From bungy jumping where it all began to driving to Paradise, literally, these are 17 of the most epic things to do in Queenstown, New Zealand.
If you’re the kind of person that loves adrenaline and adventure, all while hanging out in one of the most beautiful places in the Southern Hemisphere, then Queenstown on the South Island of New Zealand is for you!
Known as being the adventure capital of the world, Queenstown has been attracting visitors for decades, and now this once-sleepy little village tucked away in the mountains is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.
After kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park and hanging out in Franz Josef, we spent 4 days exploring Queenstown, and now we know what the hype is all about. It’s more than just a place to be active, it’s absolutely stunning!
The night we arrived it was foggy and misty, and we had literally no idea what was surrounding us. But in the morning the clouds lifted, the mountains came out and we were speechless.
All around us were snowcapped peaks, mist coming off the lake and autumn-coloured trees. The crisp and clear morning introduced us to the special atmosphere of Queenstown we had heard so much about.
As we were drinking our coffee, we started thinking, “Where do we even start? How do we decide what to do in Queenstown?”
Ready For Adventure? Here’s The Top Things To Do In Queenstown
It’s true that there’s no shortage of activities here, so with four days up our sleeves we weren’t going to waste a minute.
Our biggest advice is to get up early and start the day as soon as possible. And that is exactly what we did. We managed to fit a lot in the 4 days we were there, and we hope this article helps you on your next visit.
Here is our list of the best things to see and do in Queenstown on your holiday.
1) Get Your Heart Pumping With AJ Hackett
Do one thing every day that scares you. This is a quote we live by, and it’s something the absolute legends at AJ Hackett take to heart!
AJ Hackett was the first person to bring bungy jumping to the world, a pretty crazy activity that involves tying a giant elastic band to your body and jumping off of something high.
Naturally this turned into a worldwide sensation, and AJ Hackett created the original and best bungy jumping company, founded right here in Queenstown.
There are a couple of bungy locations around the area, including the Kawarau Bridge just outside of town which is where the first commercial bungy operation started, or if you want to keep it local you can head up Queenstown Hill!
The Ledge Bungy is one that will scare you, even if you think it won’t. At 47 metres high it is not the tallest or craziest one around, but with the beautiful view 450m over Queenstown seeming to stretch on forever and ever, your mind will play games on you.
What makes the Ledge Bungy different to the rest around the country is the option of a ‘Freestyle Jump’. This means you can leap off the ledge in absolute style: Forwards, backwards, Matrix-style, doing backflips, Superman, whatever you’re feeling up for!
Not into bungy jumping but still want to give something adventurous a go? Check out their awesome Ledge Swing. You have to pull the release yourself, and it’ll have you soaring off the mountain. Definitely one of the top things to do in Queenstown.
- Website: https://www.bungy.co.nz/queenstown/ledge/
- Price: NZD$165 for the Ledge Swing, NZD$205 for the Ledge Bungy. Package deals available.
2) Shotover Jet Boat Ride
If you go to Queenstown and don’t go on the Shotover Jet Boat ride, did you really go to Queenstown?
This is such a unique attraction, something that you’ll hear about all over New Zealand, and really one of the funnest activities in Queenstown.
Jet boats are fast and agile vessels that are capable of driving at enormous speeds, and spinning 360 degrees on a dime. I think you see where this is going.
While there are lots of other jet boat rides around Queenstown, the Shotover is by far the best and most iconic.
Located in the heart of the Shotover Canyon, just 10 minutes from downtown, you will be amazed by this spectacular place.
Getting picked up from the adventure centre in town, we suited up with a rain jacket and life vest (supplied by the team there) and got ready for our 20-minute ride.
The boat charges through the narrow canyon, huge cliffs towering above you, and drifting ever-so-close to the rocks to really get your heart pumping.
Holding on tight we would hit speeds of up to 85km/h, with the wind rushing through our hair, and everybody would burst out with screams and laughter.
Don’t worry though – The drivers are some of the most experienced in the country, and know their limits to keep everybody safe.
It’s really one of the most popular things to do in Queenstown, and for good reason.
- Website: https://www.shotoverjet.com/
- Price: NZD$149
3) Tackle The Ben Lomond Hike
This full day hike takes 6 -8 hours return, and will provide you with stunning views of the gorgeous Lake Wakatipu below.
At the mercy of the weather, this trail is only open from the beginning of November through until the end of March. Outside of this time it is closed due to heavy snow on the ground.
The trailhead starts at the top of the Skyline Gondola on Queenstown Hill, and we recommend starting early in the morning while temperatures are cooler.
