【NZ Travel Blog】Top 10 Things To Do In Queenstown, New Zealand

Top 10 things to do in Queenstown 5 days

Queenstown (South Island, New Zealand)

Map Queenstown New Zealand Must Do

If you ask where is the most beautiful place that we’ve visited in New Zealand, Queenstown it is.

Located on the South Island of New Zealand, Queenstown sits on the edge of Lake Wakatipu (beautiful blue lake) and is surrounded by the Southern Alps. The landscape is just magical!

It is also one of the most popular tourist towns in New Zealand, but the beauty of this town is worth coming back for.

There are plenty of activities to do in Queenstown, from hiking, biking, skydiving, bungee jumping, wine tasting, river cruise, helicopter tour… so to get the most of this town, a minimum of 3 nights stay is recommended.

1. Explore Downtown Queenstown

Activities: shopping, dining, tourist information, relax by the lake

Central Queenstown is very happening. Major hotels, resorts, backpackers, restaurants, tourist information, supermarkets are all around here.

We came here for dinner, sometimes we just had fish and chips sitting by the lake, this place is stunning. And if you can catch the sunset hour, you will see the most magical sunset.

Queenstown Lake Wakatipu day
Central Queenstown, with Lake Wakatipu as background
queenstown lake
What a beautiful town, with crisp water and alps background
Queenstown sunset View
Magical sunset in Queenstown

Watch my Queenstown Vlog, Day 1.  Click here to watch on YouTube.

 

You might like to explore:

– Fergburger  (Best Burger In Town)

“Don’t miss this place if you are love burgers!”

The Winery (New Zealand Wine Experience)

Love New Zealand wines but no time to visit all the wineries in New Zealand?

Come here to taste over 80 New Zealand wines in one place!

  • Open daily 10.30am-10.30pm
  • Address: 14 Beach St, Queenstown 9300, New Zealand

Queenstown wine shop

2. Skyline Queenstown, Gondola Cable Car and Luge

Queenstown hill gondola cable car
Gondola Cable Car up to Skyline Queenstown

First time to Queenstown? Then take the Gondola (the steepest cable car in the southern hemisphere) up to Skyline Queenstown. There you’ll have the spectacular panoramic view of the town.

On top of the hill, you can take the luge ride (Must Do), high tea at the bar, bungee jump, star gazing at night, romantic dinner for 2, or just simply enjoy the view and Kiwi Haka dance performance.

If this is your first time in Queenstown, I highly recommend taking the Gondola & Luge rides ticket (From $55 NZD). Full price list, see here.

Queenstown skyline gondola
Queenstown Gondola entrance – can be quite crowded during the peak season
Queenstown Luge ride gondola
Please, do the luge ride! It was the best place to do it!

Queenstown Skyline Gondola

  • Open daily 9am – 9pm
  • Address: Brecon Street, Queenstown (walking distance from the town centre)
  • Gondola ride: $39 NZD
  • Gondola + 2 luge rides = $55 NZD
  • Recommended time spend: 3-4 hours

3. Queenstown Hill Walkway

Love the view but don’t want to spend money or queue with the rest? We found this place just 8 minutes (2km) drive away from Queenstown Skyline base – Queenstown Hill Walkway.

  • 1.5- 2.5 hours return walk
  • Easy (some steep slopes)
  • Tips: Bring water, sunblock

It was quite an easy walk and lots of pine trees around the hill. It smells lovely like Christmas. Totally recommend this place as it’s not crowded yet the view is comparable to Queenstown Skyline.

Click here to watch the video on our walk on Queenstown Hill if you can’t view it below.

Queenstown hill walkway

Queenstown hill walk steep slopes
Some steep slopes, but still fairly easy walk
Queenstown hill walk view
The best view in Queenstown is FREE!
Queenstown Hill Walk Peak View
The View On Top Of Queenstown Hill Walkway – The same if not better than Queenstown Gondola. Quiet, peaceful, no crowd!

4. Spend A Day On Dart River

Queenstown is known as “The Adventure Capital Of The World”. Not gonna risk your life to bungee jump? At least sign up for something easier and less chance of a heart attack.

