There are few places in New Zealand compared to Queenstown that offer a wider variety of activities - particularly with an emphasis on the extreme such as skydiving, bungee jumping, jet boating and more - that encapsulate the energy and the raw nature of this popular South Island destination. Queenstown is not just for the thrill seekers however; various opportunities for tours and daily excursions to wineries, 4WD tours and scenic helicopter flights provide a more relaxing alternative for those with laid back personalities.
Serving as one of the main focus points for visiting tourists, both nationally and internationally, Queenstown is known as one of the "adventure capitals" of the world due to its proximity to a wide variety of varying natural landscapes - alpine mountains combine with crystal clear rivers and lakes to form a distinctly New Zealand panorama of views and sightseeing vantage points that will have you reaching for the camera and coming away with pictures that are truly postcard-worthy!
There are numerous ways to see Queenstown and its surrounding areas from different angles; guided walks, scenic flights, relaxing cruises, kayaking and much more - whether you're older, younger, or anything in between, Queenstown is sure to have an experience for you, your friends and your family - simply choose an experience category from the list of options below and dive right in to the marvels that make Queenstown such a popular destination!
Things to do in Queenstown – Top Activities and More
As New Zealand's so-called “adventure capital”, Queenstown has a huge range of things to see and do on offer. The South Island alpine resort town encompasses activities of all kinds, from the adrenaline-pumping to wine tasting and the incredibly scenic. Here is our list of some of the top things to do:
There are few places in New Zealand that provide a broader range of activities to take part in than Queenstown. Its “adventure capital” nickname has not been gained without a good reason; the number of opportunities to get out and experience some incredible highs await, with the alpine surrounds contributing to the activity options available. The following list of activities are some of the Queenstown's most highly recommended:
Skydiving – Skydiving in itself provides an inherent rush as you freefall from an airplane from several thousand feet above the ground; add to this the incredible Queenstown scenery that awaits below and you have yourself a combination that makes for an unmatchable adrenaline rush and scenic adventure like no other! As the birthplace of tandem skydiving in New Zealand, Queenstown serves as the ideal destination for a dropzone, which is located at the base of the majestic Remarkables mountain range, further adding to the panorama that unfolds below as you drop from a maximum height of 15,000 feet. Face a skydiving challenge and walk away with a true sense of accomplishment!
Shotover Canyon Swing – One experience that is truly unique to Queenstown, the Shotover Canyon Swing is a giant rope swing that allows you to take advantage of gravity while soaring over the wild and beautiful Shotover River. Built on the edge of a cliff that towers above the river canyon, the Swing starts at a platform on the edge of the 109m-high cliff edge, taking you on a freefall for 60 metres at speeds of up to 150km/h towards the canyon's rocks before the swing's ropes kick in and ensure you swing smoothly and safely past. A range of jump/swing styles are available to accommodate all levels of adrenaline!
TSS Earnslaw Cruise on Lake Wakatipu – Those wishing to take a step back from the many adrenaline-oriented adventures on offer may alternatively choose to board Queenstown's iconic steamship the TSS Earnslaw for one of its relaxing and scenic cruises on beautiful Lake Wakatipu. All the elegance of early 20th century sea and river travel is encapsulated in these experiences aboard the vessel which has been in operation since 1912 and is one of the only coal-fueled passenger vessels still in operation in the Southern Hemisphere today. The ideal way to soak in some of Queenstown's magnificent alpine scenery in peaceful serenity and comfort before disembarking for a range of available adventures on the other side of the lake.
Whitewater Rafting – The quintessential Queenstown adventure experience, whitewater rafting is annually one of the biggest drawcards for visitors to the region due to the large number of rivers, each with rapids offering various degrees of difficulty. With such options as the Kawarau, Shotover and Landsborough Rivers, there is a whitewater rafting adventure available to suit everyone regardless of skills or past experience. The experience of whitewater rafting combines with some of the area's outstanding scenery to form a day full of watery fun, teamwork and family friendly adventure.
Skiing and Heli-Skiing – The ultimate experience for the skier or snowboarder, Queenstown's prime runs and mountainous terrains provide numerous chances to take advantage of the magnificence of New Zealand's Southern Alps. Surrounded by fresh snow and stunning landscape, you'll be lead by an experienced guide to a run that is best suited to your ability level to provide both the maximum level of safety as well as an unforgettable New Zealand ski experience.
Skyline Gondola and Luge – One of the best ways to get some truly amazing views of Queenstown and surrounds is to embark on a Skyline Gondola ride. 730 metres in length, the gondola ride is the steepest lift in the Southern Hemisphere and has large windows on all sides ensuring all riders get unparalleled views of Coronet Peak and The Remarkables mountain range, and with views of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu below. Once the gondola journey is complete, the fast-paced luge ride awaits, with two choices of track (fast-paced or scenic) and, regardless of which you choose, you'll still take in yet more uninhibited, amazing views of Queenstown and beyond.
Top Attractions and other Things to Do
Restaurant and Dinner Theatre Packages – A great way to spend an evening on Queenstown is a dinner theatre show that combines great food with a traditional Maori cultural performance. Choose between lunch and dinner and feast on a variety of traditional New Zealand flavours and dishes with a spread that includes a large selection of hot and cold appetisers, salads, seafoods, meats, pastas and desserts. Add in the Kiwi Haka experience – a live performance put on by Maori artists – for a show that is tradtional in content and environment all set in a theatre decorated in traditional Wakatipu decorations and carvings that will provide you with a perfect sample of what New Zealand, both past and present, is all about.
Day Tours to Natural and Scenic Highlights – With the bevy of scenic areas that can be found in and around Queenstown, nature lovers will be in their element, and a number of great sightseeing tours and tour operators are available to help you take advantage of your time there. Geographic icons that can be found nearby include Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, Lake Wakatipu itself, the towering and snow-capped Mount Cook, and much more. Tours typically operate in small groups, giving you a personal touch accompanied by an expert and experienced guide who will provide you with detailed and informative commentary on the history and culture of your destination of choice, adding to the experience. From Queenstown you can take a safari tour of the filming locations for The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy or discover the flavours of this world-renowned wine region.
Scenic Flights – The natural beauty on display in the Queenstown region is only further enhanced by viewing it from the incredible vantage points that scenic flights provide – travel over glaciers, through mountain ranges and above both rushing rivers and gaping canyons that offer an unforgettable panorama unfolding below. Such unique New Zealand scenery as the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, Mount Cook, and much more look even better from above than below!
Walking Treks – One of the simplest yet most immersive and interactive nature experiences available in New Zealand is a guided nature walk along some of the amazing walking trek paths that carve their way through the back-country regions of Queenstown that are steeped in rich gold mining history. You'll get a true sense of the untouched wilderness coupled with spectacles of amazing scenery that can be found within the bounds of spectacular Fiordland National Park. From tall, mossy rainforests to rocky mountain passes, deep gorges and sparkling lakes, there is a postcard-worthy view waiting around every corner.
In addition, for more information on things to do in Queenstown and New Zealand in general, be sure to check out our region pages for further details!