Sure, visitors can ski or snowboard, but they can also chuck themselves out of planes, hike the mountains, go horseback riding, wine touring, bungee jumping, sailing, and treat themselves to a little fine dining. Check out Skyscanner New Zealand’s list of the best things to do in Queenstown.
1. Climb Queenstown Hill
Hiking Queenstown Hill is one of the best free things you can do in Queenstown, and a great way to kick off your trip. This one might take you 2 -3 hours, but it’s still a baby hike compared to others around Queenstown – and the vistas are worth it. You can see across the lake out to The Remarkables and across all of Queenstown. And if this hike gives you a taste for more stunning views, try the Ben Lomond Walk, or tour around Moke Lake.
2. Chow down on amazing food
Queenstown maybe small, but finding food after a long day of hiking, skiing, or adventure-sporting (you shush, that’s a word!) is easily done. There are options for every budget and preference here, from fine dining in restaurants like Rata, and trying the famed Italian food at Sasso, to picking up a giant pizza from Fat Badger this town caters to everyone. Of course, you’re not truly dining in Queenstown until you’ve stopped by Fergburger, and tackled one of their monstrous, but crazy delicious burgers. They made our top 10 burger list, so they’re doing something right.
3. Sample the nightlife
Queenstown is both a swish alpine ski resort, and a destination on every backpackers bucket list (you might get the odd Schoolies milling about here), so the nightlife here is healthy. If you’re looking to get loose, head to Buffalo Club, Winnies, Frasers, or Altitude – these are ‘backpacker bars’, and will cater to a crowd that is looking for a good time without a premium price tag. World Bar is another favourite, and kick out time is usually about 3am. You can even do the popular Kiwi Crawl if you’re keen.
For bars in Queenstown with a slightly more upmarket vibe, go to Searle and Cow Lane, which are lined with swanky drinking establishments minus the rowdy tourists. And if you’re just looking to kick back, Wakatipu Tavern will make you feel like it’s your local: pub grub, ales, and a good atmo are the name of the game.
4. Hit the slopes
One of the top things to do in Queenstown during winter is to take advantage of the nearby ski resorts in Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Treble Cone. There are a number of ski events that take place over the winter period, so it can get busy – but if you dodge those event dates you’ll be met with lower prices, and still get a chance to take advantage of the perfect powder snow and buzzing social scene.
More snow? Here are the 7 best ski resorts in New Zealand
5. Relax in style
After a day of skiing or hiking (or touring of any kind) in Queenstown, there are some solid options for pampering in this part of the world. There are luxury day spas, yoga classes, beauty therapists, and saunas available here, as well as hot spring pools that you can relax those tired muscles in.
If you want to go one step further, there are lots of wellness retreats that are becoming really popular in the area if you want to rejuvenate after a week of adventure or gastronomic exploration!
6. Explore the lakes
The lakes of Otago are stunning, and driving from one to the other will offer you some of the best photo opportunities of your trip. Go a little further afield and take the hairpin road through to Lake Wanaka and hire a canoe for the day, or stay closer to home and book a fishing trip right from your own doorstep with Clearwater on Lake Wakatipu, and dine on your catch!
Now read up on the best places to fish in New Zealand.
7. Visit the Sounds
The trip through New Zealand’s Fjordland is so rewarding, and you’ll feel like you’ve accidentally wandered into Jurassic Park. Milford Sound is the more visually dramatic fjord thanks to its rising sheer cliffs, but Doubtful Sound offers a more off-the-beaten-track experience. There are a number of chalets around the Sounds, and there is definitely an argument for camping if you have plenty of waterproof gear. However, if you’d like to stay dry, book a hotel in lovely lakeside Te Anau for a couple of nights.
8. Take a trip up to Glenorchy
If you really want to act like a local, you’ll take a trip to Glenorchy. This little town is a 45 minute drive north of Queenstown, and offers that perfect inspirational-poster-worthy view New Zealand. The views along the road are truly unbeatable – we’re talking fjords, mountains and glaciers lining up to meet you. It’s must-see for any camera junkie, and movie buffs will know that too: Lord of the Rings, Prince Caspian, and The Lion, Witch and The Wardrobe were all filmed around Glenorchy and Mount Aspiring National Park. As well as our very own Jane Campion’s brilliant Top of the Lake. You can do day walks here and visit the GYCafe, or do a little sightseeing in Paradise on horseback. For the more adventures, there are treks like the Rees and Dart can take 3-4 days – happy hiking.
Want more? Check out the best hikes in New Zealand
9. Go thrill seeking
Come on, you’re in Queenstown – doing something a little wild is practically a local pastime. If you’re looking to defy gravity, try the original bungee jump with AJ Hackett on Nevis or Kawarau, or try something new like canyon swinging, paragliding, ziplining, or a spectacular skydive over the mountains.
If all of those options make you feel a little queasy, there are plenty of less stomach-dropping adventure activities in the air or on the water, such as booking a scenic flight or taking the Shotover Jet (on the picturesque Shotover River), which both will provide a firm (but doable) dose of adrenaline for all of the family.
10. Enjoy the local wine
Specifically, our Central Otago Pinot Noir, it’s like Queenstown’s champagne! Well, not really, but we’re proud to have such an excellent wine produced in local Central Otago. You can go wine tasting in Arrowtown (on one of the tour buses, of course), keep to one of the wine bars in town. Vknow and The Winery, or tour the vineyards themselves, like the gorgeous Amisfield, Peregrin, and Gibbston Vallery wineries.
Book flights to Queenstown from Wellington and Auckland, or explore the country by hiring a car and taking an epic road trip around New Zealand.