The Must-Dos in Queenstown
You may have heard that Queenstown is the “Adventure Capital of New Zealand”, but there’s far more to the alpine town than throwing yourself off bridges and doing 360° spins in jet boats (although, we do mention those in this list of the best things to do in Queenstown too). There’s something here for foodies, couples on a romantic getaway, families with young children, luxury travellers and backpackers on a budget. We’ll go through a wide range of experiences, most of which you’ll find in no other travel guide, in this list of things to do in Queenstown!
While you’re here, you might also be interested in The Complete Guide to Queenstown.
1. Take the Leap with a Bungy Jump
If you’re going to bungy jump in New Zealand, Queenstown is arguably the place to do it. Choose from the world’s very first commercial bungy jumping site at the Kawarau Bridge Bungy (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor), New Zealand highest bungy jump at 134m (450ft) Nevis Bungy (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor), and a bungy jump strapped around your waist for freestyling with a view of Queenstown on The Ledge Bungy (on Viator and Tripadvisor). For more information about bungy jumping, check out 7 Epic Places to Bungy Jump in New Zealand.
Location: Kawarau Bridge Bungy – State Highway 6, approximately 23km (14 miles) from Queenstown town centre. Nevis Bungy – only available by shuttle from the AJ Hackett Queenstown Bungy Centre, Shotover and Camp Street. The Ledge Bungy – top of the Skyline Gondola, accessible from 53 Brecon Street on the Gondola or Tiki Trail.
2. Do a Giant Swing Through a Canyon
Freefall then swing through a canyon; it’ll make you pee your pants! There are two swinging options in Queenstown: the Nevis Swing (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) which is great for tandem, or the Canyon Swing (on Viator and Tripadvisor) which gives you heaps of ways to make the swing from sliding to having your head stuck in a barrel.
Location: Nevis Swing – Shuttle available from the AJ Hackett Queenstown Bungy Centre, Shotover and Camp Street. Canyon Swing – Shuttle available from 34 Shotover Street.
3. Experience the Thrills of a Jet Boat Ride
Riding a jet boat in Queenstown like no other boat tour you have been on before (unless, well, you have already been on a jet boat). Only sitting mere centimetres under the water, the boat glides at high speed and is capable of doing 360° spins! Throw narrow canyon walls in the mix and you have an adrenaline ride of near-misses and close calls. If fast-paced thrills are your thing then Queenstown is a must for jet boating. There are five awesome options for jet boating in Queenstown, so head to our 5 Best Jet Boat Tours in Queenstown to make an informed choice! Plus, for more thrills for the whole family, head to the 10 Things to Do in Queenstown with Kids.
Location: See the links above for specific jet boat tour locations.
4. Ski at The Remarkables
The adrenaline thrills are only maximised in the winter/spring in Queenstown when the ski fields open. The two closest ski fields to Queenstown are Coronet Peak and The Remarkables. Although Coronet Peak offers unique night skiing in New Zealand, The Remarkables provides a true mountain experience with generally better conditions for skiing and snowboarding in the Queenstown area. Plan your ski trip with The Ultimate Guide to the Queenstown Ski Season. For more places to get your ski on in New Zealand check out The 24 Ski Fields in New Zealand.
Location: Remarkable Ski Field Access Road, approximately 23km (14 miles) from Queenstown town centre.
5. Hike Ben Lomond
The must-do hike in the immediate Queenstown area is the hike up one of Queenstown’s highest peaks, Ben Lomond (1748m/5735ft). The all-day experience provides some of the best views in the area. Be prepared as it is quite a demanding hike taking about 4-6 hours return from the bottom of the Skyline Gondola. We recommend hiking between November and April when there is less likely to be snow and ice above the treeline. What’s more, it’s free, just like the 16 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Queenstown. Check out more walks in the area in the 10 Best Walks in Queenstown.
Location: Either hike from the Tiki Trail starting at the top of Brecon Street or take the gondola and start the short loop track around Bob’s Peak where you will find the trail to Ben Lomond along the way. To spice it up on the way back to Queenstown, take the One Mile Creek Track found partway down the Tiki Trail.
6. Do White Water Rafting on the Shotover River
There are many awesome places to do white water rafting in New Zealand but on the Shotover River with Challenge Rafting is certainly a top choice. Even the journey there on the Skippers Road, considered to be one of the world’s most dangerous roads, is a thrill in itself. Ride the rapids on this grade 3-5 river (grades depend on the water level and can be seasonal) and float through a 170m/558ft long tunnel! Find out more about this experience on Viator and Tripadvisor. For more epic white water rafting experiences, check out 7 Places to go White Water Rafting in New Zealand.
