Queenstown is definitely among the world’s coolest places to visit. You wouldn’t expect a resort town of its size to pack so many attractions in. But really, a quick glance at the best things to see and do in this epic New Zealand destination is all that’s needed to take away any lingering misconceptions. Ready to compile your travel bucket list? Then read on.
The birthplace of New Zealand bungy is a definite must-visit for adventure travellers. Since AJ Hackett and Henry van Asch took their first leap in 1988, the Kawarau Bridge has sealed its place as one of the top bungy sites in the country. If you’re up for a double-team challenge, the bridge is Queenstown’s one and only tandem jumping location.
Keen skiers and snowboarders will absolutely adore Coronet Peak. The 1649-metre (5410-foot) high mountain range is renowned for its extensive snowy seasons and varied terrains. Its namesake ski resort is a mere 25-minute drive from Queenstown and comprises an array of lift systems for all abilities. Popular slope runs include the Big Easy (for beginners), the Shirtfront (intermediate), and the Backbowls (expert).
Needless to say, Queenstown is an extreme sports lover’s dream. The Shotover River is one of the main sites to get whizzing about on a jet boat. Don’t get dizzy, now: your water-borne adventure will include quite a few 360-degree turns. When you’re moving forwards, though, you’ll get an unique perspective of those river canyons… at an exhilarating 85 kilometres (53 miles) per hour.
Fantastic views with a good workout to match; the Queenstown Hill hiking track is reasonably easy to tackle, with the steep journey usually taking a couple of hours to complete. Once you reach the summit, you’ll be rewarded with a full panorama of the city, which includes a good glimpse of Lake Wakatipu and the aptly-named Remarkables mountain range.
Gibbston Valley is one of the most popular wineries in the Otago region. Visitors can treat themselves with a great selection of locally-produced wines and cheeses, while they admire the wonderful vineyards in the vicinity. In the winter months, you can cozy up by the fireplace indoors; when it’s more temperate you can relish the outer patio. The Gibbston Valley cave tours are also an interesting option for viticulture enthusiasts.
If you need to escape the small-town rush, the tranquil Queenstown Gardens will be your refuge. The botanic garden is beautifully well-kept and are only a 10-minute walk from the city. On arrival, you’ll be able to soak up the lovely walking tracks, plentiful peninsula views, and a stunning showcase of plants and flowers.
Got a car handy? Then make the most of the beautiful landscapes surrounding you. The drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy is a favourite with locals and tourists alike, and is best experienced at leisurely pace. Some of those winding roads are quite narrow, but the scenic views are worth it. There are several The Lord of the Rings film locations along the way — including the Dart River valley, which is home to Isengard.
Also known as the Tiki Trail, the Sky Gondola route is a free ticket to those idyllic post card views. Literally: it’s an easy, self-guided trek, that anyone can do. You’ll start at the very base of the gondola, zig-zagging through the forested mountains and native bush. There are different activities on this route, like a mountain biking trail and a zip line, if you want to make the occasional stopover. Alternatively, you can continue to walk up the summit to reach your picturesque destination.
You can’t get more scenic than the gorgeous Lake Wakatipu. This is the South Island’s second largest glacial lake, coming in at just under 80-kilometres (50 miles) in length. It borders several mountains, with multiple walking tracks that will let you cherish your surroundings. The Queenstown Gardens even has its own access path towards Lake Wakatipu. Hikers passing through the Frankton Track can also access the lake through a special trail.
Over the years, this local burger joint has become an institution in its own right. Budget-friendly prices and hearty portions are the main reasons for it — you can usually feed yourself for NZ $20 or so. Many backpacker hostels will have Fergburger vouchers for travellers too. Because of its popularity, though, you may want to consider ordering over the phone in advance — those queues can get really long during the high season.