things to do in queenstown

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Best Things To Do In Queenstown (A Local’s Guide)

Queenstown Weather & When To Visit

Queenstown is one of those magical places that is beautiful all year round. Situated on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by towering majestic mountains you will be spoilt for views and not short of adventure activities to get your heart racing. Queenstown has been coined the adventure capital of the world and you can sure see why from the minute you arrive. If you look to the lake there will be an array of jet boats flying around, if you look to the skies you may catch one of the Paragliders making their descent from a mountain peak and if you look closely enough at the gondola you may catch a brave soul partaking in the A J Hackett ledge Bungy.

Before I list off a whole ton of amazing activities it’s probably best you decide which season to visit Queenstown. It doesn’t matter when you arrive in Queenstown, this activity never stops. We are also spoilt for ski fields around Queenstown which is perfect for you winter snow bunnies. The Remarkables and Coronet peak are in Queenstown and Cardrona ski resort in Wanaka is only an hour’s drive away. If you are planning on getting up the mountain for the white stuff then you’re best to book your holiday between June and August. For hiking or camping, November to February will not disappoint. To experience a stunning autumn colour display travel in April/May and to see the beautiful blossom season spring into September and through to November.

remarkables sunrise

Summer Dec- Feb

Summer in Queenstown is all about spending long leisurely days lakeside, dining alfresco, and enjoying outdoor adventures. Temperatures range from 25- 32 degrees with little to no rain. If you are used to summer temps in the late ’30s don’t be fooled by these lower temperatures. The New Zealand sun packs a punch and you will definitely need to slather on your sunscreen.

With the sun still shining till 10 pm at night at the height of summer you will have plenty of time to kick back and relax after the day’s adventures – have a lakeside barbeque while watching the kids splash around, sample a superb local wine or craft beer from one of the many nearby Wineries or Boutique Breweries, or head out for a gelato and a stroll to watch the activities on the lake while the sun sets over the mountains.

The DOC office in downtown Queenstown is a go-to for all your trail needs. From multi-day hikes to a quick stroll with the kids, they hold all the information you could want to plan your perfect hike. Tour booking agents also line Shotover street, head to our firm favourite The Station, and talk to the girls behind their desk. They are incredibly helpful and full to the brim with knowledge about the best things to do in Queenstown, in the space of about half an hour you can have your whole holiday booked up. Summer days like we said before are long, dry, and hot… Lake activities are always fun and companies like Kjet will have you up and down the Shotover River with views, you will never forget

Don’t forget to take a trip up to the Gondola to the skyline building and race your friends down the hill on a Luge, wander around the skyline building, and take your time lapping up that picture-perfect landscape from the viewing deck.

Autumn (March to May)

Queenstown always knows how to celebrate a new season and autumn is no exception. The green leaves change to beautiful shades of red, yellow, and orange and the whole landscape sheds it’s summer wardrobe for a much warmer and interesting coat. The romance of the colours on display during this time are a big attraction, as is the blue sky days and cool evenings.

A mere 20 minutes from Queenstown you’ll come across historical Arrowtown which hosts the ever-popular Arrowtown autumn festival. To really experience the landscape and get those Instagram photos to make everyone at home jealous of your adventures you should hike, the weather is cool, the days are dry and mother nature is putting on a real show for you. From the heart of Arrowtown, the Sawpit Gully hike is a Short day hike that will take you high above the township and reward you with spectacular views.

 

Cycling is also one of the many extensive and picturesque activities for you to get up close to the Queenstown surrounds, whether you would like a cruisey ride following the Queenstown trail or fancy getting choppered to the top of the mountains to ride down you will not be short of choice.

To end your autumn escape perfectly choose from one of the amazing restaurants in town, many boast excellent outdoor seating areas with the added luxury of a blanket and heaters just in case the temperature does drop a little. Ivy and Lola’s on the wharf is a locals favourite and a perfect to watch the last of the sunlight on the water’s edge.

Winter (June to August)

It’s Ski Season. You will need to wrap up warm to enjoy the party that Queenstown throws during winter. The township transforms into an international ski resort attracting thousands of tourists, ski athletes, and Seasonal workers. The area boasts four ski mountains all with their own unique terrain. The Remarkables and Coronet Peak are both easily accessible from the town center.

NZ Ski provides a bus that runs every 20 mins from the station building making your day up the mountain hassle-free. Both mountains boast diverse terrain and appeal to skiers and boarders alike, Off-piste on both mountains is out of this world, and you are greeted with the most incredible views as you make your way to the base. Don’t fear, if you have brought the wee kiddies along with you NZ ski has an amazing kids program called Skiwiland where they will learn the basics and bond with other children for the day, leaving you time to explore the mountain. Cardrona and Treble cone are a short drive away from Queenstown and are great if you have a little experience on the snow.

