The ‘adventure capital of the world’ and country’s premier tourism location, Queenstown has it all. Many of the most exciting things to do in New Zealand can only be found here, and it’s little wonder that Queenstown is a buzzing, vibrant town any day of the year. Put simply, it is a absolute must-visit location for every visitor to the South Island.
Stretching around it’s namesake bay on Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown’s outlook is one of the most spectacular in the world. Clear lake water gives way to vast mountain ranges on all sides, snow-covered in winter and covered in wildflowers in spring. The narrow strip of flat land near the waterfront quickly gives way to steep streets as the town has expanded up the nearby hills, allowing for stunning views no matter where you are.
As befits a major tourism drawcard, access to Queenstown is easy. Rent a car and drive from Christchurch, fly in from a number of New Zealand and Australian airports (and admire the stunning views as you come in to land), take a tour, public bus or jump-on, jump-off trip. Getting there is easy – when you discover how much there is to see and do, leaving again may not be!
The home of commercial bungy jumping in 1988, Queenstown now hosts no fewer than three locations where people can experience this mindblowing adrenaline rush including the eye-watering 440 foot drop from the Nevis highwire.
Jetboating on the nearby Shotover, Dart and Kararau rivers is wildly popular – you can almost hear the screams from downtown Queenstown as passengers are twisted, turned and spun around in powerful jetboats within centimetres of sheer rock walls and tumbling rapids.
For a slightly less hectic water experience, the restored steamship TSS Earnslaw makes regular trips across Lake Wakitipu and several companies offer canoe and kayak trips in both the lake and the surrounding rivers. Skydiving, mountain biking, scenic flights, hot air ballooning, four wheel drive adventures and the list goes on – in general, if you imagine any kind of adventure activity, there’s a good chance that you can find a company to help you do it in Queenstown!
In winter the town transforms into a skiing and boarding mecca, with snow junkies from all over the world spending their days at one of the four world class ski-fields in the area and their nights partying in Queentown’s heaving pubs, bars and clubs. The nightlife is buzzing on any night of the year, no matter the outside temperature.
As if there weren’t enough activities around the town itself, it also serves as the jump-off point for many other attractions – day trips to the Central Otago wineries, Milford Sound, Wanaka and even Mount Cook are all easily undertaken from Queenstown.
There is so much to do in Queenstown that no guide can do it justice. Just book your transport, accommodation and an excursion or two and head down to the 45th parallel – you’ll never regret it!
Distances: 480km from Christchurch, 280km from Dunedin, 190km from Invercargill
Best time to visit: Queenstown has a huge amount to offer all year round – just decide whether snow or sunshine is more important to you and book your trip appropriately!
How long to spend there: Queenstown offers so much that it would be easily to spend two weeks or more there. The absolute minimum is 3-4 days, but that will only leave you wanting more!