Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of the world. Located on the South Island, this city has to be included on your trip to New Zealand, especially if you are an adrenalin junkie. Bungee jumping was invented here and there are endless other thrill-seeking things to do in Queenstown.
Even if you aren’t a daredevil, this city is still an unbelievably beautiful and fun place to travel to. It doesn’t matter what time of year you decide to venture through this exciting city as there are exciting things to do in Queenstown in winter as well as the rest of the year.
Top things to do in Queenstown
Whether you are looking for something thrilling to do or just more fantastic New Zealand scenery, Queenstown is the ultimate New Zealand destination.
Milford Sound is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in the world and is one of the South Island’s most iconic places to visit. There are multiple ways to visit this prime spot, depending on the type of adventure level you’re after.
Day trips to Milford Sound are very popular and ene way is to cruise around the breathtaking sights, another is a helicopter flight, and a third way is by a small plane. You can also opt to do a helicopter or plane ride combined with a cruise so you get to see Milford Sound from the water and the air for the ultimate experience.
The cruise around Milford Sound brings you up close to sheer cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and even dolphins, seals, and penguins. During a flight, you will fly over movie sets, rivers, and valleys before landing on a glacier for a little look around. This is one of the most scenic and pristine areas in all of New Zealand that will completely blow your mind, guaranteed.
Jet Boat Ride
The jet boat is one of the must-do things in Queenstown. The high-speed boat takes you across Lake Wakatipu to the Kawarau River where you’ll reach speeds of up to 95 kph. Then you’ll shoot over to the Shotover River where your boat will be pulling 360s in the shallow waters. The boat you’re on has heated handrails as you hold on for dear life and you are provided spray jackets before leaving for your 1-hour tour.
One of the best things to do in Queenstown is skydiving. From up above you have an indescribable view of Queenstown in all its glory. After jumping from the plane you get to experience a 45-second freefall reaching speeds of up to 200kph while seeing the Southern Lakes and snow-capped mountains. Of course, pictures and videos can be taken home for something to prove to people you pumped out of a perfectly good plane.
No matter if you have a car or not, this is one New Zealand drive that you’re going to want to do. Just an hour from Queenstown, following the scenic Lake Wakatipu, the drive to Glenorchy showcases some of the most beautiful sights in New Zealand with plenty of places to stop for pictures and epic views. I mean, this beautiful spot was featured in Lord of the Rings so it’s definitely good for scenery. Even if you don’t have a car, there is a half-day tour to Glenorchy that is well worth it!
Canyoning is one of the best activities in Queenstown for anyone looking for a thrill. Canyoning and abseiling are great ways to experience the best of New Zealand’s natural features as you propel yourself down from great heights in the Gibbston Valley Before beginning your adventure, you will be totally outfitted with properly fitted safety gear as well as a safety brief. You’ll take a short hike up a trail before beginning to repel down waterfalls, slide down rocks and explore the canyon up-close for a truly epic adventure.
Otago Winery Tour
Queenstown is so much more than just adrenaline-pumping activities, this city also has a great food and wine scene. On a food and wine tour from Queenstown, you can visit Central Otago to discover some of New Zealand’s finest wines. You will have your very own expert wine tour guide that will take you through several vineyards giving you tips and tricks about the wine world. You will have tastings of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc as well as be treated to a lunch with stunning views overlooking the beautiful Bannockburn Inlet.
White Water Surfing
This is a once in a lifetime experience where you will get to bodyboard down the Kawarau River. The rapids are grades 2 and 3 grade and you’ll have over an hour to practice and play in the river. The river has whirlpools and even standing waves where you can try your luck at standup surfing. As you travel further down the river things begin to calm down where you can relax and take in the stunning scenery with some pit stops for cliff jumping or swimming in calmer waters. This is one of the top-rated water sports adventures for the warmer months.
A Queenstown must-see, the Queenstown Gardens are one of the best things to do in Queenstown for free for a bit of relaxation between all of the adventure. Filled with both exotic and native plants, walking through this park will transport you to a totally different world. Not only is it lush with vibrant flora and fauna, but there are also separate areas for different activities. There is a BMX track, skate park, tennis courts, as well as an ice rink in the winter. Queenstown Gardens has various hiking trails, a rose garden, and even a bowling green. This is one of the most beautiful places to see in Queenstown and is well worth a wander through.
