33 of the Best Things to Do In and Around Queenstown

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Surrounded by towering mountains, mighty rivers, and deep blue lakes, Queenstown is widely known as the “adventure capital of New Zealand”, and it’s not hard to see why. 

Whether you love mountain climbing and backcountry exploration, taking to the air or water, throwing yourself off a bridge with an elastic band around your ankles, or even immersing yourself in virtual reality, you can do it in Queenstown. The hardest part is deciding which adventure to try first.

Perhaps less well-known are the chill-out possibilities in a Queenstown getaway. The town’s lake cruises, health spas, wineries, and walking or cycling trails could be just what the doctor ordered if you’re looking to relax and unwind. 

It would be too overwhelming to mention every Queenstown adventure in one article, given the incredible number of indoor and outdoor experiences on offer. Instead, having been visiting the town regularly for at least the last thirty three years, here are thirty three of my all-time favourites.

Bungy Jumping and Beyond

Man bungee-jumping off a bridge with arms outstretched

Bungy jumping may have spread worldwide, but its spiritual home is here in Queenstown. 

Inventors AJ Hackett and Henry van Asch opened the world’s first commercial bungy operation at the Kawarau Bridge back in 1988, after attracting global attention by attaching rubber cords to their ankles and illegally jumping off the Eiffel Tower earlier that year. 

The Kawarau Bungy heralded the birth of Kiwi adventure tourism, and now AJ Hacket Bungy offers a bunch of exciting jumping opportunities in Queenstown. It takes a lot of courage to deliberately leap from a great height and freefall towards a rushing river far below, but the sense of achievement (and relief) you feel afterwards is incredible.

The first bungy jump I ever took was from the Kawarau bridge, and it was terrifying and exhilarating in equal measure!

If even jumping off a bridge isn’t enough of a thrill, however, take the bungy bus to the Nevis Valley. There you can bungy, swing, or even catapult screaming off a platform suspended 134 metres between the valley walls. 

Mountaineering

Looking for a bespoke adventure in the rugged high country? Climbing Queenstown has something for everyone, from novice climbers to experts, with rock climbing, snowshoeing, hiking, abseiling, and mountaineering adventures on offer. 

If you haven’t climbed New Zealand’s southern mountains before, your best bet is to go with a guide. Queenstown Mountain Guides offers mountaineering and avalanche safety courses as well as guided expeditions in the Southern Lakes, Aspiring and Mt Cook National Parks.

You’ll be safer with an experienced guide in your team, and you’ll also have a better chance of getting to the top.   

High Country 4-Wheel Drive

Queenstown is surrounded by rugged mountains, and while some become ski fields in the winter months, others are part of vast high-country farms. These are tussock-covered wildernesses, occasionally grazed by cattle, deer, or sheep, but otherwise left largely alone. 

There aren’t many roads into this wild backcountry, and those that do wind into the mountains are rough at best. Sparsely covered in gravel and dust or mud (depending on the season), they wind steeply up and down the mountainsides, between rocky ridges and silent valleys. Rental companies, unsurprisingly, refuse to let their cars and vans go anywhere near them.

If you do want to visit these untouched pieces of paradise, a few companies run tough 4WD trucks into two exciting backcountry destinations: Skippers Canyon and Macetown. 

Skippers Canyon 

Gold miners settled the wild, barely-accessible Skippers Canyon during the 1800s gold rush to begin sluicing and dredging in the Shotover riverbed. 

Outback New Zealand takes small groups of intrepid travellers deep into the canyon, across the old suspension bridge and down to the restored Skippers buildings. Here, you’ll glimpse the courage and perseverance it took to live and work in such a remote landscape.

Be sure to explore the tiny cemetery and read about Skipper’s history on the information boards. You’ll take some stunning photos along the way, as well as trying your hand at gold panning. This is a chance to wander the wild river country that few people ever get to see. 

