New Zealand’s incredibly picturesque and famous adventure hub Queenstown isn’t just for adrenalin seekers. Of course, when you’re there, surrounded by adventure addicts and plenty of adventure tours, you can’t help but feel a tad more dare-devilish than you usually would. I should know- I’ve spent a lifetime being afraid of heights and I jumped off a cliff to paraglide in Queenstown.
There’s just something cool and laidback about Queenstown, it’s one of those towns where it doesn’t matter whether you want to spend your time chasing a new adventure every day or simply enjoy the trails around and evenings at the cozy cafés and pubs, you’ll enjoy Queenstown anyway. If you’ve got a couple of days to spend in the town and like a healthy mix of adventure and relaxation, here are my favorite top things to do in Queenstown New Zealand.
Enjoy the View at Lake Wakatipu
Walk, run, cycle, Segway, or simply grab a spot on one of the benches by Lake Wakatipu, the gorgeous centerpiece of Queenstown. Whether or not you choose to get your perfect postcard shot from the shore, one thing’s for sure- you’ll want to come back here more than once.
Get on a Luge at Skyline Gondola
For fantastic views over Queenstown, take a Gondola ride all the way to the top of Bob’s Peak in the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere. At Skyline Gondola, the adventurous can choose from a range of activities such as bungee jumping, paragliding, zip lining, mountain biking, and for those who prefer carefree fun over gut wrenching thrills, the luge is a great activity to unleash your inner child and enjoy the scenery from the slopes. Market Kitchen is a great restaurant to grab some lunch during your visit.
Paraglide over an Incredible View
If you were to ask me how I managed to paraglide in Queenstown despite my paralyzing fear of heights, I’d have to admit that it was the thought of overcoming the fear and having my mind blown by the spectacular landscape below. While visiting Skyline Gondola, I walked up to the tiny G-Force Paragliding store and signed up. Then, I stopped thinking for fear of chickening out. 30 minutes later, I was soaring over Lake Wakatipu with not the slightest trace of fear but a deep sense of amazement. I highly recommend that if you’re visiting Queenstown and even if you do fear heights, don’t think twice before signing up.
The Central Otago region is favorable for production of wines such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and there are many scenic wineries (such as Gibbston Valley) around Queenstown that you can visit for tastings. More information on popular wine trails and tours is available on the official Queenstown website.
Alternatively, you can also enjoy wine tasting at The Winery, a wine lounge right in the center of town, where you get to taste over 80 local wines from all over New Zealand with a seriously indulgent platter of cheeses, salamis, breads and olive oils. The best part is that you can even choose to buy any wines that you particularly like to be shipped home when you’re back from your trip.
Step into William’s Cottage
Now home to Vesta Design Store, William’s Cottage is Queenstown’s oldest house, built in 1864 by boatman and shipbuilder John Williams. Many of the original elements of the house remain such as the wallpaper. Even if you don’t plan on buying the cool, quirky and kitschy merchandise on sale, it’s worth taking a stroll inside and afterwards stopping for a coffee in the garden café outside.
Take a Day Trip to Milford Sound
You can’t come to Queenstown and not take a day-trip to Milford Sound, yet another spectacular landscape (no exaggeration) in the heart of Fiordland National Park. If you don’t want to drive the four-five hour long journey, take a day tour with Intercity (like we did) where you’ll spend time on a bus, hike through a short trail and cruise around Milford Sound watching dolphins, if you’re lucky. If you want some help with making up your mind about the tour, check out my Milford Sound photos.
Hike around Queenstown
Just like everywhere else in New Zealand, a scenic tramping trail is never too far away in Queenstown and whether you prefer a hardcore trek or an easy hike, there are plenty of options to suit your preference such as the Routeburn Valley, Milford Track, Ben Lomond Track, Atley Track and the Invincible Gold Mine Trail. Detailed info on trails is available on the DOC website.
Watch a movie at Reading Cinemas
On one of those days when you don’t want to do anything touristy or adventurous, settle down to some quality chill time at the movies at Reading Cinemas, right in the center of town.
More Adventure Activities
Other than the few activities I’ve mentioned above, there are tons of other adventure activities you can do in Queenstown such as bungy jumping, white water rafting, jet boating, skydiving, horse-riding, hot air ballooning, skiing and snowboarding (winter). Pick and choose from one of the many travel companies located in the town.
Heading to New Zealand? Check out my post about kayaking in the Abel Tasman Park, exploring the Glowworm Caves in Waitomo, the TranzAlpine Scenic rail journey or how to enjoy Maori culture and geothermal wonders in Rotorua. For general info to help you plan your trip check out my New Zealand Travel Blog or check out my itinerary for two weeks in New Zealand.
Have you been to Queenstown? What would you add to this list?
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