Want to skip paying for the Gondola? Start walking the Tiki Track from the bottom which takes you to the same place.
Once you begin the walk you’ll have amazing views to the Remarkables, Coronet Peak and across the lake, and they just keep getting better the higher you climb.
It’s well-marked and is a mix of alpine landscapes and wooded scenes. Once you hit the ridge line continue uphill to Ben Lomond Saddle, at 1326m above sea level.
From here you meet the Moonlight Track, a good spot for a rest, then push on towards the summit. It does get steep, so watch your footing.
The summit of Ben Lomond is 1728m, and on a clear day the views are truly impressive, and you can see for miles in every direction.
We recommend being prepared for the hike by wearing sturdy footwear, take lots of water with you, some lunch and snacks, and if you need some hiking poles as well.
If you meet any Kea birds at the top please remember not to feed them.
4) Climb Queenstown Hill for Sunrise Or Sunset
If you love the idea of enjoying epic views, but aren’t feeling up for the long hike to the summit of Ben Lomond, check out Queenstown Hill at sunrise or sunset!
With those classic views over Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables, the vistas from Queenstown Hill are good at any time of day, but are even more magical in the golden hours.
Wake up early and climb the Tiki Track for sunrise, or head up there in the afternoon for sunset and take some snacks and wine with you.
While the track is well-marked, be prepared if you’re planning on starting or ending at night by having a charged headlamp or torch with you, and check the weather before going!
5) Drive Out To Moke Lake
On a beautiful day load up the rental car with food and wine, and head out to Moke Lake for picnic!
Surrounded by gorgeous mountains (like everywhere in Queenstown), Moke Lake is a perfect spot to relax or enjoy a spot of hiking.
The turn off for this epic lake is 6km out of Queenstown on the way to Glenorchy, and 7km down a gravel road to the end. It’ll take you about 20 minutes to head out there.
The campground at the end is an awesome place to stay if you want to get out of the hustle and bustle of Queenstown, and only costs NZD$13 per person.
If you walk the easy 2-hour hiking track reward yourself with a swim in the chilly waters.
It’s one of the great day trips from Queenstown that is off the beaten track, as few people allow themselves the time to actually get out there.
If you want to go out there in winter make sure you have a 4×4 and snow chains.
6) Play Frisbee Golf In The Queenstown Gardens
Let’s face it – New Zealand is awesome and full of amazing activities, but it is expensive! If you’re not careful you could easily blow out your travel budget in a few days. That doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun though.
Need to watch your wallet and would like some cheap things to do in Queenstown? Then grab some friends and hit the trees for a bit of Frisbee Golf.
This 18 basket course is situated downtown in the Queenstown Gardens, and is a lot of fun. You grab some frisbees and ‘tee off’ down the green, with the aim being landing the frisbees in the baskets at the end of the course in the least number of throws.
The course is free, but if you need to rent the gear you can do so from Small Planet Disc Sports for $5 a day, and grab a score card for $3.
This is a great activity for a group of friends or families who want to do some fun activities in Queenstown. If you are not into playing Frisbee Golf, simply take a walk around the gardens and enjoy all the flowers.
7) Eat At Fergburger
There are so many options for food and drinks in Queenstown, that even if you stayed for a month you could go somewhere different for pretty much every meal.
During the day as we were walking around we would take note of the happy hours and meal deals to save some coin. Unfortunately food prices in Queenstown can be pretty crazy, so you need to watch where you eat (although the quality is definitely high)
But if there’s one place you can’t miss eating at in Queenstown, it is Fergburger.
If you’ve had some friends visit Queenstown before chances are you’ve already heard about this iconic establishment. Pretty much everybody we told we were heading to Queenstown told us to eat there!
Fergburger is known for making huge, delicious burgers (obviously), and no matter what time of day or night you go, you’re likely to see countless people standing outside waiting for their Fergburger fix. They’re massive, so make sure you go on an empty stomach.
To be honest they weren’t the best burgers we’ve ever had, and according to locals they aren’t even the best burgers in Queenstown, but standing in line and waiting for your meal is something you have to do at least once while here.
We recommend going outside the peak lunch and dinner times. We went at about 4pm and only had to wait 15 minutes, but we met a lady who said one time she waited over 90 minutes for her order! Crazy.
Rather than eating there, get your meal and walk down to the waterfront where this is a great floating bar on an old boat that has good happy hour drink prices and a BYO food policy.
Fergburger is open rather late, so for a lot of travellers it ends up being one of those fun things to do in Queenstown at night after a heavy drinking session.
