Picture this: You wake up to a stunning sunrise over gorgeous Lake Wakatipu and head to one of the nearby ski hills to make some fresh tracks. In the afternoon, a glass of crisp Pinot Noir is calling your name, and you set out to the Gibbston Valley to take your pick of over 75 wineries that are not only big on flavour, but big on staggering beauty – think rugged mountains and a spectacular river gorge. On your way back to your hotel, stop at the Kawarau Bridge to watch the bungee jumpers, or work up the courage for the ultimate adrenaline rush. End your day with a kayak on the lake and dinner by the water, and you’ll be wondering why it took you so long to visit Queenstown, one of New Zealand’s premier destinations.
It would be hard to visit New Zealand and not take part in at least one heart stopping outdoor sport. With so many options to choose from, Queenstown is definitely a contender for the adventure capital of the country. A good start on your blood pumping journey involves the water – white water to be exact. Both the Kawarau and Shotover Rivers have rapids for first time rafters and whitewater enthusiasts. The Kawarau River has the longest commercially rafted rapid at 400 metres, and the Shotover River is consistently the top whitewater rafting destination in New Zealand. Visitors looking for maximum thrills can even combine a jet boat ride with whitewater rafting on the Shotover River, sometimes even with the help of a helicopter.
For something truly unforgettable, skydiving is the way to go. This quintessential Queenstown experience is a popular way to do something out of the ordinary, and there’s no better place to do it than soaring 4,000 metres above The Remarkables mountain range and mesmerising Lake Wakatipu. Zip-lining will also give you the invigorating feeling of flying, just much closer to ground. As you zoom through the forest, you’ll be rewarded with awesome views of the surrounding landscape. When it’s time to unwind after a day of sweaty palms, Queenstown has you covered for some pampering. A top-rated choice are the Onsen Hot Pools at the base of the Coronet Peak Ski Field. Guests can spoil themselves with a private, cedar-enclosed room with endless views and therapeutic waters. Or head to one of the local hotels in search of a spa for a relaxing massage – you’ve earned it.
It wouldn’t be a proper visit to New Zealand without some sheep. And while you’re at it, you might as well add an encounter with a kiwi bird to your list of must-do New Zealand experiences. Luckily, Queenstown has both, and you won’t have far to go to reach Walter Peak High Country Farm for sheep aplenty in a lovely lakeside setting. Most tours take you to the farm on a historic steamship, and when you disembark, you’ll be met with sheepdogs, sheep shearing and access to other animals for feeding and petting, as well as a traditional afternoon tea and a tour through the gardens. At Kiwi Birdlife Park, you’ll be treated to a glimpse of New Zealand’s most iconic bird, in addition to a Forest Walk and interactions with a variety of native animals. For creatures of the aquatic variety, centrally located Queenstown Underwater Observatory is a family-friendly destination that is a tourist favourite. Diving ducks, enigmatic eels, and fish that you probably haven’t seen before are just a sampling of what you’ll see here.
Another attraction that can be accessed in the heart of town is Skyline Queenstown. You might want to reserve a whole day for this stop, because there is a long list of fun to be had. Your visit starts with a breathtaking ride on the gondola, and from there you can watch Maori performances, ride on the downhill luge track, and access the Ben Lomond Reserve for mountain bike and walking trails. Top it all off with a meal in the restaurant to watch the sunset, and you’ll be wishing you could do it all over again.
You could easily spend your whole holiday in Queenstown, but if you’re getting restless, there are several nearby day trips worth considering. Fans of The Lord of the Rings probably won’t be able to resist a trip to Glenorchy, about 45 km away. Journey deep into Middle Earth, passing winding rivers, glacier-capped mountains and enchanting forests. You’ll be delighted by the unique flora and fauna along the way, and will be able to see several locations where movie filming took place.
Arrowtown is another highlight on any New Zealand adventure, and is only 20 km from Queenstown. This charming former mining town was the site of several major gold discoveries, and visitors can learn about its fabled past while admiring the views of the nearby snowy peaks and scenic Arrow River. It’s a perfect blend of history and nature, and is well worth an excursion from Queenstown. When it’s time to leave, consider checking in to the Historic Stone House if you prefer to have a home away from home experience. Far from an impersonal hotel, this circa 1874 property has boutique apartments in the centre of Queenstown that will be a pleasure to return to.