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.
Common Questions About Queenstown
We’re not going to mess around with this travel guide to Queenstown. Let’s get straight to the most common questions travellers ask about visiting Queenstown.
Where is Queenstown Located?
Queenstown is located in the second-most southern region of the South Island of New Zealand, Central Otago.
What is the Weather Like in Queenstown?
The daily average temperature is 10.1°C/50.2°F, while the yearly average rainfall is 858mm/33.8″. Find out more about the weather, seasons and climate in What is the Weather Like in Queenstown?
What is the Best Month to Visit Queenstown?
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 Do You Get to Queenstown?
Queenstown has its own airport with an international and domestic terminal, with regular flights from Auckland and Christchurch. 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.
How Many Days Should I Spend in Queenstown?
The minimum amount of time to spend in Queenstown is two days, however, there is enough here to spend five days to one week!
Do I Need a Car in Queenstown?
In short, no. Most experiences and tours in Queenstown either offer pick-up from local accommodations or from the Station Building in town, while many other attractions are reachable on foot from town. There is also a public bus service and taxis, which you can learn more about in our guide, Public Transport in Queenstown.
How Expensive is Queenstown?
Queenstown is one of the most experience destinations in New Zealand. Budgets can range from NZ$1,700 for a solo 7-day trip to NZ$8,000 for a family of four. Your budget also depends on what type of accommodation you stay in and how many (and what) paid activities you do. Plan your budget by using NZ Travel Budget: How Much Does a Trip to New Zealand Cost?
Does Queenstown Get Snow?
It only tends to snow on the mountains surrounding Queenstown in winter (June to August) and rarely in the town itself.
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
- Do a giant swing through a canyon (find out more, read reviews and get the best travel deals on Viator, Tripadvisor, Klook and KKday)
- 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 Klook, Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Take a day trip to Arrowtown or one of The Best Day Trips from Queenstown…
… And the list continues over in our 45 Best Things to Do in Queenstown. Alternatively, do something a little different by following the advice in our 10 Non-Touristy Things to Do in 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 Klook, Viator and 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
- 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 compiled 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 on a Budget
- Hike up Queenstown Hill
- Play disc golf in the Queenstown Gardens
- Relax at Queenstown Beach
- Eat a famous oversized burger
- Discover the hidden gem of Moke Lake.
For more information on each activity and more ideas, check out 20 Free & Cheap Things to Do 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 traveller. 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 experiences to suit any occasion. Let us guide you through it all in The Luxury Guide to 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 Klook, Viator or Tripadvisor).
For more information on each experience, check out the 10 Luxury Activities 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 the 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 Tours and Activities
- Get the adrenaline pumping on an exciting jet boat ride
- Zip through the trees on a zipline tour (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor, Klook and KKday)
- 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, Tripadvisor, Klook and KKday)
- Race each in downhill go-karts at The Luge.
For more information on each activity, as well as a few more ideas, head to the 20 Things to Do in Queenstown with Kids!
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 the 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 the 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 & Romantic Getaway Guide to Queenstown.
Romantic Things to Do
- Fly to a private picnic destination via helicopter (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor or Klook)
- Go on a romantic cruise around Lake Wakatipu (on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook)
- Walk hand-in-hand through the gorgeous Queenstown Gardens
- Take a leap of faith in a tandem canyon swing (on Viator, Tripadvisor, Klook and KKday)
- Enjoy an intimate flight to Milford Sound.
Find out more about each activity and much more in our list of the 19 Romantic Activities in Queenstown for Couples.
From lucrative hotel rooms to humble yet well-appointed hostel 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 on the South Island. Check out all of our tips for foodies in The Food Guide to Queenstown: Places to Eat & Food Tours.
Foodie Experiences and Food Tours
- Tour the Gibbston Valley wineries (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Do a craft brewery and microbrewery tour (on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook)
- Cruise and indulge in a Central Otago barbecue at Walter Peak (on Viator, Tripadvisor, Klook or KKday)
- Spin your own honey at Buzzstop Bee and Honey Centre
- Browse the Remarkables Market on a Saturday.
For more information on each activity, plus a few extras, check out 13 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, Frankton)
- Rata (43 Ballarat Street)
- Erik’s Fish & Chips (13 Earl Street)
- Fergbaker (40 Shotover Street)
- Devil Burger (5/11 Church Street)
- Balls and Bangles (62 Shotover Street)
- Bespoke Kitchen (9 Isle Street)
- Blue Kanu (16 Church Street)
- Stratosphere Restaurant (Top of the Skyline Gondola, end of Brecon Street)
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 the 10 Best Accommodations in Queenstown for Foodies.
More About Queenstown
That’s it for our complete travel guide to Queenstown but is by no means the end of our Queenstown advice! Check out the following articles for more trip-planning tips:
- 10 Queenstown Travel Tips for First-Timers
- 10 Epic Adventure Activities in Queenstown
- The Best Time to Visit Queenstown
- 15 Best Walks in Queenstown
- 10 Best Milford Sound Tours from Queenstown
- 10 Best Wineries in Queenstown
- 5 Best Queenstown Helicopter Tours
- The Lord of the Rings Locations in Queenstown
- 5 Best Bars in Queenstown
What’s after Queenstown? Plan the rest of your trip around the South Island using the South Island in Two Weeks: Road Trip Itinerary or South Island in One Week: Road Trip Itinerary.