Not only is Queenstown an incredibly diverse destination, it is also the best gateway for a South Island expedition. Hiking trails, historic towns and many scenic wonders are within a few hours driving distance from this lovely New Zealand town. Choose your ideal stopover from these seven great day trips, and get set to revel in your surroundings.
This beautiful lakeside town is only an hour’s trip from Queenstown. The 67-kilometre (41.6-mile) drive will take you across a trove of breathtaking landscapes, from snowy mountains to crystal-clear waters. If you’re passing through during the winter months, Cardrona and Treble Cone are some of the top ski sites in the area. For those getting a glimpse of Wanaka’s beauty in the warmer months, jet-boating and paddle-boarding along the lake are always good options.
The historic Arrowtown conveniently resides between Queenstown and Wanaka. In fact, a short 15-minute drive is all it takes to reach it. Along with an interesting gold mining history, Arrowtown is surrounded by trees and greenery. Visitors coming through in the early autumn months (April-May), will be able to immerse themselves in the wonderful seasonal colours as they amble along the township.
A popular hiking and mountaineering destination that is, once again, conveniently located within close quarters to Queenstown and Wanaka. There are quite a few activities to explore at Mt Aspiring National Park, ranging from leisurely sightseeing to adrenaline-inducing adventures. Canyoning, climbing, skydiving, fishing, and trekking are some of the area’s year-round attractions.
You’ll definitely be spoiled for choice in this 58-kilometre (36-mile) journey. As the world’s most southerly grape-growing area, Central Otago has built a strong reputation for its Pinot Noir production. The region boasts more than 80 wineries, all of which have their own unique flair and character. From Queenstown, the first vineyard you’ll pass through is Gibbston Valley. Terra Sancta, near Cromwell, and the Felton Road Winery in Bannockburn are other popular alternatives along this viticultural trail.
Orchards, vineyards, and a rich gold mining history. Alexandra is an underrated South Island gem that is just over an hour’s driving distance from Queenstown. Summer and autumn visitors will get to relish the locally grown apples, apricots, peaches and cherries. Winter explorers can immerse themselves in some natural ice skating at the Lower Manorburn Dam.
The scenic drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy is always a hit with tourists. You’ll be able to enjoy some wonderful landscapes, and there are plenty of activities to try along the way. Glenorchy has made a name for itself because of its The Lord of the Rings film sites, but it is also renowned as a prime destination for kayaking, jet boating and horse trekking. The trip traverses a trove of mountainous landscapes as well as the awe-inspiring Lake Wakatipu.
The Routeburn Track is considered one of the Great Walks of New Zealand. The 45-minute drive from Queenstown will amaze you with the area’s soaring mountain peaks, mossy forests and breathtaking lakeside. Hikers, take note: the full Routeburn Track is 32 kilometres long (just under 20 miles), connecting to Mount Aspiring National Park and Fiordland National Park along the way. This epic alpine adventure, in its entirety, usually takes 2-3 days to complete — there are first come, first served campsites in the area for those wanting to extend their visit.