Looking for Queenstown Itineraries? We've got you sorted

By Chloe · August 2023 · 5 min read
Just how much adventure can you cram into one trip? A whole lot according to these itineraries.

Often dubbed New Zealand's unofficial 'adventure capital', Queenstown is a popular alpine resort town located in the Otago region of NZ on the shores of beautiful Lake Wakatipu.

Queenstown earns its adventure reputation from the huge array of outdoor things to see and do offered by its wonderful blend of mountain peaks, lush greenery, snow and pristine water, with those who love the fresh air and the marvels of nature sure to be in their element.

However, with so much to see and do in and around Queenstown, it can sometimes be overwhelming for first-timers looking to spend just a few short days in this action-packed region; so much so that planning an efficient Queenstown itinerary when you have limited time can be quite the challenge.

To lend a hand, we've put together a recommended itinerary for stays of 1 to 5 days in Queenstown, aiming to provide those new to the area with the best possible combination of experiences and must do's that are on offer here. Here are our recommendations:

Day 1

Explore Queenstown

Begin your stay in Queenstown by exploring the bustling township. Housing a number of fabulous eateries, both dine and take away, coffee shops and cafes, souvenir stores, and various fashion labels and stores. If you need to buy anything you're sure to find it all in downtown Queenstown.

Come lunch time you can wander along the lake front and choose from one of the popular eateries there or make your way down the mall to find a menu that catches your eye and your appetite. If you're stuck with what to do, you'll be able to find the popular chains of Starbucks, McDonald's, and KFC.

If you're chasing a sweet snack during the day, make sure you head to Cookie Time, a popular New Zealand cookie brand baking some of the most delicious cookies you'll ever taste. If a cookie won't satisfy, why not try one of their ice cream and milkshake flavours, or just go simple with a milk and cookie combo.

For those looking to satisfy that big hunger, you can't go past Fergburger. Known to make the best burgers in the world, Fergburger's menu sees the likes of classic staples beef, lamb and pork, take an unexpected and delicious twist with added extras such as blue cheese.

With comical names like Cockadoodle Doo, Sweet Bambi, The Codfather, Bun Laden, and Tropical Swine, you won't know what to order first. It's advised you make at least another visit to Fergburger during your stay in Queenstown if time allows.

If you're not looking to eat, drink or shop, you'll still enjoy the lakefront. With a large grassed section often filled with groups of people enjoying the sunlight, you can simply sit back, relax and people watch your day away.

Experience the Shotover Jet

Zip around the narrow passages of Shotover River aboard the thrilling jet boat ride. The Shotover Jet is a popular activity for adrenaline junkies of all ages to enjoy. In operation since 1970, Shotover Jet has given more than 3 million people the thrill of a lifetime on their big red speed boats.

Reaching speeds of up to 85km per hour, the boat will zip between the jagged rocks of the enclosing cliffs for an epic adventure you won't forget. Complete with 360 spins, slides and soaking-wet drags, this is the ultimate adventure the whole family will love!

The 25-minute rides run every 30 minutes so you'll be able to fit it into any part of your day. Shotover Jet also offers a free shuttle service to and from their office on the Shotover River.

Day 2

Visit Arrowtown

A historic gold mining town located just 15 minutes from Queenstown, Arrowtown seems as though it has been left behind in the past. The old style shopfronts still line the street with old telephone boxes standing strong.

After you've wandered around the quaint streets, you can pay a visit to the Lakes District Museum & Art Gallery to learn a bit about the history's rich region. Other stand out shops includes The Remarkable Sweet Shop and their mouthwatering flavours of handmade fudge, the Arrowtown Wine Story open since 1994, and The Jade and Opal Factory, a working carving factory.

Come lunch time there'll be no argument deciding what to have for lunch as the answer is simple, an Arrowtown pie. Made daily at the Arrowtown Bakery, these pies are something to write home about.

With a number of different flavours available including steak, bacon and cheese, you can't go past the classic steak pie. With crispy, crunchy pastry almost too good to eat and large chunks of steak, this pie is unlike any pie you've had before.

While in Arrowtown, you should also make your way down to the river to try your hand at gold panning. You never know, you might even get lucky and strike gold!

You can hire your own gold pan from various shops in the town before heading down the Arrow River and make your way down to the river bank to start your gold panning adventure. This is a great activity for all ages to enjoy, especially the young ones!

Embark on a Central Otago Wine Tour

If you're a lover of good wine then you'll want to visit some of Central Otago's wineries. With this half-day tour, you'll be driven to four different wineries and cellar doors in the region to taste some of their best creations.

Limited to groups of 21 people, this tour will give you that personalised feel. During the tour you'll be able to interact with the wine experts and guide, asking them all you want to know about the different grape varieties, growing and harvesting processes, and more.

While at the vineyards you'll be able to taste a selection of local cheeses that will perfectly compliment the different wines tasted.

