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The Top Things to do in Queenstown

Looking for things to do in Queenstown? View and book all your Queenstown activities and tours online here. There are few places in New Zealand like Queenstown that offer a wide variety of activities such as skydiving, bungee jumping & jet boating - and encapsulate the energy and raw nature of NZ. Queenstown is not just for the thrill seekers, however, with various opportunities for tours and excursions to wineries, 4WD tours and scenic flights offering a relaxing alternative. There are numerous ways to see Queenstown - find your ideal experience and book online here today!

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Top Things to do in - Queenstown and surrounds

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Experience Oz Staff
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Queenstown is easily one of the most popular travel spots for international travellers making their first trip to New Zealand, and it's got a much-deserved great reputation for blending adventure and thrills into a single, wonderful package. This energetic resort town found on the shores of picturesque Lake Wakatipu in NZ's Otago region holds the unofficial title of “Adventure Capital of the World”, and upon first glance at all the things to see and do, it isn't hard to see why.

Bordered by the ruggedly scenic sight of the Remarkables mountain range, Queenstown contrasts with many other typically “scenic” destinations by being more upbeat and activity-focused rather than taking a “relax and absorb” approach – although this option is obviously available if that's what you're looking for. Simply put, if you're the active type, you'll never be bored in the Queenstown region, as its variety of terrain and geographical location make experiencing a wide range of different things to do – from snow, to water, to nightlife, to adrenaline, there's plenty to keep visitors occupied during their time in this essential South Island destination.

If you're planning to visit the adventure capital, here are some of our recommendations for 10 of the top things to do in Queenstown, NZ and its surrounding areas:

1. Bungy Jumping

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Location: Shotover Street, Queenstown, NZ

Bungy, bungee, bungie – however you spell it, there's nothing else that means Queenstown quite as much as this. Queenstown is the world's home of bungy jumping, with local company AJ Hackett having started what is now a worldwide phenomenon back in 1988.

What began as a basic thrill-seeking experience where a long elastic cord is attached to the ankles or harness, and the person jumps off a large height has ballooned into offering an increasing range of options for junkies in search of a rush.

Nowadays, this extreme Queenstown experience lets you perform numerous styles of bungy jumps amongst stunning NZ scenery from a platform situated as high as 400m above Queenstown itself.

Featuring a specially-designed Bungy harness, the experience allows both standard jumps as well as special manoeuvres such as spins, flips and much more. In fact, the list of possibilities is so diverse, upon arrival you'll be presented with a special "Jump Menu" that details all the available twists and turns to choose from – bungy jumping has truly come a long way.

"Bungy, bungee, bungie – however you spell it, there's nothing else that means Queenstown quite as much as this - Queenstown is the world's original home of bungy jumping."

Queenstown has been the world’s best known and best loved bungy jump location for more than 20 years for a reason – there's currently three bungy sites each offering a different outlook and style, including the original site of bungy jumping at the bridge above Queenstown's Kawarau River - and it continues to set pulses racing amongst the extreme enthusiasts who visit from all corners of the globe, whether young in age or young at heart.

Whether you're a local looking to push yourself to the limit, an adrenaline lover travelling from abroad, or simply someone wanting to check an item off the bucket list, no trip to Queenstown is complete without a bungy jump – one of New Zealand's original and most popular adventure activities.

2. Go Skiing and Snowboarding

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Location: Various locations, Queenstown, NZ

The magnificence of New Zealand's Southern Alps isn't just a pretty site – their numerous mountainous terrains are also home to some great runs during ski season that will keep any skier or snowboarder satisfied. Queenstown has four major ski fields that see regular ski traffic throughout the year.

Coronet Peak, which lies just 20 minutes from Queenstown, is the most accessible ski spot from the town and while it experiences only moderate snowfall, with the assistance of snow machines there's more than enough coverage to provide slopes that are suitable for both beginners and the advanced.

Ski season on the peak typically runs from the beginning of June to early October, and it offers the longest opening hours of any ski facility in New Zealand.