If you want to get even closer to the river action, join the crew at Skippers Canyon Jet instead. You’ll still get the dramatic scenery, history, and 4WD drive along part of the Skippers Rd, and a 30-minute action-packed high-speed jet boat ride through the narrow canyons of the Upper Shotover.  

Macetown

Gold mining looms large in Queenstown’s history, as the miners spread their claims far and wide over the gold-rich landscape. There’s still gold in the rivers today, but most of the claims and towns are long since abandoned. 

One of those is Macetown, established far up the Arrow River in the early 1860s and now a Department of Conservation reserve. 

Some hardy souls choose to walk or mountain bike in and camp the night, which gives plenty of time to explore the restored buildings and read the interpretation panels around the town. If you don’t fancy a six hour walk, a 4WD tour travels along the old track (crossing the river 25 times) in a couple of hours. 

If you love historic machinery, it’s fascinating to see the two old stamper batteries in the area. Anderson’s Battery is the only known all-metal stamping battery in Otago. 

In contrast, the four-storey-high Homeward Bound battery is a 45-minute walk away. Its challenging access route gives you some appreciation of how hard it must have been to get the parts onto the site 150 years ago, let alone build and run the colossal machine. 

Lake Wakatipu

Steamship TSS Earnslaw beside a pier on Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand, with mountains in the background

The Lady of the Lake

No visit to Queenstown is complete without a trip on the TSS Earnslaw, known fondly as the Lady of the Lake.

A hundred years ago, the farms and small settlements around Lake Wakatipu could only connect to the outside world by boat. The old steamship provided a lifeline, carrying passengers, mail, goods, and even livestock backward and forward. 

In service for over a century, she gained a new lease of life as Queenstown’s iconic tourist attraction in 1968. 

It’s fun to wander around the ship as you cruise to Walter Peak Station. The hand-fired engine room still looks and functions pretty much as it did in 1912; you can feel it in the rising heat and the sweat of the stokers who shovel the coal needed to keep it running. 

At Walter Peak, you can wander around and check out the restored buildings and pretty lakeside gardens before returning to Queenstown, or add on a guided farm tour, horse trek, or gourmet BBQ meal before returning on a later cruise. 

Parasailing

Another Queenstown icon is the big yellow smiley face often spotted floating above the lake — with delighted passengers dangling underneath. A paraflight is a great way to find out what a kite feels like on the end of its string. In case you were wondering.

You start by cruising out into Queenstown Bay, strapping into the safety seat, and getting ready for lift-off. As the boat picks up speed, your “kite string” plays out, and suddenly you’re in the air. Get ready for panoramic views and close-up thrills as you soar and dip behind the boat. 

Go solo or take your friend, partner, or even a child or two along for the tandem/triple rides to enjoy the ultimate bird’s eye experience.  

Shark Attack

If you’ve ever thought about what it would be like to skim across the water inside a torpedo (I mean, who hasn’t?), take a high-speed ride in one of Queenstown’s zaniest experiences: the Hydro Attack. People describe the semi-submersible submarine as “the ultimate bend of shark and machine” and say it’s “like riding in a cross between a fighter jet and a torpedo”.

One minute you’re skimming across the water; the next, you’re plunging downward. But before you have time to get comfortable underwater, the shark soars towards the surface and leaps skyward. 

There’s no room for crowds on the shark; it’s just you and the pilot, so you can make your 15-minute ride as wild — or mild — as you like. 

River Adventures

Jetboat on a river in New Zealand with mountains in the background

With four mighty rivers on Queenstown’s doorstep, many companies offer different exhilarating river adventures. 

Jet Boating

Queenstown’s iconic jet boat ride is the Shotover Jet, swooping between narrow canyon walls and skimming across shallow shingle braids on the river of the same name. It’s a short but exhilarating ride from start to finish, and features on many a tourism advert.  

Interested in a longer ride? Jump onboard at Queenstown wharf and take a ride full of spins and thrills across Lake Wakatipu and down the mighty Kawarau River.  

