In the southwest corner of New Zealand’s south island is the beautiful lakeside town of Queenstown. The stunning landscapes that surround the city provide visitors with year-round things to do and appeal to all types of budgets.
The town sits on a spectacular Lake Wakatipu inlet, arguably one of the most beautiful spots in all of New Zealand. The town had humble beginnings when its first non-native residents arrived in the 1860s to mine for gold; after the gold rush, the town became a rural ideal where the pace of life was slow, and people came to escape the stresses of their daily lives.
Getting to Queensland and Getting Around
Getting to Queenstown is easy by both land and air. Its international airport is served by New Zealand’s and Australia’s major airlines, connecting to all the main cities in New Zealand, as well as Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne in Australia. From the airport, you can rent a car, get a taxi, or take the more economical Super Shuttle service to reach your accommodation.
In addition to flying in, you can catch a coach service on one of the regular services operated by InterCity Coachlines and Newmans Coach Line, which connect to many surrounding towns and cities. If you fancy driving to Queenstown yourself, rent a car in Christchurch and make the day-long drive that takes you through some amazing scenery.
Once in town, you’ll find that exploring is easy. The city centre is walkable, and there is a public bus service that runs fairly frequently. If you want to explore the lake, and you should, you can take a boat tour from Queenstown Wharf.
Where to Stay
Queenstown has accommodation to suit the tastes and budgets of all types of travellers. Whether you’re looking for a luxury retreat or connecting with nature by pitching a tent, to everything in between, you won’t be disappointed. If camping is a little too rustic for your tastes, but you still want budget accommodation, you’ll find several hostels in the area. Hotels range from ceiling to floor glass windows of the lakeside Mantra Marina, to the country club facilities at the luxury Millbrook Resort, to the stylish boutique Hotel St Moritz. Whatever you want, you’ll find a great selection of high-quality accommodation.
Things to Do in Queenstown – Outdoors
For outdoor lovers, Queenstown has endless ways for you to explore this spectacular corner of the world.
When warmer weather arrives one activity not to miss is a cruise around Lake Wakatipu. Make sure you bring a camera to capture the breathtaking views of mountains, lake, and wildlife. One of the most fantastic tours takes you from the lake to Mt. Aspiring National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site with ancient forests and glacial lakes that have remained unspoiled for millions of years. For the more adventurous, you can rent a kayak and explore the lake at your pace.
If you’d rather stay on dry land, cycling is always a fun way to explore the town, lake shores, and hills. There are biking trails to suit all levels of fitness and thrill-seeking. There’s even a jump park and heli-biking, yes that’s right the most exciting way to explore the wilderness will be on your doorstep.
In the New Zealand winter, the surrounding mountains are the biggest draw. Here you’ll find four different skiing and snowboarding areas, from groomed slopes to off-piste thrills, to the ultimate way to ski – a Heli-Ski tour. If skiing isn’t your thing, you can also enjoy snowshoeing and ice-skating. There is a dedicated coach that will take you to the slopes from Queenstown, and you’ll have a choice of shops to hire or buy snow gear.
Queenstown is also a golfing destination, with six meticulously planned and maintained golf courses with mountain and lake vistas. Experienced golfers will want to try the challenging Arrowtown Golf Club Course. For one of the most beautiful courses in the world, book a round at Millbrook, but if you’re a beginner or want to get some practice in, Frankton Golf Centre is the best choice.
The best way to get up close to the local plant and wildlife is on foot. There are designated walking trails that suit adventurous hikers or those in search of a short and leisurely stroll. You can go it alone or join a guided hike where your expert guide will be able to tell you about everything you see. One such tour is a combined nature walk and wine tour. The nature walk takes you to one of the best areas to see native birds before you set off to explore the region’s locally produced wines.
The Culture of Queenstown
The stunning landscape of Queenstown has attracted many artists practising all kinds of art and crafts. In town, you’ll be able to shop in the many galleries selling local photographs, jewelry, paintings, and other works. You can even sign up for photography workshops.
To learn about the area’s fascinating history pay a visit to the Lakes District Museum in nearby Arrowtown. The museum focuses on re-creating what life was like when the Maori were the only people living here and during the gold rush years. Delve deep into the history by getting to know the Maori culture through learning ancient myths and enjoying traditional music and dance performances. Skyline Queenstown and the Maori Culture Cruise both offer comprehensive Maori experiences.
Eating and Nightlife
Queenstown has a fantastic array of places to eat, from cozy cafés to takeaways to the exquisite fine dining. It’s a good idea to plan your dinner a little in advance, as many of the best restaurants will need reservations. A multitude of establishments serves delicious and fresh seafood including two of the most popular – Fishbone Queenstown and Skyline Queenstown. Prime Waterfront Restaurant and Bar is the place to go for a steak and views. For great value, good food, and craft beer head to Pub on Wharf or Lone Star Cafe & Bar.
After dinner hit some of the legendary clubs and bars; be enchanted by the glistening Minus 5 Ice Bar or celebrate your Irish roots at Morrison’s Irish Pub or Pog Mahone’s. For a retro night, sip a tasty cocktail at Debajo Cocktail Bar and Nightclub. For uniqueness and class, spend an evening in the iconic and historical Eichardt’s Bar, quenching thirsts since 1867.
Have you been to Queenstown? What was your favorite place to explore?