Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown has been dubbed the “Adventure Capital of the World” and the reputation is well-earned. In close proximity are seemingly endless adrenaline-inducing activities such as bungee jumping, skydiving, jetboating, whitewater rafting, heli-biking, paragliding, and ziplining. If those weren’t enough, Queenstown boasts all the traditional outdoor sports with terrific hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, skiing, and more.
Whatever your purpose for visiting, you’ll likely find it in Queenstown. For the jet set crowd, Queenstown has one of New Zealand’s highest concentrations of luxury accommodations and amenities. For backpackers, the town center is a melting pot of young travelers, and a healthy number of establishments cater to this demographic. Queenstown has some of New Zealand’s best nightlife and most of the South Island’s popular excursions can be booked round-trip from there.
If there are any knocks on Queenstown, they are that the prices are high and the town center feels touristy. It has experienced its fair share of development and Lord of the Rings tourism. With a little planning, however, Queenstown makes for one of the most memorable stopovers in New Zealand.
Things to Do in Queenstown
It wouldn’t be a proper trip to Queenstown without considering the myriad adventure activities. A good start is heading to the Kawarau Bridge 20 minutes east of town on Highway 6. This bridge is the site of the world’s first commercial bungy jump started by AJ Hackett and still going strong today. At the very least, it’s fun to watch others take the plunge. If you do get the itch for adventure, simply inquire at your accommodation or head to the town center where all the adventure operators are located.
The surrounding hills and mountains offer wonderful perspectives of the Remarkables Mountains, Lake Wakatipu, and Queenstown itself. For a short hike, the Tiki Trail makes it way up to the famous Skyline Gondola viewing platform (1–2 hours return). For those looking for a tough full-day trek, the Ben Lomond Track (6–8 hours return) has some of the region's biggest views reaching Mt. Aspiring on clear days. All of the hikes listed above depart from central Queenstown.
The Queenstown area (and Wanaka to the north) has some of New Zealand’s best downhill skiing terrain. Coronet Peak resort is 20 minutes from town with excellent intermediate runs. The Remarkables ski area is 40 minutes from town and known for good beginner and freestyle terrain. For those seeking the backcountry, there are a number of heli-skiing operations in Queenstown including Southern Lakes Heli-Ski. It’s worth noting that local ski resorts have relatively stable weather and great vistas but more snowfall and powder can be found north in Wanaka.
The tiny former gold settlement of Arrowtown (population 2,500) is located in the rolling hills twenty minutes outside Queenstown. Arrowtown is an ideal place to unwind and offers more tranquility and the area’s best dining. Savvy travelers head there for an evening out, or stay in Arrowtown and visit Queenstown as a day trip.
Central Otago Wineries
Central Otago wineries are burgeoning and making their mark in the world of Pinot Noir. The area now boasts over thirty wineries—the closest is Chard Farm twenty minutes east of Queenstown. In a half-day you can drive Central Otago’s scenic roads and visit the tasting rooms of a handful of vineyards. Local company Appellation Central offers guided wine tours from Queenstown that provide transportation and local expertise.