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Is Queenstown Worth Visiting? 2024 Guide

I love Queenstown and I visit every time I’m in New Zealand. Yes, it’s a bit of a tourist trap. Yes, it can be expensive.

But is Queenstown worth visiting? Absolutely!

There’s so much to do and see in this relatively small town, and I couldn’t justify a New Zealand itinerary without including it. 

New Zealand is famous for its landscapes, adventures, wine and people. If you want all of that in one place – Queenstown is where to go. 

So, if a simple yes isn’t enough to convince you, here are all the reasons why you should visit Queenstown, and how to make the most of your visit.

Queenstown is a small town ideal for big adventures.

4 Best Reasons To Visit Queenstown

Landscapes

The Southern Alps run down the middle of New Zealand, which is why it has those incredible backdrops of mountains, lakes and glaciers. Queenstown sits on the edge of Lake Wakatipu in the South Island, surrounded by mountains, rivers and valleys. 

When wandering around the town centre by the lake, the Remarkable Mountains are directly opposite the town. The mountain range is named as such because it runs almost perfectly in a north-south line. 

The mountains in this area are so beautiful that they are used frequently in the background for several Lord Of The Rings scenes. 

Queenstown is also one of the best places to base yourself for trips to other parts of the South Island. Fjordland, Milford Sound, Glenorchy and Wanaka are all accessible from Queenstown. 

Adventure Capital of the World

Queenstown has a wide range of adventure activities. I’ve been paragliding, jet boating and even skydiving in Queenstown.

The experience of jumping out of a plane at 15,000ft is one of the most memorable experiences of my life. And to do it over lakes and mountains made it even more amazing. 

Queenstown is the birthplace of the bungy jump, with the first commercial company operated by AJ Hackett. They now have several sites around the country with a variety of vertical experiences! Although I haven’t done one of those yet it’s one of the town’s most popular activities. 

New Zealand is also where the jetboat was invented, and there are several places you can go on jet boat rides in Queenstown.

Most adventure companies can either pick you up from accommodation or have a central meeting point in town and will then transport you to and from your chosen activity. 

The mountains of Central Otago with clouds in the sky.

Food and Wine 

Queenstown is in the Central Otago region of New Zealand, which is one of the country’s major wine regions. There are several wineries nearby and I always enjoy trying the local wines when I’m there. 

Most the New Zealand wine that is exported is from Marlborough, at the northern end of the South Island. Wine from Central Otago can be harder to come by, so try some while you are there. The area specialises in Pinot Noir. 

When it comes to food, Queenstown offers everything from burgers to fine dining. Almost every article will mention Fergburger, which has long but fast-moving queues of people waiting to buy the town’s best burgers. The menu includes options such as venison, falafel or lamb burgers, as well as several types of beef burgers. 

For a sweet treat, head to Patagonia Chocolates. They make amazing ice cream, and in summer there’s nothing quite like sitting by the lake on a warm day, surrounded by mountains, with some ice cream. 

For something a little fancier, head to The Bunker. They use ingredients from around New Zealand and it’s a perfect choice for a date night. 

Seasonal Fun

Queenstown varies a lot according to season. Summer (November-January) is ideal for hiking, golfing, sightseeing tours and jetboating. Winter (June-August) is perfect for skiing enthusiasts – there are 4 ski fields nearby. 

Some places shut down over winter, but Queenstown is a year-round destination. 

I tend to visit during the New Zealand summer. Although the town gets very busy, especially around the New Year, it’s the best time to visit for the things I enjoy doing there.

6 Best Activities In Queenstown

There’s so much to do in Queenstown that I have an article dedicated to the Queenstown activites I’ve enjoyed doing there, but here are some of the highlights. 

Wine Tasting

I’ve done a few wine tours in Queenstown and they are always fun. As a solo traveller they are a great way to have a bit of social time with people who have a shared interest. It’s also one of the best ways to see some of the areas outside the town. 

Almost any wine tour you take will include Gibbston Valley Winery – the most famous winery in the area. 

Book your wine tour here!

If you don’t want to spend a full day on a wine-tasting tour, check out The Winery in the town centre. The machine dispenses tasting portions of various wines, including some more expensive ones that I couldn’t justify buying a bottle of, but would pay for a tasting glass. 

Shotover Jet

There are a few different jet boat tours you can do, but the Shotover Jet is possibly the best one I’ve tried. Jetboats can operate in very shallow water, and the Shotover Jet makes the most of this.

360° turns in shallow waters next to canyon walls is a fun experience. It’s a great introduction to some of Queenstown’s more adventurous options.

Another great choice is the Skippers Canyon jet, but don’t go on it if you are nervous about heights. The only way to get to the jetboat is in a coach along a very high, narrow road above a canyon. 

Skydiving

This definitely isn’t for everyone, but it’s one of my proudest moments. There are a few companies around New Zealand – I jumped with NZONE. The idea of it was terrifying (as was the waiver form I had to sign).

Being pushed towards the open door of a plane at 15,000ft was surreal. But once you are out, there’s nothing like it.

It doesn’t feel like falling – the wind resistance actually makes it feel like you are being pushed upwards. It’s probably the closest you can get to feeling like you are flying, and to do it in such a spectacular location is a memory I’ll have forever.

And you can see for yourself below! I knew not everyone would believe I had done it so I paid for a second guy to jump and take footage.

(Excuse my weird hand positions – it felt like my gloves were coming off so I’ve got claw hands all the way down trying to make sure they didn’t disappear!)

If you’ve ever considered doing something like this, Queenstown is one of the best places in the world to do it. 

