Read Time: 5 minutes
If there's a place that I would have to pin-point as ‘having it all’; it’s Queenstown. A phenomenal little alpine town situated at the foot of the grand Remarkables mountain range and surrounding hills, it is the dreamy setting for this unique place which earned the reputation of ‘The adventure capital of New Zealand’. Queenstown sits on the shores of New Zealand’s longest inland body of water; Lake Wakatipu, translating from Maori as “growing bay” or “bay of spirits”. Already you’re probably thinking “this place sounds epic!”, well, you’d be right. Combine that with fantastic food and fine dining, an array of adventure activities as well as some of the world’s finest selections of wines, you have yourself a place that really appeals to every demographic.
Over time, the draw to this hub of all things New Zealand has become more significant, but nonetheless the natural beauty remains ever the same. I’ve been fortunate enough to either stay or pass through Queenstown on many occasions, and no matter how many times I have sat on the lake's shores; nothing quite beats it. Heading up onto the surrounding peaks, or partaking in one of the adventure activities, no matter how busy it is, it remains the best place to see and explore the awe-inspiring Otago region.
If you’re struggling to put down a few activities, you’d like to ‘get amongst’ while in the beautiful Queenstown, I hope this list (in no particular order) will help fill up your short but sweet time in this fascinating alpine town.
If burgers are your thing, then I’ll point you straight in the direction of the most popular burger joint in town. With queues lining down the street with people wanting to get their hands on one of these, it’s a sign if there was one, that they’re onto a good thing. I mean, you wouldn’t walk into an empty restaurant, would you? Serving up a variety of delectable flavour’s, the demand is so high that they’re open a phenomenal, 21 hours a day!
Top Tip- To avoid the long wait, call up and order, that way, you can roll straight in there and pick up your order without having to stand in the line of burger lovers.
Want to escape the bustling town for the quiet mountain tops? Ben Lomond is the perfect local mountain walk, giving you an ideal vantage point of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding region; a view worth the effort. Expect a 4-6 hour return from the track start which begins at the top of the Skyline Gondola. From here, a steady incline awaits. With no technical parts to the trail, it’s a gut-busting idea to burn-off a Fergburger.
Tips: Be sure to check the local mountain forecasts, not just the local town forecasts for the summit is exposed and susceptible to changing conditions. Keep an eye on your belongings at the top, New Zealand’s alpine parrot, the Kea, are ever-present there and love nothing more than tearing apart friendly hikers’ backpacks!
If you’re partial to a glass of wine or 3, then no Queenstown vacation is ever fulfilled without visiting one of the 75 wineries dotted around in the nearby area. You’ll find some prestigious names in the Wine industry, ‘Central Otago Pinot Noir just to name one of them, situated right on Queenstown’s doorstep. So why not explore them by indulging in a wine-tasting tour? Several specialist wine tour operators are in place to assist you with guided tours of these renowned vineyards. Combine that with some delicious food, nibbles and incredible views of the surrounding peaks; it’s a day out worth telling your friends about. If you're thinking about coming to New Zealand be sure to get in contact with us!
If you don’t fancy the demanding hike to the top, why not take the Skyline Gondola to 450 metres above Queenstown and enjoy some outstanding panoramic views of the Remarkables, Coronet Peak, Lake Wakatipu and of course; Queenstown. The view really is incredible and a perfect place to grab a photo or 3 of yourselves with a stunning backdrop. Before heading back down, grab a coffee and a bite to eat at the Skyline restaurant, can’t think of a better view I’ve had while enjoying those 2 things!
Surely, it’s a name that’s ringing some alarm bells? The iconic offering of nature that is Milford Sound has been dubbed ‘The 8th wonder of the world’ and there’s no surprise as to why it’s stuck. People come from far and wide just to lay eyes on the dramatic scene of the sheer fiords and the talisman; Mitre peak. There are several ways of getting there, via the spectacular and incredibly scenic drive along the Milford Road, enjoying several stops along the way to enjoy majestic views. During this drive, you will journey through the Homer tunnel, a feat of engineering where mankind has literally drilled their way through the mountain-side to enable access to this incredible place. Upon arrival, I’d highly recommend boarding a cruise to see the sound up close. Note: Bring a rain jacket! Milford Sound has an incredible 9 metres (yes metres!) of rainfall each year, with it falling on over 200+ days of the year. This creates some emphatic natural wonders in the sound in the form of cascading waterfalls which by cruise, you’ll get to see up close and personal. It’s not uncommon to see dolphins here in the sound too! If you don’t fancy the 2 hour drive to/from Queenstown, then why not go by air? Enjoying the emphatic views of alpine lakes below as you head back from an incredible experience in New Zealand’s iconic Milford Sound.
A cruise on Lake Wakatipu is a must-do experience during any visit to Queenstown. As your skipper navigates the lake, providing you with informative commentary on some of the renowned sights including Mt Nicholas, the Remarkables range and Glenorchy. I would recommend ‘The Spirit of Queenstown’ scenic cruise, as it is the most extended cruise on the lake, allowing you to see more of Lake Wakatipu and its incredible scenery. Operating several cruises every day, it can give you the chance to enjoy the lake at various times. My personal favourite is a sunset cruise with a delicious beverage in hand. Now we’re talking...
Now here’s a view I know you’ll absolutely love. The beautifully scenic Moke lake is just a 15-minute drive from Queenstown heading towards Glenorchy. It’s a place enjoyed by locals and tourists alike whether it be for walking, cycling or even camping. I find getting away from the hustle and bustle of the town to come here is refreshing and its appealing views can be enjoyed whatever the time of year.
“Saving the best till last”. While most are satisfied with exploring the town and local sights, I’m sure some of you are wondering what exactly is further afield. Situated right in amongst the Southern Alps, not far from Queenstown lies some seriously dramatic natural phenomena including but not limited to 6000+ft peaks, glaciers, alpine lakes and authentic wilderness spaces; an incredible sight to see from the air. I have been fortunate enough to experience this for myself on a few occasions, and I might even have to go as far as saying, it was one of the best experiences I've had in New Zealand. With several providers to choose from, gaining a bit of local knowledge might help you decide where to go as you may even be fortunate enough to land in one of these areas, to step foot in some of the most remote locations in New Zealand. Note: Not cheap, but it’s a vacation highlight if there ever was one.
With so much to do and see, don’t be overwhelmed by how much there is on offer in Queenstown, plan ahead and adapt it to your own personal interests. If you’re really at a loss, then hopefully I’ve suggested a few ideas that you may want to add to your ‘to-do’ list!