The Wilderness Jet Experience along the Dart River is the ultimate jetboat experience in the area: this fantastic journey leaves from Glenorchy and travels up the lake and into the UNESCO World Heritage Area of Te Wāhipounamu. I took an earlier version of this trip a few years ago, and absolutely loved it.

You’ll zip along the braided Dart river through a wild, unforgettable landscape of native trees and ferns, towering snow-capped mountains, and gushing streams and waterfalls. The journey has the usual spins and thrills of a jet boat ride, but also includes many quiet moments that let you appreciate the beauty of the rivers, glaciers, and mountains all around.

Rafting

Whitewater rafting takes your river experience to a whole new level. In summer, join a group of brave adventurers on the exhilarating Shotover River, zooming through whitewater rapids deep in Skippers Canyon.

You don’t need previous rafting experience to join this adventure, since the experienced guides give full instructions and keep the raft on track through the changeable grade 3-5 rapids. Two things you will, need, however, are a sense of adventure and a willingness to get wet!

If even rafting sounds too tame for you and you’d like to take your river adventures up another notch, why not give riverboarding a go? 

Riverboarding

Serious Fun Riverboarding lives up to its name with an incredible ride through the waters of the Kawarau Gorge. You can choose from one of three adrenaline levels: 

  • Drifting — here, you’ll learn the basics of riverboarding on a calm patch of the river and have time to enjoy the scenic views as you sweep gently along.
  • Sledging — designed to be stable and buoyant, these boards are easy to hold but sleek enough to give a spectacular ride along the fast-flowing river. 
  • Riverboarding — this is the trip to take if you’ve had some bodysurfing experience. Experience the river’s rapids, waves, whirlpools, and eddy lines along 7km of the Kawarau Gorge, then hop into the warm shuttle to return to the start and ride it all again. 

This adventure’s not for the faint-hearted, and you’ll need confident swimming skills, swimwear, and a reasonable fitness level to take part. Boots, fins, wetsuit, life jacket, and helmet are provided.

Funyaks

Finally, if you’d rather have a more tranquil river journey, go funyaking along the Dart

Start with a jet boat ride up the Dart River and deep into Mount Aspiring National Park, then float back downstream in a unique inflatable canoe. Aka, a Funyak. You’ll glide along the beautiful streams and channels of the Dart River, enjoying the birdsong and admiring native plants that date back further than the dinosaurs.

Stop for a picnic lunch at the edge of an ancient beech forest, then finish the day with a 4WD coach trip through some of New Zealand’s best-known film locations.    

Take to the Air

Aerial view of lake and mountains in Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

However amazing Queenstown looks from ground level, the scenery is even more spectacular from above. 

Fly to Milford

Milford Sound is one of New Zealand’s most majestic destinations. You can spend all day travelling there on a coach or in your own vehicle, but flying is a faster and more spectacular way to go, giving the opportunity to fly into the Sound over the snow-covered Southern Alps.

Soaring over Milford lets you experience the dramatic peaks, sheer cliffs, and cascading waterfalls from above, before landing and taking a two-hour cruise to see them all again from sea level. Once you’re done, you can either take a coach back to Queenstown, or jump back in the plane for the return flight over Fiordland National Park. 

Helicopter Trips

If you’ve never been in a helicopter before, now’s your chance: Queenstown has a dazzling array of helicopter trips and combos on offer. You can do anything from a quick scenic tour over lakes and mountains to a “land + adventure” tour that includes hiking, skiing, four-wheel-driving, or even picnicking on a peak.

Maybe you fancy landing on a glacier? Or flying over Middle Earth? You can do both on the Nomad Safari Earnslaw Burn Heli-Hobbit tour. Many of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings scenes were filmed in Queenstown’s ‘backyard’, and the Heli-Hobbit tour takes you right into those dramatic settings. 

On this trip, you’ll journey to the Earnslaw glacier (where Bilbo and company travelled after leaving Rivendell). When you stand on the ridge and see the jagged peaks and rushing waterfalls, it’s not hard to imagine yourself as one of the nine intrepid travellers.

