It doesn’t matter what you want to do, you’ll probably find it all in Queenstown. When travelling New Zealand you’ll come across places that offer great walking tracks, places with many outdoor activities or, for example, places with good food. In Queenstown and surroundings you can enjoy all of that and much more.
What to do, what to see, what to visit
Hiking and cycling
The walking and cycling tracks around Queenstown are plentiful. There are more to explore in the nearby Arrowtown as well, and even more in Glenorchy, an hour drive from Queenstown.
Ben Lomond Saddle / Summit
|Easy/Intermediate||3 - 4 h / 6 - 8 h|
Our favorite hike in Queenstown and surroundings. The track starts at the same spot as the Tiki track, however, it’s also possible to begin at Lomond Crescent street. You can either finish at Ben Lomond Saddle at 1326 m or continue all the way to the peak at 1748 m.
The view from the peak is so worth it, but the journey to the top is definitely demanding. At the top, you can enjoy a beautiful 360-degree view, and it’s quite possible you’ll have a chance to meet the Kea parrots. According to the DOC, the track is easy, but that’s probably because of the formed path you walk on most of the way. The part from the Ben Lomond Saddle to the peak is not very formed, though, and the final part can be quite slippery on the small rocks.
The whole hike will most probably take you around 6 hours, so don’t underestimate the conditions, have good footwear and enough food and water. The total climb is 1438m!
|Intermediate/Hard||1,5 - 2 h ; 1,5 - 2,5 h|
There’s a ski resort in the Remarkables, however, outside of winter, you have a chance to just walk and hike around the area. To get to the Remarkables, you need a good car, as there’s a very steep road up the hill.
We were inspired by the New Zealand’s guide book called Frenzy, which mentions the amazing view from the top of the Remarkables, the so-called Shadow Basin Lookout. It’s not one of the easiest hikes, as you’re basically walking up a ski slope, but it’s definitely worth it. You’ll be slipping on the fine gravel in some spots, and right before the end, you have to walk on a narrow path among and over rocks.
To get to the lookout from the carpark walk up the path in the direction of the top of the Shadow Basin Chair. Once you reach the top of the chairlift, turn left after the chairlift and walk straight until you see a narrow path leading to the lookout on the right. It might be a bit tricky to find this path.
If the weather’s good you may enjoy one of the best views in the whole area. Except for Queenstown and Ben Lomond, you might be able to see Mt. Earnslaw or even some of the Fiordland’s peaks. Not many people know about this lookout or it’s not worth their effort, therefore you’ll probably enjoy the view in private.
If you’re interested in a shorter and easier walk in the Remarkables, you can set out to the lake Alta. The return walk takes around one and a half hour.
Bob’s Cove Track to Twelve Mile Delta
|Easy||2 - 4 h||Easy - Grade 2|
The track from Bob’s Cove to Twelve Mile Delta camp leads you through a forest and along the Wakatipu lake. The return time is 2 – 4 hours. The track is suitable for cyclists, as well.
|Easy||2 - 3 h|
The track starts at Belfast street in Queenstown and takes two to three hours return. The ascent is 500m. The top, Te Tapunui, features a 360-degree view, and so this short climb is definitely worth it. You”re able to see The Remarkables or Cecil Peak.
Moke Lake Loop
|Easy||2 - 3 h||Intermediate - Grade 3|
When driving to Glenorchy, turn right from the main road right after Queenstown, and drive uphill until you reach the gravel road. Continue driving until you get to the campsite by the Moke Lake. A nice walking track around the Moke Lake begins at the campsite.
|Easy/Intermediate||2 - 3 h|
If you want to get to the top of the Queenstown Skyline Gondola by walking it’s easy enough. Just get on the walking path starting at the entrance to the gondola. The view from the top is very nice, however, offers a similar perspective to the Queenstown Hill view. It’s a good idea to choose only one of these two and then do something else.
Mount Crichton Loop
|Easy/Intermediate||2 - 4 h|
The Mount Crichton Loop will reward you with the views of the lake Wakatipu and the lake Dispute. It’s also possible to continue to the lake Dispute from this loop. On the way, you’ll come across an old hut and the remnants of the gold-digging era.
