Today I am sharing what to do in Queenstown, New Zealand!
Queenstown is a small city on the South Island of New Zealand that is a destination for adrenaline junkies. It’s much smaller than Auckland with a population of just 28,000, but it is a popular destination for tourists.
The town itself is along Lake Wakatipu and it’s surrounded by a mountain range called the Remarkables. I spent three days in Queenstown and it seemed like just the right amount of time. I was able to do two separate day tours and spend a day exploring Queenstown.
What to do in Queenstown:
Going to Milford Sound is the top tourist attraction in New Zealand. Milford Sound is fiord that is located within the Fiordland National Park, and it is a World Heritage Site. There are two permanent waterfalls, but when it rains, and it almost always does there, more waterfalls appear on the rock faces.
It is one of the wettest places in the world, it rains over 200 days a year there. Yet people still love going in hopes of seeing the dolphins, whales, and seals that live in the area, and to see the waterfalls and scenery.
There are lots of different tours available, and they last a full day. The drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound takes five hours. We did make stops to see a scenic flood plain and Mirror Lake on the way.
Once you arrive you boat a big boat with rooms indoors (no need to worry about getting wet it is raining) for a cruise around the sound.
There are some tours that combine a bus to Milford Sound and a boat tour with flying back in a plane or helicopter. Be prepared that since the weather in Milford Sound is usually rainy, these flights might get canceled in which case you will need to take the bus back.
After going to Milford Sound, on what was a cold and rainy day, I did question whether it was worth it. I know that I would have regretted not going if I skipped it, but at the same time, I am not sure that 10 hours on a bus was worth it for 90 minutes cruising around Milford Sound.
I found this tour through Airbnb Experiences and I loved it. This daylong tour combined biking (on bike paths) with visits to four wineries. Kate, the guide, was friendly and fun. I did the guided tour since I was on my own and didn’t want to risk getting lost, but she also offers self-guided tours.
Kate provided a bike and a helmet and then she guided me along bike paths between different wineries. It was a fantastic day trip.
You name it, you can do it in Queenstown. There are several different tour companies in town selling all sorts of tours and activities. You can skydive, bungee jump (this is the jump off of a bridge in Arrowtown), go on a bungee swing, mountain bike, parasail, ride a zip line, go canyoning, try heli-skiing or heli-biking, go dirt biking, try river surfing, go rock climbing, go whitewater rafting, or figure out what flyboarding is. Most of these activities take a full day.
The gondola up Bob’s Peak is run by Skyline Queenstown. It’s best to get their early because this is a popular attraction and the line for the gondola can get quite long. Buy tickets in advance so you can have a shorter wait time.
From the gondola, you get a wonderful view of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu, and the Remarkables.
Once you have taken the gondola, you can ride the luge, just make sure that you buy this along with the gondola ticket. The luges are little motor-less carts with brakes that you sit in and ride on a track down part of the mountain. It’s way more fun than I had anticipated.
Shotover Jet Boat Ride
These high-speed boats are very popular in Queenstown. In addition to being an adrenaline rush, the boats take you to see the canyons in Shotover River.
Arrowtown is an old mining town with a darling downtown that is a short drive from Queenstown. It’s an especially popular destination to see foliage in the fall. I just drove through on my way to the bike and wine tour, and I wish I had more time to spend here.
Katie Donnelly recommended taking a boat across the lake to Cadrona to a farm where you can ride horses. I wish that I had time for this!
I divided my time between Auckland and Queenstown, flying between the two cities. New Zealand is bigger than you might think, and many of the major cities and attractions are spaced out. A week was just enough time for Auckland and Queenstown, but I wish that I had time to see more of the country.