Our top things to do in Queenstown
1. Come fly with me
There’s something in the air above Queenstown that leads people to do crazy things: jumping out of planes, jumping off bridges, and careering down mountains on bikes or boards. But those who really want to take off into the wild blue yonder can take themselves to the top of the Skyline Gondola and launch themselves from the peak on a paraglider to drift gracefully above the town, Lake Wakatipu, The Remarkables range and surrounding areas. For more details, contact GForce Paragliding.
2. Sing us a song
To set the scene, The Blue Door bar is slightly hidden down an alleyway in Arrowtown. Try to find it on a Wednesday when local, national and – we’re not stringing you along here – international musicians take their turn at the Open Mic Night on Wednesdays. Apart from the music, enjoy bespoke cocktails made with local ingredients, craft beers and some of those rather tasty wines they make around here.
3. Cocktails on high
For a town with so many amazing views, it’s kind of strange Queenstown doesn’t have many rooftop bars. The Sundeck is the original, beloved by locals for 360-degree views of lake and mountains, its parasols in summer and its open fire in winter. Great bar food with premium cocktails, champagne, beers and wines.
4. 7 Mile Delta
Located 7 miles from Queenstown, this purpose built single track is one of the best in New Zealand. 7 Mile Delta track has it all; loops, berms, jumps and banked corners, providing riders with plenty of jumping opportunities. Man-made clatter bridges, skinnies and log rides add even more excitement.
5. Gibbston trail
On two wheels The Gibbston River Trail winds along the Kawarau River from the ‘bungy bridge’ to some of the best wineries in the region – which just happens to include some of the best pinot noir wines in the world. For a little more action, go cruising on electric bikes which are ideal for beginners and families.
6. Follow the art trail
It’s a magical mystery tour. The magic? Three artworks placed along the Kevin Peninsula walking trail on the headland opposite town. The mystery? It’s an anonymous benefactor who is funding these and seven more works to be set here.
7. A day on the green
Tucker Beach, at the stunning Queenstown Gardens, is home to an 18-hole frisbee golf course with tee-off areas and targets such as trees or basketball hoops. Every throw counts, even in ‘friendly’ matches. Best of all, it’s free.
8. Enjoy a vino at the Hilton’s pinot pit
The Hilton is on the lake’s southern shore, long thought to be the “wrong side”. But when Queenstown shivers in the shadow of mountains, the hotel basks in sunshine. Soak up the rays at the Pinot Pit, a circular fireplace on the terrace outside its signature Wakatipu Grill, with a glass of the local produce.
9. Fancy a spot of Petanque?
Trust the French to invent a sport that must be played while holding a glass of red wine. Brennan Wines in the Gibbston Valley will supply the pinot (or whatever takes your fancy), the pitch and the boules. And they won’t mind if you bring your own kids or picnic.
10. Chop Shop brunch
Fiona and Chris Whiting take an upmarket approach to daytime dining in Arrowtown, the new foodie mecca. Order a coffee and decide what you’ll desire from the ever-evolving menu. We recommend the Turkish eggs and Bang Bang chicken.
11. Flyfishing on the arrow river
Gold, red and silver are the colours of Arrowtown: its goldrush history, its red-wine present, and the silvery sheen of fish in its rivers and lakes. Pristine waters offer freshwater flyfishing and salmon or trout fishing for anglers, or would-be anglers, of all age and experience levels.
12. Paddleboard on Moke lake
Remote, seemingly unexplored and untouched, Moke Lake lies at the end of a 25-minute drive on an unsealed road from the Queenstown CBD. Still waters mirror the mountains, just the place to try your hand at stand-up paddleboarding: if you fall off, there’ll be hardly anyone around to see you.
13. Kinloch lodge tub
Tiny Kinloch at the tip of Lake Wakatipu consists of a lodge, jetty, some houses and a campsite near the Routeburn Track. Accommodation runs from bunk rooms to family rooms and a degree of luxury in the 19th-century Heritage Lodge. But nothing could be as luxe as the hot tub on a hill overlooking the lake.