 After a day in the white gold, you cannot miss the town’s famous night culture, packed with eateries, bars, and plenty of places to strap on your dancing shoes you will have a job trying to visit them all. Our personal favourites include The World Bar for a slice of live music, Barmuda for the amazing outdoor fire pit, and Eichardts bar for some of the best views and cocktails in townQueenstown’s winter event calendar is stuffed full, kicking off with the American Express Queenstown Winter Festival, the pick of the crop, followed by the international Audi Quattro winter games NZ. As the snow season starts to slow down, fear not WInter Pride is sure to insert some excitement into your spring skiing, week-long activities, a flurry of rainbows around town and fun to be had for all!

Spring (September to November)

Springtime weather can be more unpredictable than other seasons. Queenstown’s climate is influenced by New Zealand’s island location in the pacific. Fear not, check our excellent post on all the best things to do in Queenstown if the weather is looking a little unpredictable for the day

Not only the windiest season of the year, but the snowmelt from the mountains can make lake levels a bit too high for comfort. On the other hand, you will likely experience fresh, clear, and mild days and the last few weeks of snow. You can’t beat skiing/boarding on a warm Spring day.

Winter Pride kicks off in spring so keep your eyes out for events happening all around town. The mountains also quieten down a lot so Coronet and The Remarkables are perfect for a mid-week mountain escape. Get outdoors and add some great holiday snaps to your social media account by hunting down our top photo spots. It’s hard to take a bad photo of Queenstown, your friends will be green with envy.

Lake Hayes is a perfect walk to do rain or shine, easy and accessible for everyone, and boasts views of the mountains around, The lake is also en route to Arrowtown so make sure you drive over thereafter and sip on some warm hot cocoa from Patagonia or even try your hand at some gold panning in the old Chinese Settlement.

If you fancy escaping the Queenstown bubble then enjoy a leisurely drive up to the head of the lake and explore the paradise that is Glenorchy, for all of you film buffs, Glenorchy plays home to some Lord of the Rings locations and Narnia. The landscape itself is enough to keep your mind and camera busy but don’t forget to have a wander around Mrs. Wooly’s general store before you leave, amazing books, apparel, and some NZ made Manuka honey can all be purchased here, we’ve also heard she makes a mean coffee and slice of cake! There are plenty of trails to choose from that depart from and near Glenorchy, including the famous Routeburn Track, one of the most popular.

You can get information from local DOC offices, as well as tramping and guide companies. There are DOC maintained huts on the routes where you can stay for a reasonable fee. Like we have previously mentioned Queenstown never stops, we are ready for you 24/7 & 365 days a year so whatever the season, the weather, or the time of day you will always have something to entertain you in this beautiful mountain town.

Queenstown New Zealand outdoor activities

Ben Lomond

If you fancy strapping on your walking boots and having a full day hike to the top of Ben Lomond (It’s the mountain towering above the town) then you will not part with a dollar. Every track is signposted, easily accessible, and boasts incredible views of the town below. If you want a trek or a stroll then we have got the lot.

The Remarkables

There are a few different ways to get up to the Remarkables. You could fly via helicopter to the highest points, you can drive the tar sealed road all the way up to the skifield, or if your feeling athlete fit you could even cycle.

During winter the Skifield is open late June through to early October. There is plenty of action to be had across the 7 parks included the awesome magic carpet tunnels on the learner’s slopes, to the burton freestyle area as well as the off-piste terrain sure to delight those pro skiers and boarders out there.

In summer the activities don’t stop. There is the ever-popular Lake Alta hike which starts from the ski field car park and is a moderate 1.5 hour round trip hike to a gorgeous alpine lake. As well as a multitude of guided Rock climbing experiences for the more adventurous.

Coronet peak 

Book a lesson or jump on a ski lift and get right into it at Coronet Ski field, a favourite for Queenstown locals every winter. Located just outside of town and down the road from historic Arrowtown, it is the perfect spot for a day of skiing in Winter. In Summer, take a drive up and check out the stunning views from the winding road and multiple viewpoints.
girl stanning at the top of ben lomond track

Best Queenstown activities- for the adventurous

Heading to Queenstown and looking to get the low down on all the awesome adrenaline-fuelled activities you will be taking part in while on your vacay… Well look no further, living in Queenstown has it perks & means we can get you all the juicy insider tips before you arrive.

Queenstown Bungy

You would be foolish to visit this part of the world and not throw yourself off something. Don’t worry the crew out at all the Bungy sites are highly professional (most of the time) Safety and fun is their highest priority and you are sure to leave with the best memories, here are some quick tips before you decide to strap up and 1… 2… 3 … BUNGY!