More advanced skiers or those wanting consistently better coverage may want to instead make the further trip to The Remarkables ski fields which are around 30-45 minutes from Queenstown. This area has older facilities than those of Coronet Peak, however its atmosphere tends to be more relaxed, with a larger variety of runs of various levels as well as different ways of skiing down the same terrain.

"Fresh, crisp alpine air, soft white snow, cool temperatures and an amazing range of mountains — the winter in Queenstown is every skier and snowboarder’s dream."

Powdery-soft snow and a series of char lifts that take you higher than those of Coronet Peak round out the experience, and while it's a less accessible spot and has a slightly shorter ski season (ends in September), with a series of new developments underway set to open soon, the Remarkables make for a wider – and incredibly scenic – ski spot.

Higher level skiers can venture even further to the Harris Mountains right in the heart of the Southern Alps, with helicopter ski experiences allowing access to the primest of powder and sickest of slopes available in the greater Queenstown region. A range of heli-ski packages are available encompassing varying difficulties and runs on terrain that is custom suited to your individual ability.

On a heli-ski trip, your guide will lead you to an area of terrain suited to your ability and get you started with all the necessary ski and safety equipment provided to best ensure that you can be free of worries and fears and simply embrace the stunning scenery and awesome fun that heli-skiing provides. It will obviously cost you a significant chunk of change, but if you're after the ski experience to end all ski experiences, you can't go wrong here.

Fresh, crisp alpine air, soft white snow, cool temperatures and an amazing range of mountains — the winter in Queenstown is every skier and snowboarder’s dream.

3. Go Skydiving

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Location: Shotover Street, Queenstown, NZ

Sensing a thrill-seeking theme here? Queenstown wouldn't be Queenstown without the rushes it provides, and skydiving takes things higher still than any other experience on this list. Skydiving in itself provides an inherent rush as you free fall 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 drop that will get even the most stone-hearted of thrill seekers' blood pumping.

As the birthplace of tandem skydiving in New Zealand, Queenstown serves as the ideal destination for a drop zone, 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 (that's 1,000 feet higher than the average maximum height of skydives in Australia).

During the drop, you'll reach speeds of up to 200km/h, and with everything going on with your body plus what your eyes are taking in – crystal clear lakes, snow-capped mountains, fellow skydivers and even Queenstown itself - the sheer sensory overload makes for an incredible experience.

"Add to the skydiving the incredible Queenstown scenery that awaits below and you have yourself a combination that makes for an unmatchable drop that will get even the most stone-hearted of thrill seekers' blood pumping."

The plane ride aboard the provided light aircraft is no slouch when it comes to scenery either, although most will probably be too psyched for the upcoming dive to fully appreciate it!

Skydiving operator NZONE definitely know their stuff as well, having been in operation since 1990 and providing prospective skydivers with all the latest, safest and most state-of-the-art equipment at all times. They run a tight ship, with an operation that is famously professional while still aiming to alleviate the nerves of first-timer skydivers and help them feel safe for what is many a true self-examination as far as confidence goes.

Both professionally-taken photo and USB packages are available for skydivers to purchase after their jump, and while fairly expensive, they're well worth the investment to document what for many will likely only be a once-or-twice in a lifetime experience. With great service, outstanding views and one of the world's best jump environments, if you're ever planning to skydive at least once in your life then there are few better spots in the world to take the plunge than Queenstown.

4. Shotover Canyon Swing

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Location: Shotover Street, Queenstown, NZ

Built on the edge of a cliff that towers above the Shotover River, the Shotover Canyon Swing is one of Queenstown's most distinctive adrenaline activities. Those with strong bladders can attempt to defy gravity as they are launched from a 109 metre high cliff edge, free-falling for 60 metres as fast as 150km an hour before the ropes kick in and swing you past the awaiting canyons and rocks below. Sound extreme? Oh, it is.

