„Welcome to Australia“- when I read that sign at the…
When traveling the South Island of New Zealand, you simply can’t miss out on Queenstown. Thinking of doing adrenaline packed activities like bungee jumping, skydiving or paragliding? You name it, they have it here in Queenstown. If there is one place in New Zealand to take a leap of faith and give bungee jumping or skydiving a try, this certainly is the right place for it. With so many great things to do, Queenstown earned itself the reputation as the ‚adventure capital of the world‘.
Other than that, the town is simply a lively, picturesque place to be. It is set in between the mountain ranges and on lake Wakatipu. Here you will also find lots of great restaurants, shops and a very good nightlife. We kept extending our stay in Queenstown, cause we liked it so much there and were busy doing all the fun stuff. There certainly is a great vibe to this place.
Alright, lets dive in.
Here are the top things to do in Queenstown, New Zealand:
1. Go for a walk along the waterfront promenade
Go for a walk along the Lake Wakatipu waterfront in Queenstown and enjoy beautiful views and the lively atmosphere. There are usually lots of street performers around that you can listen to.
If you follow the promenade you can get to the Queenstown Gardens. It is set on its own little tongue of land framing Queenstown Bay. This pretty park was founded in 1817. Until this day people come here to stroll, picnic and laze around.
2. Take the cable car up the Skyline and have a ride in a luge cart
Take the Skyline Gondola up to Bob’s Peak to enjoy some magnificent views over scenic Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables from the panoramic viewing platform. Up there you will also find a café and restaurant, as well as the Luge. Take a ride in a luge cart down two tracks, the blue track is the easy one, the red track has curves and bumps. It’s easy: You decide on the speed you want to go at- you have full control of your cart. Pull back on the handlebars to slow down or stop and release the handlebars slightly to accelerate. This fun activity is suitable for all ages.
3. Go on a ride in a jet boat
Taking a ride in a jet boat was one of my favorite activites in NZ and something I have never done before. There are a few jet boat companies in Queenstown. Here is a quick overview and what sets them apart.
Shotover Jet is the only company that can take you in the Shotover Canyons. You get to enjoy the beautiful scenery, fast speeds up to 90kmh close to canyon walls and 360 spins. They have modern boats and world-class drivers ensure safety and fun. The jet boats departs at least every 30 minutes daily.
K Jet offers an insane 60 minute ride on the mighty Shotover & Kawarau Rivers, with a total of 45 km distance travelled. They are located in the heart of Queenstown at the waterfront at the main town pier. With speeds up to 95 kmh, they have the fastest jet boat in town, which can drive in water less than 5cm deep. They have no height restrictions for kids.
4. Book a tandem paragliding flight
Paragliding is one experience that I recommend to everybody. Fly high above Queenstown for the most spectacular views and thrilling experience. There are several Queenstown paragling and hang gliding operators that are fully qualified and have top safety records, so you can relax and enjoy the ride!
5. Have a go at bungee jumping
AJ Hackett Bungy was founded in 1988 and opened the worlds’ first commercial bungee jumping site in Queenstown. There are three locations where you can bungee jump in Queenstown. I would recommend to go to the Kawarau Bridge, home to the world’s first and most famous Bungy Jump at 43 metres! The Kawarau Bungy Centre is notably the most unique, fun and interactive venue in the area. Not sure whether to bungee jump yourself? Spectators can also come, hang out at the site and watch.
6. Hike the Ben Lomond Track
The Ben Lomond Track rewards trampers on a clear day with spectacular 360 degree views over Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountain ranges including Ka-kamu-a-Hakitekura/Cecil and Walter Peaks and Kawarau/Remarkables.
The Ben Lomond Track is a demanding climb and a full day’s hike with an 1,438 m elevation gain. The most popular path up to the summit of Ben Lomond is the Tourist Path, which starts at Rowardennan car park (Postcode G63 OAR). The walk is approximately 7 miles long, and can take 4 – 5 hours to complete for the average walker. The path is steep in parts, and can be challenging to less experienced walkers.
7. Mountain biking
From epic trail rides to extreme downhill trails, Queenstown has it all. If you haven’t brought your own gear, there are plenty of places that can get you sorted with a bike, helmet and protective gear. I personally haven’t mountain biked before, but one place that looked like a lot of fun to me was Queenstown Bike Park.This gondola-accessed mountain biking park with spectacular views features more than 25 world-class trails and varying terrain to suit all abilities. The gondola can be accessed by foot from Queenstown.
8. Have a Fergburger
One can not leave Queenstown, without having tried one of the legendary burgers at Fergburger. This burger joint has received worldwide attention as one of the spots where you can lie your hands on the best burger ever. Find out and build your own opinion Fergburger is open for 21 hours a day and there always is a line. The wait certainly is worth it and lines do move quickly. Once you get to order you can choose between 20 variants. There is something for everyone’s taste including vegetarians and vegans.
9. Wine tasting in Central Otago
If you are a wine lover, you have the chance to taste the award winning wines of Central Otago. The famous wine region is just a short drive out of town. There are diverse ranges of wines to try and you get to enjoy the spectacular scenery of Gibbston, Bannockburn and Cromwell. If you have your own transportation you can just drop by at most wineries for a tasting. Another option is to book a tour. Appellation Wine Tours offers daily small-group & private tours. The vineyards change daily and requests are taken. They offer complimentary pick-up and drop off from your accommodation.