In case you don’t fancy any of the aforementioned hikes, feel free to find one for yourself. There are other options, for example, Lake Dispute track, Moke Lake Lookout track, Cecil Peak, Bob’s Peak or Arawata Bridle Track. You can learn more about the hiking options around Queenstown and Arrowtown in this DOC brochure, where you’ll find a handy map, as well.
Queenstown offers bike tracks and trails for people with all fitness levels. Some of the popular cycling tracks are, for example, Arrowtown to Gibbson Valley, Queenstown to Gibbston, or Queenstown to Jack’s Point. You’ll find more information here and here.
If you’re more adrenaline-driven and like riding on bike trails and in bike parks there are many options in Queenstown for you too. Grab your bike and get to the Skyline Gondola, which takes you all the way to the top of the Queenstown Hill. From there you can get on one of more than thirty different bike trails. The bike park is opened September to May, 9:00 AM till 5:00 PM/8:00 PM. More information is available here. If you want to ride in the highest bike park in New Zealand, visit Cardrona Bike Park. The park is opened from December 1 until the end of March. Other bike parks to visit include Coronet Peak, Remarkables, Wynyard DH & Jump Park, 7 Mile Bike Park or Gorge Rd Jump Park.
Since Queenstown is situated right next to a large lake and a river, it’s only natural there are a lot of water activities to choose from. The most obvious one is to go for a swim in the lake, however, be warned, the average water temperature rarely goes above 16°C in summer. There’s a pebble beach near the town centre and there are several other spots where you can swim along the road in the direction of Glenorchy.
Popular water activities in Queenstown include kayaking, paddleboarding or jetskiing. You can also try your hand at flyboarding. The prices start at NZD 149. Hydro Attack is something in between a submarine and a jet boat, and the cost is around NZD 139.
For those preferring something more relaxing there’s an option to go for a cruise on the lake in more than a hundred-year-old steamer TSS Earnslaw. Prices start at NZD 70.
Queenstown is also famous for its jetboating. Skippers Canyon Jet has very good reviews and is probably the most popular. You’ll pay around NZD 159. Other companies operate in the area, as well, for example, Shotover Jet, KJet or Dart River Adventures.
For adrenaline junkies
Queenstown didn’t get its nickname “adventure capital of the world” just by an accident, of course. Some people get enough adrenaline out of riding a bike from a steep hill, others need to jump out of an aeroplane from 10000 feet. In the end, Queenstown will satisfy everyone including the most demanding.
Even though Wanaka is more famous for its climbing spots, you can go climbing in Queenstown, as well. For those who want to try climbing for the first time, or they want to complete special training, there’s
this page. You can also try Via Ferrata or canyoning,which has very good reviews in Queenstown.
Bungy Jumping was born in New Zealand, and so it only makes sense to have a jump in Queenstown. There are several locations where you can jump or swing. All of them are operated by AJ Hackett company (AJ Hackett is one of the pioneers of Bungy Jumping).
You can jump from the Kawarau Bridge on the way from Queenstown to Cromwell, or you can jump on the Queenstown Hill above the gondola. If that’s not enough and you want to go for the highest Bungy jump in New Zealand, suit yourself. The Nevis Bungy Jump is 134m long and is situated outside of Queenstown. The swing is located on Queenstown Hill and at the Nevis location.
Queenstown is definitely a good place to go skydiving or paragliding, as the scenery is unbeatable. You’ll be able to appreciate the beauty of the sea, the lakes and rivers, and the mountains when freefalling from 15 000 ft.
There are several snow resorts in New Zealand, most of them being in the South Island in Queenstown area. You’ll find everything you need for skiing or boarding in each of the three resorts. The rental shops in Queenstown might have better quality equipment, however, if you use the rentals on the mountain, it’s more convenient for you in case of any issues. All of the resorts offer ski and board lessons. Often there are even options for those who don’t ski or snowboard in the form of tobogganing or a sightseeing ride on a chair to the top of the mountain.
The season starts in June and finishes in October, but the dates may vary, and everything is, obviously, weather dependant.
Coronet Peak is located around 20 minutes from the town centre and offers 8 lifts and trails suitable for skiers with various levels of experience. On the other side of Queenstown, after driving for some 35 minutes, you’ll come across The Remarkables resort. There are 7 lifts in The Remarkables, variable terrain, and a lot of black trail options for advanced skiers. The Remarkables is twice the size of Coronet Peak. Cardrona can be found on the way from Queenstown to Wanaka. The resort has 7 lifts and trails suitable for all levels. The size of the resort is similar to The Remarkables.