Once back in Queenstown, you’ll travel by 4WD vehicle to continue your quest through Middle Earth on land. 

Hot Air Balloon Ride

Early mornings often dawn clear, calm, and crisp in Queenstown’s mountain setting. That makes sunrise the perfect time of day to glide over the peaks and valleys, farms, forests and waterways that make up the area’s diverse landscape. 

The experienced pilots at Sunrise Balloons take you floating above it all on a dawn flight and follow it up with a champagne breakfast when you land. It’s a great way to start the day: you’ll be finishing off an unforgettable experience as most people are just thinking about getting out of bed! 

SkyDiving

It takes a lot of courage to fight your natural instincts and leap from 15,000 ft out of a perfectly-good plane. Even strapped to an experienced partner, you’ll still wonder why you ever agreed to this — right up until you’ve actually taken the leap and stepped out of the door. 

When you’re freefalling for what feels like an eternity (in reality, about a minute), you’ll know exactly why you took this adrenaline-filled adventure. The five minutes it takes to glide back to earth under your ballooning parachute maybe some of the best moments of your life. 

NZone Skydive introduced the first tandem skydiving experience to New Zealand 30 years ago, and has been thrilling novice jumpers with this once-in-a-lifetime adventure ever since.   

Winter Wonderland

View from snow-covered mountain over valley and lake near Queenstown, New Zealand

No matter what the season, Queenstown has activities to match. If you fancy a snow-filled adventure, however, winter (roughly June through September) is the best time to visit. 

Ski Fields

Queenstown has four beautiful ski fields that are all less than an hour’s drive from town. Car parking is available at all facilities, but be prepared to walk a fair distance if you don’t arrive till mid-morning. If you prefer not to deal with parking or risk your car on the steep, winding access roads, frequent shuttle services drop you right on the doorstep. 

All the fields have multiple facilities and packages available. Rent your ski or snowboard gear and purchase one-day and multi-day lift passes and lesson packages either in advance or at the ski field.

Take your pick from:    

  • Coronet Peak became New Zealand’s first commercial ski field when a local inventor established a rope tow on the slopes in 1947. Nowadays, the resort has multiple chair lifts, day and night skiing, festivals, cafes and restaurants, and more.  
  • The Remarkables ski field was established in sheltered basins on Queenstown’s iconic north-south mountain range, and often feels less crowded than Coronet Peak. These two ski fields are owned by NZ Ski, which also operates Mt Hutt in Canterbury. That means you can buy interchangeable passes to all three areas.  
  • Cardrona has the whole family covered, with skiing, snow tubing, and gondola rides. It’s also home ground for many world-class Kiwi snowboarders, so it’s no wonder that it boasts an extensive park and pipe facility that caters for beginners, champions, and all levels in between.  
  • Snow Farm doesn’t do downhill skiing or snowboarding. Instead, it’s dedicated to cross country skiing, snowshoeing, or simply playing in the snow. 

Helicopter Off-Piste

Imagine vast white-powder basins, snowy ridges, and run after run all to yourself. That’s the dream — and the offer from Alpine Heliski, which flies to eight mountain ranges. They have packages to suit all abilities, and tailor your off-piste experience to suit the weather and snow conditions of the day. 

You’ll get the services of an experienced guide, a delicious picnic lunch, transport to and from the helipad, highly-skilled pilots, and the comfort of using a company with an excellent safety record. Choose from the standard group packages, or charter your own heli-ski experience. 

Wilderness Snowmobile Adventure

For the ultimate cold-weather adventure, how does blasting around on a snowmobile sound? Limited to six passengers per trip and running from June to October, your group has exclusive access to the pristine snow of the Garvie Mountains. 

Start with a scenic helicopter ride up to the plateau, which sits a cool 6000 feet above sea level, before riding on a snowmobile with your guide for two hours. During the summer months, you’d find sheep grazing on this high country station, but the snow’s all yours in winter.

