Queenstown is without a doubt one of the most popular and best known cities in all of New Zealand. Otherwise known as the adventure capital of the world, Queenstown draws tons of thrill seekers every year. With extreme sports like bungy jumping and jet boating, this is the place to be to get your adrenaline fix. There’s more to do in Queenstown than just adventure activities though. There are a couple of great hikes as well, and the scenery is breathtaking.
Here’s some of our favourite things to do in Queenstown, New Zealand.
Scenic Drives in Queenstown
Queenstown is situated at the center of the lightning bolt that’s Lake Wakatipu. There’s two scenic drives starting from Queenstown, both following the eastern shore of Lake Wakatipu. One goes south to Kingston, the other goes north to Glenorchy.
The Queenstown – Kingston Scenic Drive
On the way from Queenstown to Te Anau, the gateway to Milford Sound, you’ll drive for about 30 km along the southern part of Lake Wakatipu. This winding lakeside road between Queenstown and Kingston is a beautiful scenic drive. On one side there’s Lake Wakatipu, on the other side there’s The Remarkables Mountain Range. A bunch of driver rest areas along the road make for awesome photo stops. We pulled over at two popular stops: the Devil's Staircase Lookout and the Halfway Bay Lookout.
The Queenstown – Glenorchy Scenic Drive
The other scenic drive in Queenstown follows the upper part of the lightning-shaped Lake Wakatipu, all the way up to Glenorchy. There are a couple of popular well-marked stops on this 46 km drive, but we read about a couple of hidden ones as well in the NZ Frenzy guidebook. Scott mentions two secluded stops in his guidebook, but we unfortunately only found one.
About 28 km from Queenstown there’s 25 Mile Creek. Turn left right before the creek (coordinates: -44.991785, 168.431954) to find a beautiful spot, right at the edge of Lake Wakatipu. We parked on this small unsealed road and crossed the creek over a fallen tree to a pebble beach. Another fallen tree was conveniently positioned to watch the breathtaking colours of the sunset behind the mountains on the other side of Lake Wakatipu. Don’t forget to look behind you as well, there are stunning colours and views all around you! We spent about 30 minutes in this great spot, stone skipping and enjoying the sunset.
Hikes in Queenstown
Queenstown doesn’t just have scenic drives, it has scenic walks as well. One of them is the Queenstown Hill Time Walk, a semi-loop track taking you up to the Te Tapunui summit. We parked our Spaceships Campervan at the head of the track and started our hike at about 10h00 in the morning. After 25 minutes of walking, we reached the start of the loop, which we hiked counterclockwise. The uphill path zigzags through a pine forest to the open summit area, where 360° panaromic views are waiting to be photographed.
It’s not a coincidence this track is called the Queenstown Hill Time Walk. The information plaques along the path tell about the history, present and future of the area. When reaching the open summit area, you’ll see the Basket of Dreams, an artwork referring to the future. We spent about 15 minutes there, looking for recognisable buildings and features, like the gondola and the airport, and searching for a geocache that’s hidden there, near the bench. Not knowing the view would get even better, we continued our hike to what we believe to be the highest point, the Te Tapunui summit, right where the sign “private land” is. We got there at about 11h25, and 50 minutes later we were back at our campervan.
If you’re up for a steeper climb and some more awesome views, you should hike the Lake Alta Track. This hike takes you from the The Remarkables Ski Area Lodge to Lake Alta. For more information on this (pretty exhausting) hike, you can read our post Hiking The Remarkables in Queenstown.
Adventure Activities in Queenstown
Queenstown is also known as the adventure capital of the world. In our humble opinion, you can’t leave without doing at least one of the many adventure activities on offer. We did 3. YOLO, guys!
If you only have time for one extreme sport, we’d recommend Flyboarding. It might just be the best bang for your buck in Queenstown. Your feet will be strapped to a Flyboard, which is connected through a hose with a jetski. The jetski will basically push water through the hose which will blast out of the jet outlets on the bottom side of the Flyboard, and lift you up in the air. If you manage to stay balanced, you’ll be flying like superhero above the water of Lake Wakatipu. Excited yet?
Read more in our post Fly like a Superhero with Flyboard Queenstown.
If you prefer to keep it dry, bungy jumping was our (close) second favourite thrill activity in Queenstown and probably the most popular. We did the AJ Hackett Kawarau Bridge in tandem. It was awesome! Over in a second, but you leave with eternal bragging rights.
Read about our experience and some practical stuff in our post Our AJ Hackett Kawarau Bridge Bungy Queenstown.
The third adventure activity was our least favourite, but still pretty awesome! Jet boat riding with Shotover Jet Queenstown. Obviously you won’t be handling the jet boat yourself, but holding tight while an experienced driver will speed close along the steep rocky walls and make 360° turns.
Read about how to go prepared in our post Our Jet Boat Ride with Shotover Jet Queenstown.
Fergburger in Queenstown
Getting hungry from all that adrenaline rushing through your body? Get in line at Fergburger for an epic burger, but be prepared for waiting times of over an hour. Worth it though!
Queenstown is without a doubt one of the most energetic cities in New Zealand. Kiwis and tourists come together in the adventure capital of the world to spend tons of money on an adrenaline rush. It’s definitely worth a visit, even if you’re not interested in those thrill activities. There’s tons of other things to do in Queenstown, with scenic drives in every direction, and breathtaking views across Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables Mountain Range. Don’t miss out!
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