I’m not a bungee-jump kind of girl, not in a million years anyway. Some kind of activities on the Dart river is good enough to experience Queenstown in a different way.

4.1 Jetboat + Walk Through An Ancient Forest

Jetboat dart river Queenstown

During our first time in Queenstown, we booked a half-day tour that consists of jetboat on the Dart river, walk through an ancient forest, and drive through Lord Of The Rings and Narnia movie scenes. From $249/person (appx 4 hours). Booking info here.

It was an easy half day tour, not too many physical activities required, suitable for the family of old and young.

4.2 Jetboat + Kayak + Picnic Lunch

We went for Funyak tour (jetboat + kayak) during our 2nd trip to Queenstown as I’d like to experience flowing downstream on the blue Alps water. The trip was about 7 hours long and cost from $369 per person. This tour was amazing. It did require a little bit of paddling but if you are generally fit, it should be ok.

Click here to watch the video on our day trip on Dart River Tour.

Dart River Queenstown Kayak

Queenstown kayak at Dart River
Can you imagine paddling on water like this?

Queenstown Dart River Funyak Adventure

4.3 Horse Riding At Lord Of The Ring Scene

Or simply, go for a guided horse riding at the Middle Earth locations where scenes from Lord of the Rings were shot. 1 hour $140, 2 hours $180.

I’m not affiliated with this company but we’ve been on their tour a couple of times, and so far our personal experience has been more than satisfactory.  You can check out their website for all the activities they have apart from the tour mentioned above. Booking in advance is recommended too.

Dart River Adventures

Website: https://www.dartriver.co.nz/

Tours available:  Jet boating, Kayaking, Horse Riding

5. Go For A Scenic Drive (Free)

lake wakatipu queenstown to glenorchy scenic drive route

A lot of activities in Queenstown aren’t free. But if you have a self-drive car, and don’t want to do adventurous activities, there are plenty of scenic drive around Queenstown that are worth exploring. Better yet, the beautiful scenery is FREE for everyone!

Watch the beautiful scenic drive video blog, here.

5.1 Queenstown To Glenorchy Scenic Drive

Distance:  appx 46 km (appx 50 minutes drive)

What to do?

  • Enjoy the most beautiful drive in New Zealand
  • Stop somewhere or beside Lake Wakatipu for perfect photo or picnic
  • Spend half a day at Glenorchy/Paradise to see The Lord Of The Ring shooting scene.
  • Join an adventurous tour at Glenorchy (see above)

Queenstown to Glenorchy Drive

Lake wakatipu queenstown glenorchy drive

 

New Zealand as a whole is already a beautiful country to drive around, but the route from Queenstown to Glenorchy is probably the most beautiful drive in the whole New Zealand in our opinion.

We drove from Queenstown to Glenorchy to join the Dart River Kayak Tour (as described above). Almost every corner we turned was a “wow” moment. We literally ran out of words to describe that amazing view. “Unbelievable, beautiful, amazing, omg, spectacular…”

Queenstown to glenorchy scenic drive amazing view
Can you imagine driving on the road with scenery like this?

Highway from queenstown to Glenorchy paradise road

5.2 Spend Half A Day In Paradise

If you are not going to join a tour of Dart River, just drive to Glenorchy and stop for a quick meal or a drink. Picnic by Glenorchy Wharf and enjoy the view from paradise. There were so many movies filmed here for a good reason, as the scenery is just out of this world.

Movies filmed in Glenorchy and Paradise:

The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, Wolverine, and the Hobbit

Glenorchy paradise Queenstown NZThere you have arrived in Glenorchy – Gateway To Paradise

Glenorchy hotel
Glenorchy is a fairly small town. There are a few local bars for beer and food.
Glenorchy lake
Glenorchy Wharf
Glenorchy lake what to do
Beautiful wharf, peaceful and quiet.

5.3  Scenic Drive Up To Remarkables Ski Field

Who said you can’t go up to the ski field during summer? Just drive up and enjoy the view!

You can drive from central Queenstown to the bottom of the ski field turn off (15 minutes), then another 25 minutes drive to the summit. The road is half sealed and half unsealed. So need to drive safely.