Prepare for the weather, it can get pretty chilly out at the Nevis site and you never know what’s going on until you get up there, pack a jumper and thank us later, you must also wear covered shoes at the Nevis, don’t be rocking up in your sandals or they will turn you away.

Hydro Attack

It’s not uncommon to hear the boats and such whizzing around the Wakatipu basin but Hydro Attack does a pretty sterling job of surprising residents and tourists alike.

When the water is calm the Hydro Attack team can get the Seabreacher from 0 to 80kph in 3.6 seconds, keep your eyes peeled on the lake, she is fast & only surfaces occasionally! You are inside the Shark skimming across the water feeling like you are in a cross between a fighter jet and a torpedo. You will be submerged in the lake at speed and then shot into the air shortly after.

The oldest passenger so far has been a 90-year-old great-grandma from Ireland! So if you’re thinking about backing out, make your old granny proud and sign up as soon as you land in QT!

Canyon swing

Ever wondered what it would be like to be a real-life, Tarzan? Get yourself onto the Canyon swing to find out. You will be thrown through the air over a famous New Zealand Canyon. Alone, strapped to a friend or kick backward off a chair, whichever way you decide to go, you are sure in for an exhilarating ride!

You now have two amazing options; the original canyon swing or the flying fox, whichever you choose to make it your own. Be silly, get crazy, fancy dress is highly recommended and the team will always partake in a sing-along.

The Canyon swing masters are the kings of banter, get ready to be mocked and ridiculed, its all part of their unique charm and of course included in the price.

There’s something exciting about dropping into the unknown from 182m high, strap up and enjoy the fall, you will surely be thanking us later!

Queenstown Rafting

So after you have thrown yourself off every bridge, ledge & canyon in Queenstown how about throwing yourself down some grade 5 rapids with a team of people in an inflatable raft. Suited and booted the raft guide will pack you into your raft, teach you everything you need to know about tackling the unknown, and then expertly guide you down the river and back to solid ground. Not for the faint-hearted but should certainly be top of the list for the adrenaline junkies out there.

Helicopter tours

Fly high above Queenstown with a helicopter tour… for some of the best views in New Zealand/the world!

There are tons of helicopter tours but some of my favourites are- 

The Remarkables/Cecil Peak– Perfect for the best views over Queenstown. This flight is great for guests on a budget or just wanting a shorter flight. They will take you up above The Remarkables for an incredible view of Lake Wakatipu and the surroundings. This flight is also great for wedding parties wanting to tie the knot up high!

Milford Sound Helicopter – The most popular flight from Queenstown, includes three landings on a beach, glacier, and in Milford itself. Soak in those epic views and be the first to see Mitre Peak from the sky. This is an experience not to be missed!

If you are a budding photographer make sure you are set up before takeoff, you don’t want to be missing those epic panoramic views while you search around for equipment. Selfie sticks are banned in and around helicopters as they are a safety hazard however our pilots know how to capture a good shot so make sure you ask them or better yet book me for a photo session to capture those precious memories.

There is no ‘best’ time to fly, however, it does depend on the weather. The best advice is to book early into your Queenstown stay then you can keep an eye on the weather and make sure you get the best day, flights will always be rescheduled if they are grounded due to the weather.

Strap in, enjoy, and take home some beautiful memories!

For more Helicopter inspo check out my helicopter tours blogpost

 

3 Free things to do in Queenstown 

If you don’t want to splash out on any of the major wallet-busting activities that’s okay. Nature is free! 

1. Queenstown Walks

There are HEAPS of Walks in Queenstown for all abilities. Stroll up Queenstown Hill (accessible right from the town center) and grab that Instagram pic of the lake. Learn a little about the Maori heritage while you’re there. Sound good? Then this one-hour hike is just for you.

2. Queenstown Gondola Activities

After you have spent some time being at one with Mother Nature it is time to go exploring all your other budget options in the town. The Skyline Gondola is one of the top Queenstown Attractions and it’s not expensive. But you can decide to walk the Tiki Trail up to the Gondola viewpoint. The walk takes around an hour. At the top, you’ll find the Luge track, a real-life Mario Kart race. For around $50 you can grab yourself a return trip on the Queenstown Gondola and a few Luge races, So much fun especially if you have a group of friends competing for the winning title. Before you descend make sure you grab that iconic picture of the town below.

3. Get Lost in the local music scene

There are plenty of well-attended jam sessions around town during the week, with some more regular than others. A sweet spot just outside of town is the Sherwood open mic night on the last Thursday of every month.

