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21 Best Things To Do In Queenstown

Queenstown is one of my favourite places to visit. I have visited several times, and each time I take part in a new adventure, find more amazing restaurants and try new local wines that I can’t get anywhere else.

The local population of just under 50,000 more than doubles in peak tourist season as visitors flock to this lake-side town to seek adventure and thrills. 

It’s the home of the world’s first commercial bungy jumping company and it’s surrounded by mountains, lakes and rivers perfect for skiing, paragliding, jet boating and more. If you feel the need for an adventure, this is the place to go.

Personally, it’s the place where I feel most comfortable trying out new adventure activities as I am totally confident in their expertise and safety standards.

For those looking for a more relaxed experience, it is also close to several wineries and has some amazing restaurants, cafes and shops. 

Here are some of the must-do activities in Queenstown, one of the best places to visit in New Zealand.

Things to do in Queenstown for thrill seekers

1. Skydiving

Yep, that’s me. Jumping out of a plane!

For the ultimate adrenaline rush – try jumping out of a place. There are a few companies around Queenstown but I jumped with NZONE Skydive and if I did it again I would absolutely re-book with them. You are strapped to an experienced skydiver so all you have to do is enjoy the ride. 

I paid extra for a second person to jump with me and take photos and a video – I knew most people wouldn’t believe I’d done it without evidence. 

The experience was somewhat surreal, from the safety briefing to edging toward the open door of a plane at 15,000ft, but there is nothing else like it. 

Although you can skydive in many places around the world, Queenstown is special. With the lake beneath you and mountains surrounding you, it is a stunning sight and an incredible experience. Obviously not one for everyone, but if you have a little adrenaline junkie inside you nothing else will match it. 

It is weather dependent so book it for the first day you can, so if it is cancelled due to weather (in which case you’ll get your money back) you can book another slot before you leave. 

2. Paragliding

If a skydive is too much but you still want to see the world from up high, a paraglide is a slightly tamer choice. Again, attached to an experienced glider, you essentially run down a slope in the mountains and the wind catches the sail and lifts you up. 

You get the gliding experience without a sudden jump – one second you have feet on the ground and then you are lifted up, floating down towards Queenstown.

It’s a great option if you want some excitement but not to the extreme of some other activities.  A few years before my Queenstown skydive, I went paragliding in Queenstown.

After experiencing the milder version and feeling very safe doing it, I was willing to give the bigger adventure a go. Again, this is weather-dependent as it can’t be done on very cloudy days.

3. Bungy Jumping

The bungy jump was made famous by A J Hackett’s commercial operation. There are several places around New Zealand where you can do bungy jumps with this company, but the best known is the jump from Kawarau Bridge outside Queenstown. 

I’ll admit that I haven’t done this one myself, but if I ever do it’ll likely be with A J Hackett. I have total confidence in their expertise and safety record, and if I’m ever going to have that particular experience it may as well be over the Kawarau River.

4. Canyon Swing

An alternative to the standard bungy jump is the Shotover Canyon Swing. You can jump solo as you would in a normal bungy but there are also several other ‘styles’ you can use.

Sit on a chair and fall backwards over the edge, be kicked off the platform by staff ‘Spartan’ style, hang from the platform while one of the jump team cuts strands from a secondary rope holding you in place, or jump tandem.

If you want to up the bungy fear factor, give this one a go. 

5. Jetboating

Jetboats are lots of fun, and they were invented in New Zealand. The design of the boat means that they can travel in very shallow water, perfect for exploring the rivers around Queenstown. 

There are a few jetboat tours available, but of the ones I have done, my preferred option is Shotover Jet. The Shotover River winds its way through narrow canyons near Queenstown, and a jet boat is a great way to experience it. Expect lots of twists, turns and spins – you will almost certainly get a bit of a soaking, but it will absolutely be worth it.

If Shotover is booked up, the Dart River jetboat is another great option.

✅ Book your Shotover or Dart Jetboat tours.

6. Skiing

I’ll be honest – I know next to nothing about skiing. My parents put me in a class on holiday in France when I was about 5, and it ended in tears. Having said that, it is a very popular Queenstown activity. 

Queenstown is surrounded by mountains in the Southern Alps, with 4 ski fields to choose from. If you are a skiing (or snowboarding) enthusiast then it is well worth a visit, especially as the New Zealand ski season runs from June to October when most other skiing regions around the world will be closed.

Whether a beginner or an expert, there is something for everyone (so I hear…!)

Person in red ski suit skiing.
Definitely not a picture of me!