The tour agencies and hostels in Queenstown offer a lot of different tours to places in the vicinity of Queenstown, as well as to Fiordland. If you want to explore on your own there are definitely places to go beyond Queenstown, for example, Fiordland, Glenorchy, Wanaka or Arrowtown.
All the tours and activities can cost you an arm and leg, and so it’s good to know there are options to get a discount on some of them. The most popular discount website with the most activities in Queenstown is Bookme. You might be able to find very good deals on Bookme, especially if you book a few weeks or days in advance. This can be difficult though, as not everyone has a day to day plan for their travels, and the New Zealand weather is known for its unpredictability. On Bookme you’ll come across discounts for jetboating, gondola, lake activities, tours to Fiordland, but also meal deals.
Other discount websites include Groupon, Backpacker Deals, or Grabone.
Food and drinks
Because of how touristy Queenstown is, there are quite a lot of dining options. Here are a few tips on good and affordable food joints.
To enjoy a good breakfast visit Vudu Cafe & Larder or pick up some pastry at Fergbaker (right next to the Fergburger), famous not only for its pies. Big Fig has very good reviews and offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Devil Burger might not be as famous as Ferburger, however, the burgers they make are hip and delicious, you don’t have to queue for them, and usually, there’s an empty seat in the restaurant. They make beef burgers (big Man Killer or Hardcore Mr Scratch are amazing after a day hike), chicken, fish, lamb and game burgers. Vegetarian option is available as well.
Probably the most famous burger joint in New Zealand is called Fergburger. Famous for its burgers and the queues. Interesting choices are Sweet Bambi or Chief Wiggum. It’s difficult to find a seat in the small area of the restaurant, especially during the peak times, so opt for a nice bench somewhere in the town instead. If you’re craving sushi, affordable and tasty Hikari Sushi Bar is the place to go to.
Dessert time? Most famous ice-cream in New Zealand? The answer is Patagonia. The selection of about twenty flavours is amazing and they all taste great. Have a sample before you buy, that way you can taste even more flavours. Some of the flavours are Dulce de Leche, orange with basil, white chocolate with hazelnuts, dark chocolate with macadamia or a classic Kiwi Hokey Pokey. Patagonia also sells popsicles with toppings of your choice and it specializes in chocolate, as well. Balls and Bangles in the centre of the town is a donut lover’s wet dream. There are no rules when it comes to donuts in Balls and Bangles. Try salted caramel, oreo cookie, mars bar or a popcorn flavour, or order a milkshake with a big donut on top. Cookie Time sells (obviously) cookies, but you can also get cookie dough or cookie shakes.
Queenstown is fairly close to Cromwell and Alexandria, places where so many backpackers work during the summer. It only makes sense to do a big grocery and essentials shopping when going to Queenstown anyway. Backpackers’ number one in groceries, PAK’ n SAVE, is located in Frankton, same as New World and Countdown.
Warehouse, the ultimate all-time favourite is also located in Frankton, and often has more stuff in stock than the one in Alexandra. You’ll find Kmart there, too. For clothes, outdoor stuff or souvenirs head to Remarkables Park Town Centre in Frankton. or to Queenstown Mall and Shotover Street in Queenstown town.
Due to the number of tourists in Queenstown it’s quite difficult to find free or reasonably priced camping options.
If you have a tent or a campervan you’ll spend from NZD 50 up for two people a night. DOC campsites near Queenstown offer a cheaper alternative, however, they’re not in a walking distance to the town and feature only simple toilets. There are two such campsites near Queenstown, Moke Lake and Twelve Mile Delta, both cost NZD 15 per person per night.
If you have a self-contained vehicle, you can camp for free on locations outside of town and residential areas, but make sure there’s no sign banning overnight stay. Obviously, there aren’t many places like that near Queenstown.
It might be worth it to spend a night in one of the hostels in Queenstown. Even though you’ll pay more than for a campsite, you have the option to hit the bars and have an actual shower. The prices start at around NZD 25 per person per night in a shared dorm. Some of the good hostels include Nomads, YHA, Haka Lodge, Adventure Queenstown Hostel or Absoloot Value Accommodation.