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11 Epic Queenstown Experiences

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Crowned New Zealand’s capital of adventure, Queenstown is unmissable for outdoor enthusiasts. Whatever the season and whatever your adventure-seeking levels, mother nature’s playground has plenty to entertain visitors; here’s our pick of what not to miss on a trip to Queenstown.

Even if you’re not after blood-pumping adrenaline activities, there are plenty of incredible experiences to have in this beautiful part of the world. Queenstown Airport is located 8 kilometres from the city centre, within the suburb of Frankton; book your airport transfer on to avoid inevitable taxi queues, and head straight for your Queenstown adventure.

1. Tramp in the mountains

Tramping (backpacking, rambling, hill walking, bushwalking – take your pick of names depending on where you’re from!), is a quintessential New Zealand experience, and Queenstown has ample opportunities for sure-footed hikers. Some of the most popular include hiking through Ben Lomond Reserve and up Bob’s Peak on the Tiki Trail. The trail is steep and fairly challenging, but the reward is worth it; you’ll get incredible views of Queenstown and the deep blue waters of Lake Wakatipu, plus panoramic views of Coronet Peak to the north and the Remarkables mountain range to the east.

For a longer hike, tackle Ben Lomond; the Ben Lomond Saddle is a three- to four-hour return hike, while the Ben Lomond Summit route takes around six to eight hours – if the weather is on your side, you can see Mount Aspiring in the distance. Or try the Queenstown Hill Time Walk, a three-hour return walk with a 500-metre climb to the summit of Te Tapu-nui. The 360-degree views from the top are incredible.

2. Golden hour at Lake Wakatipu

Watch the sunset reflected in Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand’s third-largest lake, and be inspired as the pink and golden hues take over the sky. Make sure you do your research and check what time sunset is when you’re visiting. It’s a perfect photo opportunity, with the colours of the sky and the mountain peaks reflecting in the glassy waters.

Don’t miss the photo opportunity of Golden Hour at Lake Wakatipu, as the vivid colours of the sun setting are reflected in the water. Photo by Tyler Lastovich on Unsplash

3. Aerial views from a gondola

If you’re not one for donning hiking boots but still want to experience the views, head up Bob’s Peak on the Skyline Gondola for aerial views of the beautiful region. The gondola ride is a thrill itself; it’s the steepest cable car in the Southern Hemisphere. Once you’re at the top there are a few activities you can do, and one of the most popular is the Luge track, where you’ll plunge down 800-metres of track at your own pace.

4. Challenge your fears with a bungy jump

Tick off your bucket list with the range of adrenaline-fuelled thrills on offer from AJ Hackett. The famous New Zealand adventure-lover popularised commercial bungy jumping and founded the world’s first public commercial bungy jump in Queenstown, the infamous 43-metre Kawarau Bridge Bungy, so there’s no better place to try it. From the world’s most famous swing (the Nevis Swing) to Australasia’s highest Bungy (the Nevis Bungy), the unforgettable Kawarau Bungy and the Ledge Bungy and Swing, there are action-packed adventures to keep you busy for days – if you dare!

The 43-metre Kawarau Bridge Bungy was the world’s first public commercial bungy jump

5. Enjoy a winery tour

As well as its mountains, lakes and adventure sports, the Central Otago region of New Zealand is also famous for its tasty Pinot Noir, and is the southernmost wine growing region in the world. There are plenty of opportunities to get a taste of the region’s famous tipple; there are more than 200 vineyards within an hour of Queenstown. Joining a winery tour is the best way to enjoy the experience without worrying about driving or where to go, and there are plenty on offer.

6. Visit Arrowtown

This picturesque settlement was established in 1862 during the Otago gold rush, and many of the original buildings have been restored to give visitors an authentic heritage experience in this beautiful part of Central Otago. Wandering along the small high street takes visitors back in time, and the town becomes especially popular in autumn thanks to the vibrant and fiery autumnal colours of its deciduous trees. Arrowtown is around 20 kilometres from Queenstown.

The gold mining settlement of Arrowtown was established in 1862, and many of the original buildings still exist today

7. Relax in a spa

It may be New Zealand’s adventure capital, but Queenstown certainly knows how to pamper visitors. With a range of spas and retreats dotted around the area, it’d be rude to not indulge while you’re there. How about relaxing in a hot pool overlooking stunning scenery? Onsen Hot Pools are just a 10-minute drive from Queenstown (complimentary shuttles provided on request), located on a cliffside overlooking the dramatic alpine scenery of the Shotover River canyon. The water temperature of the private cedar-lined hot pools is set depending on the weather on the day, but is generally between 37.8C and 39.8C, and each private pool can take up to four adults; so it’s ideal for a group of friends or a couple. Ahhhh, relaxing…

8. Kayak the lakes

Enjoy the serenity of Queenstown’s astounding natural scenery from the water; after hiking the mountains and enjoying aerial views of the region, paddling across the crystal-clear waters of the lakes around Queenstown is the perfect way to experience a different perspective of this beautiful part of New Zealand. Lake Wakatipu is a popular paddle spot, but so is the smaller Moke Lake, a stunning lake framed by the soaring mountains of the Southern Alps. Bring your swimwear; if the weather’s good you won’t want to miss a dip.

9. Hit the ski fields

With Queenstown’s location in New Zealand’s Southern Alps, it’s a great base to hit the slopes of popular nearby ski fields. So if you’re in town during the winter (the ski season here can last anywhere from June to October), don’t miss a session on the world-class slopes of the four ski resorts within reach of Queenstown: The Remarkables, Coronet Peak, Treble Cone, and Cardrona Alpine Resort. There is a wide range of terrain suiting all levels, from beginners through to back-country experts. Then after a hard day’s skiing, relax with an après-ski drink back in town.

There are four ski fields close to Queenstown, and the area is popular with skiers and snowboarders. Photo by Yolanda Sun on Unsplash

10. Indulge in the famous Fergburger

Dubbed by some as the ‘best burger in the world’, Fergburger is a gourmet burger joint revered among locals, backpackers, skiers and pretty much anyone who visits Queenstown – to the point that the place is busy most of the 21 hours it is open. Choose from a creative list of burgers ranging from the Little Lamby (NZ lamb burger), to the Sweet Bambi (wild Fiordland deer burger), and the namesake Fergburger (the classic, with cheese if you want) and see for yourself what all the hype is about.

11. Visit Glenorchy

Fans of fantasy films such as the Lord of The Rings trilogy and Narnia films rejoice; you can experience the real-life magic of the incredible backdrops of these films in nearby Glenorchy. Just 45-minutes from Queenstown, the jaw-dropping scenery of this part of New Zealand is unbelievable, and it’s easy to see why the area has drawn film location scouts from far and wide. The small town of Glenorchy is the gateway to some of New Zealand’s most incredible hiking trails, and is a haven for outdoors-enthusiasts, with its beech forests, lake shores and epic mountain ranges providing endless adventures.

Even the drive to Glenorchy will feel like you’ve just entered Middle-earth

Before you head on your adventures in Queenstown, be sure to pre-book your airport transfer from Queenstown Airport on Whether you’re a group of friends on a ski holiday, a couple on a romantic getaway or a family on a hiking trip, there’s a transfer solution for you.

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