On the shores of serene Lake Wakatipu, set against jagged mountains aptly named “The Remarkables”, Queenstown is the South Island's most famous tourist destination. Walk down to the lake through The Mall past just a handful of the town's many restaurants and bars, and you'll hear a dozen languages spoken.
In summer, tour operators offer every activity and tour imaginable, the restaurants buzz, and the bars go bang until the wee hours. Queenstown is a resort for all seasons and tastes, from luxury indulgences to backpackers' bars, from summer hiking to winter skiing, and from scenery to adventure pursuits.
Let’s discover the top activities you can experience on your visit to Queenstown.
Take the Gondola Ride
The best place to start a tour of Queenstown is on the Skyline Gondola, which shuttles up Bob's Peak through a gash in the pine trees to a viewing terminal with a restaurant and café. Offering the remarkable views of The Remarkables and the town, the scenery is breathtaking year-round.
The adventurous can tandem paraglide back down, the fool-hardy can bungee jump, fun-loving can take a second chairlift at the top and luge back, and the energetic can walk or mountain bike the trails.
Go Aboard a Vintage Cruise
Another way to view Queenstown is aboard the TSS Earnslaw, the coal-fired Lady of the Lake, departing from the refurbished steamer wharf on Beach Street. Check out the engine rooms and historical displays that date back to the year Titanic set sail. Some cruises also take in the Walter Peak Farm, a homestead and farm in a beautifully scenic lakeshore setting.
Discover Native Flora and Fauna
You can view New Zealand’s national bird, kiwi, at the Kiwi Birdlife Park next to the gondola terminal on Brecon Street. The rare and not-so-rare birds here include the kea, weka, kakariki parrots, and the endangered black stilt. Headsets explain the birds and natural features in the park. Maori displays and conservation shows round out the tourist experience.
Take a Day Trip to Arrowtown
While development drives Queenstown, delightful Arrowtown, 13 miles (21 km) northeast, clings to its goldfield heritage. In a valley backed by rugged mountains, shade trees line peaceful streets, and many original buildings from the gold rush survive. The picturesque main drag, Buckingham Street, is lined with eateries and tourist stores, for Arrowtown is a popular day trip out of Queenstown. A selection of lodgings offers an alternative retreat.
Try Your Luck at a Casino
Online casinos have become overwhelmingly popular in recent years, but spending a fun night out at a Queenstown’s casino has its own charm. SkyCity is the largest and the most popular casino of Queenstown which not only has all common casino games but also has a bar and restaurant that serves delicious food and drinks. They have in-house events, special offers, and live music on specific days – so check their website before visiting.
Go Skiing in the Southern Alps
Queenstown is New Zealand's premier ski resort in winter, with four main ski areas nearby. Coronet Peak is the closest to Queenstown, 11 miles (18 km) away with runs suitable for all abilities and weekend night skiing. A spectacular range that defines Queenstown views, The Remarkables hosts a popular ski area with three basins that cater to boarders and skiers from beginner to advanced. It is 50 minutes away by car or bus. Cardrona, on the way to Wanaka, is a high-altitude field noted for dry snow and wide slopes, while Treble Cone, close to Wanaka, is the largest and particularly for advanced skiers and snowboarders.
Bungee Jump at an Iconic Spot
Queenstown’s and the world's first bungee-jumping site was at the old Kawarau Bridge, 14 miles (23 km) northeast of town on SH6. A.J. Hackett Bungy offers the complete bungee experience with a variety of jumps and a bungee museum in a complex. This is the place to jump, and you'll have plenty of onlookers, including clapping groups who delight in the bravely, as well as, foolishness of others.
Feel the Adrenaline Rush While Heliskiing
One of the most amazing ways to experience the majesty of the Southern Alps is to ski the remote snowfields. If you are an intermediate or advanced skier, a chopper will take you to the top of some amazing slopes, pick you up at the bottom, and then take you to the next pristine slope. Companies offering this ultimate skiing include Harris Mountains Heli-Ski and Wilderness Heliskiing.