Location: Tours depart from 37 Camp Street.
7. Tackle the Downhill Mountain Biking Trails
Queenstown has a sweet set-up for downhill mountain biking at the Skyline Gondola. Choose from multiple trails of varying difficulties to ride downtime and time again. With plenty of mountain bike hire stores in town and the gondola to transport you and your bike up to Bob’s Peak, all that’s left is endless downhill fun! If you really dig mountain biking, then check out The Best Mountain Biking Regions in New Zealand.
Location: Skyline Gondola, accessible from 53 Brecon Street.
8. Hike One of the Great Walks
For those who don’t have their own transport, Queenstown is an ideal base to tackle one of the Great Walks of New Zealand. Many transport operators are based in Queenstown taking you to hikes such as the Routeburn Track, Milford Track and the Kepler Track. Take a look at 5 Incredible Multi-day Hikes in the Fiordland National Park for more inspiration. Plus, check out The 9 Great Walks of New Zealand for more information.
Location: Queenstown transport providers offer accommodation pick-up.
9. Soak in the Scenery and Sooth Your Skin at Some Luxurious Hot Pools
For a bit of pampering between the adventures, indulge in one of the soothing hot pool experiences around Queenstown. The Onsen Hot Pools Retreat & Day Spa offers a range of private timber hot tubs with views over the Shotover River valley. Find out more about Onsen Hot Pools Retreat on Viator and Tripadvisor. For more relaxing things to do, check out our 10 Luxury Activities in Queenstown.
Location: 162 Arthurs Point Road, Arthurs Point, approximately 13km (8 miles) from Queenstown town centre.
10. Eat a Deep-fried Kiwifruit
We can’t go without mentioning the deep-fried kiwifruit at Erik’s Fish & Chips – it’s a must-try! It’s an iconic New Zealand-grown fruit served in a New Zealand-favourite takeaway. We list more cheap eats in our Cheap Eats in Queenstown, as well as restaurant and food tour recommendations in The Foodie Guide to Queenstown.
Location: 13 Earl Street.
11. Explore Queenstown Gardens
Before we get onto all the expensive stuff that Queenstown is known for, let’s have a look at a fun and free way to spend downtime in Queenstown. Queenstown Gardens is a free park, which is easily accessible from the town centre. The beautifully landscaped gardens have walking tracks, memorials and magnificent views across Lake Wakatipu. You might also want to have a go at the 18-hole disc golf course, where discs or “frisbees” are available to hire from most of the outdoor shops in town. Check out more activities like this in 16 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Queenstown.
Location: Part Street.
12. Have a Night Out!
Not only is Queenstown the adrenaline capital of New Zealand, but it is also known as the party capital. From sophisticated sessions at a craft beer bar to dancing on the tables, you can find all sorts of vibes and night out experiences in Queenstown. If you’re only going to go out once in New Zealand, it has to be in Queenstown! Check out the best party spots in our Guide to Queenstown Nightlife.
Location: See specific locations in the link above and the 5 Best Bars in Queenstown.
13. Tour the Queenstown Wineries
Did you know that Queenstown is part of a wine region? Foodies can enjoy exploring the surrounding wineries via scenic tours of the Gibbston Valley. There are many tours to experience the wineries of the region, from riding to the wineries on a self-guided cycle tour with Around the Basin Bike Tours (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) to joining a small-group experience with Queenstown Wine Trail (on Viator and Tripadvisor). The latter also includes a traditional Kiwi-style lunch and cheese tastings. Learn more about the wineries of the area in our 10 Wonderful Wineries in Queenstown. Plus, for more foodie experiences, see 10 Things to Do in Queenstown for Foodies.
Location: Tours offer accommodation pick-ups.
14. Take a Flight to Milford Sound
Milford Sound is on the bucket list of most people travelling to Queenstown, so it needs no introduction here. However, while most tourists take large tour buses to get to the majestic fiord, a more intimate experience worth considering is taking a scenic flight. Observe stunning vistas of glacier-carved valleys, mountains, alpine lakes and vast forests as you take a 35-minute flight from Queenstown to Milford Sound. Once you arrive in Milford Sound, you can enjoy one of the cruises through the fiord and either fly or take the bus back to Queenstown. Compare flight experiences in the 5 Best Scenic Flights to Milford Sound from Queenstown. Plus, this makes an amazing experience for couples, just like the rest of the 10 Romantic Activities in Queenstown for Couples.
