Activities and Experiences 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 freefalling from 15,000ft. 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 probably be reading about for the first time, 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. Start Hitting Those Adrenaline Experiences, Like Jet Boating!
Let’s start with your obligatory adrenaline activity in the “Adventure Capital”! Something that’s extremely accessible for all ages (and for scaredy cats) is jet boating. This high-speed thrill ride is in a boat designed with a jet-propulsion system, rather than your standard motorboat propellers. The result is jet boats that can manoeuvre on top of the water with precision, seamlessly skimming across the water with near-misses with canyon walls and awesome 360-degree spins. Queenstown has a lot of options when it comes to jet boat tours, so compare them all in the 5 Best Jet Boat Tours in Queenstown.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. Do Heli-skiing or Ski at a Private Resort
In winter, Queenstown attracts snow bunnies from all over the world, but there’s more to the Queenstown ski season than just the four nearby ski fields. Escape the crowds 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.