New Zealand has fondly adopted the kiwi bird as its national symbol, and there’s a lot to know about this weird little nocturnal bird that ...
Queenstown is one of New Zealand’s most popular destinations for a reason – this stunningly scenic South Island town is overflowing with activities to suit any appetite, from the adventurous to the tranquil. We’ve rounded up our picks of some of the very best things to do off the slopes in Queenstown – now you just have to choose!
Get up close to Aotearoa’s native wildlife at Kiwi Birdlife Park
Learn all about conservation and say hi to New Zealand’s national icon at this rubbish-dump-turned-ecosanctuary (yes really). Explore the park under your own steam or catch one of the conservation shows to meet the wildlife close up. The Kiwi Encounter is an opportunity to learn some facts you never knew about these shy little birds, and claims to offer the best kiwi viewing in the country.
Cruise Lake Wakatipu
The ridiculously pretty crown jewel of Queenstown should definitely feature high on any must-do list. One of the best ways to enjoy this breathtaking landscape is to get on the lake itself – The TSS Earnslaw takes you across the water on a century-old coal-fired steamship, or you can cruise aboard a catamaran on the Spirit of Queenstown, which also offers a sunset dining cruise, so you can imbibe in possibly the most gorgeous environment ever.
Make your own white water on a jet boat
For a boating adventure with a little more adrenaline, you won’t want to miss the chance to zoom up one of Queenstown’s beautiful rivers at cobweb-obliterating speed. The Shotover Jet takes you on a thrilling ride through the narrow Shotover Canyon, while Go Orange races down the Kawarau River and Dart River Adventures is the only operator to take you into the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Te Wāhipounamu.
Let Black Beauty lead the way
An excellent way to explore Queenstown’s beautiful countryside from a different perspective, a horse trek gives you all the benefits of a scenic hike, but with someone else doing the walking for you! You can choose from a tranquil trek on a quiet-natured horse to something a bit more exhilarating for experienced riders. Lighthorse Adventures and High Country Horses both offer a range of different treks for all skill levels.
Get your chill on at an ice bar
Lean fully into the winter vibes and go enjoy a frosty one at one of Queenstown’s two ice bars, Minus 5º or Below Zero, where almost everything, including the glasses, is made of ice. You’ll be supplied with some Eskimo-style cold weather gear to keep the frostbite at bay so you can sit back and enjoy the ice sculptures, cocktails and bit of chill time. Get it?
Leap off a bridge (with a bungy attached)
You’re in the home of bungy, so it would be rude not to, right? You can still make the leap at the world’s first commercial bungy site, Kawarau Bridge, where you can dip your hands in the water below before you spring back up again. There’s also the Ledge Bungy located high above Queenstown, accessible by gondola or hike, and if you’re a real adrenaline junkie, head for New Zealand’s highest bungy, the 134-metre Nevis Bungy. Weird tip: Did you know you can bungy in the nude?
Jump out of a plane (or try the indoor version!)
On the subject of flinging ourselves from great heights, we could hardly forget about skydiving. With NZONE Skydive, you’ll fly over spectacular views of the Wakatipu basin and The Remarkables before gathering your courage and stepping out of that plane for an exhilarating one-minute freefall experience.
If the whole plane thing is a bit too extreme for you, Queenstown is the only place in New Zealand where you can get the thrill of a skydive without actually, you know, diving into the sky. At iFLY Queenstown, you get to experience the heart-pumping sensation of flight in a powerful wind tunnel.
Be the sharknado with Hydro Attack
This unique Queenstown experience is a submarine meets shark meets jet boat called Hydro Attack. You not only zoom across the top of the lake at speeds of up to 80kph, but also dive beneath the surface and explode up out of the water and straight into the air as well. There is nothing quite like riding in one of these shark-lookalike machines, and even watching them from the shore is great entertainment.
Indulge yourself in local fare
One of the best ways to get the true taste of Queenstown is to literally get the taste of Queenstown. There’s so much amazing local food and drink to try, you’ll be hard pressed to make a decision from lunch to dinner. Some of the must-trys are the legendary Fergburger, The Cow, Patagonia Chocolates, Cookie Time Cookie Bar, The Remarkable Sweet Shop, Blue Kanu and Botswana Butchery. Don’t miss some of the excellent nearby wineries too, such as Gibbston Valley, Amisfield and Akarua.