This is one of the biggest and most popular Queenstown tourist attractions as bungy jumping was made popular here by AJ Hackett in the late 80s and has since grown into various different ways to throw yourself off a platform for fun. You will have a safety briefing before getting hooked into your harness and you get to choose which way you want to go. Forwards, backward, upside down, and flips are all options you can choose from.
The Remarkables is one of the most, well, remarkable places to go in Queenstown. The ski resort is one of the most famous in New Zealand, other than Coronet Peak, and is a destination to be visited during all seasons. 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.
One of the most popular runs at the Remarkables is the Burton Stash, runs created by the legendary Jake Burton Carpenter (the founder of Burton snowboards). Even if you aren’t into skiing or snowboarding you can still have a lot of fun with options to go sledding, tobogganing or get a sightseeing pass.
During the warmer months, people visit this picturesque area to go hiking and witness spectacular views over Queenstown. From behind the ski resort, you can hike to Lake Alta, which is about 1.5 hours return. Make note that depending on the clouds you may not get much visibility but when it’s clear it is freakin’ epic!
Transportation to the Remarkables is possible for the ski season and hiring a round trip transfer makes your full day on the mountain easy and enjoyable without having to worry about transportation.
Visitors to Queenstown are spoiled for choice with the number of mountains and thus ski hills around town. Coronet Peak is one of the oldest and most popular ski resorts in New Zealand that is only 25-minutes outside of Queenstown. In the winter the slopes are accessible to skiers and boarders of all levels while the warmer months are ideal for hiking and gondola rides.
No matter what time of year you’re visiting this peak you will be, as always around this part of New Zealand, rewarded with breathtaking views over lakes and other mountains.
This charming town about a 20-minute drive from Queenstown is known for its hiking and biking trails. Mountain biking is one of the most popular activities to do in Queenstown and a self-guided tour is a great way to see plenty of Queenstown attractions. Get the option to choose from a regular mountain bike or upgrade to an electric bike for an easy breezy day, making your way from the gold rush town back to Queenstown. You will be given a map, trail tips, and a safety briefing before being left to your own devices. Choose one of several different routes and get ready to witness the beautiful views that you’re definitely going to want to stop and take pictures of.
Hydro Attack Experience
This hydro attack tour is one of the most unique things to do around Queenstown. In fact, Queenstown is one of the only places in the world where you can get into a Seabreacher X watercraft and experience the thrill of underwater exploration combined with thrilling jumps into the air, side-rolls, long dives, and 360-degree spins in a sharklike machine. You’ll get picked up in the city centre and taken to Lake Wakatipu where you begin this incredibly unique experience.
Ride the Luge Track
An epic way to make your way down from the top of Bob’s Peak after taking the scenic Skyline Gondola or hiking up the Tiki Trail is to ride the luge track down as you take in the views of the city. You can get going pretty fast but it’s an adrenaline-pumping activity for those who prefer something a little less intense than skydiving or bungee jumping!
There is no shortage of hiking around here, which means there are plenty of free things to do in Queenstown. These are some of the top picks for a variety of levels which all have exceptional views.
Ben Lomond Track
The Ben Lomond hiking trail delivers some of the best Queenstown sightseeing views as the trail will take you to the summit of Ben Lomond, which sits 1728 metres high. This hike will take a good chunk of your day, if not most of it, with the recommendation being to plan for 6-8 hours there and back.
Expect a difficult hike, with the hardest part being the last hour to the summit. The trail is rated at difficult and it shouldn’t be attempted without good footwear. At the top you may see some Kea birds, don’t feed them! Keep in mind that this trail is only open between November and March, weather permitting.
The trail itself begins at the top of the Skyline Gondola but if you don’t want to take it up you can start your adventure on the Tiki Track. While this hike may be hard it’s well worth the views as you’ll be able to see the Remarkables, Lake Wakatipu, Coronet Peak, and full 360-degree views on a clear day.
Sunset and sunrise lovers, take note of this hot spot. For an easier hike that is just under 7km, Queenstown Hill can be done in 1.5-3 hours and still offers incredible views over Lake Wakatipu and the city. There are numerous lookout points along the trail and it’s signed well. Plus the elevation of this trail is only 398 metres for an easier hike compared to the one above!
While most won’t complete this 130km trail that takes 4 days to complete, the Queenstown Trail can easily be broken down into smaller parts where you can pick and choose which hikes, lakes, and scenery you want to visit. The trail itself extends from Lake Wakatipu to Gibbston via Arrowtown and includes hikes around scenic areas such as Lake Hayes.
There are so many places to visit in Queenstown that it just might become your favourite New Zealand town.