The best part about the tour is that it is an all-weather adventure, so when the South Island weather turns sour, your day won't be ruined.

Ideal for couples, groups and even families as children of any age can legally taste wine under supervision by their parents, however, any children who do taste wines with parental consent will be charged full price.

Day 3

Cruise on the TSS Earnslaw

An iconic attraction in Queenstown, the historic TSS Earnslaw is an adventure not to pass up. Known as 'The Lady of the Lake' and launched in 1912, this has been a long-standing attraction in the region and the whole country.

Taking off from the Steamer Wharf, the boat cruises along Lake Wakatipu, showcasing the region's beautiful surrounds which include views of Cecil Peak and Walter Peak, all while listening to some informative commentary from the captain.The cruise runs for 1.5 hours and offers guests on board the chance to purchase refreshments. The steamboat departs four times a day; 10 am, 12 pm, 2 pm, and 4 pm, allowing you to fit it into any part of your day.

Play Disc Golf in the Botanic Gardens

Once you've disembarked the steamboat, make your way around to the other side of the lake to explore Queenstown Botanic Gardens.

If you're up for the challenge you can enjoy a few rounds of disc golf (or frisbee golf) throughout the gardens. For those that don't have their own frisbee, you can hire some from the ice-rink in the gardens.

If you don't feel like a game of disc golf, you can simply walk around the gardens admiring the beautiful views that surround you.

There are a number of benches lining the edge of the garden, acting as the perfect place to sit, take a rest and admire Queenstown. The gardens are also home to an ice rink, skate park, tennis club and bowling club.

Day 4

Catch the Gondola up to Skyline

One of the most popular tourist attractions in Queenstown, Skyline is a mecca of fun for the whole family to enjoy.

Beginning with a scenic gondola ride up the mountain providing impressive views over the region and setting the tone for the whole visit.

Once you've reached the top be sure to make your way over to the lookout which offers an even better viewpoint to admire the gorgeous region below. You'll be able to see Lake Wakatipu, the Botanic Gardens and if the busy township from a completely different vantage point.

One of the major highlights atop Skyline is The Luge. A scenic race track with two different tracks varying in difficulty, this is an activity the whole family can enjoy, especially the little ones.

In a low-sitting cart you're in complete control as you follow the track down. Pull back the handlebars to break and release to pick up some speed, you'll be briefed by the friendly staff on how to steer them before heading off.

All riders must complete the beginner's trail first to introduce yourself to the feel of the cart and build up confidence before tackling the steeper, faster track.

You can package your Luge rides together with your Gondola or you can purchase individual rides once you've arrived, the choice is yours.

You can easily spend the whole day at Skyline without the hassle of going back down the hill for lunch or dinner. The Market Kitchen is a popular cafe serving a number of delicious cafe food options including gourmet pizzas, crepes, pies, muffins and more.

If you're chasing something more formal the Stratosfare Restaurant offers an all-you-can-eat buffet for both lunch and dinner serving up a delicious selection of roast meats, salads and more. Bookings are essential at the Stratosfare Restaurant and can be made prior to your arrival at Skyline.

Other popular activities at Skyline include mountain biking, stargazing and attending the Kiwi Haka Maori culture performances, all of which can be booked in advance.

Tackle the Canyon Swing & Fox

After spending the first part of the day taking it easy and enjoying the views, kick things up a notch in the afternoon with the Shotover Canyon Swing and Fox.

A popular combo for the adrenaline junkies, the new addition of the Fox will make the adventure all the more worth it and give you more bragging rights than ever.

Located high above the Swing, the Canyon Fox sees you zipping across the canyon after running, jumping or being pushed off the rail launch. Once you've made it to the other side you'll be clipped onto the return line for a less intense more scenic ride back.

The Canyon Swing, on the other hand, lets you choose from a number of different jump styles to suit your fear level. There is The Chair, This is Sparta, Gimp Boy Goes to Hollywood (upside down), and the Pin Drop to name a few, with the choice to go single or tandem on most.

This popular adrenaline-pumping adventure is one not to miss! With a group of fun-loving staff, you'll feel somewhat relaxed with their friendly, hilarious banter before your jump, swing or push.

Day 5

Cruise Milford Sound

Located almost 4 hours from Queenstown is the popular and beautiful Milford Sound in Fiordland. If you have your own car you can drive yourself out there or you can book yourself onto an organised tour.

One of the most popular activities in the Sound is a scenic cruise. There are a number of local operators taking visitors out onto the water multiple times a day, so you'll be able to find the perfect cruise that suits you and your travel plans.

It rains 200 days a year in Fiordland so if you're lucky enough to visit on a clear, sunny day you're in luck!

However, even in the rain Milford Sound is a joy to see and an adventure to say the least, just make sure you bring some warm clothes, a rain jacket, and of course a camera to capture the whole experience.

Queenstown offers a range of things to see and do that will make your visit one to remember. Check out all of the tours, attractions and activities on offer in Queenstown in our full catalogue.
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