Queenstown is one of my favourite destinations in New Zealand. It’s the home of adventure travel in the form of the Shotover Jet Boat, Canyon Swing and Bungee Jump. It is also the home of incredible scenery including beautiful hills to hike, lakes to walk around and views for days.
Its been a while since I’ve been to this amazing place, so I’ve assembled a killer bunch of travel bloggers to share their favourite Queenstown experiences with you.
All those picturesque quintessential Queenstown photos that look like they are flying a drone over the whole of the Wakatipu basin, are taken at the top of the Gondola, so it is an absolute Queenstown must do.
My biggest tip is to take the gondola up in the morning, as the shadows in the late afternoon will ruin your beautiful photos of the lake, but if you aren’t worried about that, then go for gold. You can buy your tickets online to save time once you arrive, but if you are keen to save some money on the $44 adult admission, check out our budget saving tips here
After enjoying the beautiful panoramic views, you can’t leave without taking a few trips on the luge. Essentially the luge is go cart style vehicle where you zoom down the mountain on a track. It is tons of fun and there are views to boot. You can also take your mountain bike on the chair lift to access the amazing trails up on the hill, or come back at night for a stargazing tour.
Contributed by Jennifer from Backyard Travel Family, Active Family Travel Specialists in New Zealand.
Take a trip to Doubtful Sound
As the lesser known (and lesser traveled) cousin of nearby Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound is about a two hour car journey from Queenstown. The best way to see it is on an overnight wilderness cruise that takes you from Manapouri, located at the edge of the incredible Fiordland National Park deep into the vast and pristine wilderness.
Feeding Ducks in Queenstown
Queenstown is not a cheap destination however it is an incredible place to visit with family. During our South Island campervan trip, we spent 2 days in Queenstown and surprisingly, one of the most memorable activities was feeding ducks down by the water.
If you are looking for an inexpensive activity… as in $2NZ for a bag of duck feed, this is loads of fun!
The bags of feed are provided by the Lions Rotary Club and works on an honesty system. You will find tables down by the main pier and in the Queenstown Gardens with containers of food and a place to deposit your coins.
The ducks are so friendly from being around people so often that many of them will feed right out of your hand. This was exciting for our girls who were 6 and 4 at the time.
This is also a relaxing afternoon wind-down activity to do while you sit and watch the boats and activity on the water too. After all, it is often the most simple moments that stand out in our memories of a place and feeding ducks in Queenstown was one of our favourites.
Contributed by Holly from Four Around The World
Experience the Shotover Jet
Jet Boating is a New Zealand invention and one you have to experience when visiting New Zealand! The boats are like huge jet skis and are created to be able to drive in very shallow water if necessary.
One of the best jet boating rides (and probably the most famous of them all) is Shotover Jet Queenstown.
A shuttle bus brings you from central Queenstown to their base on the Shotover River where you’re kitted out with a raincoat life vest and glasses.
After taking your seat in the boat, you’re taken through the safety procedures and a first taster of the many spins that follow. The exhilarating ride takes you through the narrow Shotover Canyon, racing over shallow water, so close along the walls that you could touch them if you’d stretch your arms out (which you definitely shouldn’t). The experienced drivers pick up speed up to 90 km/h and spin the boats in 360° for a thrill of a lifetime.
Tip: You can’t bring loose items like phones or cameras on the jet boat trip. The only way to capture your ride is if you bring your GoPro and headgear. Else you can always purchase the pictures the team take as you speed past them.
Contributed by Alex from Discover Aotearoa – New Zealand from N to Z
Hike Ben Lomond
No trip to Queenstown is complete without tackling at least one hike. And if you’re going to do only one hike in Queenstown, it might as well be the best! To me, the best would be climbing Ben Lomond!
Ben Lomond is a mountain that sits right next to Queenstown. Its peak sits 1,438 meters above Queenstown making it a bit of a climb to reach the top. In fact, it takes most hikers about 8 hours to reach the summit and return down. But the views from the top are totally worth the effort if I do say so myself.
The great thing about hiking Ben Lomond is that you don’t actually have to climb the entire 1,438 meters if you don’t want to – there is a way to cheat! Just ride the gondola up to Bob’s peak and start your hike from there. This shaves off the first half of the hike (and the steepest part!) From the top of the gondola you can reach the summit in only a couple of hours. Even if you don’t make it all the way to the summit, the views from even the saddle are amazing and well worth it!
