Ever since the word’s first bungy jump was created here, Queenstown has been affectionately called the Adventure Capital of the World. You can find Queenstown in the dramatic landscape on the South Island of New Zealand, a destination loaded with activities from snowboarding in the Southern Alps to jet boating on the rushing glacier rivers. Queenstown simply must be a stop on everyone’s New Zealand itinerary.
Just because of its legendary nickname doesn’t mean this thrilling city doesn’t have a soft side as well. There are heaps of places to visit and things to do in Queenstown that can just as easily bring your heart rate down as it can raise it.
Follow this itinerary as a guide that will help you pick and choose the best things for you to do in Queenstown based on your travel and activity level preferences. Know that this itinerary doesn’t have to be followed in perfect order, mix up your days as you wish!
One Day in Queenstown
Queenstown is a city filled with nature’s magic. I recommended spending your first day seeing some of Queenstown’s best sites: the views. Activities for today are relatively easy and not so much thrill-seeking (that’s day two), so don’t stress about breaking too much of a sweat!
While Queenstown is most known for its adventure activities, it’s all well known for its hiking and all of the hikes that are available in surrounding areas. It makes sense to start your day with a moderate hike up Queenstown Hill to take in some of the breathtaking views that this stellar city has to offer. Queenstown Hill is a 7km hike with a 398m elevation that goes through the forest and has multiple viewpoints over the city and Lake Wakatipu. The hike can be done in 1.5-3 hours and if you’re up for an early morning, it’s a top spot in Queenstown for sunrise.
Grab an early lunch at Fergburger, home of what’s said to be New Zealand’s best burger. Because of this statement, it comes with a line-up so get there before you get too hungry.
Being your afternoon wandering around the Queenstown Gardens, one of the most relaxing things to do in Queenstown. The gardens are filled with exotic and native plants as well as local flora and fauna. The gardens also have various hiking trails, a rose garden, and even a bowling green. If you need something slightly more exciting, but more grounded, there is a BMX track, skate park, tennis courts, as well as an ice rink in the winter. The Queenstown Gardens is an easy add-on to any central Queenstown itinerary.
A touristy attraction, I know, but sometimes the tourist activities can be the most fun! Opt to ride the Skyline gondola up or take another hike up the Tiki Walking Track, a short (2.1km) but steep (404m elevation) trek. The gondola can be purchased with luge rides (and multiple or unlimited ones at that) so that you can go down and up multiple times.
Just be sure to be back at the top for dinner, as catching the twilight views over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu from the Stratosphere restaurant are pretty close to perfect. Don’t forget to book your dinner reservation in advance!
That’s it for one day in Queenstown. Rest up and get for a day packed full of adventure (or relaxation) tomorrow.
Two Days in Queenstown
Even if you have just a little bit of extra time, like two days instead of one, you can experience a lot more of what Queenstown has to offer. After 1 day in Queenstown, if possible, you may want to extend your trip to 2 days in Queenstown. Pick your adrenaline-pumping activity to start your day!
Bungy Jump – Option 1
A top choice as your adventure activity, Queenstown is known as the home to the world’s first bungy jump and you can’t visit the birthplace of bungy jumping and not actually give it a go. If you’d like to jump where the original bungy was performed, head to the Kawarau Bridge bungy, but there are other options for bungy jumping in Queenstown too since its become so popular.
Jet Boating – Option 2
The Shotover Jet is one of the more popular things to do in Queenstown if you’re looking for a quick thrill. Jet boating was also first done in Queenstown too! The high-speed boat whips you across Lake Wakatipu toward the Kawarau River where you’ll reach speeds of up to 95 kph. Once you reach the Shotover River your boat captain will be pulling 360s in the shallow waters. Before you head out on this epic 1-hour adventure, you are provided spray jackets, if you want one. The Shotover Jet is perfect for speed demons and make sure that you wear plenty of sunscreen!