14. Remarkable markets
Saturday morning’s market at the Red Barn in the Remarkables Park Town Centre brings together local artisans and their wares – crafts, gifts and produce to eat here or take away. Live music and the 360-degree panorama underscores the mellow vibe.
15. Peak experience
Climbing, abseiling or canyoning through the Southern Alps’ magnificent peaks are probably the region’s most challenging adventure activities – especially given the weather this area often throws up. Experienced guides offer a variety of opportunities to get your adventure hit in the mountains, and gear can be hired at many stores.
16. Say Namaste to Start Your Day
Begin your morning with a gentle yoga practice and you’re on the right track, visit Queenstown’s eclectic eatery and live music venue Yonder for free Yoga twice a week
17. A spot of lunch at Glenorchy
At the village at the end of the South Island’s most beautiful drive, the one-time post office has been refreshed as a funky café with – we’re going to have to say it again – spectacular views. Visitors can revive with fresh bread and other baked goods as well as premium coffee and drinks, either inside or on the huge deck and lawn.
18. Hike Bob’s cove
Just 14km from Queenstown on the road to Glenorchy, Bob’s Cove is also a short walk for kids or those who prefer leisurely exercise. The 20-minute walk (one way) descends through native bush – listen for the birds – to the lakeshore, where you can swim or fish. For mountain bikers, it’s an easy 10-minute ride.
19. Brunch Like A Queenstowner
Follow your practice up with a healthy brunch shared with friends and you’re off to a good start. Nutritious food and drink eaten in one of the city’s many stylish cafes overlooking the lake is a favourite local activity. This is all the more picturesque in Autumn when a golden blanket of leaves carpets the ground and that fresh mountain air comes out to play.
20. Wet Jacket, Lake Hayes
Only a Kiwi could have dreamed up the idea of Wet Jacket winery. Fortunately for wine lovers, the bloke who poured his heart into turning a historic woolshed at Lake Hayes into a cellar door for his boutique wines was Greg Hay. With his brother Rob, Hay was a pioneer in the Central Otago pinot noir fairytale at Chard Farm. Now he markets his six Wet Jacket varieties at Bendemeer Woolshed and Wet Jacket has become a wine, food and events destination.
21. Sunday Barbecue
Jay Sherwood’s barbecues have quickly become legendary in the Queenstown area. But they’re a very different beast from the typical Kiwi steak and snarlers on the grill. Most Sunday afternoons Sherwood hitches his custom-made smoking pit, aka the ‘pitmaster’, to his SUV and heads to the Wet Jacket winery at Lake Hayes. There, he serves Texas-style barbecued meat to an ever-growing crowd of appreciative picnickers.
22. Amisfield Bistro, Lake Hayes
At Amisfield Bistro, the backdrop is breathtaking with views towards Lake Hayes and Coronet Peak. Executive chef Vaughan Mabee and Peter Langlands, head forager, make the most of the Otago region’s abundance of beautiful produce that can be found in the wild.
23. Camp Glenorchy
The rundown village shop has recently become Mrs Woolly’s General Store, selling upmarket arts and crafts, and artisan food and beverages to generate funds for the project. To open mid-March, Camp Glenorchy is stage 2, complete with new cabins, cooking, dining, entertainment and events centres, bathrooms and toilets. All have been designed to reflect and celebrate the surrounding environment, and are constructed from sustainable or recycled materials.
24. Light it up
Over 10,000 visitors enjoyed three nights of illuminated art, light sculptures and entertainment at the first free Luma festival. On 31st May – 3rd June 2019, it will light up the beautiful Queenstown Gardens.
25. Go for gold
Walk in the footsteps of 1880s goldminers along this trail to the Invincible goldmine. An easy three-hour (one way) walk, the Invisible Mines Trail (below) in Glenorchy is part of the Otago Goldfields Park and boasts wonderful views of the Rees Valley and Mt Earnslaw. It also winds past interesting relics such as a water wheel and seven berdans – large cast-iron bowls used for grinding ore.
Read more: Flavours of Queenstown