If you’re looking for things to do in Queenstown, our guide has you covered.
Extreme is an understatement when it comes to describing Queenstown. The tiny South Island town on the shore of Lake Wakatipu has some of the most epic adrenaline activities and some of the most jaw-dropping scenery in the world. It’s no surprise it has featured in multiple Hollywood blockbusters. In recent years, it’s also earned a solid reputation among gourmands and wine lovers, providing another reason why you can’t skip this southern gem on your next trip to Aotearoa.
Here’s our must-read guide to where to eat, drink, stay and play in this thrill-seeker’s paradise.
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Eat: Dine like a local
When you’re visiting another country, nothing beats tasting the local cuisine. For the best regional favours in Central Otago, don’t miss Amisfield. Set against the backdrop of the majestic Pisa mountain range, this winery and bistro is one of the largest single-estate vineyards in the region. Expect degustation dishes with produce sourced from its kitchen garden and beyond, all matched with its own spectacular wines.
For an intimate experience, head to The Bunker – a little gem tucked down a hidden laneway in the centre of Queenstown with dim lighting and old-school music that creates an almost private club atmosphere. The menu focuses on locally sourced produce with European and Kiwi flavours. Think: West Coast paua tortellini, kina cream and nasturtium; and Canter Valley quail, pistachio rillette, tamarillo jam, whipped chevre and brioche.
A local favourite, Sherwood Queenstown, is set among three hectares of gardens with beehives, where the hotel grows fresh veggies and produces honey for its menu. What the chefs can’t grow and forage, they source locally. Expect the freshest local flavours; wild thyme from the mountains, elderflowers from around the lake and game from the backcountry.
Drink: Wine with a difference
Even wine connoisseurs can combine their passion with some heart-pumping action while on a trip here. Our pick? Try a heli-wine combo with Queenstown Wine Trail where you'll be taken on an alpine flight landing in the aptly named Remarkables Mountain Range, before you are whisked off to the Gibbston Valley to experience three boutique vineyards.
Or, hit one of the many bike trails. The Gibbston River Wine Trail, part of the 130-kilometre Queenstown Trail, runs all the way through the valley, starting at the Kawarau Suspension Bridge and ending at the Gibbston Back Road. Along the way, you’ll be able to visit some of the best local wineries including Mt Rosa and Brennan Wines.
If you want to get a good taste of the region without visiting multiple vineyards, check out The Winery (located in both Queenstown and Arrowtown). Here, you’ll find more than 80 of New Zealand's best wines available to taste, along with locally distilled gin, port, sherry, whisky and locally made sake.
Prefer a beer? No problem. Head to Whakatipu Brewing, a new brewery in the middle of Queenstown (Beach Street) and the only centrally located brewery. Cargo Brewery at Waitiri Creek in Gibbston will keep everyone happy with a tasting experience of Cargo beer and Bald Hills wine, paired with delicious nibbles from the kitchen.
Stay: Bed like you’re a movie star
After days spent wining, dining, and playing, you’ll no doubt be looking for a relaxing place to lay your head, and there is no shortage of wellness retreats in this spectacular resort region. Don't go past Eichardt’s Private Hotel, part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World collection. The refurbished Vault Spa, housed in a 19th-century gold vault, offers Swedish massage, facials, body scrubs, and foot treatments. Our tip: call down drinks and petit fours from the restaurant upstairs for a full pampering experience.
Another top spot, rated one of the top 50 destination spa retreats in the world by Condé Nast Traveler, and with 17 international awards under its belt, is Aro Ha Wellness Retreat. Here, there's a holistic approach to pampering body and soul. You’ll find yoga classes, massages, a spa and sauna, and opportunities to hike and take in the views. Even the food and drink has been carefully tailored for a health boost.
Or, try the five-star Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa, voted New Zealand's Leading Hotel 2021 in the World Travel Awards, and Australasian Luxury Hotel Spa for four years running in the World Luxury Spa Awards. Sitting pretty on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, the hotel has an indoor heated pool and, of course, a full-service, multi-award-winning spa. After a treatment, relax with a drink of your choice on the outdoor terrace, gazing across the sparkling lake.
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For the best in boutique luxury, head to The Dairy Private Hotel by Naumi Hotels – a former 1920s corner store – locally known as a ‘dairy’. Or bed down at The Carlin Hotel, New Zealand’s first six-star hotel and Queenstown’s first seven-story building. The brand-new Carlin (opens February 2022) focuses on personalisation, with a team of hotel ambassadors, butlers, massage therapists and chefs ensuring an individualised service for the discerning traveller.
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Play: Without limits
If there was ever a place to test your limits, this is it.
Probably the most iconic adventure experience in Queenstown is the Nevis Bungy with AJ Hackett, the highest bungy jump in Australasia. Here, you’re challenged to take in the incredible views of the Southern Alps while you plunge 134 metres, with an 8.5-second freefall. If you’re looking for unmissable things to do in Queensland, this undoubtedly tops the list.
It’s all in the name at the Shotover Canyon Swing. This is Queenstown’s highest cliff jump, with 60 metres of freefall over the iconic Shotover River. If you’re apprehensive, strap yourself to a friend – or the team will happily kick you off the platform (with consent, of course). Or, hurtle down the side of Bob’s Peak at up to 70 kmph, dropping 30-storys in less than 10 seconds, on the world’s steepest tree-to-tree zipline with Ziptrek Ecotours.
For something more sedate, where you can soak up the spectacular views (featured in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and X-Men Origins: Wolverine), try the Funyaks Experience with Dart River Adventures. Jet boat up the Dart River before a leisurely paddle on inflatable canoes in the heart of the world-renowned Mount Aspiring National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site. Our tip: this is perfect for the whole family, or small groups of any age, and will ensure you can send home enviable snaps of unrivalled scenery.
After days filled with endless adventure, you might be looking for a chance to unwind, so why not head to one of the most Instagrammable spots in town, the Onsen Hot Pools, where you’ll find spectacular alpine views overlooking the Shotover River – the perfect spot to soak a weary body and reminiscence about your action-packed days.