Skydiving must be the ultimate experience in adrenaline activities and on the bucket lists of many. Queenstown is a great place for first timers to do a skydive as there is no previous skydive experience needed. You will be given a full briefing on what to expect before stepping in your jumpsuit and meeting your Tandem Master. You can choose to jump from 9000, 12000 or 15000ft -the higher you go, the longer the free fall. Experience the thrill of free fall and reach speeds of 200kph, when the canopy opens take a good look around as you float back down to earth.
11. Take a cruise with a historic steamship on Lake Wakatipu
The cruise on Queenstown TSS Earnslaw Vintage Steamship has a duration of 1 hr 30 mins. From a viewing platform you can peak into the engine room below, showcasing steam engines, glowing fireboxes and coal stokers.There are plenty of picture perfect spots to take in the incredible scenery.
12. Day trip to Milford Sound
Head off from Queenstown or Te Anau to do a cruise over Milford Sound. One of the must do experiences when on the South Island of NZ. Companies that offer day tours are fe. Go Orange, Jucy Cruise and awesome nz. You can buy tickets as cruise only, coach+cruise, fly-cruise-fly. At Milford Sound you will be amazed by the sights and sounds of the fjord, from crashing waterfalls to majestic Milton Peak and forest covered cliffs. Keep an eye out for wildlife like dolphins and seals during your cruise.
13. Visit former gold mining town Arrowtown
Arrowtown is a historic gold mining town, rich in heritage and located only 20 minutes out of Queenstown. Arrowtown is built on the banks of the Arrow River, once a rich source of gold, which attracted miners from around the world in pursuit of their fortune. While the miners now are gone, the legacy has been well preserved for visitors to enjoy.
14. Go canyoning
First of all what is canyoning? Canyoning (or canyoneering) is traversing a canyon or gorge by combining hiking, climbing, swimming, and/or abseiling.
Canyon Explorers is a company with a central Queenstown base, that offer half day and full day canyoning for beginners and experienced. You can choose your challenge from moderate to high. For the half day trip there is no previous canyoning experience needed. Perfect for adventure seekers is the full day trip to Routeburn canyon. Canyon Explorers is the only company that gets access to the famous Routeburn valley and therefore will be able to take you places that are normally inaccessible. This tour is suitable for people with high fitness level and water confidence.
15. Whitewater rafting: Kawarau River Jet to Raft (by go orange)
From the heart of Queenstown you get to enjoy a half hour ride in the Go Orange Jet Boat to the rafting put-in point, then you paddle and swim your way through grade 2-3 whitewater rapids, the longest commercial rafted rapid in NZ, and do some cliff jumping. It is perfect for adventure junkies and suitable for all abilities.
I travelled the South Island with a company called Stray and one thing that is really cool when traveling with them, is that you can book a lot of those activities mentioned over their app ‚Stray Mate‘- where they not only offer great discounts, but the best possible price.
Where to eat in Queenstown
Fergburger, can’t be missed when in Queenstown. There always is a queue, but don’t worry it moves quickly. We got our food after half an hour wait.
Taco Medic– little hidden in a back alley. Here you will be able to get your hands on authentic Mexican tacos at a reasonable price. They have around 8 different varieties, that are all 7$-. 2-3 tacos will be enough to fill you up.
The Fat Lamb, cozy pub with really good quality dishes.
Tham Nak Thai -really good lunch deals located in the pedestrian zone. Who doesn’t love Thai food.
Red Rock Bar & Cafe with excellent 10 dollar all-day breakfast.
Bespoke kitchen– very beloved café with lots of vegan dishes and great coffee.
Patagonia Ice Creamery & Chocolaterie: must try for desserts, chocolates and fresh juices. The top story of the café has a lovely lounge area from where you have a good view over the lake.
Nightlife: Two bars that stood out to me where ‚1876’ which has a great daily happy hour, cool atmosphere, occasional live music performances and an indoor and outdoor seating area. For great innovative cocktails head to ‚Little Blackwood‘ at the waterfront.
Where to stay in Queenstown
Queenstown is a popular tourist destination and therefore has plenty of hotels, hostels, camping parks and holiday homes. Accommodation is a bit more pricey than in other places on the South Island, however there is something for all budgets. Especially if you are planning on traveling here on the weekend, make sure to book in advance.
Getting to Queenstown & around
Queenstown was our favorite stop on the Big South Freestyle Pass with Stray. If you are looking to get around New Zealand and don’t want to drive yourself, Stray offers a flexible hop-on, hop-off bus group tour. We travelled the South Island of New Zealand with them and found this a great way to explore without the hassle. You get to see all the best spots and can hop off and stay longer in each place as the pass is valid for an entire year.
When in Queenstown, the easiest way to get around is certainly by walking, most things can be reached by foot. Otherwise there also is a good bus network, taxis, uber, or places you can rent a bike.
Hope this guides gives you some ideas what you can do in Queenstown. Enjoy your time there.