Skydive – Option 3
Yet another fear-inducing thing to do in Queenstown is to go skydiving. From high above the cloud lines you have an indescribable view of Queenstown and the surrounding area in all its glory. After jumping from the plane you get to experience a 45-second freefall reaching speeds of up to 200kph. If and when you get your bearing you can start seeing the Southern Lakes and snow-capped mountains coming into view along with glacial lakes, rivers, and the sea as well as flourishing, native forests surrounding the mountains.
Gibbston Valley Winery Tour
Queenstown has an epic food and wine scene so it’s recommended that you hit up the Otago wine region to experience some of it yourself. Booking a wine tour from Queenstown is the easiest way to discover New Zealand’s finest wines. It’s possible to visit yourself as well, but a tour will ensure that things run smoothly while you get to sip on multiple wines at three wineries. Your transportation is taken care of for you with a free shuttle included in the price of the tour so you can thoroughly enjoy your day at the vineyards. Be sure that you get your adventure activities in early in time for a tour if you book one!
Onsen Hot Pools
Have a luxe evening and a relaxing end of your day by booking some time to soak in the famous Queenstown Onsen Hot Pools that have exceptional panoramic views over the Shotover River. There’s little doubt that you haven’t already seen pictures of these pools on Instagram which means they’re quite popular so be sure to book well in advance.
Three Days in Queenstown
Three days is a solid amount of time to explore a city but in this case it’s time to explore beyond! Queenstown offers loads of adventure at its doorstep too and day and half-day trips are popular options. But there’s one day trip from Queenstown that we think is essential for a 3 day Queenstown itinerary.
Without question, Milford Sound is a must-visit destination in New Zealand. Queenstown just so happens to be the best place to visit from for most travellers. This picturesque location can be visited in multiple ways. The longest and most frequently booked option is a coach tour that has multiple stops for pictures and takes you on a cruise of the whole fiord where you can take in the waterfalls, wildlife, and scenic sites. This option can take up to 12 hours but driving through New Zealand is never boring. This option is recommended if you are after the most budget-friendly option.
A second option is to fly and cruise Milford Sound so you’ll get to see the sites from multiple angles. This option is recommended for those who are short on time as it is only a half-day experience and will leave you extra time to explore Queenstown.
Four Days in Queenstown
If you opt to do the fly and cruise option to Milford Sound and you have a half-day pick one of these activities to add to your third day in Queenstown itinerary.
This whimsical town about a 20-minute drive from Queenstown and is best known for its hiking and biking trails. If you’re looking to do a mellow activity and to explore yet another stunning area then you can bike from Arrowtown back to Queenstown for a relaxing exploration you can take at your own pace. The Arrow River is along the way back as well as a mining town, gold mining experiences, and incredible lake views. A visit to Arrowtown is a great little add-on to any Queenstown itinerary.
Afternoon Option 1: Pick Another Adventure Activity
Still, wondering what to do in Queenstown? Spend an afternoon opting to do another thrill-seeking activity that you didn’t get to do on day two such as bungy jumping, sky diving, or jet boating. A fourth option is abesailing, sometimes known as canyoning. It’s one of the best ways to experience the enthralling natural features Of New Zealand as you throw yourself down cliffs and waterfalls, slide down natural water slides rocks, and explore the canyon up-close for a truly eye-opening experience.
Afternoon Option 2: TSS Earnslaw Cruise & Gourmet BBQ
Perhaps one adventure activity was enough for you or they’re just not your thing. Either way, you can hope on a cruise on the TSS Earnslaw, a historic boat built in 1902, and make your way around Lake Wakatipu. Afterward, get to enjoy a gourmet BBQ and be spoiled with a feast for an easy and fulfilling afternoon.
Take the evening to chill out and rest up for a big day tomorrow.
Five Days in Queenstown
For your fifth day in Queenstown, you once again have a choice to make and not all can be fit into one day! Option one is to go hiking in Queenstown or to take a day trip to one of the many fabulous locations worthy of visiting.