For those who just want to relax

7. Skyline

To enjoy the incredible Queenstown views from a less extreme viewing point, take the gondola up to Skyline. You get a great view of the town and lake, there is a restaurant at the top, and if you want a little excitement you can ride the luge down and enjoy the view (and then take a cable car back up to do it again).

If you’ve not done it, the luge is a downhill winding track that you ride down in small carts. 

There are two tracks, one steeper and therefore faster than the other, but you control your own speed but pulling on the handlebar that also operates the steering. It’s pretty good fun, and the views are amazing.

8. Queenstown Gardens

Grab a coffee and go for a walk around the Queenstown gardens. There are several places you can pause to look out at Lake Wakatipu, and it’s a very easy walk for anyone intimidated by the more difficult hikes in the area. 

The entire walk takes about an hour and a half, and the surface is accessible for wheelchair users and families with pushchairs.

TSS Earnslaw steamship on Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown New Zealand

9. Lake Wakatipu Cruise

If you want a more relaxed water experience than one of the jet boat tours, you can also take a far more gentle boat trip around the lake.

There are a few different options on boats of varying sizes, but if you want to get some good mountain views without a long walk or access to a car, then scenic cruises on the lake by Queenstown are a good option. The meeting point is in town so very easy to access without having to find your way to another location.  

10. Milford Sound

Milford Sound is one of the most famous places in New Zealand, and for good reason. It’s beyond beautiful. The trip is an entirely different experience in the sun vs the rain, but whatever the weather it is always stunning.

Book a tour from Queenstown with a coach trip and boat included to make the most of the journey. The boat tour will take you around the sound, alongside mountain peaks, waterfalls and most famously, Mitre Peak. If you’re lucky you might also see seals, dolphins and penguins. 

Misty day in Milford Sound with Mitre Peak in the background

It is a long day trip from Queenstown, and many people choose to stay in the town of Te Anau if they are driving themselves as it is much closer. If you do drive yourself, make sure to fill up on petrol in Te Anau – there is nowhere to get more fuel between Te Anau and Milford Sound. 

You can also take a scenic flight from Queenstown if you are short on time, but that does significantly increase the price of the visit. 

✅ Book your tour from Queenstown to Milford Sound here!

11. Wine Tasting

I love a wine tour. I’ve done several in different wine regions in New Zealand, as well as a few in other countries. I especially enjoy it as a solo female traveller as it’s a fantastic way to fill a few hours with people who have a shared interest.

Queensland is in the Otago region of New Zealand. Outside of New Zealand, most of the wine you will see will be Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, which has the highest output of wines. 

Whether you are a casual sipper or a connoisseur, you are missing out on some amazing wines from the Central Otago wine region which is especially known for the Pinot Noirs but also produces fantastic rieslings and sauvignon blancs.

Two glasses of white wine.

I particularly like Gibbston Valley, and if you do a wine-tasting tour from Queenstown it will likely include Gibbston Valley as one of the stops. Let someone else take care of the driving, and just enjoy the ride and the tastings.

There are some private tours around but I prefer joining a group of strangers, chatting away with people you might never otherwise have met, and enjoying some of the local wines.

If you don’t want to join a tour or you are short on time, check out The Winery in the centre of Queenstown. You get a wine-tasting card at the counter and then explore the wines on offer. They are kept in machines that will dispense wine in a tasting size, half glass or full glass.

It’s a great chance to try a sip of a wine that would cost a lot if you were to buy a full bottle. Once you are done, take the card back to the counter and pay for what you have tried – just keep an eye on what you are spending as you go along. It’s easy to go overboard!

12. Below Zero Ice Bar

If wine tasting isn’t your thing, an alternative would be Below Zero Ice Bar in Queenstown’s town centre. With a selection of cocktails and mocktails, wrap up in the gear they provide and enjoy your drink sitting on ice furniture, drinking from an ice glass made on an ice bar.

Unlike some other ice bars in other countries, children can join the adults. It’s not a long experience as you are limited on the time you can spend in there, but it is a fun option for a different type of drinking experience.

13. Helicopter Ride

If you don’t want to jump out of or off of anything, the best way to see the Queenstown views might well be from a helicopter.

These rides can be very expensive, but it is a great way to explore the Remarkables – the mountain range so named as it runs directly from north to south.

Day Trips from Queenstown

14. Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook

If you can rent a car and have time to make a slightly longer day trip, I recommend checking out Lake Pukaki. I’ve never seen water as blue as that lake. As you drive through the area you round a corner, suddenly in front of you is a stunning turquoise lake with a beautiful view of Mount Cook.

The colour of the water is due to particles in the water that runs off the glacier, creating a truly magnificent view. It’s about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Queenstown to Lake Pukaki, so fairly manageable for a day trip if you don’t mind doing some driving. 