Person on mountain bike riding on a dirt trail overlooking a lake, with mountains in the background

Get on Your Bike

Cycle Trails

Queenstown has a network of purpose-built cycle trails run by the Queenstown Trails Trust, and all are free for cyclists and walkers to use. 

The trails link Queenstown with the nearby settlements of Arrowtown and Gibbston, and are perfect for day rides or a multi-day trip. Several tracks hug the shores of Lakes Wakatipu, and there’s also the shorter Lake Hayes trail that provides an opportunity to ride around a small yet highly-picturesque lake not far from town. 

If you only have time to ride one cycle trail near Queenstown, however, go for the Arrow River Bridges Trail. This easy yet beautiful trail starts in Arrowtown, initially following the Arrow River before winding its way through fields and farms, along quiet country lanes, and over several swinging suspension bridges. The trail finishes at the historic bungy bridge over the Kawarau River, at the entrance to Gibbston. 

You can relax over coffee, check out the bungy jumping, or join the Gibbston Trail for spectacular river and vineyard views and the chance to visit several wineries along the way. It all makes for a gorgeous day out, especially if you’ve hired an e-bike from one of the many Queenstown or Arrowtown cycle stores.

If you want to ride the trail from Arrowtown or Gibbston but don’t have your own vehicle to get out there from Queenstown, some of the bike rental companies offer a pickup and drop-off service as well.

Mountain Biking

Queenstown mountain biking takes cycle-based fun to a whole new level. With trails graded from beginner to expert and beyond, there’s something for everyone who wants to add some thrills and (maybe a few) spills to their biking adventures. 

The most well-known is Queenstown Bike Park, where multiple trails wind around and down the Skyline Gondola Hill, aka Bob’s Peak. A steep access road is available, but most bikers buy a pass that includes gondola rides to the top, with your bike attached to the gondola cabin. 

Coronet Peak ski field becomes an awesome mountain bike park from December to March, with chairlift rides to the top and three challenging downhill or cross country trails to get you back to the bottom again. 

Local riders frequent the 7 Mile Mountain Bike Park at the big scenic reserve seven miles from Queenstown, on the road to Glenorchy. There are plenty of jumps and banked corners, not to mention clatter bridges and log rides, and it’s great for groups of riders with different abilities: the trail ratings range from gentle grade two all the way through to black.

Speaking of jumps, the Gorge Road Jump Park is one of the best BMX and mountain bike playgrounds in the country. Usually open from November to May, its 40 massive dirt bike jumps are sometimes described as a work of art. Riding in this bike park won’t cost you a penny, with trails suitable for beginners through to world-class mountain bikers.  

Finally, for something completely different, why not head into the high country at Welcome Rock Trails in the Garvie Mountains, south of Queenstown. Named for an iconic rock on the privately-owned station, this handbuilt biking and walking trail follows the path of an old gold mining water race.

It’s certainly possible to ride the 27km trail in a day, but many people choose to stay a night away from civilisation in one of the two quirky huts alongside the trail.   

Explore on Foot

Queenstown and the surrounding area offer dozens of excellent walks, with everything from a gentle stroll through the gardens to multi-day challenges on the Routeburn or Greenstone tracks.

It would be impossible to list them all in this article, but here are some of my favourites:

Gentle Strolls: (flat, easy terrain)

Queenstown Gardens: Explore the rose gardens, sculptures, ornamental duck pond and mature trees around the 36-acre plot. 

Glenorchy Lagoon Walkway: The flat track and boardwalk begins on the waterfront in Glenorchy township and meanders around the wetlands. You’ll see flocks of water birds swimming on the lagoon or floating amongst the rushes, with benches and picnic tables placed at the best spots for mountain views.

Routeburn Nature Walk: If you don’t fancy tackling the whole 32kms of the Routeburn Track, the Nature Walk Loop is a perfect taster. Cross the swing bridge over the river and follow the start of the Routeburn Track into the shady native beech forest. 

After a gentle climb of around 20 minutes, you swing away from the main track and loop back towards the bridge. This part of the walk includes interesting information boards about the names and stories of the forest’s trees, plants, and birds. 