The free view was just amazing! Make sure you choose a clear and cloudless day!

Remarkable Ski Field Scenic Drive
Ski field turn off (15 minutes from Queenstown)
Queenstown view from remarkable ski field
View of Queenstown – halfway to Remarkables ski field summit
Remarkable Ski Field Queenstown - Scenic Drive
Cloudy day, imagine the view on a clear day.

The day we drove up it was partially covered by cloud, but we still get to see the amazing view half way up. If you are feeling adventurous, you can drive all the way to the top.

It was quite scary and dangerous when the cloud covers the summit and the visibility was low. So if you just want a good picture, you don’t have to drive all the way up. There is nothing to see on top of the summit anyway (during the summer season).

Remarkable ski field top, summit
Into the cloud, Remarkable Ski Field, summer 2018. (Only for the brave and safe drivers)

6. Wine Tasting At Central Otago

Wine lovers?  You should at least spend a day or 2 exploring the nearby wine region which is Central Otago. It is New Zealand’s most scenic wine region and world’s southernmost wine producing region.

Producing some of New Zealand’s best Pinot Noir, Central Otago also has success in producing white wines like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling.

I will write a full post dedicated to Central Otago wine.

Wineries that we have visited in Central Otago and its subregions:

  • Chard Farm (Gibbston Valley, CO)
  • Gibbston Valley Wine (Gibbston Valley, CO)
  • Peregrine (Gibbston Valley, CO)
  • Armisfield (Gibbston Valley, CO)
  • Kinross (Valli Wine) (Gibbston Valley, CO)
  • Felton Road (Bannockburn, CO)
  • Mount Difficulty (Bannockburn, CO)
  • Misha’s Vineyard (Bendigo, CO)
  • Domaine Thompson (Lowburn, CO)
  • Aurum (Lowburn, CO)
  • Rippon Vineyard (Wanaka, CO)

Stay tuned for my future post.

Wine tasting at central otago queenstown day trip

7. Arrow Town

Just 20 minutes drive from Queenstown, Arrow Town is a historic gold mining town in South Island New Zealand. It has many well-preserved buildings used by European and Chinese immigrants dating from the gold mining days.

A popular small town often visited by tourists for its gold rush history and beauty, especially during the autumn months (April May) when the trees change colours.

A short half day is enough for this town unless you like to hit the golf course for a game.

Main attractions are the historic buildings, Arrow river, museums, cafes and shops.Arrowtown is a historic gold mining town in the Otago region of the South Island of New Zealand.

8. Day Trip To Milford Sound

Milford Sound is acclaimed as New Zealand’s most famous tourist destination despite it is located in a remote area of the South Island with only one road leading to this place.

Queenstown to Milford Sound map

It’s not the easiest place to get to and there are not many accommodations available in Milford Sound. Due to its UNESCO world heritage site and national park location, freedom camping is also strictly prohibited. Hence, a day tour is HIGHLY recommended.

You can choose to do a day trip (3 hr 44 min drive just to get there), or bus tour (cheaper but takes even longer), or just take a scenic flight or helicopter tour (30 min one way).

What to do in Milford Sound? Scenic Cruise.

There are a few companies that offer similar tours to Milford Sound from Queenstown, I think the best options is to fly in and take the cruise and fly back in one day. I wouldn’t imagine sitting on the bus for 8 hours in a day although it is much cheaper! So if you have a chance, fly! It’s an once in a lifetime experience!

4 hours Tour (Scenic Flight + Milford Cruise) –  from $535 NZD 

This is a good option if you don’t want to take a long bus ride or drive to Milford Sound yourself. Good tour to see Milford Sound. Tour information, here.

milford sound post card

4 hours Tour (Helicopter, Glacier Landing, Milford Cruise) – from $975 

We took this tour back in 2011. It was expensive but without the super long bus ride, we saved so much energy and time.