Aspiring jumpers are presented with a variety of jump options that range from “wild” to “wilder”, with over 70 in total including the likes of tandem, upside down, reverse and even a chair jump, among countless others. The Canyon Swing differs to bungy jumping in that there tends to be a smoother transition from the free-fall-to-swing phase than the rather jarring “snap” of bungy elastic however, which can be more comfortable for some (although in this case, “comfortable” is a relative term).

"Aspiring jumpers are presented with a variety of jump options that range from “wild” to “wilder”, with over 70 in total including the likes of tandem, upside down, reverse and even a chair jump, among countless others."

It certainly serves as a welcome alternative to bungy jumping for those who are not quite ready to take that particular plunge. The professional grade safety harnesses and special release mechanism are all essentials that make the swing a safe proposition, although it's of little comfort once you are standing out on the platform preparing to be launched.

The jump platform itself offers rather stunning views of the canyon and Shotover River, but it's the time once the free-fall portion of the swing is complete where you'll truly be spellbound by your proximity to all the scenery. The setting that the Swing is set in is truly spectacular; high, steep cliffs of layered rock juxtapose with the rushing river and unique rock formations to make the latter portion of the jump quite pleasant as you're winched back up to the tower.

Offering the best of both of Queenstown's worlds, the Shotover Canyon Swing is a dose of pure adrenaline mixed with incredible nature and – and a high level of light-hearted customer service to top it all off.

5. Hike Ben Lomond Track

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Location: Otago, NZ (accessed via One Mile Carpark/Lomond Crescent & Brecon Street)

Those looking for a more epic hike in the Queenstown area can test their mettle on the Ben Lomond Track, which is named after the nearby mountain and which offers even more incredible views than the more-commonly-visited Bob's Peak. The track can be accessed via the nearby One Mile carpark or from the Skyline complex where the above mentioned Skyline Gondola and its other attractions are found.

It's far from an easy walk, with the first few minutes of the climb in particular proving quite strenuous before things level out slightly – however, you're looking at a solid, 6 hour return trip including the stop for lunch you'll likely want to have at the top.

The last half an hour to 45 minutes of the trek is particularly gruelling – it becomes something closer to a climb than a hike – but if you've made it that far you simply have to make the final push to the summit.

"At the summit, you'll be able to see all the way out to Mount Aspiring in the distance, as well as a 360 degree outlook that puts any other viewpoint accessible by mere humans to shame."

t's a tiring and challenging adventure that requires basically a 3/4 day's commitment, but the views atop quite simply beat any other offerings in the region, including the more mainstream paid gondola area.

At the summit, you'll be able to see all the way out to Mount Aspiring in the distance, as well as a 360 degree outlook that puts any other viewpoint accessible by mere humans to shame. It's worth allowing at least an hour – if not two – to spend at the summit to enjoy a packed lunch and recoup your energy while soaking in the views.

As long as you've got a moderate to high level of fitness and are willing to take your time and spread out the trip with several breaks (taking the Gondola and departing from there can save an hour or more off the trekking time and effort toll), the Ben Lomond Track is clearly the best hike available in the greater Queenstown area without having to travel further on a trip to an entirely different region.

6. Shotover Jet Boat Ride

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Location: Skippers Road, Queenstown, NZ

This wonderful example of New Zealand's back country scenery can be enjoyed on both land and water, with each experience providing a scenic – yet completely different – aspect on its natural highlights.

There are two main options you'll be presented with here; either take a 4WD tour into the historic and ruggedly beautiful countryside, or hop aboard a jet boat for an exhilarating ride along its famed Shotover River which runs through it. Both experiences are equally impressive – and there's by no means anything stopping you from doing both – but which is most enjoyable will depend on what you want out of your experience here.

The back country exploration option will see you heading out from Queenstown with a group and guide to the scenic and peaceful landscape along Skippers Canyon Road that was once the site of a gold rush back in the 1800's. Prepare for a bumpy yet exciting ride along what is largely a lesser-known – but utterly spectacular – part of the Queenstown region along a narrow road high in the hills bordered by steep cliffs that provide stunning views into the canyon and beyond.