Longer Walks (moderate fitness and stamina)

Queenstown Hill Time Walk: Right in central Queenstown, the Time Walk is a short, demanding hike, but the views at the top are well worth the effort. 

Climb the steep track through the pine trees and break out above the treeline to see the spectacular view over the Remarkables mountain range and Lake Wakatipu.  

Six information plates along the way give the track its name, highlighting Queenstown’s Maori settlements, the effect of the 19th-century gold rush, and the development of Queenstown into its present incarnation. 

Sawpit Gully: A beautiful 8km trail that begins at the Chinese Heritage Settlement in Arrowtown, the track loops through native bush and up onto a tussock covered hill before descending through the gully and back along the Arrowtown River track. 

If you’re visiting in the summer months, I’d recommend starting this trail early in the morning: the unsheltered parts are scorching when the sun blasts down later in the day. Take plenty of water and something to eat so you’re comfortable enough to enjoy the walk and the views over the backcountry. 

Mount Crichton Loop Track: A fantastic 8km track off the road to Glenorchy, there’s probably more scenic variety on this track than any other of similar length in the area. 

It travels along rushing streams, up through trees and fern-covered rocky banks, past gold-mining relics and steep cliffs with spectacular river views. If you don’t mind a little more walking, it’s worth detouring down to the Tailrace Tunnel, which takes you down to the river.

Another slight detour off the official track takes you to Sam Summer’s Hut, still looking much the way it did when it was built in 1930. It’s free to bunk down in if you don’t mind the possibility of a few tiny visitors in the night. 

At the top of the track, you’ll get more spectacular views across Lake Dispute (there’s a walkway down to it if you’re feeling super-fit), Lake Wakatipu, and the mountains beyond. 

Insider’s tip: When you cross the first bridge, you can choose to go left or right. Both paths on the loop start climbing straight away, but the clockwise side is slightly shorter and steeper. That could be a factor if, like me, your knees tend to hurt going downhill.

On the other hand, the counter-clockwise path is more exposed to the elements, something to consider if you’re walking up on a particularly sunny, wet, or windy day.

Queenstown Gondola

Person paragliding over Queenstown, New Zealand, with lake and mountains in background

If you don’t have heaps of time in Queenstown, but you still want to get some adventure activities under your belt (or just enjoy good food with magnificent views), head to the Skyline Gondola

Some people find the ten-minute gondola ride up and down the steep slope enough of an adrenaline burst, and are happy to sit and admire the views from the Market Kitchen Cafe or the upmarket Stratosphere Restaurant and Bar afterward. 

If you’ve got adventure activities in mind, however, here’s what you’ll find.

Ride the Luge

Take a chairlift up to the start of the luge tracks above the Skyline base. These little carts are built for speed, and if your feet reach the pedals, you’re good to go. Smaller children can ride with an adult, so they won’t miss out.

Choose from two tracks — the slower scenic track or the steeper speedy option — and get ready to be hooked! Insider tip: buy a multi-ride gondola/luge package; one ride is never enough!

Zoom Down Ziplines

Ziptrek Eco Tours operates from the top of Bob’s Peak, not far from the entrance to the mountain bike trails. Choose the Moa Tour four-zipline package or get adventurous and opt to ride all six lines down the mountain on the Kea Tour. There’s also a new Kereru Tour, with two zip lines and a 21-metre drop.     

Tours start with a gentle zipline ride to get you used to the feeling, but the real fun begins after that. Zip through the trees, hang upside down, scream if you like; it all adds to the fun. 

Tandem Paragliding

Perhaps you’d prefer to jump off a mountain instead of riding down it? If that sounds like you, the folks at GForce Paragliding has been leaping off Bob’s Peak for 25 years, and they’d be more than happy to take you along for the ride.

Beat the crowds first thing in the morning with an Early Bird Flight (or book a later time to glide down if it suits better), securely harnessed to your experienced instructor. GForce operates year-round whenever the weather is suitable for flying.

