25 Top Things in Queenstown
25 Top Things 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. Perky’s Boat
All aboard Queenstown’s – and Aotearoa’s – only floating bar. Moored right on the downtown lakefront, Perky’s (above) can certainly claim the best people-watching berth in town, as well as unobstructed views of Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables. Sip a drink on the rooftop garden, on deck or in the gorgeous wooden indoor space.
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 (below) 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 (above) 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. Flight park café
High on Coronet Peak, this café has a unique setting: it’s in a huge mowed field near the skifield, which just happens to be the landing zone for hang-gliders and paragliders. They will swoop from the skies and touch down just a few metres from your coffee. For kids, there’s a play area and kite-flying lessons.
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. AKARUA Arrowtown Autumn Festival
Spanning Anzac Weekend (20-25 April), the autumn festival has been a celebration of Arrowtown life for more than 30 years. There are exhibitions and concerts, but the big event is a street parade featuring the Arrow Miners Band and the Buckingham Belles can-can chorus on Saturday afternoon.
20. Den of Antiquity
Apart from its witty name, John Fraser and Dawn Colledge’s Den of Antiquity (inset below) is a unique collection of antique furniture, knick-knacks and homewares.
21. Perk up with a Little Blackwood favourite
The espresso martini, a decadent blend of coffee, vodka and few other ingredients, is a treat in the sophisticated bar of Little Blackwood on Steamer Wharf.
22. Play a Round of Golf
Locals won’t mind us saying there’s not a lot to do in Kingston, especially since the Kingston Flyer puffed its last breath. But there is the nine-hole public golf course, arguably among the most scenic on the planet, and one of the trickiest, with several holes featuring creeks to receive.
23. To Market, to market
Community values are at the heart of the Sherwood Hotel’s Wednesday evening farmers’ market.
Carrying the values of the hotel into the community, Sherwood’s team have committed to building a sustainable, connected community through a range of projects, initiatives and workshops. The Wednesday evening markets – at the hotel on Frankton Road (above) – are based around solid values: local, sustainable, independent, seasonal, affordable, inclusive and community-minded, educational and natural. It’s a zero-waste market, charities and community groups are encouraged to take the opportunity to fundraising; and community groups are welcome.
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 June 2-5, it will light up Queenstown Gardens, marking the town’s 150th anniversary. Expect pop-up events in the CBD and a Marine Parade arts walk.
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.