The best must-see places in Queenstown
The best places to visit in Queenstown? First of all, what is this town? It is a town in Otago region in the south-west of New Zealand’s South Island. Every kiwi and every visitor of New Zealand knows this town. It is a pure tourist hub, a place where it`s possible to find anything – starting from relaxing lakeside walks to mountain expeditions. From delicious traditional seafood meal in a classy restaurant with live music in background to mountain carts, bungee jump and skydive. Queenstown is the place which everyone tries to visit if New Zealand has been already reached. And no wonder – surrounded by stunning mountains Queenstown is settled by the shores of the longest New Zealand`s lake Wakatipu. Well, there are so many places to visit here, so many trails to hike and so many things to do that the list would be endless. So we have summarized everything in 5 sections. Check out the best must-see places in Queenstown!
1. Hiking trails
There are so many hiking trails around Queenstown! Queenstown trail itself stretches 110 km around mountains and lakes. In this link you will find a list of top 30 hiking trails around the area – no doubt that there is the most appropriate hiking adventure for every day of your stay! From easy hike to medium and hard, from half-an-hour hike to several hours with return. We have already published a list and tried out these trails, so we are sure that here you will find a scenic trail just for you!
2. Adventure in the adventure capital
Well, if you have reached the adventure capital of New Zealand, why not to try out some adventures? There are loads of activities to do around the town, indoor and outdoor ones. Some of them include Game Over, Fear Factory, Odyssey Sensory Maze, Escape Room and Thrill Zone. These are indoor activity parks where you can spend time driving go-carts, exploring haunted house, adore the balloon room or even try to escape the room following some clues, also get into virtual reality world.
And then come the outdoor adventures like Skyline Gondola chair lift that will bring you up on the Bob`s Peak for the panoramic views of town. There you can try mountain carts called luge. Wow! What a ride! Walk around some of many tour companies that offer loads of activities, e.g. bungee jumps. The oldest bungee-jumper was 94 years old! Try out skydiving, zip-line, or Lord of the Rings tours (the movie was shot here, in Queenstown as well). Enjoy watersports like rafting, boating or Shotover Jet. The Shotover Jet was the first commercial jet boat operator in the world!
Also, check out pages like bookme.co.nz and new.grabone.co.nz – here you can get good discounts for many activities in Queenstown!
3. Get to know New Zealand
We have discovered New Zealand`s biggest treasures just by visiting Queenstown. How? Go around the town and explore! Our discoveries of New Zealand you can find in this link of top 10 gems of New Zealand. But basically we recommend you to visit following places to discover more.
You might have heard that New Zealand`s national animal and the symbol is the kiwi bird. But it is not that easy to spot these birds in wild as they are nocturnal animals as well as not that common anymore because of the introduced predators like possums. Though a good place to see them is Kiwi Birdlife Park in Queenstown. It is located just in the town and open every day whatever the weather. In the park, you will be able to see kiwi birds and their feeding as well, enjoy also the animal show and take the audio-guide which will allow you to get to know so much more about New Zealand`s wildlife! Even if the park is not huge and is quite pricy, it is so much worth visiting it because all of your money goes to the animal protection. And animals here are not just kept in cages, but had been taken injured or sick and stay here only till they are ready to go back in wild.
To get to know more about plants, visit Queenstown Gardens right at the heart of the town. It is a botanical garden that contains variety of native and exotic trees and plants, some of which are the black oak, grand fir, western hemlock and others. And that`s not it. The park also has a tennis court, skate boarding field, lawn bowling place and frisbee golf course that was the first of its type in New Zealand!
Sit by the Lake Wakatipu – the longest and third largest lake of New Zealand. The shores of it are just spectacular, revealing the landscape of South Island.
Visit Remarkables – one of only two mountain ranges in the world that goes straight from north to south. This mountain chain becomes a ski field in winter and hikers dream in the summer. The highest point there is more than 2300 metres above the sea. And the name of the mountains doesn`t surprise us because this mountain chain is absolutely remarkable!
Walk around the souvenir stores in Queenstown to discover the treasures you can take home! Let`s start with the manuka products like honey, soaps, candies etc. Manuka honey is a very rare honey made from the nectar of the native Manuka bush, grown only in NZ. Why it is so special? Firstly, it is only made in New Zealand, and can only be made for a few weeks in a year while the Manuka plant is in flower. Secondly, manuka honey’s antibacterial properties are what set it apart from traditional honey.
You will also come across ponamu rock that is a Maori name for the hard, durable and highly valued nephrite jade. Actually, there are several types of this stone, several colours and origins, but the nephrite jade as is the most commonly known today.
New Zealand`s merino sheep wool has become famous in all the world. Why is it so good? It keeps one exceptionally warm as it traps the body heat in the air pockets around the body, the wool regulates body temperature and soaks up the moisture. Even if you will be wet, you will be warm in merino clothes! And possum fur that is even warmer and lighter than sheep wool. Possum fur is not only incredibly soft, but it also has therapeutic benefits. And everyone is even encouraged to purchase possum fur as it helps to control the amount of these animals that are now predators to New Zealand`s flightless birds.
And then comes the paua, that is a Maori name for three types of edible sea sails, which are usually found in shallow coastal waters along rocky shorelines. The most precious here is the paua shell that is shining from greenish to purple and blue shades. Each shell is different in its patterns and colour tonings. In Maori culture these shells are the symbolic eyes of ancestors that gaze down from the night sky. It is a real ocean gem and is also appreciated as a cultural treasure.