Don’t just rock up on the day and expect to get a ride — it pays to book in advance for this and many other popular Queenstown activities.

Leap off a Ledge

If you don’t fancy hanging upside down off a bridge, Skyline has another bungy option, The Ledge. 

There’s plenty of room to gaze if you just want to watch the jumpers. However, if you’re ready for action, you can choose to swing or leap…dive… flip — the instructors dare you to see how badass you can be when you launch off that ledge.

The Kiwi Birdlife Park

When a Queenstown family decided to reclaim a rubbish-filled wasteland beside Bob’s Peak, they had no idea that it would become a five-acre park one day. Nowadays, it’s burgeoning with native plants and is home to more than a hundred native birds and reptiles. 

The visitor-funded park is part of the ongoing conservation effort for species such as the endangered whio (blue duck), the ancient tuatara (a reptile that was around before the dinosaurs), and the iconic kiwi. 

Visitors can wander around the enclosures following the self-guided audio tour, join a kiwi encounter, and take in one of several conservation shows during the day.

Escape Indoors

There’s no lack of inside adventures in Queenstown, whatever the weather. Of course there are modern cinemas, intimate bars, enticing art galleries, and shopping galore. If you want to enjoy some of Queenstown’s famous thrills and spills indoors, however, or are just looking for things to do with the kids, iFLY and Thrillzone are the places to be.

SkyDive Inside

Not everyone wants to jump out of a plane at 15,000 ft, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the experience entirely. The wind tunnel at iFLY on Brecon St, not far from the Gondola, lets you fly as an individual or have fun with your friends (there’s even a group discount). 

Imagine a muted hurricane harnessed and ready to ride. That’s the best way to describe the sensation inside the wind tunnel as you fall forward into the rising column of air. Lift your feet, and suddenly, you’re flying. 

Once you get stable, the instructor teaches you how to move up, down, and around. Each flight lasts 60 seconds, and believe me, that’s a long time when you’re concentrating on holding every muscle in the correct position. 

Then, if you master the “low zone”, you can choose to add on the thrill of a vertical high flight and spiral five metres up the wind tunnel for an extra dose of excitement.

Thrillzone

Ride on a roller coaster, battle zombies and aliens, escape from prison, and more — at least in VR. Thrillzone’s 12D motion theatre and multiplayer virtual reality games open up a world of weird and wonderful experiences.

If you’d prefer to have your adventures in the real world, you can choose anything from laser tag and paintless paintball to mini golf, escape rooms, and more. Book your adventures in advance: they fill up fast. 

Family Fun

Clip ‘N Climb

Kids of all ages get a kick out of Clip ‘N Climb at Basecamp Adventures. This huge room is packed with colourful climbing walls just begging to be scaled. Each climb uses an automatic belay rope, which means you never have to worry about falling. 

Scramble up and down rope ladders, race on the speed climbs, scale the Stairway to Heaven, and tackle several other zany climbs. Then add to the excitement by taking the Ultimate Challenge on the flying trapeze, or plunge straight down on the vertical drop.

Queenstown On Ice

What springs to mind when you think of ice skating? Ethereal stars zooming around on impossibly thin metal blades? Or, if you’re anything like me, cautiously wobbling around the ice rink on a pair of rented skates? 

Whichever version you’re closest to, you can hire skates at the Ice Arena in the Queenstown Gardens and join the public skate sessions. Looking for something different? Check out the ice bumper cars instead.

These guys are far more slippery and fluid than traditional bumper cars, and they’re way more fun! Each vehicle has a couple of joysticks to spin and slide you around the ice. Children 6+ years and adults can drive their own cars, while 3-5-year-olds can sit on an adult’s lap.

Just Out of Town

Bicycle leaning on a tree showing autumnal colours, outside a cafe

You don’t have to drive far out of Queenstown to find some charming settlements, each with its own unique appeal. 

