Queenstown is possibly one of the most beautiful places that I have ever visited. Located on New Zealand’s South Island, it is surrounded by stunning mountains (aptly called the ‘The Remarkables’) and situated on the edge of the peaceful Lake Wakatipu. Also known as the ‘adventure capital of the world’, Queenstown is renowned for the huge number of activities on offer, ranging from bungee jumping, paragliding, white water rafting, kayaking and the list goes on. This town packs a punch, especially if you’re an adrenaline junkie! The town itself is extremely picturesque with lots of great restaurants on offer as well as a busy nightlife. Although Queenstown has become quite touristy over the years, hiking up the prices of accommodation, food and especially the tours and activities, it is still totally worth a visit and is a fantastic base to explore other parts of the South Island. In fact I don’t think a trip to New Zealand would be complete without visiting here!
What to do and see
The Skyline gondola ($44 NZ, return)
For stunning views of the surrounding mountains and Queenstown itself, take a scenic ride in the Skyline Gondola which will carry you 450m above town. There is a restaurant at the top and you can also go on a few rides on the Luge! Queenstown Gardens
Queenstown has some beautiful walking trails as well as the very pretty Queenstown Gardens, right by the lake. You can spend an hour or so exploring this park.Lake Wakatipu
You can’t escape the beautiful Lake Wakatipu wherever you go in Queenstown. Grab a delicious snack or gelato from the many eateries around town and sit by the shore of the lake. It is so peaceful and the sunsets are truly spectacular! You can also go sailing on the lake.Adventure Activities
There are so many to choose from but one of the most popular ones is going on a Jet boat. The Shotover Jet is the only company that takes you to the Shotover Canyon however this also means that it is more expensive than other companies like K-Jet and Thunder Jet. I went on both of these and had a lot of fun!In addition to a jet boat experience, there are numerous adrenaline fuelled activities, including bungee jumping, skydiving, paragliding, ziplining etc. You can’t come to Queenstown and not try at least one!
Trips from Queenstown
There are lots of beautiful places to see around Queenstown. I would highly recommend hiring a car (preferably a 4×4 as there are some unsealed roads, particularly around Paradise) unless you’re willing to fork out very high sums on organised tours. Driving also gives you the freedom to stop wherever you want (and trust me, you’ll want to stop constantly because of the amazing scenery!). Glenorchy, Kinloch and Paradise
Carved by glaciers, Milford Sound is a fjord situated within the South Island’s Fiordland National Park. Described by Rudyard Kipling as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’, it is a spectacular sight with its vertical cliffs and numerous waterfalls (both large and small), amplified when it rains. In terms of actual distance, Milford Sound is not far from Queenstown but because of the huge mountain range in between, it actually takes around 4 hours to drive from Queenstown. The scenery is beautiful so you won’t get too bored but if you want a speedier route, you can also fly to Milford Sound which takes around half an hour (but obviously more expensive). Once there, there are hikes on offer as well as the main activity of taking a cruise (you may also spot some dolphins!). I did a day trip with Go Orange from Queenstown and would recommend this tour company. It was a long day (12 hours), including a comfort break at Te Anau and a 2 hour cruise. The coach was new and had a glass roof and massive windows, allowing you to fully enjoy the scenery.
Wanaka’s breathtaking mountains, lakeside setting and its proximity to Mount Aspiring National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Area, make it the ultimate base for outdoor activities. The town has a chilled out vibe with lots of people enjoying the lakeside ‘beach’ area. On your way here, you should also stopover at the Wanaka Lavender Farm. Arrowtown
Arrowtown is a historic gold-mining town. It’s a really picturesque and charming place which you could easily spend an hour or two exploring. There is also a restored old Chinese settlement, a reminder of the town’s immigrant history and the contribution they made. There are so many other places to explore on the South Island. If you’re here for longer that 4/5 days, I’d recommend checking out Abel Tasman National Park and hiking the Franz Josef Glacier.
Where to eat
Fergburger is probably the most famous eatery in Queenstown and for good reason. The burgers are amazing but be prepared to queue!
For breakfast/brunch, check out Joe’s Garage. For a quick snack, grab a fresh pastry (savoury and sweet) from Ferg Bakery.
For lunch/dinner, try Bella Cuccina for really good pasta or, for a more casual meal, grab some tacos from Taco Medic or a shwarma from Habebes. If you have a sweet-tooth, head to Cookie Time or the Remarkables Candy Shop (the fudge is so good!). And for gelato, try Ferg Gelato or Patagonia’s. Other places (which I didn’t get a chance to try) include Vudu Cafe and No.5 Church Lane, Ivy and Lola’s, The Exchange, Devil Burger and Balls and Bangles (for bagels).
Where to stay
I stayed at two places whilst in Queenstown, including The Melbourne Lodge and Jucy Snooze Queenstown. I would highly recommend both.
Melbourne Lodge (B&B) is more suited for families or couples – the room was spacious with a basic breakfast on offer. There was also a communal lounge area/balcony which overlooked Queenstown.
Jucy Snooze (hostel) is more suited to solo travellers. I chose a private room with an ensuite bathroom. The room was quite small but had everything I needed. It was clean, modern and comfortable. The rooftop restaurant was also great to grab a bite to eat. I would highly recommend the breakfast here – tasty and super affordable. Overall, although Jucy is a hostel, it actually felt more like a trendy micro hotel so a big thumbs up from me!
That’s it from Queenstown! Hope you enjoyed this post and that it’s inspired you to visit Queenstown too. I for one can’t wait to go back!