Set in a pretty stunning location on Lake Wakatipu surrounded by The Remarkables, it’s no secret that Queenstown is one of the most desired destination in New Zealand. Even if you’re not an adrenaline junkie, Queenstown is still a good base to do day-trips and excursions around the region.
Queenstown is located at the Southwestern end of New Zealand’s South Island. Most international flights to Queenstown connect through Auckland, Christchurch, or Sydney. Flying to and renting a car in Queenstown can be more expensive than other airports in New Zealand. It might be worth it to start in Christchurch and make your way down to Queenstown, hitting some of the other spots along the way.
When to go?
With four distinct and unique seasons offering a markedly different experience, the best time to visit Queenstown depends on what you want to do.
December to February is Summer and hiking season. It is also the busiest time to visit with surged up price for every activities and accommodation. If you want to escape the crowds while enjoying the outdoor activities, I would say Spring (September – November) is probably your best bet. You’ll have a chance of seeing snow on the mountains and yet warm enough to do outdoor activities.
June to August is the perfect time to visit if you want to ski and snowboard. The ski hill opens from July – October. During the these months is also when the Queenstown Winter Festival is held.
Autumn, which is between March and May is probably the cheapest period to visit but you’ll have to deal with the unpredictable weather.
Where to stay?
Hostels below NZD30:
- Nomads Queenstown Hostel
- Absoloot Hostel Queenstown
- Southern Laughter Backpackers
- 12 Mile Campground
Day 1: Easy Day in Queenstown
If you are feeling highly motivated (unlike us), hike Queenstown Hill to catch sunrise from the summit of Te Tapunui (Mountain of Intense Sacredness). The hike itself is 3-hours return, with information plates about different time periods in Queesntown’s history including Maori settlements, the gold-rush and the development of Queenstown to Adventure Capital of the World. Bring water and some snacks to stay on top and appreciate the stunning view, not forgetting your windbreaker as it can get chilly up there after awhile.
Take a stroll through Queenstown Garden or have a game of 18-course disc-golfing placed throughout the park. The park is right beside Lake Wakatipu with a variety of native and exotic floras. The best time to visit is evening to get the golden-orange sky with scenery view of mountains range as a backdrop, and ducks swimming in the lake.
Queenstown’s center is small but you’ll find all of the most popular shops and restaurants as well as the gorgeous lakefront. End your day with a Fergburger and be entertained by various buskers’ performances along the waterfront.
Day 2: Arrowtown + Wine Tasting
Located about 25-minutes out of Queenstown is the charming Arrowtown. Once a gold mining village, the main township still has a cool colonial-era style to it, but the buildings are now packed with hipster and quaint cafes. Today, you can still pan for gold along Arrow River – though your odds of getting rich are quite slim.
Continue on State Highway 6 and you will drive through numerous wineries producing some of the world’s best pinot noir. It would be a shame not to stop for any wine tasting. Most wineries don’t charge a fee for wine tasting – usually only a small donation into the honesty box. Others offer tastings for around $10-15 per person allowing you to try 4 to 7 different wines.
Day 3: Scenic Drive to Glenorchy
A 45-minutes curvy drive along Lake Wakatipu, Glenorchy is a picturesque town to escape from the bustling Queenstown.
We managed to arrive early to avoid crowds at the insta-worthy Glenorchy Wharf and boardwalk. It was unfortunate that after 2-days of non-stopping rain, we were unable do any treks (Glenorchy Walk & Routeburn Track) due to flooding paths and damaged bridges.
Nevertheless, we consoled ourselves with one of the best pies in New Zealand at Wolly’s General Store.
Along Glenorchy-Queenstown road, there are many viewpoints to check out and some walking trails as well. I suggest you drive straight to Glenorchy in the morning, and stop by the points on the way back.
Point of interests (Glenorchy to Queenstown):
- Pigeon Island & Pig Island
- Bob’s Cove Track
- Twelve Mile Creek
- Wilson Bay
- Seven Mile Point Reserve
Day 4: Ziplining the Steepest Course in the World
Here with Ziptrek Ecotours, you get the opportunity to experience the tallest and steepest forest zipline adventure in the world while getting educated on sustainability along the way. The Ziptrek tours come in two options – the Moa package (4 courses) and the Kea package (6 courses). I highly recommend doing the Kea package as you get to “fly” through the forest at a speed of 70km/h due to the steepness of the course.
One of the things I really loved about this tour was their commitment to sustainable tourism and education. Educational stops were included to provide insights of the local environment, the sustainable and environmentally-friendly way the treehouses and ziplines were installed. They have a philosophy of Take, Make, Break, Cake – all of which are explained through humor and interesting facts by our knowledgeable guides.
Along the courses, the guides offer challenges with variations to try instead of just ziplining down the same way over and over again. From second line, they suggested riding backward with your ankles wrapped around the cable?! It sounds scary but it isn’t too bad if you get the momentum and enough strength to get your legs up there! Even an old couple with us tried doing it! Other variations include laying back in a reclining position and sing a song while ziplining across the forest.
If you can only splurge on one activity to do in Queenstown, I would propose doing Ziptrek Ecotours!
Day 5: Learn to Fly with Infinity Paragliding
Another exciting day we have been waiting for! Blessed with good weather, we can finally learn how to fly!
Instead of paying NZD200+ for tandem paragliding, we decided why not just learn it? And that’s how we sign ourselves up for a 6-hours introductory paragliding course.
Honestly, it was hard. And tiring. And frustrating.
During this 6-hours, we got to learn parts of the paraglider, how to get yourself ready to take-off, ran against the wind to get the wing up, and to land properly.
But at the same time, you would definitely feel more rewarding than flying down with a tandem.
Lastly, if you want to keep a track of all my photos and travels, remember to follow @wanderrsaurus on Instagram!