Just saying Queenstown out loud makes my heart go wild. I spent 6 months there a few years ago and it’s safe to say that it is my favourite place in New Zealand, if not maybe the whole world. Known as the adventure capital on earth, this town also has another calmer side to it. So whether you’re an adrenalin-junkie or a mindfulness-guru, a lover of snow or beach, wine or beer, water or land… Queenstown got everything you need and everything you didn’t know you wanted
1. Bungee Jump
This adrenaline pumped activity is on many travellers bucket list and what better place to do it then Queenstown where the world’s first permanent commercial bungee site was founded! A J Hackett was the man who made this sport available to people and his company with the same name still lives on today. Choose between the Nevis Bungee, which is the tallest in Queenstown (134m), the Kawarau Bridge Bungy (where is all started) or the Ledge Bungy (where you can jump freestyle). You can read more about you bungee options here. Which ever jump you choose, enjoy it as much as I cringe over the fact that I never made it over the ledge because of a panic attack, though that is a story for another day…
2. Hot Pools
Who doesn’t like to relax in a secluded hot pool with a glass of champagne and candlelights whilst watching the starry sky after a day of adventure? And you can do just that at the Onsen Hot Pools, situated just a few minutes drive outside Queenstown. They offer a free shuttle ride to and from Queenstown and have various packages for couples, friends and families. Their pools are housed in private rooms with showers and changing area and can accommodate 4 people at once. The best part – they have retractable windows that you can open to feel the weather, see the sky and watch the beautiful mountains! Bookings can me made here. *Thanks to Rhys Pope at Flickr for use of photo.
3. The Skyline
This is where you go to enjoy the views of Queenstown without having to work for it. You can choose to walk up if you’re the sporty type and it should take you about an hour, but the easiest way is to take the Gondola and soak up the amazing view as you go further up the hill. There is a restaurant and a souvenir shop there as well, but there is no need to buy anything (overpriced) to enjoy the scenic views of Queenstown. When you’re ready to leave why not ride down the Luge Track with the Skyline Luge, a gravity-fuelled three-wheeled cart fun ride down the hill. It’s almost like Go-Kart, but a bit easier to steer and smaller in size. The Skyline also offers guided Stargazing tours and more information about that can be found here.
4. Rooftop Sunset
There is really only one place in Queenstown to fully appreciate the sunset from a rooftop bar and that is at The Sundeck. Close to the waterfront with a 360-degree view, great atmosphere, luscious cocktails and tasty bar snacks you can easily spend a few hours here any time of day. After the deck closes at 10 pm you can head over to The Bunker to enjoy some more equally luscious drinks or some great local wine to finish your night off.
6. Boat Cruise
You can’t visit Queenstown without experiencing New Zealand’s third biggest lake, Lake Wakatipu. There are a few options for you to choose from, but whomever you go with you won’t be short on spectacular views. The iconic TSS Earnslaw which is South Island’s one and only passenger coal-fired steamship, has had Queen Elizabeth and former president Bill Clinton as passengers. Southern Discoveries has a small cruise boat which can take up to 25 passengers and your fare includes a free entrance to the underwater observatory. The family owned Million Dollar Cruise is not as expensive as it sounds and they offer a free beer or wine on their tour. Last you have the Lunda Experience which is my personal favourite; a chill and laid-back boat experience with great music, free beer and a burger with their lunch cruise and they have beanbags on the top deck where you can lay back and work on your tan. *Thanks to Luanda for use of photo
7. Ben Lomond
If you plan to do only one hike in Queenstown, then Ben Lomond is the place to go! The Ben Lomond track is demanding and steep, but you are rewarded with magnificent panoramic views once you get on top of the summit. The track is easy to follow and takes about 6-8 hours; bring lots of water and some food and warm/waterproof clothes in case the weather change, sunscreen and sturdy footwear is also recommended as the climb to the summit is rocky and can easily twist an ankle. Most people start down from the Skyline on the Tiki Track, but I did the Moonlight Track starting in Arthur’s Point. The whole trip took about 9 hours with lots of photo stops, snack breaks and a small detour around a heard of some scary looking cows. I found this track to be a bit more rewarding as you’re not backtracking the same track when going back and you get a more scenic walk where the chances are bigger at spotting wildlife. The only downside of doing this track is that it’s not a loop, which means you have to find a ride or catch the bus to get to Arthur’s Point. Be prepared for snow and ice if you’re walking during winter.
8. Frisbee Golf
Also known as disc golfing, this is a sport that is getting more and more popular around the world. Never heard of it? Don’t worry; you’ll quickly get a hang of it. The frisbee golf course is located in Queenstown Gardens and instead of golf balls you have a frisbee and instead of holes to put in you have metal chain baskets to throw the frisbees into and there are 18 baskets to hit before completing the whole course. Keep in mind that you are in the public garden, so yell out if the frisbee is heading in the direction of someone’s head! Good luck and remember you can only get better, so don’t give up after the first try. Discs can be rented or bought at Small Planet and for more information about the Queenstown Garden Disc Golf Course click here.
