One of the most picturesque cities I’ve ever visited is Queenstown, New Zealand. Located in the southwest region of the southern island of New Zealand, Queenstown is nestled in between the shores of Lake Wakatipu and the numerous peaks surrounding it. Known most famously for their adventure tourism, winter sports, and for being the backdrop for the Lord of the Rings movies, Queenstown tourism continues to be a popular vacation destination for people worldwide.
Read on and learn all about this little slice of paradise and discover my top five things to do while visiting Queenstown!
1. Find Some Thrills
Queenstown proudly calls itself the adventure capital of the world, and with good reason. Thrill-seekers flock to this beautiful town to take part in all kinds of extreme sports like bungee jumping, canyoneering, rock climbing, skydiving, white water rafting, ziplining, paragliding, hang gliding, heli-biking, not to mention all of the ski and snow sports available.
Even though I do not consider myself a thrill-seeker by any means, while in Queenstown, I decided to try paragliding with G Force Paragliding. After all, I didn’t think I would ever see such a beautiful cityscape like Queenstown, so why not enjoy the view from the open air? After running down a very steep hill, our parachute caught wind, and my instructor and I glided to the valley floor in tandem. It was an incredibly fun (and safe!) and surreal experience that I highly recommend. Whether you are an extreme thrill-seeker or just someone looking to step out of their comfort zone for a little fun, you can find something new and exciting to try while in Queenstown. Here are a few examples:
- Ski or snowboard the Remarkables mountain range
- Bungee jump over the Kawarau River at Kawarau Bungy Centre
- Catapult or swing over the expansive Nevis Valley
- Zipline through the forest above Queenstown
2. Get Outside!
Whether you love walking, hiking, cycling, skiing, or boating, it’s imperative to take some time to enjoy all of the fantastic outdoor beauty that Queenstown has to offer. Even if you’re not into extreme sports and adventure, there’s still plenty to see and do out in the fresh air.
During the winter months, skiers, snowboarders, and families looking for fun gather at the Remarkables, a popular mountain and ski range. In fact, Queenstown has 4 ski areas, each with its own atmosphere and varying terrain. In addition to the Remarkables, check out Cardrona Alpine Resort, Treble Cone Ski Area, and Coronet Peak. Click here for more information on Queenstown skiing.
There are also plenty of walking trails around Lake Wakatipu. My family and I enjoyed walking part of the Queenstown Trail, southwest of the downtown area. To find more information on the hiking and walking trails around the city, click here. There are also tours from Queenstown that take you outside – like sightseeing Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park or to the Glow Worm Caves in Te Anu. You could also visit the beautiful Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge (also home to bungee jumping, but scenic by itself) or spend a day touring the historic gold mining town of Arrowtown. Whatever you enjoy outdoors, you won’t find a shortage of things to do outside in the Queenstown area.
3. Shop in Downtown Queenstown
Shopping in Queenstown is an eclectic mix. From luxury brands to cheap souvenir stores, you can find almost anything here. In downtown Queenstown, you’ll find the popular Queenstown Mall which is essentially the shopping district in the area. This area, closest to the lake, features all of the popular tourist shops and restaurants. You could easily spend a few hours checking out clothing and accessories made from merino wool, all of the manuka honey brands and the numerous beauty products that contain it, rugby team merchandise for the All Blacks (New Zealand’s team), and various products featuring New Zealand flair like silver ferns, sheepskin, paua shell, and New Zealand jade (greenstone). You can also find boutique apparel, athletic wear, sweet shops, jewelry, and more in Queenstown.
Many retail spaces contain tour operators and information so you can book your excursions and tours when you first get to town. If you haven’t created a touring itinerary and you’re traveling during the busy season, just be sure to spend your first day booking tours before availability is gone. Also, while shopping or walking in town, you’re sure to see or hear local street performers playing music or singing a tune. Pick a day when the weather is nice to head downtown to shop, walk, and take in the culture of Queenstown.
4. Take a Ride up the Queenstown Skyline Gondola
Interested in the views of Queenstown from above? If so, look into taking a ride on the Skyline Gondola. The Skyline Gondola is the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere, carrying you nearly 1500 feet up the mountain to the top of Bob’s Peak. At the top you can do so many things, like:
- Enjoy the views of the Remarkables mountain range, as well as all of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu
- Have a meal at the casual Market Kitchen Cafe or enjoy fine dining, drinks, and a view at Stratosfare. We stopped here for drinks mid-afternoon and enjoyed the view of Queenstown. My teenage daughters loved their hot chocolate!
- Shop at Skyline’s gift shop or the Jelly Belly store
- Have some fun with some of the extreme sports that happen up on Bob’s Peak. Here you’ll find launch sites for paragliding, ziplines, and bungee jumping companies.
- If you enjoy hiking, there are a few hikes that begin at the Skyline building and provide awesome views from above. There are also mountain biking trails here as well.
- Come back at dusk and enjoy stargazing from the mountain top.
- The luge track at the Skyline Gondola was closed during our visit. It was under construction at the time, but definitely looks like a fun activity to do with the kids.
To get a ride up the gondola, adults cost $39 NZD (approximately $26 USD), children 5-14 cost $24 NZD (about $16 USD), and kids under 4 are free. This fare includes the ride down. For more information on Skyline Queenstown, including all of the things to see and do while you visit, click here to go to their website.
5. Find Some Delicious Eats
Like most large cities, Queenstown has an extensive list of places to dine at. With travelers coming from all over the world, Queenstown food is vibrant, fresh, and eclectic. With highly rated places like the Blue Kanu, Ivy & Lola’s, Botswana Butchery, and Ferberger, you can’t go wrong dining in Queenstown.
As a sweet-toothed vegetarian, I found more joy in the unique and delectable eats at Balls and Bangles and CookieTime Cookie Bar. Balls and Bangles served amazing, indulgent, homemade donuts. Their premium donuts were served with syringes filled with various creams that you can select and inject it into the doughnut when ready to eat. I recommend eating the donut fresh in the store for optimum flavor!
CookieTime Cookie Bar serves freshly baked cookies and ice cream, but also fresh cookie dough. You can order the cookie dough like ice cream, in a cone, a cup, or as a shake. It was incredibly good and a real hit with my daughters. (And if you sing one song of karaoke at CookieTime Cookie Bar, you get a free cookie!!) New Zealand dining is a real treat that’s not to be missed.
Other Things to Do in Queenstown
- Take an organized tour (or create your own) of the Lord of the Rings movie filming sites
- Stop and taste some New Zealand wines in some of the many wineries in and around Queenstown
- Get a close up view of the native Kiwi bird at the Kiwi Birdlife Park (at the base of Skyline Gondola)
- Take a road trip to see cave dwelling glow worms in Te Anu
- Visit Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound, New Zealand’s most famous natural attraction (Click here to read about my visit to Milford Sound!)
Queenstown is definitely a unique and scenic city that has something for everyone to enjoy. What are your favorite places to visit in Queenstown? Let me know in the comments!
- Travel Tips for Visiting New Zealand
- Touring New Zealand’s Milford Sound
- Whale Watching in Kaikoura, New Zealand
- Experiencing the Kaikoura Seal Colony, New Zealand
Get out, have fun, and enjoy Queenstown!