Cruise up, then hurtle down with Queenstown Luge and Gondola
Two of the most iconic Queenstown activities go hand-in-hand: The Queenstown Gondola and Queenstown Luge. The gondola takes you up 450 metres to Bob’s Peak, treating you to panoramic views of the lake and mountains, and once you’ve made it to the top, you can zoom down in style via the luge course of banked corners, tunnels and dippers.
Hit the mountain bike trails
This is a great place to be for mountain bikers – scenic trails abound here, with three lift-assisted mountain bike parks and heaps of paths around the area sure to satiate any craving for two-wheeled adventure. Don’t miss the Queenstown Trail’s 130km of off-road options, taking you through beautiful scenery to photo-op destinations such as Arrowtown and the iconic Kawarau Bridge, as well as plenty of cafés and wineries.
Soak your cares away at Onsen Hot Pools
Take relaxation to the next level at this boutique retreat and day spa, where you can luxuriate in the cedar-lined hot pools while enjoying stunning views of the Shotover River and mountains. The Original Onsen Experience even has a retractable roof, so you can transform your experience from indoor to outdoor at will.
View Queenstown from the sky on a scenic flight
One of the best ways to experience the majesty of this region’s scenery is from the air. Hope aboard an aircraft (you don’t even have to jump out of this one) and enjoy uninterrupted views of the lakes, mountains, rivers and glaciers from the comfort of a helicopter, plane or hot air balloon.
Get your glide on at Queenstown Ice Arena
The ever-popular winter activity of ice skating is available all year-round at Queenstown’s own indoor ice skating rink. Queenstown Ice Arena offers several activities on the ice besides ice skating, including ice hockey, curling, and even ice bumper cars!
Pick up a treasure at the Queenstown Arts and Crafts market
You’ll find unique handmade goods from local artists alongside tasty treats and live entertainment at this popular lakeside market, held every Saturday at Earnslaw Park. Crafters from all over the South Island bring their wares to this market, so be sure to bring some cash for when you inevitably spot something you simply have to take home.
Don your climbing boots and defy gravity
Rock climbing is a challenging, rewarding and unforgettable way to experience the beauty of Queenstown, and this is something of a mecca for rock climbing enthusiasts, with climbers from all over the world coming here to test their skills. There are many cliff faces in the area to explore, and don’t miss the via ferrata with its iron steps and rods. If you’ve never climbed before, this is also a great place to learn, with several tours available for beginners.
Like a flying fox, but better
Speed through treetops and over valleys on one of Queenstown’s ziplining tours, an exciting and fun-filled way to get panoramic views and a bit of adrenaline along with it! On a Ziptrek Ecotour, you'll also gain a bit of knowledge about the environment through which you’re zooming.
Take a foot-powered adventure
Nature is at its most jaw-dropping around these parts, and you’ll get to explore the full effect of it on one of Queenstown’s many walking tracks. Head up Queenstown Hill through pine forest to get stunning views of Lake Wakatipu and see the well-known Basket of Dreams sculpture along the way. The Mt Crichton Loop Track is a fascinating look into gold mining history as well as offering waterfall, river and gully views. Of course, one of New Zealand’s most well-known Great Walks, the Routeburn Track, is only an hour from Queenstown, and you can walk smaller sections of it if you don’t feel like tackling the entire three-day hike.
Ponder the wonders of the universe
There are some amazing skies to be seen in the less populated areas around Queenstown, well worth rugging up and heading out for an after-dark stargazing mission. Moke Lake is a lovely spot to take in the stars, and you can even camp there for a small fee if you fancy sleeping beneath them. For a closer look, you can join a stargazing tour with Skyline Queenstown, where you’ll get to observe the stars and planets through a telescope from a specially-constructed platform high above the Skyline complex.
Explore Middle Earth
Many of the magical locations from the Lord of the Rings films were lifted straight out of Queenstown and its surrounds, and on a Lord of The Rings scenic tour, you’ll get to soak up the postcard-perfect sights and get plenty of photo ops while also learning more about how the era-defining trilogy of films were made.