are included, visits take 1.5 hours and prices start from NZ $550.
A more relaxed way of immersing yourself in nature, cast a line into Wakatipu Basin’s waterways. Brown and rainbow trout and salmon can be hooked in Lake Wakatipu, Lake Johnston, Lake Kirkpatrick, Moke Lake, the Kawarau River and the Arrow River.
You can charter a boat, with companies like Queenstown Fishing, to explore one of the local lakes and get out into deeper waters. Fly-fishing tours are available throughout the fishing season, while heli-fishing is the ultimate angler's adventure.
Find your own private spot in a remote part of the Remarkables, or Mt Aspiring National Park, by jumping on a guided heli-fishing tour. Black and Over the Top both offer unforgettable heli-fishing experiences from Queenstown.
Season: Fly fishing season in Queenstown runs from November to May.