Location: Queenstown Airport, Sir Henry Wigley Drive, Frankton, approximately 7km (4 miles) from Queenstown town centre. Most flight operators offer accommodation pick-ups.
15. Play Golf at Queenstown’s Array of Courses
If you enjoy the finer things in life, like teeing-off in an alpine paradise, then be sure to hit the golf courses of Queenstown. Hit prestigious courses, like Jack’s Point (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) with breathtaking views of Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables, The Hills with an intriguing sculpture park, and Millbrook with the country’s only 27-hole course! Find out more about each course and more in the Top 5 Golf Courses in Queenstown.
Location: Jack’s Point – McAdam Drive, approximately 16km (10 miles) from Queenstown town centre.
16. Do Heli-skiing or Ski at a Private Resort
Escape the crowds in winter with an awesome backcountry skiing experience with Alpine Heli-Ski for fresh untracked powder and a gourmet lunch on the mountains. More information is available on Viator and Tripadvisor. Alternatively, Soho Basin is Queenstown’s private ski area where you get free rein of 264 hectares and 500+ vertical metres virtually to yourself. Chairlifts are swapped for snowcat rides, while skiers also get to dine on a three-course lunch with local wines at the Alpine Hut. See more activities like this in 10 Luxury Activities in Queenstown.
Location: Alpine Heli-Ski – tours depart from 37 Shotover Street. Soho Basin – Cardrona Valley Road, Cardrona, approximately 60km (37 miles) from Queenstown town centre.
17. Learn About Native Birds at the Kiwi Birdlife Park
A great option for kids (and adults) is checking out the unique birdlife of New Zealand at the Kiwi Birdlife Park. Located at the bottom of the Skyline Gondola, the Kiwi Birdlife Park allows visitors to observe more than 20 different bird species, including kiwi birds in a nocturnal enclosure. You may also get the opportunity to see critters like the green gecko and New Zealand’s “living dinosaur”, the tuatara. Catch one of the daily wildlife shows and keeper presentations to learn more about the conservation of New Zealand’s wildlife. More information about the Kiwi Birdlife Park can be found on Viator and Tripadvisor. Plus, see more experiences like this in 10 Things to Do in Queenstown with Kids.
Location: 51 Upper Brecon Street.
18. Stay Out of the Rain at Thrill Zone
So the weather isn’t always great in Queenstown, but don’t worry! You can escape it all by delving into another reality, shooting at each other and enjoy a captivating 12D movie experience at Thrill Zone. This indoor theme park offers a huge range of attractions, including a 12D cinema, drift-karting tracks, laser tag and Heroblast sessions, virtual reality experiences and more! Find out more about Thrill Zone on Viator and Tripadvisor. Plus, see more indoor activities in 12 Things to Do in Queenstown on a Rainy Day.
Location: 53 Shotover Street.
19. Pan for Gold in Arrowtown
For a fun day out, head to the historic town of Arrowtown. Just a 20-minute drive from Queenstown, Arrowtown is a gold-mining town with beautifully preserved buildings from the Otago Gold Rush. Hire a gold pan from the Lakes District Museum and try your luck at panning for gold in the Arrow River. Celebrate your success or make yourself feel better for being poor by trying some mouthwatering fudge from The Remarkables Sweet Shop or by getting an ice cream from Patagonia. Get more inspiration for your visit from our 10 Amazing Things to Do in Arrowtown.
Location: Arrowtown, approximately 20km (12 miles) from Queenstown town centre.
20. Get an Insight into the Kiwi Farming Life at Walter Peak
Finally, combine great food, a scenic cruise, fascinating history and Kiwi farming on the Walter Peak Gourmet BBQ Lunch tour. Depart from Queenstown on the historic steamship, the TSS Earnslaw complete with its own onboard museum and the opportunity to watch the operators stoke the coal fires. After a scenic cruise, you’ll arrive at Walter Peak High Country Farm to indulge in a gourmet barbecue lunch, including Central Otago meats and all of the fixings. Day-trippers also get treated to either a Kiwi sheep shearing show or a sheepdog demonstration! Find out more about the trip on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: Tours depart from 88 Beach Street.