"This wonderful example of New Zealand's back country scenery can be enjoyed on both land and water, with each experience providing a scenic – yet completely different – aspect on its natural highlights."

Making various stops at the best viewpoints, including a couple of spots used in the Lord of the Rings movies, and which allow for a shot of the bright blue Shotover River winding its way through the brilliant greenery and cliff walls which surround it.

This is definitely the choice for visitors who want some great photo opportunities coupled with a dose of informative history about the local Queenstown area.

Those looking to kick things up a notch will enjoy the high-tempo thrills of a jet boat ride aboard the iconic Shotover Jet that cuts its way through the impressively sheer walls of the canyon at speeds of up to 80 kilometres per hour. It's an experience that combines amazing sights with a rush, as during the tour the drivers put the purpose-built jet boats to the test, performing the likes of power brakes and 360 degree spins that will delight adrenaline junkies and leave the weak of bowel feeling uneasy.

This is one of Queenstown's signature experiences, with few other jetboat rides in the world able to match its blend of thrills and beautiful surrounds. The jetboat ride comes combined with the drive to the boat launching point which is scenic in and of itself, and all together makes for one of the best value paid experiences in Queenstown. It's long been iconic of the Queenstown region, and a must-do when visiting.

7. TSS Earnslaw

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Location: Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown, NZ

Lake Wakatipu's beautiful waters are one of the core reasons for the landscape surrounding Queenstown being so impressive, and getting out on the waters of the lake itself allows visitors the chance to take in the area from an entirely different vantage point. It's the third biggest lake in New Zealand, and the clarity of Queenstown's skies couple with the stillness of its waters to produce a mirror-like surface that only serves to add to the natural charm of the area.

One of the most iconic sights of the lake and Queenstown in general is its historic TSS Earnslaw paddle steamer which has been in operation since 1912 and is one of the coal fuelled passenger vessels still in operation today. A ride aboard the Earnslaw will provide you with the ideal way to soak in some of Queenstown's magnificent alpine scenery with an atmosphere of genuine serenity that modern, motor-powered boats simply can't match.

The vessel makes several trips daily from Queenstown across Lake Wakatipu that can either serve as a standalone sightseeing experience – with the chance to explore its vintage decks, bridge and gallery-lined interior – or be bundled with a stop and/or lunch at the nearby Walter Peak High Country Farm.

"It's the third biggest lake in New Zealand, and the clarity of Queenstown's skies couple with the stillness of its waters to produce a mirror-like surface that only serves to add to the natural charm of the area."

This farm is a reminder of traditional European-influenced kiwi lifestyle situated in an idyllic location on the lake's southern shores. While there, you'll be able to visit the holding pens to feed the sheep and deer, and also get up close to the authentic Scottish Highland Cattle before strolling through the lakeside gardens headed towards the Colonel's Homestead for a traditional high country morning or afternoon tea of pikelets and scones.

The TSS Earnslaw has plenty of on board facilities such as a licensed cafe and bar that serves both a selection of cafe-style food, beer, wine and spirits, you'll have access to everything you need to enjoy the cruise on these scenic waters in comfort while soaking in the natural majesty that surrounds you in every direction. The typical sightseeing cruise on the Earnslaw lasts for 1.5 hours, however there are also lunch and dinner cruise options which will be served at the farm's old-style homestead.

You can even disembark, hire a bike and go exploring on one of the bike tracks through the mountains near Walter Peak Farm and then board the TSS Earnslaw for the trip back, so if you're looking to make it more of an extended tour you'll definitely have the chance.

8. Queenstown Nightlife

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Location: Various locations, Queenstown, NZ

Queenstown's energetic atmosphere translates directly to its nightlife scene as well, and for what is really a fairly small city on the global level, there's a heck of a lot of bars, clubs and dining options for those looking to hit the town – so much so, in fact, that we named it our #1 Destination to Travel in your 20's in Australia and New Zealand.

