Exploring Queenstown

Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown | Image: Jean-Pierre Brungs

Exploring Queenstown

Queenstown has a well-deserved reputation as the adventure capital of New Zealand. Bungy jumping and the Shotover Jet have become iconic activities, but there’s so much more on offer. Skiing is another huge attraction, with a range of top fields within easy reach. Those looking for a more relaxed experience can soak in a hot pool or take in the jaw-dropping scenery on a lake cruise.

Do & Discover

Local legends A.J. Hackett and Henry van Asch helped put Queenstown on the international map when they opened the world’s first commercial bungy operation – AJ Hackett Bungy – Kawarau Bridge Bungy – at Kawarau Bridge in 1988. Today, bungy jumping is just one (albeit a must-do) of many adrenaline-pumping activities in New Zealand’s ‘adventure capital’ – experience the original at Kawarau Bridge or challenge yourself to the country's highest bungy (134 metres) at the Nevis River. The Ledge Bungy is right in Queenstown, with fantastic views over the resort and lake. Other vertigo-inducing activities to try include Ledge Sky SwingNevis Arc and Nevis HighwireShotover Canyon Swing and Ziptrek Ecotours. Queenstown's shallow but powerful rivers are perfect for high-speed jet boating. Take off into the wilderness on a jet boat safari or zip close to the rocks in a river gorge on the Shotover or Kawarau rivers with Shotover Jet, Dart River Adventures and Skippers Canyon Jet. Rent skis or a board and hit the slopes at Coronet Peak Ski Area and The Remarkables Ski Area. Queenstown is home to top ski resorts boasting incredible views, as well as a number of heli-ski operators like Harris Mountains Heli-Ski and Southern Lakes Heliski, who are ready to whisk keen snow bunnies to untracked backcountry powder.

Take on the white-water with Go Orangeriverboarding.co.nz and Dart River Jet Funyak Safari, hit the calmer lake with Million Dollar Cruise and TSS Earnslaw Cruises or take a dip at Alpine Aqualand and Onsen Hot Pools. Back on land enjoy a 4WD adventure with Nomad Safaris, one on horseback with High Country Horses or see the sights on two wheels with HeliBike NZ and Central Otago Motorcycle Tours, or on four with Real Journeys and Southern Discoveries. Prefer to walk? Join Ultimate Hikes and get Trackhopper Routeburn Car Relocation to make sure your car's waiting for you when you're done, or take flight with Air FiordlandCoronet Peak Tandems, Over The Top – The Helicopter Company, and Skytrek Hang Gliding. Ride the Skyline Queenstown then take the thrilling Skyline Luge back down, hit the links at Millbrook Resort and meet the wildlife at Kiwi Birdlife Park and at the Queenstown Underwater Observatory. Catch your own fish dinner with Stu Dever Fishing Charters, or get a Māori cultural fix with Kiwi Haka, visit the Lakes District Museum and Gallery, or unwind at So Spa at Sofitel and The Spa at Millbrook Resort. Catch a film at lovely little Dorothy Browns or at Reading Cinema. If you're feeling lucky, head to SKYCITY Queenstown Casino.

Food & Drink

The number of excellent coffee, restaurant and nightlife options available in Queenstown almost seems out of all proportion to its actual size. The town itself is famous for its nightlife scene, and there are plenty of great places to eat to suit all budgets and tastes before you head out for the evening. Get a taste for the region at Amisfield, The Winery, or Gibbston Valley winery, or take a tour with Queenstown Wine Trail. Great coffee is a Queenstown institution. For an epic brew head to Peak Espresso, Vudu Café or Joe’s Garage, an understated garage-style café that prides itself on awesome food. Over in Arrowtown, look for Bonjour Café. For the budget conscious, legendary Fergburger is a must. Others to try are Habebes Lebanese & Vegetarian Takeaways, Halo and Kappa Sushi Café. For casual dining head to @Thai, or The Cow, an iconic eatery serving great Italian cuisine. Winnies has great atmosphere and the best beer-battered fries! Looking for fine dining? There are plenty of ways to indulge. Try Bella Cucina, Botswana Butchery or The Bunker, which boasts a menu of the finest Otago produce. In Arrowtown, try Rosie B’s. Kick on at any one of Queenstown’s chic bars including Bardeaux and Bar Up. For live music, check out Pub on Wharf and Surreal Bar & Restaurant.


Accommodation in the Queenstown region ranges from the most exclusive luxury lodges to backpacker hostels, from where travellers are well-placed to get the most of the resort town’s frenetic social scene. For an exclusive escape, Blanket Bay in Glenorchy is a must, while slick hotel accommodation includes Central Ridge Boutique Hotel, Heritage Queenstown, Hotel St Moritz, Millbrook ResortQueenstown Park Boutique Hotel, Rydges Lakeland Resort Queenstown, Sofitel Queenstown Hotel & SpaThe Dairy Private Luxury Hotel, The Rees Hotel Queenstown and The Spire Hotel Queenstown. Those looking for a guested and hosted stay should try Azur Lodge and Browns Boutique Hotel. For self-contained and serviced lodgings, check in at Arrowtown Viking LodgeMotelAutoline MotelCranbury Court ApartmentsGarden Court Suites & ApartmentsSwiss-Belsuites PounamuThe Glebe ApartmentsThe Lodges and Turner Heights Townhouses. Saving your pennies? Try Frankton Motor CampAbsoloot Value Accommodation backpackers and Adventure Queenstown Hostel & Chalet.

Local Knowledge

Queenstown Airport, 10 minutes’ drive from town, offers domestic flights to Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, as well as some trans-Tasman services. A bus service operates between the airport and town. Buses depart every 20 minutes, 17 hours per day. For those on a road trip Queenstown is 6 hours, 15 minutes from Christchurch, 5 hours from Milford, and 1 hour, 30 minutes from Wanaka. Coach and shuttle services operate between Queenstown and other South Island destinations. Transfers to and from Arrowtown, and to ski areas during winter, are also readily available. For a heads-up when your there, call into the Arrowtown Visitor Information Centre at 49 Buckingham Street, Queenstown's Department of Conservation Visitor Information Centre in Stanley Street, or the Queenstown i–SITE in the Clocktower Building.

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