4. Food, drinks and party
Well, Queenstown is the best place for good and various food and beverages. And party as well!
Let`s start with drinks and the most popular bars. Loco bar can be called as one of the cheapest ones. Beer for 5$ and lots of youngsters. This is a bar where the youngest and craziest go. This bar has some great events like Silent Disco. What`s that? There is no music in the party, everyone is wearing special headphones and music is just there. Can you imagine how fun it might look from outside? A very cool bar is Cowboy where you can get the biggest cups of beer ever and after try out the bull ride. This place is always packed just because it is so good! One of our favourites, the Ballarat bar, is super-cozy and there is always live music playing in the evenings. Just on top of the Ballarat you will find Winnies with cool shots and music. Minus 5o Ice Bar and Below Zero are two bars where you can enjoy the real winter. You will receive a jacket, but you know – it`s still cold there. Harry`s Pool Bar is a great bar to play pool and in the bar 1876 you will find cheap beer and great vibe, while Zephyr bar is for real rockers. Well, there are plenty more bars in Queenstown and we mentioned just couple of them. Basically, if you would choose one bar for a day even a month wouldn’t be enough to visit them all!
But what about food? Same as for the beer and party, there are so many places where to eat! Let`s start with the most famous one – the Fergburger. It is a burger restaurant, which got its popularity after being written in the Lonely Planet tour book. Since then there are always queues to this place. If there are no people in Fergburger, then something is wrong with the town. But actually, it`s worthy to check out Devil Burger as they are as good as Fergburger, just without those crowds! Big Fig, Flame, Rata, Taco Medic are just a tiny part of all the restaurants that are here. Just pick what kind of food you would like and it`s there in the center of Queenstown.
And party? Party is there every night! Go Searle Ln, Ballarat St, Duke St and you will find the party!
5. Just a step away
There are many small villages and places around Queenstown easily reachable by bus or by car.
Let`s start with the Lake Hayes that you can reach by taking the bus No2 that goes straight to Arrowtown. Jump out of the bus before its destination and enjoy the hike by the huge lake! Lake Hayes is a small lake in the Wakatipu Basin, where you can spot some birdlife like mallard, feral goose, the native New Zealand scaup and others.
Arrowtown, a town just after the Lake Hayes, is a former gold mining establishment located on the banks of the Arrow River. It is popular because of its well-preserved buildings from late 19th century and its vivid autumnal colours.
Then there is Kelvin Heights – a peninsula that lies between the main body of Lake Wakatipu and the lake’s Frankton Arm (a short inlet into the lake’s northern shore) and its outlet, the Kawarau River. Kelvin Heights has two major parts – a Peninsula Hill, and a smaller western extension largely occupied by Queenstown Golf Club. The area is just stunning here! Take the bus No3 to get there!
Fernhill is another suburb of Queenstown, located on the lower slopes of the Ben Lomond mountain. And again, the views from these hills to the lake and Queenstown itself are adorable. You can reach Fernhill with the bus No1.
Jack`s Point is reachable by bus No4. Jack’s Point is a 1200 hectare settlement just 20 minutes from Queenstown. There is a golf course and over 35 km of hiking and mountain biking trails. Let`s not forget the stunning scenery!
There are over 80 wineries in Central Otago region with 77% of product being devoted to Pinot Noir. Gibbston Valley is one of the closest wineries to Queenstown, though it is not reachable by public bus, so rent a car or look for a tour!
And then there is Glenorchy – a small settlement on the northern end of Lake Wakatipu. It is famous for its cinematic appearances, particularly in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Of course, there are couple of hiking and biking trails, as well as kayaking options.
While we were living in Queenstown we often wondered how did it look a couple of hundred years ago.. Maori were the first ones that settled in Queenstown during their search of pounamu or greenstone which was and still is very significant in Maori culture. Europeans came in 19th century and after the Gold Rush started. And since then Queenstown has been growing, it is still developing to become something huge. Though even if tourists bring more conveniences, they take along some burden as well. So here we have added some pros and cons in living and visiting Queenstown:
+ There is always something to do in Queenstown. This small town seems so alive all the time! Even if you are wandering around in the middle of the night, you will find some fun!
+ Huge variety of activities – everyone will be able to find something suitable – either it`s a family with kids, teenagers in their first tour out of home, seniors that look for a rest or job seekers. We could almost say there is everything you are looking for!
+ The views. Wow, this place is just spectacular. Even if you might had a bad day, just looking around inspires – the beauty of the nature here will cheer up everyone!
+ Little town, little crime. Yeah, it`s definitely safe here in Queenstown even with this huge amount of tourists!
– The town can get packed. And when it`s busy, the streets are full, the queues are long and the traffic is absolutely terrible. So if you are planning to visit Queenstown in high season, embrace yourself!
– More people, more drunk ones as well. Yes, when the summer or winter season is at its peak, you most likely will encounter drunk and often rude visitors. You will see people arguing with bar security while barely standing. That is the sad thing here. If you don`t know how to drink, just don`t!
– Queenstown is quite expensive. Sometimes just getting a place in a hostel or renting a room might be challenging as so many people are coming to this small town! Therefore the prices rise and sometimes become quite inappropriate. But what can you do – if you are here, just be ready for that!
– You will mostly meet either foreigners working here or tourists. It is difficult to find a real local in Queenstown and even more rarely the indigenous Maori people. If you wish to explore the “real” local life and Maori culture, a different place could be more suitable.
So, everyone – just enjoy Queenstown – a place impossible to forget!