The town has a distinct “party” vibe, and while there are plenty of upbeat venues focused at a younger crowd, more mature locales offering the chance for a laid-back drink are plentiful too.

The majority of Queenstown's night time entertainment is centred around the downtown area, and with over fifty bars/clubs in total, you'll be spoiled for choice. As a destination that mainly owes its popularity to tourism, drinking and licensing is a little more relaxed than you'll find in other parts of Oz/NZ – many venues have licenses that allow them to operate until 4:00am , and it's not just the weekends that are lively either.

Backpackers will be in their element here, as there are numerous pub crawls that allow the easy jumping from one venue to the next, and Queenstown's compact size and layout makes getting from A to B on foot a breeze.

Which Queenstown nightlife venue is right for you depends entirely what you're looking for; the swanky and pretentious to the down and dirty and everything in between are available, with perhaps the most iconic spots on the nightlife scene being the town's ice bars.

"Which Queenstown nightlife venue is right for you depends entirely what you're looking for; the swanky and pretentious to the down and dirty and everything in between are available, with perhaps the most iconic spots on the nightlife scene being the town's ice bars."

They're exactly like what they sound – both Minus 5 and Below Zero ice bars encourage their guests to “dress up like an eskimo” and get down, with the temperature kept to a cool minus-five degrees Celsius (that's 23 degrees Farenheit to our American friends) and décor that's made – quite literally – of ice, including chairs, stools, awesome ice carvings, and even the bar itself. They may not be for everyone, but there's no denying their uniqueness and being a true sign of “Queenstown”.

If you're looking for warmer surrounds in which to enjoy a beverage, The Boiler Room is a great choice. This bar sits on the waters edge of Queenstown's Lake Wakatipu and provides awesome views to the surrounding mountains on its outdoor deck and is renowned for its cocktails, while also offering a range of decent dining options such as cheese boards and live entertainment all at a fairly reasonable price.

For an Irish spin on things, pay a visit to Pog Mahone's on the Rees Street waterfront which provides good value on some hearty meals – including steak – to go along with the typical Guiness and Kikenny on tap.

Other top options include Eichart's Bar (an old-time favourite with an award winning wine list), Bardeaux (for that classy, decked-out-in-oak, sipping-whiskey-by-the-fireplace vibe) and Debajo Nightclub (a hot spot for local live music for years). Regardless of your choice of venues, which are all too numerous to mention here, Queenstown generally offers a quality night time experience across the board.

Above all, while it can be pricey, Queenstown is by far one of the safer locations worldwide that's also famous for its partying; there's relatively little crime, and the smaller “community” style atmosphere – despite most of the people you'll encounter being from all around the world – on a night out makes it feel much more intimate than it probably actually is.

9. Skyline Gondola and Luge

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Location: Brecon Street, Queenstown, NZ

The lazier – or, as we prefer to think of it, “more scenic” - way to get outstanding views of Queenstown's natural spectacle is offered by its popular gondola service which can be seen from the ground conveying visitors to the top of the lookout point Bob's Peak.

Designed to save your legs while also providing a great vantage point to take in the panorama, the Queenstown Skyline Gondola is a quick, comfortable and convenient way to get the best views available while also giving you the chance to enjoy the numerous activities on offer at the top of the hill – it's also quite steep and ascends rather quickly, which can be a little disconcerting for those not comfortable with heights.

It's highly recommended when you hop in the gondola to position yourself facing with your back towards the hill, as it's all over quite quickly and you'll want to make sure you can take in the wonderful 220 degree outlook along the way. In addition, it's hardly simply a ride-up-to-the-top-and-leave experience; while the Gondola offers easy access to the views, the multitude of activities and facilities above the peak are more than enough to keep you and the family entertained for the whole day.

In terms of facilities, there's a decked-out restaurant with buffet style food (available as an optional bundle with the gondola), a well-equipped cafe which provides substantial meals in its own right, a reasonably-priced gift shop where you can pick up a keepsake of your Queenstown adventures, and well maintained toilets so you'll never have to simply “hold it in” like at many other lesser equipped lookout points.