Hike the Ben Lomond Trail – Option One
From the summit at 1728 meters, you are rewarded with the most stunning views surrounding Queenstown and the South Island. The track is an out and back hike taking nearly 8 hours to complete so make sure you leave early in the morning, giving you plenty of daylight. As you make your way to the top, you can expect a difficult hike but the views will be well worth it and should only be attempted in good, sturdy hiking boots. This track is an alpine track and is home to the world’s only alpine parrot known as the Kea. The cheeky birds are super smart and entertaining but quite destructive so keep an eye on you’re things. On a clear day you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views that are quite simply, breathtaking.
Day Trip – Option Two
Pick from one of the day trips below!
Queenstown Day Trip Options
Depending on your adventure style, there are dozens of options when it comes to taking day trips from Queenstown. From extreme to extremely relaxing, there is something ideal for you. These are a few of the most popular.
Doubtful Sound takes about 2 hours to initially get to then you have to be ushered in by boat. Sheltered away in an untouched part of Fiordland National Park is this fiord, aka a place that looks like heaven on Earth. Three times the size of Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound is unbelievable from sheer size alone and is ofter overlooked for the more popular Milford Sound. The journey alone to Doubtful Sound is fantastic in itself though. Along the way, you will pass stunning waterfalls, massive cliffs, and patches of the jungle that have never been touched by humans.
Wanaka is only about an hour’s drive from Queenstown and the drive down Crown Range Road has gorgeous stops and sights along the way. You can hire a car or there are options for a bus or shuttle. Similar to Queenstown, Wanaka is also a great town for epic food and wine, especially after a day of adventures. There is, of course, more hiking here and the famous Wakana Tree, but there is plenty more things to do in Wanaka that will easily fill your day.
Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
Aoraki/Mount Cook is New Zealand’s tallest mountain and is found in the appropriately named Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park and can be reached via rental car or by booking a day trip. The drive to Mt Cook takes just over 3 hours with stellar views to spoil you along the way. It is a trip in itself as you make your way through Lindis Pass where you will want to make time to stop and see what legend says is the world’s most gorgeous lake, Lake Pukaki which is most likely recognizable from several Lord of the Rings movie scenes.
The national park has various activities you can choose from depending on your mood. There is glacier hiking, glacier kayaking, and of course several hiking tracks of varying degrees of length and difficulty, the most famous one being the half-day easy hike called Hooker Track.
This ski resort is one of the most famous in Queenstown New Zealand and can actually be visited any time of year. The Remarkables ski area is perfect for beginners as well as the experienced, with a massive beginner area for lessons and learning as well as 7 different parks, backcountry boarding, and everything in between. During the warmer months, you can walk around and still find patches of snow and of course amazing views of the Remarkables.
Where to Stay in Queenstown
If you have just a short time to experience what Queenstown has to offer, staying in the Queenstown CBD is a top choice. With a number of top places to stay in Queenstown, the CBD is close to everything and you will always be just steps away from your next adventure.
Luxury: Eichardt’s Private Hotel
This lovely hotel offers a world-class experience for all guests. There is a coffee shop and fitness center on-site as well as a bar and restaurant and in-house spa treatments. All rooms come with a balcony, sofa and a fireplace, a dining area, and a coffee and tea station.
Mid-Range: Rydges Queenstown
The Rydges Queenstown is a fantastic option with perfect views of Wakatipu Lake and the Remarkables Mountain Ranges. There are two restaurants on-site, an outdoor heated swimming pool, a sauna, and private parking.
Budget: Nomads Backpackers
This is one of the best places to stay in Queenstown CBD for budget-conscious travellers. It offers room types and styles to fit anyone’s taste and budget. There are private rooms and bathrooms as well as semi-private rooms with shared bathrooms, plus large and small dorm-style rooms. Nomads has a bar that features nightly entertainment and excellent food and drinks.
Enjoy your time in Queenstown, I hope this Queenstown itinerary serves you well!