The Complete Travel Guide to Queenstown, New Zealand
If there’s any destination that you’ve heard of in New Zealand, it’s most likely Queenstown. It’s one of the main tourist centres of the country, presenting everything you could possibly want to do in New Zealand, along with the landscapes you are probably dreaming of. Snowcapped peaks, large lakes, overlapping valleys, winding turquoise rivers… There are photo opportunities around every corner. The lakeside South Island town is renowned for its adventure activities, from skiing in winter to white water rafting in summer to bungy jumping all year round. However, there are a few underrated experiences encompassing relaxation, food and scenery that are sure to intrigue. We’ll go through a range of experiences for different traveller types, as well as accommodation recommendations, in this complete travel guide to Queenstown.
Fast Facts About Queenstown
Location: Secondmost southern region of the South Island in Central Otago
Climate: Daily average temperature – 10.1°C/50.2°F, yearly average rainfall – 858mm/33.8″. Find out more in What is the Weather Like in Queenstown?
Time Zone: NZST / GMT+12/+13
Best time to visit: Queenstown has a multitude of experiences available year-round. The ski season runs from July to September, while the warmest weather can be experienced between November and March. Find out more in The Best Time to Visit Queenstown.
How to get to Queenstown: Queenstown has its own airport with an international and domestic terminal. Car rental is available from the airport – see The Best Car Rental Companies in Queenstown. Queenstown is also well-connected to the rest of the South Island by road, being on the main bus route, which you can find more information about in Bus Networks in New Zealand.
What to Do in Queenstown
The question is: what is there not to do?! Queenstown has just about every experience reasonably expected in an alpine lake town and then some, from relaxation at the hot pools and vineyards to adrenaline at the bungy jumps and jet boat rides. Winter brings the ski season while summer brings exciting rafting and canyoning trips.
The Top Experiences in Queenstown
What are the must-dos? Here are some of the Queenstown highlights:
- Take the leap with a bungy jump (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Do a giant swing through a canyon (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Experience one of the 5 Best Jet Boat Tours in Queenstown
- Ski at The Remarkables, following our advice in The Ultimate Guide to the Queenstown Ski Season
- Hike Ben Lomond
- Soak in the scenery and hot pools of the Onsen Hot Pools Retreat & Day Spa (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Take a day trip to Arrowtown or one of The Best Day Trips from Queenstown…
Rainy Day Activities
Don’t let a rainy day spoil the fun! Make sure you have a few wet weather backups at the ready, such as:
- Have a virtual reality experience at Thrillzone (more info on Viator or Tripadvisor)
- Take a trip to Milford Sound – it’s arguably better in the rain!
- Take a tour of the Queenstown wine region (on Viator and Tripadvisor).
If you need more ideas, head to the 11 Things to Do in Queenstown on a Rainy Day.
Things to Do at Night
And the fun doesn’t stop after dark! Keep your evening exciting in Queenstown with experiences such as:
- Go an evening cruise and farm tour to Walter Peak (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Do some stargazing – tours are available at the Skyline Gondola (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Test your nerve at Fear Factory (on Viator and Triapdvisor).
Of course, we have more options for you over in the 10 Things to Do in Queenstown at Night.
Where to Stay in Queenstown
Other than the accommodations we recommend on the righthand side of this complete travel guide to Queenstown, we have complied entire lists of places to stay based on price, what’s best for families or a couples’ getaway, as well as premium stays. What’s more, each list is compiled by real writers; not some algorithm.
Queenstown for Budget Travellers
Let’s not beat around the bush. Queenstown is one of the most expensive towns you’re likely to visit in New Zealand. Not only can accommodation prices be at a premium, especially in summer and during the ski season when things book up quickly, but the main activities here, like bungy jumping, skydiving, jet boating, rafting, canyoning, etc, aren’t exactly known for being cheap. However, there are other ways to keep the costs down, between the free or cheap activities, cheap eats and alternative affordable accommodation available, best booked in advance if you’re travelling in the busier seasons. Check out Queenstown – Guide for Backpackers and The Guide to Queenstown on a Budget for more tips.
Things to Do in Queenstown on a Budget
- Hike up Queenstown Hill
- Play disc golf in the Queenstown Gardens
- Relax at the beach
- Eat a famous oversized burger
- Go ice skating on a Friday night.
For more information on each activity and more ideas, check out 16 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Queenstown.
Cheap Accommodation in Queenstown
Among the more expensive hotel offerings in Queenstown, the town holds a substantial collection of backpacker hostels, motels, budget hotels and holiday parks. Check them out in our 11 Best Budget Accommodations in Queenstown, as well as 10 Best Backpacker Hostels in Queenstown.