8) Work Off Your Burger With Some Downhill Mountain Biking
All those mountains, hills and farmland around Queenstown are just screaming to be cycled, and luckily for you New Zealand has been growing its reputation as one of the best mountain biking destinations in the world.
Whether you’re into single tracks, cross country, insane downhills, dirt jumping or a leisurely peddle around the lake, there are plenty of options to keep you satisfied.
There’s lots of good stores in town to rent a mountain bike from, or you can get real adventurous and join an action-packed tour.
Check out the Queenstown Trails website from some ideas of where you can go.
9) Drive The Road From Queenstown To Glenorchy
Do not miss this drive if you are in Queenstown, as it definitely is one of the most beautiful drives in the South Island of New Zealand.
This 1-hour drive follows Lake Wakatipu from Queenstown to the beautiful little town of Glenorchy, 47km away. There are lots of beautiful points of interest to stop at and admire the crystal clear waters with the jagged mountain background.
Take your time and especially take care when pulling over for a photo at any of the view points. The road is very busy, and there’s not a lot of room in the parking lots to fit all the rental cars, RVs and tour buses.
Once you get to Glenorchy give yourself a few hours to stop, get lunch and enjoy the area. Take a photo of the boat shed, or go for a walk along the water.
Even better if you have time, you can stay a night in this relaxing town with accommodation for anyone’s budget. There’s a cute little country pub, cafes and a small general store to check out.
You can drive this road anytime of the year, but locals say the most beautiful time is in the cooler months when the mountains are covered in snow. That being said, we thought the warmer months (April) were gorgeous too.
If you are visiting Queenstown, hire a car and be amazed by this scenic drive in New Zealand.
10) Go To Paradise, Literally
If you do the drive to Glenorchy (and of course you are already planning to after reading the point above), you have nearly arrived in Paradise. For real.
A 20 kilometre drive onwards from Glenorchy is a beautiful sleepy village called Paradise. It doesn’t have any shops, no restaurants to eat at, but what it does have is postcard-perfect rolling farmlands and stunning mountain ranges.
The road is 8 km sealed and 12km unsealed, so take it easy and drive with care, especially if you’re in a rental.
Glenorchy and Paradise have been the back drop for many movies such as The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and more. If you’re a big fan you can even join a Lord of the Rings movie tour.
Paradise is the start of the beautiful Dart Rees hiking track, but unfortunately when we went there it was closed after heavy rain.
Not everyone makes it to Paradise, which is a shame. But take it from us, if you love nature and mountains, put this on your list of places to visit around Queenstown.
11) Explore Arrowtown
A short 20-minute drive from Queenstown is the charming and quirky town named Arrowtown. It is a gold rush village along the Arrow River, that is surround by beautiful mountains.
Yep another town surrounded by gorgeous mountains. But you can’t really get sick of them, can you?
Arrowtown is rich in history, offering walking trails, biking trails, gorgeous picnic spots and some picturesque streets. While there are many places to visit around Queenstown, you shouldn’t skip Arrowtown.
12) Go Up The Remarkables For Breathtaking Views
The huge mountain range you can see to the east of Queenstown is called The Remarkables, and with a name like that you know it’s going to be, well, remarkable!
A long, twisting road climbs up the mountains just outside of town and leads to an excellent ski resort, but the drive there is as much about the stunning views over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu as it is about making it to the top.
In summer it can take 30 minutes to drive up (in winter expect an hour with all the snow on the road). We stopped off at every single spot to simply admire the vistas.
Once you reach the ski resort there is a great little hike to Lake Alta, which will take you about 90 minutes return. The trail begins behind the Remarkables Ski Resort, buildings and follows the ski field road to the top chairlift.
From there signs and flags will mark the way to the glacial lake. Unfortunately when we made it to the top the clouds had socked us completely in and visibility was about 10m, so we missed the walk. It’s a great alternative hike to Ben Lomond if you want something a lot quieter.
13) Have A Picnic At Lake Hayes And Walk The Loop
Queenstown is full of so many adrenaline and physical activities, that sometimes you need to slow down and simply take in exactly where you are.
A great way to do this is to get out of Queenstown and head to one of New Zealand’s most photographed lakes, Lake Hayes. It is also known as the mirror lake, with the beautiful reflection of the Wakatipu Basin.
There are plenty of tables and chairs, and large grassed areas available for picnics and recreational activities. After your bite, take a walk along the lake. There is an 8km loop around the whole lake to enjoy the mountains and lake from all angles.
