Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown is in the South Island of New Zealand and is an absolute tourist hotspot! People literally come from all over the world to ride the mountain bike trails, ski, and experience all Queenstown has to offer. It was a popular spot for my family growing up and so I have pulled together a list of the best things to do in Queenstown. Everyone knows the main attraction like Nevis Bungy or the jetboating so this list includes the generic tourist hotspots and a few hidden gems too!
Soak In The Spectacular Views On The Gondola
The skyline gondola should be at the top of your Queenstown bucket list! You can easily walk to the start from town and then catch a ride up to Bob’s peak and take in the breathtaking panoramic views from the top. The city of Queens town is 450 meters below and it is well worth the trip up.
As if the view from the trip up wasn’t enough there is a big view platform that wraps around the outside of the cafe area and big windows that frame the view perfectly and also protect you from the cold in winter. When you get to the top, choose from a variety of fun activities. Take a downhill ride on the Skyline Luge, choose the blue track if you are brave, Or grab a bite at Stratosfare Restaurant. There’s also the Skyline Stargazing experience!
The gondola leaves from the station at the end of Brecon Street, a short walk up from the lake. The ride costs $44 NZD for adults and $26 for children. Package deals are available if you pair the gondola ride with the Luge (more on that below), lunch or dinner buffets, as well as other experiences like stargazing tours!
Visit the Queenstown Arts and Craft Market
Every Saturday many local artists set up small stalls on the waterfront in town (Earnslaw Park) to sell their handmade goods. This is the perfect spot to find kiwi-made gifts for friends and family or a souvenir for yourself! The locals are super friendly and are always happy to talk about what they have on offer and even recommend some great spots.
This Arts and Craft market opens at 9 am in summer and 9:30 am in winter and closes at 4:30 pm and 3:30 pm respectively. It’s free to visit, but do bring some cash to make life easier! When I was down there on Easter of 2022 the markets were also on Friday too so you may get lucky if you are leaving before Saturday.
Cruise On Lake Wakatipu
Lake Wakatipu is the heart and soul of Queenstown and what better way to experience it than going for a scenic cruise. The cruises depart from right in town and head along Lake Wakatipu towards Glenorchy and back.
There are two different scenic cruises you can choose between in Queenstown. The first cruise is on the Spirit of Queenstown vessel operated by Southern Discoveries and involves riding on a catamaran. This cruise goes the furthest along the lake, and it’s also one of the cheapest things to do in Queenstown at about $40 NZD per person. For an extra special experience, you can book their sunset dining cruise and wine and dine with some of the best views around!
The other scenic cruise is onboard the TSS Earnslaw operated by Real Journeys. It’s the last remaining vessel from the gold rush and somewhat of a historic experience. The TSS Earnslaw is a traditional coal-powered ship where you can actually observe workers shoveling coal into the burner as you cruise along the lake. It is actually the only remaining coal-powered steamboat in the southern hemisphere!
Try A Famous Fergburger
Come lunchtime on the water you will be met with the sight of Fergburger bags everywhere. They are world-renowned for a reason and definitely live up to the hype. Open 21 hours a day, means you have time to work up an appetite for these. They are some of the biggest burgers I’ve ever had and there are plenty of options to choose from. Don’t be discouraged if you are vegetarian, the vege options hit the spot! There is always a line but they are well worth the wait!
Explore The Queenstown Gardens
Just a few minutes’ walk from central Queenstown are the tranquil Queenstown Gardens. The gardens are an excellent place to take in views of Lake Wakatipu. There is also a playground to keep any young one entertained, along with bowling and tennis. Come winter there is also the option of ice skating at the Queenstown Arena.
Get Your Chocolate Fix From Patagonia
When winter hits, it hits hard. There is no better spot in Queenstown to warm up over the hot chocolate then Patagonia. They have been around since 2005 and are the experts when it comes to all things chocolate. Situated on Rees Street on the corner of The Mall they are right in the center city They have taps the are running with melted chocolate and would put Willy Wonkas chocolate river to shame. I recommend getting a hot chocolate and heading upstairs where they have an enormous floor to ceiling window that looks out over the lake.
Soak Away Your Troubles In an Onsen Spa
As soon as you know you know you are heading to Queenstown you should see if Onsen Spas have any spaces available! Located high on a cliffside overlooking the magnificent Shotover River canyon, they are the perfect compliment to a weekend of Queenstown adventures. The pools have seen a refresh in recent years and the experience is similar to that of authentic onsens in Japan. If you’re looking for a date idea with a view, these pools will be right up your alley. They are very popular and often book out weeks in advance though so make sure you get book early!
Take To The Slopes
Winter in Queenstown is where it’s at, there is so much to do but Queenstown is mostly known for it’s three main ski areas,.The closest, Coronet Peak, is just a 20-minute drive from the town centre. One of the most exciting ski resorts, Coronet Peak is light up every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights when the sun goes down. If you’re feeling hungry, head to Heidi’s Hut at the base of the Rocky Gully T-bar. A local favourite for Italian-style après-ski, gourmet pizzas, pastas and soups are prepared fresh daily and pair nicely with their selection of local Amisfield wine and craft beer.
Experience big mountain terrain at The Remarkables, just a 30-minute drive from central Queenstown. Test out your skills at one of their seven parks, where you’ll find pristine snow. The Remarkables is the ideal field for everyone from first-timers to seasoned skiers and boarders. Stop for a coffee break at Rastus Burn or head to the Remarkables Restaurant, which has a daily menu with steak sandwiches, hearty burgers and comforting curries. It’s a firm favourite for a long lunch. Before finishing your day, head down Curvy Basin and stop by the Ice Bar, which has epic views, plenty of cold bevvies and Kiwi BBQ.
Cardrona is easily accessible from Queenstown, just a short drive from Queenstown. They also offer a shuttle service that takes you from your accommodation right to the snow. Cardrona has three wide, open basins and some of the country’s best terrain. Sitting high, its altitude makes for some of New Zealand’s best (and most reliable) snow conditions.
Visit The Picturesque Town Of Arrowtown
Only a 15-minute drive from Queenstown you’ll find one of the prettiest places in New Zealand—Arrowtown. Sitting in the Arrow Basin, this gold rush village is nestled below the peaks that surround the Arrow River. It is breathtaking all year round with its historic main street and heritage buildings, many of which still have their original facades.