Queenstown for Luxury Travellers
Queenstown is undoubtedly one of New Zealand’s most premium destinations. It’s home to some of the most sumptuous hotels, fine dining restaurants and countless experiences for the luxury travellers. From outdoor adventures on New Zealand’s only 27-hole golf course or private ski field to relaxation in soothing hot tubs or among the vines with a glass of wine in hand, there is a wealth of deluxe experience to suit any occasion. Let us guide you through it all in The Luxury Guide to Queenstown.
Luxury Activities in Queenstown
- Fly to the spectacular Milford Sound
- Take a private 4WD excursion to Skippers Canyon (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Play golf at Queenstown’s prestigious courses
- Escape the crowds with heli-skiing or at Queenstown’s private ski field
- Explore the Great Walks with an expert guide on a guided hike (on Viator or Tripadvisor).
For more information on each experience, check out 10 Luxury Activities in Queenstown.
Luxury Accommodation in Queenstown
From upmarket hotels situated with a prime position on the shores of Lake Wakatipu to luxury private apartments, Queenstown certainly has a lot of options when it comes to luxury stays. Take a look at some of our top recommendations in 10 Best Luxury Accommodations in Queenstown.
Queenstown for Families
While Queenstown might be famous for its extreme activities, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing suitable for the little ones. There are a few excellent family-friendly experiences, from a range of jet boat tours to ziplining courses to the hilarious go-karting fun of The Luge. Check out other recommendations for families in The Guide to Queenstown for Families, which also includes advice on family accommodation.
Family Activities in Queenstown
- Get the adrenaline pumping on an exciting jet boat ride
- Zip through the trees on a zipline tour (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Learn about New Zealand’s birds at the Kiwi Birdlife Park (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Watch the sheep being worked on the Walter Peak farm tour (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Race each in downhill go-karts at The Luge (on Viator and Tripadvisor).
For more information on each activity, as well as a few more ideas, head to the 10 Things to Do in Queenstown with Kids!
Family-Friendly Accommodation in Queenstown
The most abundant form of accommodation in Queenstown for families are the hotels, but if your budget prefers motels or holiday parks, be sure to book early for the limited family rooms. See some of our top picks for kid-friendly accommodation in 10 Best Family Accommodations in Queenstown.
Queenstown for Couples
Queenstown really has something for everyone, including couples on a romantic getaway or a honeymoon. From lavish hotel rooms to private helicopter picnic experiences, there’s definitely opportunity to “wow” your loved one. Alternatively, keep things more grounded with the scenic walks and a few crazy adrenaline experiences to enjoy together at the same time. Learn more in The Honeymoon Guide to Queenstown.
Romantic Activities in Queenstown
- Fly to a private picnic destination via helicopter (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Go on a romantic cruise around Lake Wakatipu (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Walk hand-in-hand through the gorgeous Queenstown Gardens
- Take a leap of faith in a tandem canyon swing (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Enjoy an intimate flight to Milford Sound.
Find out more about each activity and much more in our list of 10 Romantic Activities in Queenstown for Couples.
Couples’ Accommodation in Queenstown
From lucrative hotel rooms to humble yet well-appointed hotel rooms for couples, there’s a huge range of choice for couples travelling to Queenstown. If you’re looking for something extra special, perhaps for a honeymoon or anniversary, take a look at the 10 Best Romantic Accommodations in Queenstown.
Queenstown for Foodies
Finally, be sure to take some time to discover Queenstown’s food scene. The town is home to talented artisans, brewers, winemakers and more, showcasing their creations to the public with foodie tours. Get hands-on food-related experiences, as well as dine at some of the best restaurants in the South Island. Check out all of our tips for foodies in The Foodie Guide to Queenstown.
Activities in Queenstown for Foodies
- Tour the Gibbston Valley wineries (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Do a craft brewery and microbrewery tour (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Cruise and indulge in a Central Otago barbecue at Walter Peak (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Ride the Skyline Gondola to an all-you-can-eat six-course buffet (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Browse the local farmers’ market on a Saturday.
For more information on each activity, plus a few extras, check out 10 Things to Do in Queenstown for Foodies.
Where to Eat in Queenstown
- The Bunker (14 Cow Lane)
- Amisfield Winery & Bistro (10 Arrowtown-Lake Hayes Road)
- Erik’s Fish & Chips (13 Earl Street)
- Flame (88 Beach Street)
- Fergburger and Fergbaker (42 Shotover Street)
Queenstown Accommodation for Foodies
Queenstown not only has hotels with top-rated restaurants, all mostly specialising in Otago cuisine, but there are also plenty of self-catering accommodations for foodies who want to make their own meals with local produce. Check out both options in 10 Best Accommodations in Queenstown for Foodies.