The scenic helicopter ride and we got to land on the glacier. 2 hours cruise on Milford Sound, spotted dolphins and the beautiful waterfalls, then an easy helicopter ride back to Queenstown! An experience that can be remembered for a lifetime. Tour information here.

helicopter milford sound glacier landing trip
View from the helicopter

landing in milford sound new zealandMilford Sound Helicopter Glacier Landing

Mt Tutoko glacier in the heart of Fiordland National Park.
Running on top of the glacier mountain with just a few of us!
flying back from Milford sound to Queenstown airport via Helicopter
Helicopter flight from Milford Sound back to Queenstown
Queenstown hill view remarkable
Helicopter ride pass Glenorchy

 

9. Onsen Hot Pools

Onsen hot pool Queenstown must do blog

Ok, this place is like Instagrammers must-go in Queenstown.

Imagine soaking in a cliffside cedar hot tub overlooking the magnificent Shotover River canyon, breathtaking alpine scenery and the romantic spot to stargazing in your own privacy.

The highlight of the pool is that you could convert your pool room from indoor to outdoor and back again at the touch of a button! Each pool can accommodate up to 4 adults.

You can choose from the daytime pool ($95 for 2 adults 1 hour) or evening pool ($119 for 2 adults 1 hour). 1-hour private hot pool pricing, here.

Or you could choose the ultimate hot pools and massage (2 hours) – $432 for 2 adults.

 

 

Onsen Hot Pools

Address: 160 Arthurs Point Road, Arthurs Point, Queenstown, New Zealand (Complimentary shuttle)

Tip: This place is really popular in Queenstown right now. Make sure you book way in advance.

10. Bungee Jump

Ok, I told you I won’t do the bungee jump. But if you don’t mind to get your heart pumping or witness this unique adventure, then at least check out the original bungee jump from A.J.Hackett. This place is just 10 minutes away from Arrow Town, you could always stop by and have a look to feel the excitement.

Do you know the world’s first commercial bungee jump was started right here in Queenstown, at Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge? $205 NZD per jump down from this historic 43 metres bridge, you can jump naked and touch the water too if you dare.

Kawarau Bridge Bungee jump, Queenstown
The Original Bungee Jump At Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown
Kawarau Bridge Jumping site queenstown trail
Ok, not gonna jump? You can still watch other brave souls doing it and feel the thrill for them. This suspension bridge is also part of Queenstown Trail, you can do the bike or hiking trail instead.

Queenstown Kawarau Bridge Bungee

  • $205 adult, $155 Child (Yes, kids jump too)
  • Open daily 9.30am to 4.30pm
  • Kawarau Bungy Centre, State Highway #6 (SH6), Gibbston Valley, Queenstown
  • Bungy Bus is free, whether you‘re Jumping or not. Depart from Queenstown Bungee Centre

Sample 5 Days Itinerary in Queenstown

You can shuffle the activities to your preference however here is my recommended 5 days itinerary.

Day 1:

  • Explore downtown Queenstown
  • Skyline Queenstown (Take a cable car, or hike up)

Day 2:

  • Queenstown Hill (2 hours return hike)
  • Arrow Town (Historic gold mining town)
  • (Feeling adventurous? ) Go for Bungee Jump or just watch people jumping from the bridge – 10 min from Arrow Town

Day 3:

  • Dart River Tour (from Glenorchy)
  • Scenic drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy

Day 4:

  • Milford Sound (fly, self-drive or bus)

Day 5:

  • Wine tasting in Central Otago
  • Have a beautiful spa at Onsen Hot Pool

What Do You Think?

Have you been to Queenstown? What was the most memorable moment for you?

Any other activities that you think should add to the list? Let me know by commenting below.

Thanks for reading!

 

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【NZ Travel Blog】Top 10 Things To Do In Queenstown, New Zealand
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3 Comments on “【NZ Travel Blog】Top 10 Things To Do In Queenstown, New Zealand”

  1. New Zealand has been on my bucket list for so long! The winery has my name all over it lol These are all great suggestions. I would love to visit arrow town as well. I love learning history of a place that I am visiting

  2. This is such a wonderful guide for first time visitors! My husband has always wanted to go to New Zealand and I’m pretty sure he’d want to go here!

What Do You Think? Comment below!