Queenstown is one of those places in New Zealand where many tourists actually only have one day planned, but end up staying much longer. The surroundings are breathtakingly beautiful and the city itself has a nice atmosphere, something that was missing in many cities in New Zealand. However, you must allow some time to explore the nearby attractions, as there are some fantastic day trips from Queenstown that can’t be missed.
Many tourists think that Queenstown is interesting mainly for the adrenaline junkie, but there is so much more! Today I give tips for Queenstown and answer the question: what to do in Queenstown and the surrounding area?
Queenstown is a city on the South Island of New Zealand. The city has a population of over 10,000 and is located on the north shore of beautiful Lake Wakatipu. Queenstown is surrounded by amazing scenery and there really is an awful lot to do. From beautiful hikes to rafting and bungee jumping, almost anything is possible in Queenstown.
Queenstown looks like a village but feels like a huge city that has everything. Good food, fun activities, a good atmosphere and nice accommodations. In this article, I tell you what you should definitely do in Queenstown.
Travel Tip: Before heading out for the day, drop off your bags at one of mindmybag’s luggage storage facilities in Queenstown & enjoy your day without the stress and hassle of carrying your bags around with you.
- Lakeshore Walk
- Discover the gold town of Arrowtown
- Skippers road – the most dangerous road in NZ
- Drive up towards Coronet Peak
- The Remarkables
- Queenstown hill
- Gondola ride to the Queenstown skyline
- Hiking to Ben Lomond
- Eating a burger at Fergburger
- Driving towards Glenorchy
- Discover the adrenaline junkie in you
- Milford Sound
- Kiwi Birdlife Park
The centre of Queenstown you walk through pretty quickly, but the location on the lake is truly beautiful. A must to do if you’re in Queenstown is the Lakeshore Walk. This short walk starts in the park of Queenstown. The signs indicate the walk very clearly and actually, there is only 1 path you can follow. The entire walk takes about 30 to 45 minutes and gives you beautiful views of the lake that Queenstown is located on. This is the perfect activity for the end of the afternoon when you have just a little time left after all the other fun activities.
Discover the gold town of Arrowtown
Near Queenstown is the small gold town of Arrowtown, which is also worth a visit. It is about a 20-kilometre drive and although the town is small, the location is beautiful and the town has a lot of history. But you can also go to a museum and learn about the Chinese settlement in Arrowtown, many years ago. This is free and quite fun to look at. You can see stores and other old buildings where the Chinese community used to live during the gold rush.
Furthermore, you can make several walks from Arrowtown and the main street of the town is nice to see. A morning here is certainly enough, unless you want to do one of the hikes in the area.
Skippers road – the most dangerous road in NZ
The most dangerous road in New Zealand is located near Queenstown. Skippers Road is a road where you can actually only drive one car at a time, but where you can encounter oncoming traffic. There are pretty deep chasms, and actually, the road can’t really be called a road.
Doesn’t sound like something you want to be on, right? Well, you do! The views of Skippers Canyon are actually really amazing. In fact, exploring Skippers road became one of the highlights of our New Zealand trip. As beautiful as it is there!
Now, I can’t recommend you to drive on Skippers road yourself. The road is not called the most dangerous road in New Zealand for nothing, and sometimes even one of the most dangerous in the world. Most rental cars are not insured on this road, and the chance that you get stuck somewhere is quite big. How can you discover the skipper’s road? You can do so with a tour of Nomad Safaris. These small tours will show you the best of Skippers Canyon. Skippers road has an interesting history and as soon as you drive up the road it seems like you’re driving into another world. Nature is constantly changing and is just breathtaking. Really a big recommendation! And you know what makes it even more fun? Very few people do this, so it is super quiet.
Drive up towards Coronet Peak
Follow the road up to Coronet Peak if you want to see some beautiful views. From this point of view, you can see a number of other interesting points of view.
Here, you can see the beautiful scenery that surrounds Queenstown. Coronet Peak is a popular place to go skiing in the winter, but the views are at their best in the summer and spring.
For even better views, you go towards The Remarkables. The Remarkables is a mountain range near Queenstown with peaks up to 2340 meters high. In winter this is like Coronet Peak, a popular place for winter sports, but in summer you can make beautiful hikes. On the way to the top, you will already encounter amazing viewpoints and once at the top you can park the car and walk to a lake that is beautiful.
Not discovered enough beautiful views yet? Then the hike to Queenstown hill is also fun to do. This hike was on our list, but unfortunately, we did not get around to it. The hike to Queenstown hill is a walk of 2 to 3 hours when you climb about 500 meters. The distance is 1.5 kilometres. From Queenstown hill, you have great views of Queenstown and its beautiful surroundings. You walk partly through the forest and at the top, you have a 360-degree view.
Gondola ride to the Queenstown skyline
One of the things you must do when you visit Queenstown is a gondola ride to admire the Queenstown skyline. The Queenstown skyline is beautiful to see, actually mostly because of the surrounding mountains. As far as you can see you see mountains, beautiful lakes and of course Queenstown itself. The gondola costs NZD 39 per person for a return trip.
