Affectionately known as New Zealand’s adventure capital, Queenstown is a place that perfectly blends picturesque landscapes with incredibly thrilling experiences. Whether you’re dropping in for a bit of sightseeing or you’d like to try your hand at something adventurous, this is always a great place to explore. Here are 20 must-visit attractions that prove it.
An inland lake with a length of 80 kilometres (50 miles), the sublime Lake Wakatipu is New Zealand’s longest and third largest. Particularly renowned for its majestic beauty, Queenstown’s locals and visitors absolutely adore walking, cycling, and picnicking along its elongated shores.
Bob’s Peak and Skyline Gondola
Bob’s Peak is the place to visit if you want to get the best panoramic views in town. Getting to its highest point is as simple as going on a self-guided trek (locally known as the Tiki Trail) or travelling up the Skyline Gondola. Whichever route you decide to take, you can rest assured you’ll get a front-seat view of the breathtaking landscapes in your surroundings.
Located on Lake Wakatipu’s southeastern shores, the aptly-named Remarkables mountain range rises sharply up the clear skies to create a beautiful backdrop along the waters. As well as being picturesque, it is also a prime destination for skiers and snowboarders.
You’ll find the incredibly tranquil Queenstown Gardens right at the heart of town. Offering a pleasant sanctuary from the usual hustle and bustle of its surroundings, the gardens are a popular place to relax, go for a stroll, or even play a quick round of golf.
Skippers Canyon is a historic and incredibly scenic gorge that spans across 22 kilometres (13.7 miles). It can be accessed from Queenstown through the same road that leads to the Coronet Peak ski field. Skippers Canyon is a popular stopover for heritage cruises, jet boating and bungy jumping.
The Shotover River is another favourite among thrill-seekers. Incredibly fast currents make this one of the best places to go jet boating and white water rafting. The Shotover River covers 75 kilometres (47 miles) in length and flows south of the Southern Alps through to the Kawarau River.
Famous for housing the world’s biggest swing, the Nevis Valley is one of Queenstown’s most iconic adventure sights. The Nevis Bungy platform is also the third highest in the world, coming in at 134 metres (439.6 feet). The valley is a slightly off-the-beaten track, and can only be accessed through shuttle that departs from downtown.
Marine Parade comprises the idyllic Queenstown Beach, the iconic Bathhouse Café, and the solemn Queenstown Fallen Soldiers Memorial. There is a pathway connecting it to the Queenstown Gardens, and locals love to spend some time exploring it during the summer months. Marine Parade is also the place to catch local events like Winter Festival’s opening night fireworks and New Years’ celebrations.
The Kawarau River
The Kawarau River drains Lake Wakatipu, flowing 60 kilometres (37 miles) eastward to Kawarau Gorge. Rapid currents and narrow stretches turned this river into a prime spot for riverboarding, jet boating, white water rafting and river surfing. The Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge is also renowned for being the birthplace for commercial bungy jumping.
Gibbston Valley is one of the closest wineries to Queenstown. Its vineyards are perched up the rugged schist mountains near Kawarau Gorge. High altitudes and diversified climatic conditions allow Gibbston Valley to cultivate the Pinot Noir varietals the Central Otago region is famous for.
Head a little further afield to find a wondrous fjord in the southwest of the South Island that continues to inspire and amaze. People flock to the Milford Sound to do some hiking as well as soaking up those idyllic views. Tours depart regularly from Queenstown, or you can make your own way across through a scenic four-hour road trip.
Coronet Peak is home to one of Queenstown’s finest ski fields. Long snow seasons, an incredible range of slopes for beginner and expert powder shredders, and impressive views of Lake Wakatipu and Lake Hayes are some of the things that attract people to this epic terrain.
Ben Lomond Track
A demanding, one-day trek with plenty of alpine vistas to cherish. The Ben Lomond track begins around the Tiki Trail (where you can also climb up Bob’s Peak), passing through tussocks and shrubbery as the uphill trek gets steeper and more rugged. On a clear day, you can see Mounts Aspiring and Earnslaw from a faraway distance.
A small lake within the Wakatipu Basin, Lake Hayes is situated close to both Queenstown and Arrowtown. Cyclists, hikers and runners head to Lake Hayes to tackle the trails that run alongside it. There are also large grassed areas nearby which are commonly used for recreational activities.
Also known by the Maori name Te Tapu-nui, this small, 907-metre (2976-foot) hill is particularly renowned for its Time Walk trail, which was created in the year 2000 to mark the start of the new millennium. Key highlights of the two to three hour Queenstown Hill Time Walk include rich pine forests, 360-degree views of Queenstown’s top landmarks, as well as the iconic ‘Basket of Dreams’ sculpture.
Arrowtown is a former gold mining establishment just 15 minutes from Queenstown. The small township is located on the banks of the Arrow River, and is lined with well-preserved buildings from its late-nineteenth century past. Along with holding a special place in local history, the town is also renowned for its vivacious autumnal colours.
For those looking for a cool day trip from Queenstown, Glenorchy is nice getaway. The small settlement on the northern end of Lake Wakatipu gained international fame for its cinematic appearances — particularly in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Other Glenorchy attractions include hiking (the Routeburn Track can be accessed through it), mountain biking, and kayaking.
Mount Crichton Loop Track
The Mount Crichton Loop Track is an easy, kid-friendly hike filled with many scenic wonders. Its starting point is just 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) from Queenstown, along the same road that goes to Glenorchy. The two to four hour journey traverses mountain beech, manuka trees, a waterfall, and the historic Twelve Mining Creek Gorge, which was one of the key mining spots in the region.
Another prime day trip destination, Lake Wanaka is New Zealand’s fourth largest lake. It covers an area of 192 square kilometres (74.1 square miles) and is estimated to have a depth of more than 300 metres (980 feet). Amid the lake you will find the charming town of Wanaka, which is an approximately an hour’s drive from Queenstown.
Mount Aspiring National Park
Located in the Southern Alps, just north of Fiordland National Park, Mount Aspiring National Park is composed of remote wilderness, diversified ecosystems, high mountain ranges, and awe-inspiring river valleys. Wanaka is the closest township to it, and the park is highly regarded among nature-lovers, hikers and mountaineers.