There are no shortage of bike tracks in Queenstown, whether you’re after a easy bike ride or action-filled mountain biking, there are plenty of options. You can easily take the gondola up to the Skyline, which starts off 3 mountain biking trails with different difficulty levels going down the hill. If you go over to the tourist information you can pick up a bike map lining out most bike trails in the Queenstown area. A friend of mine and I did a organised bike tour with Around The Basin which is a company specialising in bike tours, and we loved it. They offer supported tours, which means they have a van meeting you at meeting points and if you get tired you can get a ride. The tour we did was Bike The Wineries – Full Day Self-Guided Tour, which you can read more about here. We started in Queenstown, did a stop in Arrowtown and ended up at the Gibbston Valley Winery where we did a wine tour with tasting included. We biked through some amazing scenery and the service from our guide was excellent! Highly recommend Around The Basin if you choose to do guided tour.
And speaking of wineries; Queenstown got some of New Zealand’s finest! There are none in the town itself, but a short bus ride will get you to most of them. There’s is about seven wineries to choose from and my top 3 pick is Amisfield Winery & Bistro, Mt Rosa Winery and Gibbston Vally Winery which is my favourite! I love the Pinot Noir range from Gibson Valley Winery, their tours are great value and interesting and they have a cheesery where they make gourmet cheese based on recipes from Europe and New Zealand. So while your there make sure you to taste some of their cheese matched with their wine for a real taste of Gibbston Valley.
The mother of extreme sports! Compared to bungee jumping I didn’t have time to panic this time as I was tossed out of the plane before knowing what was really happening! Was it awesome? Yes! Would I do it again? No! Do I recommend it to other people? Hell yes! And 15,000ft above Queenstown is the place to do it. NZONE Skydive in Queenstown was New Zealand’s first Tandem Skydive operation and they have now been in the game for over 25 years! They are the true experts and will be with you every step of the way from booking to touching ground and everywhere in between. Here are some FAQ about NZONE Skydiving and when you’re ready to book, click HERE! Relish and treasure the ephemeral moment as you get out of the plane and jump, because I promise you will never experience it ever again.
12. Kiwi Birdlife Park
The chances of spotting a Kiwi in it’s natural habitat in New Zealand are unfortunately pretty small, so the best way to see one is at a forest sanctuary like the Kiwi Birdlife Park in Queenstown. The Kiwi is NZ’s national bird and a must-see when visiting simply because it’s so uniquely special to New Zealand’s wildlife and fauna. The park has daily events and tours and the entrance fee is a contribution to the conservation projects they are involved in around the country like recovery, breeding and rescuing birds. By the way, did you know that the Kiwi is the only bird in the world with nostrils? *Thanks to Kiwi Birdlife Park for use of photo.
I love kayaking though I’ve barely been in one! I trained to be a pack raft guide once, but that’s a whole other story. There are a few companies to choose from in Queenstown, but Queenstown Sea Kayaks is the only one operating on Lake Wakatipu. They offer several tours from beginners level to the more experienced paddler. If you do have some experience I recommend the Pig and Pigeon Island Area tour. The islands are beautifully set in the lake and offers amazing views from both land and sea. If you get on one the islands, chances are you’ll spot cheeky Wekas, Wood Pigeons and the iconic Tui bird. For more information about the tours options Queenstown Sea Kayaks, click here. Side note: Pigeon Island has a DOC hut for visitors to stay in overnight or you can pitch your tent on the ground and use their facilities. The island offer great walks and is a nice getaway from Queenstown. More info about the Smith Hut and hikes can be found here.
14. Saturday Market
The “Creative Queenstown Arts and Crafts Market” can be found in the Earnslaw Park down by the waterfront every Saturday. The market showcases artists and crafters from all over the South Island, and if you’re after a genuine one-of-a-kind souvenir or some gifts to take home from Queenstown this is where you should go. They have local singers entertaining as well, so take some time to walk around the market, grab some food and relax on the grass whilst listening to the music – now if that doesn’t sound like a nice Saturday afternoon, then I don’t know what to tell you.
15. The Beach
Yes, Queenstown has a beach, not a long white tropical beach, but it’s still a beach! Use it to relax, swim and hangout with other travellers: they are usually easy to spot and always interested in meeting fellow wanderlusters. On the beach you can also find Watersports Queenstown where you can rent kayaks, pedal boats, paddle boards and all kinds of gear related to water. Alcohol is allowed on the beach is as long as you’re not an nuisance to people and until 10pm when it’s time to find the bars.
16. Jet Boating
Jet boats have a long history in Queenstown and the surrounding area. The thrilling jet boat ride takes you through narrow canyon passages in high speed and low water, and the ride will make you long for more at the same time as you’re screaming out loud in fear! The Shotover Jet is probably the most popular one and it was the company Prince William and Kate went with when visiting Queenstown a few years ago, but my personal favourite is the Skippers Canyon Jet. Situated in the beautiful Skippers Canyon, the only way to get there is via the Skippers Canyon Road, a road so dangerous that car rental companies won’t let you drive there! The way you get there is on the free shuttle, which is a bus ride equally thrilling and scenic as the jet boat ride itself because of the dangerous road. The bus drivers are great and tell the interesting story of the canyon and the gold mining age with great passion and knowledge, and if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan you might recognise some of the area being used as film locations. Check out the Skippers Canyon Jet’s movie under to see more about what to expect:
What’s your favourite activity in Queenstown?