Turquoise waters of Lake Pukaki near Mt Cook in New Zealand

15. Puzzling World

About an hour’s drive from Queenstown is Puzzling World. It’s a fun choice for all but especially people with kids. It’s essentially a museum dedicated to optical illusions. It’s great both for photo opportunities and also to keep kids entertained trying to understand how the illusions work – both fun and educational.

16. Arrowtown

If you’re interested in local history then take a trip from Queenstown over to Arrowtown. It’s a historic gold mining town with cottages, shops and restaurants to explore. You can even rent a gold pan to try your luck in the river. There are also free golf courses nearby if that takes your fancy. 

17. Glenorchy

The drive to Glenorchy takes about 45 minutes from Queenstown, and the road runs alongside Lake Wakatipu. It’s often described as one of the world’s most scenic drives, and definitely worth doing as a half-day trip.

Glenorchy is a fairly small town, but there are a few cafe options, and best of all a zip line tour taking you through a forest, over streams and waterfalls all with the mountains in the background.  

18. Wanaka

Many people choose to stay in Wanaka for a night as a separate destination from Queenstown, but it’s also a good day trip option. It’s got some beautiful views and is also home to the Wanaka Willow – a solitary tree growing in Lake Wanaka.

It’s a sight that often pops up on Instagram and is one of New Zealand’s most popular photo spots. Wanaka is about an hour’s drive from Queenstown, and another good option for a coffee and scenic walk.

The Wanaka tree growing in the middle of a lake with mountains in the background.

19. Lord Of The Rings Tour

If you are either a fan of Lord of the Rings or simply don’t have access to a car, one great day trip option is to book a Lord of the Rings day tour from Queenstown.

They generally include the drive over to Glenorchy and a few scenic stopping points or walks so you can see some of the beautiful Otago landscapes near Queenstown. 

✅ Book your half-day tour or full-day tour!

Things for everyone to do in Queenstown

20. Food

Queenstown has an excellent restaurant and cafe scene. Head to Fergburger to try out one of the many burger options – it’s a local institution.

There are several excellent steak restaurants around, and great seafood as well. Head to Patagonia Chocolates right by the lake for sweet treats and a coffee (their ice cream is especially good). Vudu Cafe is an excellent choice for breakfast and coffee. 

As Queenstown is by the Remarkables Mountain Range, there are a few places in the town using Remarkable in the name. My favourite is the Remarkable Sweet Shop. It’s got a huge variety of sweet treats to choose from, but I also just find the name delightful!

21. Kiwi Park

A kiwi bird.

In New Zealand, a kiwi refers to either a person from New Zealand or the bird, but not the fruit (which is specifically called a kiwifruit). The bird is one of several species unique to New Zealand.

For a little bit of nature, wander over to the Kiwi Park, a haven for native species including the iconic kiwi as well as tuatara, kea, tui and several others that you won’t find elsewhere. Kiwis are nocturnal and flightless so you are unlikely to spot them in the wild. 

Accommodation

The options below are some that I recommend, but for a wider selection have a look at my dedicated Queenstown accommodation post.

Novotel Queenstown – this hotel is right by the lake and town centre and is one of the easiest places to stay in Queenstown. Many of the main activities such as the Canyon Swing and NZONE Skydive have collection points about an 8-minute walk from the hotel. If you are looking for convenience then this is one of the best options around. 

If you are looking for something a bit more boutique, try out Chalet Queenstown. I have a particular affection for this place thanks to the kindness of the owners in a difficult situation.

If you are on a tighter budget then other good choices are the Absoloot Hostel or Adventure Queenstown Hostel. They are also very central, well reviewed and substantially cheaper than some of the big hotels. 

It is worth booking accommodation well in advance. In the summer months Queenstown can become extremely busy and you may find there are limited options if you leave it too late.

It’s not a very big town, but the range of adventure activities and beautiful scenery make it a very popular destination for everyone visiting New Zealand. 

Final Thoughts on Things To Do in Queenstown

Hopefully these activities are enough to convince you to visit, but if not, then you can also try horse riding, biking trails, walking trails, golf and many other options.

It might be a small town, but it has a lot to offer. I would recommend a minimum of 4 days to enjoy some of the highlights, but you can easily fill more time if you have it. As for me, I’ll be back jumping out of a plane the next time I’m in the area. 

Check out my post on activities in other parts of New Zealand for more ideas.

Aerial view of Queenstown New Zealand with Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkable Mountains in the background

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Best Day Trips From Queenstown

Best Places To Stay In Queenstown

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