I had the most amazing experience in Queenstown earlier this year, though I lived in Auckland for 7 years, I never had the chance to explore the South Island. Everyone knows Queenstown as a winter snow destination but it’s just as incredible in spring, summer even autumn time. The coastline and majestic mountains take your breath away. I highly recommend booking a ticket asap to check out every single one of the activities below.
Few things to keep in mind …
Weather plays a big role in what you can and can’t do , we went in February (Summer) and got lucky with sunshine! Otherwise it rains a lot and can get a bit cold so be prepared. This list is mainly for the months where it’s not snowing (Ski season is Jun-Oct). I am planning on going in Winter so watch this space for the Queenstown Snow edition.
We did a lot of pre-booking, such as the car hire and most of the activities . We used this site a lot https://www.experienceoz.com.au/en/queenstown
We stayed at the Novotel Hotel – it’s nice enough, super old school but central to the main lake . The island is small so don’t be afraid to venture out of the main area.
We did all of this in 4 1/2 days!! Haha – Do you accept the challenge? If you are interested in how we managed to fit all this let me know in the comment section and I’ll share our actual itinerary.
1. GO jet boating!!!
So fun! It’s super fast with lots of 360 turns, can be a little scary (2 out 5) as it only needs 10 cm of water to skim over. A very exhilarating 25 mins! We booked via http://www.shotoverjet.com/
2. Sunset drinks at the main lake
Beer and ciders by the main lake (hard to miss) is a popular activity (for travellers) on a Saturday afternoon, bring blanket, snacks and just take in the beautiful view. Then head Sundeck a rooftop bar for drinks.
3. Must try eateries
Dinner at Madam Woo (book in advance very busy)
Bespoke Kitchen perfect spot for breakie & lunch
Vudu Cafe, was my go to on this trip for coffee, breakie and lunch
4. Whitewater Rafting
Must do! Make sure you take swimmers and a take towel, they will give you a wetsuit, booties and lockers to keep your belongings. Don’t forget your GoPro!
Scare factor ⅗. We used Shotover whitewater rafting Transport provided
5. Relax at Onsen Hot Pools
Photo says it all! Don’t need to explain why this is a must!
Book via their site. Get the champagne and snack
Transport is provided to and from town. ( We did this after rafting and walked over it’s about 2km away)
6. Buffet, Gondola & Luge
Stratosfare Queenstown was amazing, so much variety and very affordable! A must! We booked the Gondola & Dinner option, which includes the cable car lift and toboggan package and booked the Luge (toboggan) separately – if you shop around I’m sure you can get a better deal than us. We arrived at the cable car lifts at 4pm, played for an hour (The luge is super fun!), waited in the bar for the dinner seating at 6.15pm
7. Milford Sounds
We didn’t have enough time to fit this in as you do really need a good day. It was highly recommended by a lot of people. So if you have time it’s worth checking out! Link here
You definitely need a car for the following activities (8-11)
Take the scenic drive via the Crown Range way over the mountains and through a town called Cardrona, stunning mountains views.
9. Roys Peak Track
This is not for the faint hearted! It’s 16km hike up a punishing mountain, it takes about 2.5 hours each way and come down is the hardest part. By that stage you are well and truly over it lol But I loved it as well. The view was amazing!!!!
Note/ As you can see by the photo, I was not prepared and underestimated this beast. Make sure you wear sunscreen, have water, some snacks and hiking gear – Read more
10. Visit Old Cromwell Town & Arrowhead
Old Cromwell Town Historic Precinct is adorable! Make sure you get there early, 10am-ish, before the tour busses arrive eek! Close by is Wild Earth Wines and Goldfields Mining Centre that’s worth a visit.
Also check out Arrowhead, cute town to wander around in. I would have loved to stay here overnight, lots of places to wine and dine
11. Have a glass…or 15 !
In case you didn’t know, Pinot Noir is the main Queenstown red! So be prepared to drink a lot of it. (I don’t drink white so can’t help you there)
Here are some our fave winery:
Chard Farm – Great pino!
Gibson Valley Wines – Amazing yellow cheese