Guide image

Photo: TSS Earnslaw on Lake Wakatipu

Feel your heart beating wildly and the adrenaline rush as you leap, fly, freefall, or ride whirlpools and dodge rocks at 80 kilometres per hour.

Queenstown, home to the original bungy jump and first commercial jet boating, has become the adventure capital of the world and the ultimate place to challenge your fears.

Kawarau Bungy Bridge
Kawarau Bungy Bridge, photo: Destination Queenstown

How about whistling above the canyon floor at 120 kph on the world’s largest swing? Or stepping out of a plane over Queenstown, reaching terminal velocity as you plummet towards the Earth, harnessed to a tandem skydive jumpmaster? Adrenaline-seeking punters can try paragliding, hang-gliding, canyoning, rock-climbing or a zipride, for starters.

There are gentler ways of appreciating Queenstown’s stunning scenery than hurtling towards it though. Take in the alpine panorama while playing a round on world-class golf courses such as Jack’s Point, Millbrook, The Hills and Arrowtown. Or tootle around the wonderful Gibbston Valley wineries and try the famous Central Otago Pinto Noir along with award-winning food.

Queenstown from the water

Destination Queenstown, Earnslaw
Earnslaw in winter, photo: Destination Queenstown

For drama and beauty in a landscape it’s hard to go past the sight of Lake Wakatipu surrounded by lofty mountains, snow-capped in winter, brilliantly defined in summer. The clear waters of the lake and surrounding rivers provide lots of scope for thrills, such as jet boating, white water rafting and river surfing. Those who prefer quieter pursuits can go kayaking, sailing, fly fishing or touring the lake on the iconic TSS Earnslaw vintage steamship.

Queenstown hiking and mountain-biking

With mountains, lakes and rivers all around Queenstown offers a huge array of scenic trails to hike or bike. There are gentle strolls such as the Frankton Walkway, or glorious multi-day hikes such as the world-famous Greenstone Track or Routebourn Track. If you fancy a wine at the end of your exertions, you can walk or mountain-bike the Gibbston River Trail, which stretches 11kms along the Kawarau river, and stop at Waitiri Creek Wines or Peregrine Wines. This is part of the Queenstown Trail, a 120km+ network of amazingly scenic trail that forms one of the 22 Great Rides in the NZ Cycle Trail.

Destination Queenstown
Taking in the view across Edgar Bridge, Queenstown Trail, photo credit: Destination Queenstown

For mountain-bikers, try catching the gondola up to the top of Queenstown Bike Park in the summer months, and smoke your way down some of the 30kms of tracks. Don’t despair if you’re there outside gondola bike season - ride out along the shore of the lake to 7 Mile Delta and enjoy the purpose built single track and lovely views. Alternatively, the 7kms Moke Lake Loop is scenic and not too difficult.

Snow heaven - Queenstown Lakes

Skiers and snowboarders from around the world flock to Queenstown for its high-country skifields and alpine party-town reputation. It’s 18km from Queenstown to the base carparks of Coronet Peak and 28km to the top of The Remarkables. Coronet Peak has brilliant views across mountains to lakes and plains, while The Remarkables is famous for high-altitude freestyle fun. Nearer Wanaka, you’ll find Treble Cone, the South Island’s largest ski area, and Cardrona, which has more parks and pipes than any other ski/board area in the country. Also up the Cardrona Valley road lies Snow Farm, NZ’s only cross-country ski area. The historic Cardrona Hotel, established in 1863, is particularly inviting after a day on the slopes, and has a big garden for children to run around in.

What to do

  • Ski or snowboard at one of the four skifields in the surrounding mountains
  • Bike or walk through beautiful scenery on the Queenstown Trail
  • Go jet boating on the Shotover River
  • Try a bungy jump, ledge swing or paragliding adventure
  • Tour Lake Wakatipu on the TSS Earnslaw
  • Take the gondola to the top of the town and mountain bike down
  • Enjoy fine wines and food at the excellent wineries in the Gibbston Valley and beyond
  • Drive to nearby Arrowtown for a peep into the region’s goldmining history

More info

Where to stay

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Getting there

  • From Invercargill by road: 187km
  • From Christchurch: 486km
  • From Dunedin: 283km
Jack's Point 10 fairway Photo: Jack's Point 10 fairway
Destination Queenstown - tramper above Wakatipu Basin Photo: Destination Queenstown, Tramper above Wakatipu Basin
Piwa perched