"Designed to save your legs while also providing a great vantage point to take in the panorama, the Queenstown Skyline Gondola is a quick, comfortable and convenient way to get the best views available while also giving you the chance to enjoy the numerous activities on offer at the top of the hill."

Likely to be of special interest to those with kids, the luge is one of the more unique experiences in the region and thus it's recommended to buy one of the multi-ride passes (3 rides is a good balance between price and enjoyment) as a single ride probably won't be enough for most.

The ride culminates in an area with a chairlift which can take you back up the hill for another session after you've reached the bottom if you've got multiple rides. As the luge is extremely popular, it's a good idea to make your way up the top to take part earlier in the morning (the track opens at 10am) to try and get your rides in, as crowds and longer waiting times can often be encountered later in the day.

Lastly, keep an eye out for the periodic “Twilight Luge” packages that allow you to save some money while taking part in your luge runs later in the day.

The area also provides a traditional Kiwi Haka experienced performed by Maori dancers for those in search of a little NZ culture, with four shows a night and bookings required. The show is much-praised for its interaction, and they do their best to incorporate the audience into the proceedings as much as possible as they are taken on a visual and aural journey through Maori history and customs.

Combine all of the above with plenty of available hiking and biking trails and being an amazing spot for a picnic, and this is one of the most wholesome, entertaining and tourist-friendly days out a family can have during their Queenstown visit.

10. Queenstown Hill

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Location: Starts at Belfast Street, Queenstown, NZ

One of the first ports of call for any first-time visitor to Queenstown should be to make the effort to ascend to the top of Queenstown Hill (known as Te Tapu-nui in the native Maori tongue) by taking the walk up its 1.5km long Time Walk trail, as the summit both grants outstanding 360 degree views while also allowing you to get the lay of the land and orientate yourself with the town and its surrounds.

Taking between two and three hours' return to complete, the hike is easily accessible from the town with its entrance at the end of Belfast Terrace just a short walk from the Queenstown city centre.

While Queenstown Hill is called a “hill”, don't let the name fool you into expecting a gentle stroll – the track is quite steep for the entire length, with few flat areas and more than enough to work up a sweat. It's thus advisable to bring along a bottle of water for your hike, and if you're travelling any time outside early morning or late afternoon, both sunglasses and sunscreen are highly recommended as – despite popular opinion – New Zealand's sun can have quite the bite to it.

Wearing layered clothing is a good idea, as you can strip off during the hike up, and then re-clad yourself upon reaching the typically-windy summit (which can be quite cold).

"Once you reach the top of Queenstown Hill, you'll see what all the fuss is about and realise it was all worth the effort – the panorama is simply breathtaking, as the vibrant blue waters of Queenstown's Lake Wakatipu contrast brilliantly with the brown-grey bases of the surrounding Remarkables range."

The path of the walk up to Queenstown Hill is generally well-signed and maintained, beginning with a section shaded by trees that soon opens out into full exposure, and there are periodic pieces of art and panels depicting the area's history spread throughout the track that both serve as an informative guide as well as an excuse to pause and catch your breath.

Soon after you're underway on the walk, you'll reach a fork in the road where two different routes are offered to the top – taking the right one is recommended as you'll get the benefit of the aforementioned tree cover as well as better views when coming back down.

Once you reach the top of Queenstown Hill, you'll see what all the fuss is about and realise it was all worth the effort – the panorama is simply breathtaking, as the vibrant blue waters of Queenstown's Lake Wakatipu contrast brilliantly with the brown-gray bases of the surrounding Remarkables mountains and the vivid white of their snow-capped peaks.

Be sure to bring a camera – and we mean a proper camera; relying on your mobile phone won't do the scenery justice – as it's a sight that you'll no doubt want to relive in the future; and perhaps best of all, it's entirely FREE.

Of course, if you're still wanting to take in the views but also save your energy, you can always instead take the next experience on this list...

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