Queenstown is New Zealand's adventure capital. With activities ranging from hiking and heliskiing to shopping and nightclubbing, there is enough here to keep any traveller occupied for weeks. All of this is set against the beautiful backdrop of some of the most stunning scenery in all of New Zealand (if not the world!).
While tourism has steadily increased over the past two decades, Queenstown can still offer its visitors a quiet, peaceful retreat from the busy details of daily life. Alternatively, for those looking for something a little crazier, there's ample opportunity for adventure, with a wide range of activities happening year-round on Lake Wakatipu.
From a slow, gentle cruise on the TSS Earnslaw to a wild jetboating “keep-your-hands-in-the-boat!” thrill ride, Queenstown has something for everyone.
Getting in and around Queenstown
Queenstown Airport handles both domestic and international flights. As tourism traffic has continued to increase in recent years, the airport has attempted to keep pace, with major renovations completed in 2005 and 2006. Though it's by no means the largest airport in New Zealand, the terminal in Queenstown provides all of the services you would expect.
The airport is only a quick 10-minute drive from Queenstown’s CBD.
The town centre itself is compact, and pleasant to explore on foot. Most likely, you'll be able to walk from your hotel or hostel to the restaurants or bars. If you do hire a car, and are coming into New Zealand from another country, take care with the roundabouts: the two or three in the town centre are a tad confusing, and locals tend to think they have the right of way!
Queenstown Car Hire
Hiring a car is your best bet for getting around Queenstown and the surrounding areas. Though there are numerous mass transportation options, hauling around skis and snowboards will begin to take its toll. There's also another reason to consider renting a car: Milford Sound and the surrounding area is little more than an hour's drive. Getting out of town to see this spectacular South Island scenery is an opportunity you don't want to pass up on.
At the same time, many of the companies running tours will often include pickup from the hotel in your package, making hiring a car unnecessary. Additionally, each ski mountain has shuttle options available — an option you might want to explore.
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Whether you’re looking for luxury or a simply a place to lay your head, you’ll find something within your budget in Queenstown.
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- The Millbrook Resort is the premier spa resort in Queenstown,with luxury accommodation and an 18-hole golf course.
- For a room with a view, Matakauri Lodge overlooks Lake Wakatipu.
- The Last Resort is one of those hostels full of character you're glad to come home to. Manages to be both centrally located and quiet, with a fireplace, movie library and a resident dog.
Things to do in Queenstown
The Historic steamship TSS Earnslaw, affectionately known by residents as the 'Lady of the Lake.' Take a cruise to enjoy the spectacular views on and around beautiful Lake Wakatipu. Enjoy dinner and a nostalgic show onboard in the evenings - the perfect wind down after an action packed day.
Skyline Gondola. Rise high above Queenstown on the Skyline Gondola to get a glimpse of the magnificent Remarkables set against the beauty of Lake Wakatipu. Both children and the young at heart will love racing down the luge. Keep an eye out for parasailers launching nearby.
Bungy jump! Absolutely! Queenstown is the home of bungy jumping, so it's only natural that here you should be able to jump in all terrains, including urban. Towards this end AJ Hackett, the original bungy jump operator, offers 'The Ledge Bungy,' the ledge in question being a 'runway' you can launch yourself out over Queenstown from.
Queenstown nightlife . There are too many bars to count in Queenstown. New Zealanders and foreigners mingle to create a cosmopolitan scene unlike anywhere else on either the North or South Island.
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Day trips in and around Queenstown
Queenstown Heliskiing. Professional guides will whisk you up to the top of the mountain to hit completely unmarked powder. While expensive, it's also one of the most exciting options to pursue on a vacation in Queenstown.
Coronet Peak, with over 280 hectares of skiable terrain. Another great option is the Remarkables Ski Field, with a brand new terrain park that will appeal especially to snowboarders.
Summer jet-boating. Visiting Queenstown in the Summer months? The thrills don't stop just because the snow has melted away. Hit the water at speeds you've never travelled before in the spectacular Shotover River Canyons, just 10 minutes drive from central Queenstown. No visit to Queenstown is complete if you don't!
Queenstown Bungee Jumping is what, in the 1980s, kicked off the proliferation of adventure options that's since seen Queenstown crowned "adventure capital of the world." The original bungee operator AJ Hackett offers you a range of jumps around Queenstown: off bridges, off 134m highwires, at the original bungee jump at Kawarau, or an urban jump right over town with the lights of Queenstown shining far beneath you.
Hiking in New Zealand. The area surrounding Queenstown offers some of the best hiking in New Zealand (if not the world!). Dramatic mountain scenery gives way to deep, lush valleys. There are a number of NZ's world-renowned 'Great Walks' around Queenstown, including the Kepler, Routeburn, and, most famous of all, the Milford. Several of these walks require nothing more than a daypack, and luxury accommodations are available along some routes.
Milford Sound. Tour buses depart daily from Queenstown bound for Milford Sound. This is one of the most incredible places on Earth, majestic fjords break the surface of the water to rise as high as the eye can see. If you arrive during summer, consider spending a few days hiking in the area.
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