Queenstown’s popularity is not confined to the cool winter months. If you’re planning to visit this epic resort town around the Christmas period, there are plenty of attractions that will get you relishing the cheerful New Zealand summer days. Here’s how you can spend the holidays in the best possible manner.
Visit the Arrowtown Christmas Market
This is one of the first Christmas-themed celebrations to reach Queenstown’s surrounds. For those unfamiliar with Arrowtown, it is a former gold mining village just a 20-minute drive from Queenstown – its proximity has made it quite a good place for a day trip. Every year Arrowtown Plunket hosts a Christmas Market fundraiser, with stalls filled with handcrafted items of all sorts – from clothes and jewellery to homewares and acessories. The market will be held on Nov 19 2017 – a gold coin donation is all that’s asked for admission.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
If you’re looking for something local, this family-friendly, community-driven extravaganza will be one of the first to welcome the silly season. Two shows, featuring various performances from local singers, dancers, and actors alike, is set to dazzle the crowds who enter the Queenstown Events Centre on Dec 3. Ticket prices range between NZ$5-$35, with free admission for kids under five. Head to the show’s official Facebook page for more information.
Passing through Wanaka? Check out Santa’s Grotto
Wanaka is another must-visit for those wanting to venture outside of Queenstown for a day or two. For the past three years, the community has hosted a charitable Santa’s Grotto event that encourages everyone to unleash their inner child. Market stalls, Santa appearances plus a number of fun-filled family events are some of the key highlights of this celebration. Santa’s Grotto will be open for the first weeks of December and tickets are around NZ$5 per person.
(By the way, if you’re looking for something similar close to town, Queenstown’s Minus 5º Ice Bar has been hosting their own Santa’s Grotto fundraiser over the last five years. No dates for 2017 have been announced at this point, so keep an eye on their Facebook page to find out if/when the next event will be happening)
The Skyline Gondola’s Stratosfare Restaurant will host a special lunch and dinner on Christmas Day and New Years’ Eve. For the former, expect plenty of live music, a delectable traditional buffet, plus a scenic Gondola ride, two luge sessions and a visit from Santa himself. Prices are NZ$158 for adults and NZ$72 for children. Advanced bookings are essential.
If you’re wanting to splash out on some festive fine dining, the Hilton is the place to go. In 2017, the luxurious venue will bring its patrons a two-hour Christmas BBQ lunch or a three-course meal at the hotel’s Wakatipu Grill, plus five-course dinner offerings on both Christmas and New Years’ eve. Again, reservations are an absolute must to avoid disappointment.
Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa, New Zealand
Go on a Christmas adventure
Queenstown is one of the few places in New Zealand that doesn’t fully ‘shut down’ on Christmas Day. Many of the popular thrill-seeking attractions will still be operating, albeit for a limited time. It’s also worth noting that some bars and restaurants will remain open too – just keep in mind that you may get hit with a holiday surcharge on your orders. But for the adventure seekers, this is the time to get a summer adrenaline rush – activities to put on your to-do list include kayaking, jet boating and rafting through the Skippers Canyon rapids.
Have a picnic by the lakeside
Why not celebrate Christmas in a low-key Kiwi style? Stock up on food supplies before Christmas Day and head over to the lakeside for a scenic picnic. Queenstown is surrounded by the glistening Lake Wakatipu waters, so you won’t be short of options of places for an outdoorsy feast. If you want to head further afield, there are some great picnicking places en route to Glenorchy too.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.