To me, the Ben Lomond hike is not only one of the best things to do in Queenstown, but one of the best things to do in all of NZ!
Contributed by Bailey from Destinationless Travel
Take A Day Trip To Glenorchy
Queenstown’s unique and dramatic sceneries draw millions of tourists every year; and I believe one movie constantly comes up with any guides or travel books you have – the Lord of the Rings. To truly immerse yourself in such a cinematic setting, there’s no better way to do so than actually riding on a horse and trek through the otherworldly terrains?
Glenorchy is a small settlement 45-minute drive away from Queenstown. It is the gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park and Te Wahipounamu, one of New Zealand’s three World Heritage Sites. While the name of “Dart Valley” may not ring a bell to you, the breathtaking beauty and untouched qualities have been showcased to the world in “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and many other Hollywood blockbusters.
Our group was led by a team of four ladies from the UK and their stable has over 60 horses of various breed. The horses were docile and apparently, they know the environment very well, too. The 2-hour trekking passed by so quickly that I hated to say goodbye to the horses. I recommend the 2-hour tour because it goes farther through the braided rivers and the view of Te Wahipounamu is just unforgettable.
Contributed by Kenny from Knycx Journeying
Gibbston Valley Wine Tour
At the precise opposite latitude as the famous Southern France wine region, the Gibbston Valley boasts some of the world’s best wines and most beautiful vineyards. If you’re into pinot noir, visiting these stunning wineries is totally unmissable during any visit to Queenstown or adventure around New Zealand’s South Island.
Just thirty minutes from the centre of Queenstown, the Gibbston Valley is easily accessible either on your own or as part of one of the many organised wine tours that are available in town. On the journey there, you’ll get the drive past the jaw-dropping Hackett bungee, which is quite the sight in itself.
Once you’ve arrived at the beautiful cellar doors, you’ll get the opportunity to taste the world’s best voted pinot noir, alongside some delicious nibbles. What’s more, if wine isn’t your thing, several of the wineries also contain micro-breweries, serving refreshing craft beer. Visit at any time of year to enjoy the beauty of the vineyards, at their best during the sunset golden hour.
Contributed by Annie from Off Goes Annie
Hike Queenstown Hill
Queenstown is one of the most scenic cities in New Zealand, located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by mountains it offers some pretty spectacular views. There are many beautiful viewpoints but my personal favourite is Queenstown Hill, since from there you will also be able to see the hills and mountains on the other side of Queenstown, not just the lake side.
Queenstown Hill if one of the best hikes in New Zealand. It starts in Queenstown so is easy to get to even if you don’t have a car, and will take you between 1.5 to 3 hours to hike. The trail starts off on a single path, but then breaks off into two trails that join again at the peak. One is shorter but steeper and the other is longer but more gradual, which caters to all hiking levels.
I recommend taking the longer but more gradual way up, and then coming down from the steeper side, also because this path has better view that you’ll be able to enjoy as you walk down as opposed to having to turn around to enjoy them. The views at the top are well worth the hike, and you’ll be glad you added Queenstown Hill to your Queenstown bucket list!
Contributed by Greta from Greta’s Travels
Feed Your Inner Adrenaline Junkie at AJ Hackett Bungy
Here’s a fun fact: do you know that commercial bungy jumping started at AJ Hackett Bungy in Queenstown?
While there are dozens of things to do in Queenstown for adrenaline-junkies, AJ Hackett bungy jumping is different because it carries another side of meaning behind it.
Throughout the years of expansion, there is more than just bungy jumping there now. Swings, Catapults, and Ziprides are also becoming a thing in Queenstown.
The original Queenstown bungy jump would be at Kawarau Bridge, letting you plunge over a height of 43m.
Before the jump, the instructor will ask you whether you want to get your hair wet. If so, they will adjust the rope length, so that your head will touch the river surface briefly, adding another shot of adrenaline to your extreme sport.
The only downside is that Kawarau Bridge is located quite far from Queenstown. But fear not, because they offer a free shuttle between Queenstown and the base of operation for free if you sign up for the package with them.
Contributed by Yen from Swing Abroad
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