Do you feel like a walk? Then you can also go towards the skyline without using the gondola. You can walk up via the Tiki Trail. This is a walk of about an hour and goes through the forest the whole time. You also climb the entire time, but it seems to be doable. The Tiki Trail starts next to the gondola and is pretty easy to find. Google Maps can sometimes send you completely wrong, so go towards the gondola, and you will find the starting point.
At the very top, you will find a restaurant where you can eat, but you can also luge. This is a bit like tobogganing, or a kind of karting.
Hiking to Ben Lomond
After the tiki trail, or if you have taken the gondola, you are right at the starting point of one of the most beautiful hikes in all of New Zealand. Namely the hike to Ben Lomond. The hike to Ben Lomond takes about 5 hours from here (return) and is pretty tough, but really cool!
First you walk through a forest, then you come quickly to the sign which indicates how long it is walking towards the saddle and towards the summit. The whole walk you have great views, because you’re not walking through the woods, very nice! On the way there you climb non-stop and believe me, that’s pretty tough.
The view from the top, however, is the best view that many people have seen during their trip through New Zealand. You have a 360-degree view of the area and see great mountains with snowy peaks as far as you could see, but also the beautiful lake surrounded by even more mountains. Wow!
The way back was pretty easy, because then you only descend. The day after you can quietly anticipate huge muscle pain, but it’s totally worth it! Ben Lomond is therefore really a must if you visit Queenstown.
Eating a burger at Fergburger
Fergburger is a burger joint in the centre of Queenstown, where many people say you can get the best burger in the world! You must try it yourself, so you can judge for yourself. You have to be patient because there can be quite a queue for Fergburger. It is best to go before 5:30 or after 8 o’clock, then it is not so crowded. There can also be a line of 30 minutes to an hour!
But is it really the best burger in the world? Yes, it certainly is.
Don’t feel like waiting? Almost as delicious as the Devil’s burger. This burger joint is located near Fergburger and also has delicious burgers. You don’t have to wait in line and you can sit right down in the restaurant, where there is much more seating than at Fergburger anyway.
Driving towards Glenorchy
One of the most beautiful roads in New Zealand is the road between Queenstown and Glenorchy. This 46-kilometre route provides amazing views of Lake Wakatipu. Once you arrive in Glenorchy you can do some nice hikes. Read up on this in advance, we had not done this and so when we arrived in Glenorchy we really had no idea what we could actually do there.
From Glenorchy, it is also fun to drive in the direction of Paradise. The route here is unpaved, but certainly beautiful to see. You drive through an amazing mountainous landscape!
In search of Lord of the Rings film locations
In the vicinity of Queenstown you will find many film locations from Lord of the Rings, so super fun! As a Lord of the Rings fan, you can feast your eyes here. You can drive yourself to some film locations, but for many locations, you need a 4wd so you will have to take a tour. You will find film locations near Skippers Road and around Glenorchy and Paradise.
Discover the adrenaline junkie in you
Queenstown is mostly known for its extreme sports. Many people come to Queenstown just for this and it really is the perfect place for it. You can go rafting, bungee jumping, paragliding and much more. Think about it and it is all possible in Queenstown. For example:
Shotover River, a favourite among thrill seekers, is a great destination for whitewater rafting and jet boat tours. The steep walls of the gorge create a spectacular atmosphere and add to the excitement. Shotover River has larger rapids than any other river in the area, perfect for an exciting whitewater rafting adventure.
Milford Sound is one of the most breathtaking sites in Queenstown. It is a natural wonder that is known all over the world and features towering cliffs, thundering waterfalls, and a wide variety of native animals.
You can go on a gorgeous cruise during the day, and in the morning you can go kayaking and enjoy the water.
On your visit to Milford Sound, you should make time to check out the underwater observatory that is located at Harrison Cove and see the unique marine life there.
Kiwi Birdlife Park
The Kiwi bird is a must-see while in NZ and there is no better place than the Kiwi Birdlife Park nature reserve in the heart of Queenstown. It is one of the best places to visit in Queenstown with over 20 different species of native wildlife in New Zealand. The park also offers guaranteed kiwi viewing and kiwi feeding opportunities for travellers.
And yet, there is so much more to see and/or do in Queenstown and the area around it. You might even need to actually move there to see and do everything there is, haha! Anyway, I’m pretty sure you will have an amazing time there. It is not only the places to visit that makes Queenstown so special, but it’s also the people there! Last but not least, here is how to reach Queenstown.
How to reach Queenstown
Queenstown is easy to reach. All the buses of the famous organizations pass through here, but you can also easily get there by car or motorhome. The best way to visit Queenstown is between Wanaka and Te Anau. From Wanaka, Queenstown is about an hour’s drive and from Te Anau 2 hours. Great to do so! The routes you drive are also really beautiful, so you do a little longer in the end because you want to stop several times.
On the route from Te Anau to Queenstown, we even found one of the best routes in New Zealand! But also on the route towards Wanaka, you will be amazed.