When should you visit? Any time! Whether its beautiful snow capped winter months or the summer warmth with glistering turquoise waters in the lake surrounds.
ACTIVITIES – SPOILT FOR CHOICE!
When you come to Queenstown there are so many activities to do – pace yourself. You can either book direct through their websites or walk up to the local tour shops and ask their advice. Now some of the activities can be quite pricey so it’s best to do some research before you arrive and budget accordingly. Now the best thing about Queenstown is I can safely say you WILL come back again and again. So if you leave a few activities out, its more reason to come back again, right?
This includes mountain biking, 4WD tours, jet-boat rides, water skiing, boat cruises, hiking & walks, the food or really just a casual drive exploring Lake Wakatipu which is the major lake that you see surrounding Queenstown and its other near-by towns. We highly recommend hiring a car whilst you are in the South Island, this allows a lot more freedom to explore and truly experience this amazing City, its surrounds and other areas beyond.
If you’re into skiing or snowboarding you already know Queenstown is the place to come. With so many options such as the Remarkables, Coronet Peak, Cadrona or Treble Cone, you’ll find snow sports much more exciting in NZ than Australia thats for sure!
Definitely the best burgers you will find in Queenstown!
Got a sweet tooth? Make sure you get here!
ESS Earnslaw Cruise
Relax and enjoy the cruise along Lake Wakatipu
When it comes to accommodation in Queenstown you really are spoilt for choice. Depending on your budget you can stay in shared accommodation, hostels, serviced apartments, hotels, Airbnb and even free camp for those who enjoy camping or Campers for their trips. Personally, we have stayed at AirBnB places, including serviced Apartments in Queenstown itself and surrounding areas. If you have hired a car, you can stay pretty much anywhere as getting around is quite easy regardless if you’re on your own or with family and friends.
QUEENSTOWN MUST DO’s:
- QUEENSTOWN JET BOAT RIDE
You cannot visit Queenstown and not do a Shotover Jet Boat Ride, you’d be crazy! I mean its the home of jet boats, and tight shallow water that allows these boats to skim across the water at high speed giving a thrill that you will only find through the tight rivers in and around Queenstown!
Pierre and I love our jet boat rides, so we decided to do the Skipper’s Canyon Jet Boat ride over the Shotover due to the bus ride that takes you there. The drive in is quite the experience and if you’re afraid of heights, make sure your get a seat on the left hand side of the bus (you’ll thank me later, don’t sit behind the driver LOLLL). We are still planning on doing the Shotover, however on this trip, that was our choice.
Skippers Canyon Road is about 15km of gravel road that was carved out over 140 years ago by miners. It is so dangerous that travel insurance will not cover your car if you drive on it –there are plenty of signs that warn you of the dangers! This road was built during the gold rush to allows miners a passage to the Upper Shotover River. Now whilst it was an engineering feat for their time, they weren’t thinking into the future and how this road was going to be used HAHA! This narrow, winding road often struggles to accommodate 2 cars, let alone 2 mini buses. A strategic dance alongside cliffs with small waiting banks (right on the cliff edge) allows some wiggle room and it definitely gets the heart racing.
Our driver manoeuvred the mini bus with great skill and even said some corners needed to scratch the bus to get through the tight corners. Pierre had a great time laughing at my expense as I was on the window, cliff side!
When we arrived at the launching dock it was all systems go as we loaded onto the jet boat, ready to get the adrenalin pumping. They provide you with spray jackets and life vests, but we suggest if it’s cold to bring a beanie and regardless of the weather, wear sunnies as it does protect your eyes from the wind.
Now the actual ride – SOOOOO MUCH FUN!!! 80km/hr heading straight toward rock faces, trees in the water and shorelines. These boats are amazing pieces of engineering! As they are jet powered, they can operate in less than 1ft of water. The drivers go through rigorous training, so you are in safe hands – especially when they do the 360 turns. Whilst on the tour, the driver stops the boat every now and then to explain the history behind some of the old mining pieces and stops where a scene from Lord of the Rings was filmed. (Can you guess which one?). You can bring a compact camera or phone, however, if it gets wet or you drop it, you can’t complain as they do warn you about the risks.
The ride back is just as fun and once completed they take you back onto the bus up to their offices where you can purchase some pictures. The view up top over the Shotover river is amazing and there is an old bridge where there used to be bungee jumping. The drive back is up the precarious Skipper’s Canyon Road (again choose your seat wisely) and back into the heart of Queenstown where I suggest you tame that hunger with a Fergburger.