Bungy jumping is also very popular, but as I haven’t done it myself I couldn’t give you much insight about the experience! AJ Hackett is a company that has been operating a bungy jump from Kawarau Bridge over a river for decades. They also operate a zipline ride from the same bridge. 

Lake Cruise

If you aren’t an adrenaline junkie, try a more relaxing activity. The TSS Earnslaw is a coal-fired steamship, more than 110 years old. Daily cruises are available, with amazing views of the mountains. 

There is a cafe on board which is licensed to serve alcoholic drinks as well as food. You can combine your cruise with a visit to Walter Peak and it’s the perfect way to see a bit more of the lake. 

Book a TSS Earnslaw cruise with Walter Peak Gourmet BBQ here!

Ride up the Queenstown gondola and enjoy a scenic luge ride.
The luge at Skyline Queenstown

Skyline

The Skyline Queenstown sits at the top of Bob’s Peak to the north of the town. Take the gondola up to the top and enjoy a few of the activities. As well as a restaurant and viewing areas, they also have a luge ride. 

These carts run on a downhill track, and you control the direction and speed with a simple level. They are basic, but good fun. 

You can also go on guided walks from Skyline, and if you are there after dark they offer stargazing experiences. 

Meet A Kiwi

One of New Zealand’s unofficial national symbols is this flightless bird. As they are nocturnal it can be very difficult to see them in the wild. Kiwi Park Queenstown sits at the bottom of the gondola up to Skyline. 

This 5-acre site is home to more than 20 types of native species, including the Kiwi. These birds are housed in nocturnal kiwi houses, so visitors can see them during the day while keeping the birds in as close to their natural environment as possible.

The park runs a breeding programme which then releases kiwis into the wild to help boost their numbers. In addition to the kiwis, the park also has Kea, Tui and Kaka birds, and lizard species including Tuatara. 

You can also learn about conservation efforts to protect native species that are endangered – largely due to the arrival of humans in a country that had been isolated for millions of years. Several of these species are unique to New Zealand, making efforts to protect them especially important. 

3 Day Trips From Queenstown

There are so many places you can visit on a day trip from Queenstown that it deserves a separate article. Which is why I wrote one! Here is a list of the best day trips you can do from Queenstown. 

For a taster, here are a few of the best options. 

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Milford Sound is one of New Zealand’s most famous places, and for good reason. It’s a stunning place, and great to visit all year round. On sunny days you can do some wildlife spotting, which if you’re lucky might include dolphins.

The sound is especially beautiful on rainy days when the waterfalls become more powerful and mists float across the water. 

If you are staying in Queenstown then I recommend doing this as a tour. It’s quite a drive and you don’t want to miss out on the scenery along the way.

Book your Milford Sound tour here!

That Wanaka Tree, lone willow tree growing out of the water in Lake Wanaka

Wanaka

Wanaka is a good alternative to Queenstown if you want to visit somewhere a bit quieter, but you can also see the best of it as a day trip from Queenstown. Go for a walk around Lake Wanaka and spot the famous Wanaka tree. 

Visit Puzzling World, which will entertain adults and kids with optical illusions and interactive displays. 

Lake Wakatipu from Glenorchy

Glenorchy

It’s a short drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy, and it’s also one of the prettiest roads in the country. You could easily do this as a quick morning trip, driving along the lake and stopping in Glenorchy for lunch with a view before heading back for other activities. 

For a bigger adventure, the Routeburn Track starts at Glenorchy. It’s one of the country’s most famous hikes, and you could spend a day doing part of it, or do the whole route over a couple of days. 

Reasons NOT To Visit Queenstown 

High Tourist Density

Queenstown sees a huge number of visitors each year. It can get extremely busy, especially in the summer. If you want a more relaxing experience consider staying in Wanaka and just visiting Queenstown for specific activities you want to do.

Expensive Accommodation and Activities

You can visit Queenstown on a budget by staying in hostels and booking cheaper activities, but there’s no denying that many of the most popular activities are expensive. Skydiving and bungy jumping can cost a lot of money. Do some research to see if you have the budget for the things you want to do. 

Traffic and Parking Issues 

Having a car is useful for seeing areas around Queenstown, but parking can be hard to find and expensive. Most accommodation options either don’t have parking or if they do it is expensive. Try to plan your trip so you only have a car on days when you need it. 

Where To Stay

Visitors come to Queenstown with all sorts of budgets, so the accommodation is varied to suit everyone. There are some great hostels, B&Bs, and even luxury lodges attached to wineries. For more information check out my guide to Queenstown accommodation.

Queenstown with mountains in the background and a person paragliding with a yellow parachute

Planning Tips

Book Activities For First Few Days Of Your Stay

Many activities in Queenstown are weather-dependent. If you are staying there for a few days, book your priority activities for day 1. If they are cancelled due to weather you can either re-book or get a refund. Booking them on day 1 means it’ll be easier to re-book before you leave. 

Bring Sunscreen

This is true across New Zealand, but bring sunscreen even in winter. New Zealand has a high UV index, so you can easily burn even if it doesn’t feel that hot. 

Book In Advance

Queenstown is a small place with a lot of visitors.  In the height of summer, tourists outnumber the locals. Book things in advance to avoid disappointment.

Conclusion

Hopefully, I’ve convinced you that Queenstown is worth visiting as part of your New Zealand adventure. I’ll certainly be going back for some new adventures. 

If you want to know how it measures up to other towns, I have some helpful guides. New Zealand is my favourite country to visit and one of the main aims of my website is to help other travellers to make the most of their time there. 

Check out the posts below for more helpful Queenstown travel guides!

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