Arrowtown’s Historic Charm

Your trip to Queenstown really isn’t complete without a visit to the historic village of Arrowtown, established beside the gold-rich Arrow river in the 1800s. The town is just 20 minutes from the airport, less than half an hour from two ski fields, and a five-minute drive to three world-class golf courses. 

One of Arrowtown’s must-see attractions is the restored Chinese miner’s village on the banks of Bush Creek, just a few minutes’ walk from the town’s bustling main street. Chinese miners were welcomed to Otago by the authorities when the gold rush began, but were soon shunned by the suspicious European settlers.

This small settlement emphasises the differences in their lives, with many of the village huts having been carefully restored. Walking around gives a sobering glimpse into the hardship as you peer into the tiny shelters built from rocks and clay found around the river.  

Next to the village, you’ll find Dudley’s Cottage precinct, a collection of tiny shops centred around one of Arrowtown’s historic cottages. It’s a great place to stop for a meal, wander around curio shops and art galleries, or hire a bike to ride the Arrow River trail mentioned above. 

Finally, if you’re visiting Arrowtown in April, prepare to be wowed by the colours. The autumn trees turn the surrounding hills and village streets into a glorious riot of red, orange and gold. 

Glenorchy: Into the Wilderness

This quiet little town on the edge of the Southern Alps is the gateway to many of Queenstown’s greatest natural wonders. 

You’ll pass through Glenorchy on your way to famous hiking tracks like the Routeburn and the Greenstone, and less well-known ones such as the Invincible Gold Mine track that includes many relics and reminders of the gold rush era. 

We’ve mentioned the boardwalk and Dart River adventures earlier, and it’s also worth driving around Lake Wakatipu to the road’s end at Kinloch. This little old settlement boasts a tiny pub and guest house, tent sites, and a quiet beauty that begs you to just sit and gaze at the lakes and mountains all around.  

Little Paradise

Last but not least on our list is Little Paradise Lodge and Gardens, which you’ll find halfway along the Queenstown-Glenorchy road. Staying at this quirky B’n’B lodge would be an absolute treat, but even if you’re not spending the night, the art-filled gardens surrounding it are absolutely worth a visit. 

You can’t take more than a few steps in any direction without discovering stunning sculptures, all created by one artist over the past thirty or more years. Stone towers, delicate butterflies, happy dancing girls, and gigantic solemn moas vie with mosaic walls, quirky giant spider webs, tiny toadstools and driftwood stags, water features, and thousands of flowers, bushes, and trees. 

Even the visitor’s lavatory is a work of art!

Getting there

There are two ways to arrive in Queenstown: by road or air.

The small but bustling international airport has many daily domestic flights to and from Christchurch, Wellington, and Auckland. Queenstown is far from New Zealand’s major cities, so flying in is often visitors’ preferred option. There are also direct connections to the east coast of Australia, including both Sydney and Melbourne.

State Highway 6 is the primary route for driving, cycling, or bussing into the Queenstown area. To the north, you’ll come from Wanaka or Cromwell/Alexandra, while the southern route arrives from Kingston, Te Anau, and Invercargill. 

No matter how you travel, have your camera ready to capture all the fantastic views along the way!


Main image (overlooking Lake Wakatipu) via Syafiq Arshad/Shutterstock.com, bungee-jumping image via Martin Helgemeir/Shutterstock.com, autumnal cafe image via Sean Liew/Shutterstock.com, TSS Earnslaw image via Prayer X/Unsplash, Fiordland National Park image via Samuel Ferrara/Unsplash, snowy mountain image via Ben Jacobsen/Unsplash, other images via author

One Response to “33 of the Best Things to Do In and Around Queenstown

  • Dear Dave,

    I love the picture just below the paragraph: take to the air. I am really in love with this image. However, I want to agree with the tobogganing idea. I loved it, and I also agree with your insider tip – one ride is never enough!

    We’re going to try Glenorchy on our next trip, since we had to skip it on our first visit to New Zealand. We may also try the jet boat – we’ll see. As always, we appreciate your tips.

    Greetings from Germany
    Beate

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