14) Go Skydiving With The Best Views In The World
You can’t have a list of adventurous things to do in Queenstown without mentioning one of the most ultimate activities out there, skydiving!
If the idea of jumping out of a perfectly good plane with a stranger strapped to your back sounds like a good time, then you’re in luck, because Queenstown is a skydiving Mecca!
Offering insane views over the lakes and and mountains the regions is known for, it’s guaranteed to be an activity that you’ll remember for years to come.
15) Go For A Scenic Flight Instead
If you love the idea of seeing Queenstown from above, but would much rather stay safely inside the plane, then taking a scenic flight could be a great option.
If this is in your budget, don’t miss out! There are a few companies in town that will give you a stunning views from the sky of these specular mountain ranges, and land on the ground with you still there.
Prices range from NZD$245 to NZD$1000, depending on the amount of time you want to spend in the air and the location. Do shop around and check prices before making a booking.
As there are many fun activities to do in Queenstown, this one will bring it to another level.
16) Take It All In From The Water With A Sunset Cruise
Seeing as Queenstown is built on the edge of an immense, beautiful lake, it makes perfect sense that one of the best ways to see the area is by water.
These run about 4 times a day, depending on the time of the year, and last for 90 minutes. If you can time one to be at sunset then even better!
This is one of the great Queenstown tourist attractions that cannot be missed.
- Price: Around NZD$39
17) Shred The Slopes At Coronet Peak, Cardrona Or The Remarkables
You might be thinking that pretty much all of what to do in Queenstown happens in the summertime, but that’s just not true.
In fact, when winter comes around, Queenstown becomes a snow-lovers paradise, with three amazing ski resorts all within an hour of downtown.
Coronet Peak, Cardrona and The Remarkables all have amazing life-accessed terrain, and are suitable for beginners right through to professionals.
With up to 7m of snow falling on some of the mountains around here as well, there’s a good chance you’ll have the opportunity to tear up some Kiwi powder while you’re there.
Where To Stay In Queenstown
Naturally being the tourist hotspot that it is, there’s no shortage of accommodation in Queenstown. Unfortunately that also means that ‘cheap accommodation’ doesn’t really exist there either.
If you’re on a backpacker budget, you’ll find lots of really good hostels in town, many of them offering great bonuses like free breakfasts, fully-stocked kitchens, wifi, etc.
Rather stay in something that’s not a backpacker hostel? Well you’re spoilt for choice. Luckily you’ll find plenty of great options on Agoda, and if you book through our link and use the coupon “AGODANMD10” you’ll get an extra 10% off your stay, making your stay in Queenstown that little bit more affordable.
Personally we decided to splash out and stay in what proved to be one of our favourite hotels in a long, long time.
Best Hotel In Queenstown – Sherwood Hotel
This alternative hotel offers a fresh taste to the accommodation industry, and really stands out as somewhere unique to stay in Queenstown.
Being an alternative hotel means they have upcycled much of the decorations and furnishings you can find in the rooms and restaurant, minimising their impact on the planet and creating a funky space for people to enjoy.
Set on 3 acres between Frankston (where the airport is) and Queenstown (about 3km away), this spacious property has a bike track, huge garden, amazing views over the lake and a bumping bar with live music some nights.
The rooms range from simple and cosy to one-bedroom apartments right up to epic suites with insane views over the lake.
We took a one-bedroom apartment with a kitchenette, so we could cook our own meals at night (remember, Queenstown is expensive). It was a great choice, with a cool sitting area and extremely comfortable bed.
The restaurant grows many of their ingredients right there on the property, so you know the food is superb.
It’s an easy 30-minute walk into town, or you can take the free shuttle that Sherwood operates. Personally we loved being out of town, as it can get insanely busy in the heart of Queenstown.
Best Car Rental In Queenstown
With so many amazing activities just outside of Queenstown, having your own wheels is really the best way to get out to them.
There’s dozens of car rental companies in town, so it can be hard choosing one. Luckily for us we found Omega Rental.
Not only were they cheap (about NZD$32 a day) for an economical car that was very reliable and didn’t miss a beat, they didn’t try to rip us off when we returned the car!
Being a cheap option we figured they’d go over the car with a fine-tooth comb trying to find any damage to charge us an exorbitant fee for.
Instead they gave it a quick once-over, saw that it was in the same condition as when we left the lot, and instantly gave us our deposit back. Add a friendly staff that were happy to give tips and advice on where to go, and you’ve got yourself a winning company!
That’s it for our list of the best things to do in Queenstown! Have we missed anything? Leave a comment below and let us know!