The Blue Door in Arrowtown also has a jam night every Wednesday. You can find local jam sessions in the Lakes Weekly Bulletin and The Source – local guides to what’s happening entertainment wise around town

queenstown hill

7 Things to do in Queenstown on a rainy day

1. Ice Arena

Queenstown Ice Arena. This is top of the list because of the novelty factor! When’s the last time you or your kids went skating? It also ticks the winter-things-to-do list. Fear not, there are skating aids in the form of seals and penguins and new this year, vbvb. This is for kids of all ages, including those over 18!

If you have kids eight years and over, I highly recommend a Southern Stampede ice Hockey comp, however, you would need to plan for this well in advance as tickets get snapped up pretty fast. Why? Because it’s a hugely fun and high-energy game to watch.Please note the Queenstown Ice Arena is open from Easter Holidays until the end of the October School Holidays only.

2. Kiwi birdlife park

I bet you thought all the dinosaurs were extinct right? I thought so too before I went to the Kiwi Bird Life Park in Queenstown and I got to meet one! The Tuatara are the last survivors of the dinosaur era and they are at the Kiwi bird park waiting to meet you. It may be obvious from the name but yes you do also get to see real-life Kiwi birds along with the Kea, the worlds only alpine parrot whose intelligence will blow your mind. Close your eyes and listen to the beautiful sound of the Tui as you make your way through this park rich in local knowledge and history.

3. Go-Karting

Game Over Queenstown. Indoor go karting and 250sqm Jurassic themed laser tag. This family attraction opened in 2016 with laser tag only opening May 5th. The go-karting lasts 15 minutes starting from 10:30 am and there are 16 Adult and 8 Junior electric go-karts.

4. Walter Peak Farm Show

When is the last time you took a historic steamboat across a glacial lake to hand feed a deer after seeing a local farmer shear a merino sheep as you wait for your jam and crumpets to be ready? I would assume never as this trip really is a once in a lifetime experience. It has it all from the stunning boat cruise across the turquoise waters of Lake Wakatipu to the authentic farm experience that you experience when arriving at Walter Peak Farm. A must-do and see while in Queenstown.

5.Trampolining

Site Trampoline – a specialist freestyle training center, but basically a big trampoline warehouse! Heaps of fun to be had on a foam pit and five trampolines, which include two Olympic tramps and a super tramp. Book for group sessions or enquire about joining lessons.

6. Ten Pin Bowling

Strike Bowl in Arthurs Point. Ten-pin Bowling plus games room, café, and pizza menu. This is a pretty fun option and is suited to most ages, with the option to lift the sides on any of the seven lanes for the beginners in the family. There’s free return transport from Queenstown.

7. Ice Bar

Ice Bars including Below zero ice bar and Minus 5 ice bar. Yes, these are bars but kids are welcome and treated to a ‘mocktail’. They even have a family pass. The attraction to this, of course, is not the alcohol or non-alcohol, in this case, but that everything inside is made of ice, and they’ll suit you and boot you inappropriate warm attire. This too is more of a wintery thing to do, although it is open year-round.

Other attractions

Other attractions include Reading Cinema, Caddyshack indoor mini-golf, Fear Factory Haunted House, Queenstown Underwater Observatory plus the new Escape Quest where teams solve clues about the 1860s gold rush to escape their own private game room.

Stay In A Cool Airbnb Queenstown

Nothing makes a holiday more special than staying somewhere unique. Queenstown has a ton of awesome Airbnb accommodation to choose from.

You will have more space than a typical hotel situation, you will most likely have unobstructed views as a lot of Queenstown houses and apartments have higher perspectives than the hotels meaning they have spectacular lake & mountain views as well as private parking, Netflix or even an outdoor spa soak in under the stars.

There’s no doubt Airbnb’s come with all the little perks and conveniences that hotel rooms don’t- like the chance to meet the locals!!

Below is a map of all the Queenstown Airbnb’s so you can find one to suit your budget.

To receive $95 off your first Airbnb stay go here.

 

 

Queenstown Bars

Below is a list of the best bars in Queenstown. There are about 42 of them, so get set to have a good night!!

Winnie Bago’s – famous for its pizza as well as the roof which opens up to let in a few snowflakes on a winter’s night, or for a bit of star gazing – this place really heats up once it gets going. Themed nights are common such as Back to School, Doctors and Nurses and other such fun, this is the place where Queenstown gets its party-hearty reputation!

The World Bar  Back from the dead after a fire gutted this long-standing local hero, The World now has a new home on Church St, and has been revamped for you to revel in. The famous teapot cocktails are still available, where in the world would we be without them?

Cowboys – with a bucking mechanical bull and an extensive range of tequila, things are bound to get messy! This place is great for a bit of entertainment to warm up the night, are you brave enough to ride the bull? Go on, we dare you!

Sky City Casino – offering up live entertainment, a bar, restaurant, and all your entertainment needs under one roof right in town. Try your luck at winning big! Open from 12 pm daily.

 

world bar queenstown