I often told people who asked about Queenstown that I could have quite happily spent a few months there and never have got bored... But if you only have a few days (I recommend at least 3) here's a run down of options and things to do to get the most of of New Zealands most vibrant and lively city.
The adventure capital of the world and probably one of my favorite places, Queenstown literally has a mountain of activities to dive into from Alpine treks to Zorbing and everything in between. Seen as a Mecca for adrenaline junkies, families and backpackers alike, it’s easy to overlook some of the other gems that Queenstown has to offer. Whether you want to throw yourself off a cliff or take it easy watching a dramatic sunset over the Remarkables from Lake Wakatipu beach I’ve put together a rundown of a few things to do, places to go and where to stay to get the most out of your time in Queenstown.
For the Adrenalin Junkies
As the birthplace of commercial bungy jumping, if you’re thinking of taking the plunge this is the place to do it. With AJ Hackett, the godfather of bungy jumping you can choose to either try the original 43m jump opened in 1989 as the very first commercial bungy jumping site or test your nerves with the monstrous 134m jump, the highest in New Zealand. See AJ Hackett Bungy
Alternatively, if like me, bungy jumping doesn’t float your goat but you still want to get that adrenaline buzz you could go for the Canyon Swing. The Shotover canyon swing offers over 90 different jumping styles with jump masters personal choices thrown in every now and then to mix it up a bit. So whether you want to be tied to a garden chair (like I did), want to practice that back flip or go full on gimp mode then you have the choice. You can also jump in Tandem if you need somebody to hold your hand… See Shotover Canyon Swings
Sticking with the theme of falling, Queenstown also offers skydiving over what is arguably some of the most dramatic scenery in New Zealand (weather dependant obvs…) There are two leading companies in Queenstown, NZone and Skydive Southern Alps. Both offer you the chance to skydive from either 9000, 12000 or 15000ft!
If heights and falling to end your days as a potential person pancake aren’t your thing, then you can keep things closer to the ground (or water) and take to the infamous Shotover River for white-water rafting. My only recommendation with this one is to keep an eye on the weather. I was there in summer so no rain, which means no water, which in turn means the river wasn’t in full flow making it a slightly tamer experience than I’d hoped. If you’re feeling lazy and don’t want to paddle to get your kicks there are always the jet boats. These jet boats are all over New Zealand and the Shotover Jet based in Queenstown is arguably the most exhilarating taking on the narrow Shotover river canyon at over 85kmh (bloody fast for a boat). Check out Queenstown Rafting for more on that.
Not a fan of getting wet? Queenstown is also one of the most famous places in the world for mountain biking. Hire shops are all over town catering for all levels of experience whether you are a world class downhiller, want to try out a “fat boy” (it’s a type of bike) or fancy a hand up those rocky mountain paths with an electric bike they’ll have you covered. Free maps of all the local mountain bike trails can be found in the i-site on Shotover Street or you can always head to the Skyline Gondola, catch a ride up and try out the custom made down hilling tracks or swap your bike for a luge cart and race your mates on over 800m of luge track on top of a mountain! All the info can be found at the Queenstown i site or the Skyline website here.
For Those Chill Days
Queenstown isn’t all about high octane adventures. So for those more risk adverse than the rest of us here’s a few suggestions to fill your days at a more leisurely pace.
When you think about Queenstown, Art Galleries aren’t what would immediately spring to mind but there are tons of local galleries showcasing the best photography, paintings and sculptures inspired by this incredible place and produced by local artists. Check out my personal favourite, the Romer Gallery on Earl Street for the best scenic shots of the surrounding area. Another recommendation is the Creative Queenstown Arts and Crafts Market which is held every Saturday morning at 9:30am on the edge of Lake Wakatipu. It has everything from arts and crafts to local produce and live music and entertainment. Perfect for Saturday morning chills, browsing through the stalls with a coffee from one of the tons of local café’s and bistros.
The café culture in Queenstown can rival the big cities with cute and quirky little places dotted all over the centre. Breakfast (or Brunch if I’m being lazy) is my absolute fave meal of the day and Queenstown more than caters for the early risers among us. Give me avocados and pretty coffee art and I’ll be a very happy girl! Try Yonder for big breakfasts and weird and wonderful charcoal lattes or Vudu for insta-pretty chai bowls and organic eats. If a Dawn Horn or Morning Glory is more your thing, then head to Ferg Burger on Shotover Street.
I’ve only recently developed a taste for wine (I think it’s turning 30 that did it) and I didn’t realise that Otago is one of the worlds top producers of Riesling and Pinot Noir wines. Queenstown is surrounded by hillside vineyards set among the Remarkables so you can pretty much take your pick of wineries and be guaranteed a good day out. What’s not to love? Sunshine *tick* Mountain Views *tick* Wine *double tick*
Where to Stay
Every other property in Queenstown is a hostel, hotel or air bnb so you’re not short on options. If you want to be in the heart of the action, then I’d aim to be in the centre (map below). Here are a couple of recommendations of what I think are pretty good kipping options and a couple that I would maybe avoid…
For an amazingly thought out privately owned hostel definitely check out Adventure Queenstown. The owner has travelled the world and literally thought about everything you would ever want or need from a hostel. Right down to personalised daily messages on your room door! It’s the little things that really make this hostel stand out as one of my favourites in New Zealand let alone Queenstown and the location is second to none. Less than a 5-minute walk to anywhere you would want to be in the centre but still quiet enough to get a decent nights sleep after a busy day. 10/10 on all counts.
A 10/15-minute walk along the edge of the lake will bring you to the Queenstown YHA. NOT to be confused with the central YHA (not good). This is a modern Eco hostel on the edge of lake Wakatipu with brand new kitchens and bathrooms, comfy beds and parking it’s a decent stay if you want something with a bit of peace and quiet away from the buzz of Queenstowns heavy nightlife. Also, don’t forget to claim your discount if you’re a New Zealand YHA member.
Anyone who’s done a bit of travelling in the southern hemisphere is probably well aware of a couple of chain hostels that seem to be EVERYWHERE... I’m talking about the Base and Nomads hostels. If what you’re after is a basic bed in a dirty hostel with a ton of 18 year olds fresh off a bus and on a 2-night bender this is the place for you. I experienced both of these hostels in Queenstown during peak season and the review of “urine soaked hell hole” I read on hostel world about one of these hostels and “I felt like the bedsheets had the clap” wasn’t wholly inaccurate... but hey, whatever tickles your pickle. Both are super cheap and smack bang in the center of town.
Anyway, I could wang on forever about this place but i'll stop myself there. If you want to know anything else Queenstown/Travel related just give me a shout. I'm always happy to help :)