SKYLINE GONDOLA & LUGE
Just a quick 5 minute walk and you’re at the bottom of the entry ready to get onto a Gondola to head up to the top of Queenstown to the Skyline complex & restaurant. The view from up here over Queenstown is simply stunning, whether in the day or even at night with the beautiful starts you cannot miss the chance to head up and enjoy the panoramic views of The Remarkables mountains, Lake Wakatpiu, Walter Peak and Coronet Peak.
Wait up, they have the Skyline Luge – whats this you ask? In short you’re in control of a mini cart going down 800M of windy and sloped hills that will make any adult or child smile!
If you want something a bit more relaxing, they do offer a buffet style lunch and dinner at the Stratosfare Restaurant & Bar. Of course the views from in there are equally as amazing.
DRIVE TO GLENORCHY
Heading away along the coastline of Lake Wakatipu for about an hour (approx 45kms) and you’re in Glenorchy. The drive itself is quite beautiful, as is the location. We have been a few times and we seem to always have cloudy overcast weather, but finally one out of the many times we have been to visit we were in luck – blue skies! Perfect clear weather for some astrophotography and of course a nice meal outside under the stars.
Other than the beautiful dark skies, cute little shed on the wharf, great little pub for some incredible food, you also have some hiking trails near by to explore as well as activities including horse riding, kayaking, jet boating and even a heli or boat ride.
AMBLE AROUND ARROWTOWN
If you want to head out of Queenstown for a half day trip, look no further than Arrowtown. This quaint, little town is jam packed full of history and personality. Set on the Arrow River, it was established in 1862 as a gold mining town and attracted miners from all around the world in a pursuit for riches and fortune. In the height of its mining boom, the town had nearly 7,000 residents – this is quite astonishing when you think how small the town is and the facilities they would have had back in the 1800s. Now that the miners have gone, its legacy remains through careful preservation. Almost 60 of the first buildings still are remaining today and you will see them as you walk the streets of the Arrowtown.
We were blessed to visit during autumn and see the yellowing leaves ablaze alongside the river and the neighbouring streets. It makes for some great photography down on the river
EAT AT THE FAMOUS FERGBURGER
Whenever I talk to people about NZ and mention Queenstown, the first question they ask is “BUT DID YOU EAT AT FERGBURGER?????” and the answer is YES – MANY TIMES!!
Don’t let the line out the front put you off from ordering. Whilst it can be very long at times, they are extremely organised and the food comes out quick, and HOT! Their portions are very big so if you’re super hungry, go a burger and fries. However, Pierre and I happily shared a fries between us and our own burgers and that was more than enough for us after a day of adventuring. My favourite was the Cock Cajun and Pierre’s was the Cockadoodle Oink and I could seriously eat here every night, but you do want to try other places, right?
HOT TIP: beat the queues and plan for a late lunch! (3pm seems to be the best time) – or expect approx 15-25 minute wait for your food.
MODERN MEXICAN @ TACO MEDIC
Another favourite of ours is Taco Medic. It is a little hard to find but it’s well worth it. You’ll need to walk along the promenade and turn left onto Church Street. On your left you’ll pass Louis Vuitton and you’ll want to walk through the walkway next to the car park. That’s Seale Lane and this is where you will find the most delicious tacos EVER!!! My favourite was the stockman whereas Pierre preferred the Bajaman.
The guy who owns the Taco Medic is friendly and hilarious, plus he knows how to put together an awesome taco. If you’re peckish 2 will be plenty, if you’re hungry, go the whole hog, GET 3!!
Another decent feed which is amazing on a cold winter’s night is at Saigon Kingdom Vietnamese. We could a big bowl of beef pho each – a warm hearty meal to rid you of any chills from the blistering cold.
Hands up who likes chocolate and ice cream? MEEEEEE! Well that’s pretty much everyone! A must visit whilst in Queenstown is Patagonia Chocolates to sample the amazing ice cream, sorbet, chocolates, truffles, bon bons and coffee. Needless to say, we visited a few times and my favourites were the coffee ice cream, white chocolate and raspberry bar and a smooth, warm latte to drink. However, for those that are true chocolate connoisseurs, you can’t go past the chocolate taps where you can build your own ice cream – its heaven on earth!
WANDERLUST IN WANAKA
Wanaka is only an hour drive from Queenstown and is worth a day or 2 on its own. With some incredible landscapes, beautiful lakes and hikes and walks for each type of traveller it is definitely a must-do for anyone visiting Queenstown with some time spare. Oh and yes, the famous ‘Wanaka Tree’ that should be on the must-see list as you’re already so close by. We have a full post over here to tell you all about Wanaka.