Spending some time on the South Island of New Zealand and looking for an epic Queenstown itinerary? Well, look no further because I’ve got you covered (and you’re definitely not alone).
Queenstown is by far one of the most popular tourist destinations in New Zealand, and this is for a very good reason. As the adventure capital of the world, Queenstown offers so many activities for you to experience.
From skydiving over massive mountains to bungee jumping at the first-ever commercial bungy site and rafting the famous Shooter river, you’ll find so much to do here. You simply can’t visit Queenstown without taking part in at least one of the many adrenaline-inducing activities available.
Additionally, the town is surrounded by mountains, making it the perfect location for hiking, and in the winter months, you can take to the epic slopes for some skiing and snowboarding.
Queenstown will always hold a special place in my heart, so I am truly stoked to be sharing this itinerary with you guys.
The thriving nightlife and the scenic picnics by the lake make Queenstown a place where memories are made and good times are compulsory. I hope that you have just as good a time as I had in Queenstown, New Zealand, and I hope you enjoy using my ultimate Queenstown itinerary.
Where to Stay in Queenstown
Queenstown is a lot smaller than most people realize when they first arrive, and the city center can be explored in less than 10-15 minutes really. Because of this, accommodation does get booked well in advance, so you want to book your hotel, hostel, or Airbnb ASAP.
Luxury Accommodation – Scenic Quites
Scenic Suites Queenstown is a hillside resort with excellent lake and mountain views. The facilities you’ll enjoy include an on-site restaurant, a bar, and complimentary Wi-Fi. Just take a look at the pictures, and you’ll be sold.
While it may be a little pricey, it’s worth every penny and would be the highlight of your trip to Queenstown. It’s also just a six-minute drive from Lake Wakatipu and about four minutes from downtown Queenstown.
Mid-Range Accommodation – Park Boutique Hotel
Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel is an award-winning luxury hotel that comes complete with stunning panoramic alpine views, world-class service, and incredibly stylish rooms. It’s well located, being just a few minutes walk from the city center.
The Wi-Fi is free, and the restaurant on-site regularly receives stellar reviews. It’s one of the top picks in the city and would definitely provide for an unbelievably comfortable stay in Queenstown.
Budget Accommodation – Adventure Q2 Hostel
Adventure Q2 Hostel is perfect for backpackers and by far the best hostel in Queenstown. I have personally stayed in four different Queenstown hostels during my time in New Zealand, and this was hands down the best hostel I’ve stayed in.
Not only is it clean and organized (not something you find often in Queenstown hostels), but it’s also very social. With in-house activities run most nights of the week and also being close to The Village Green, which is perfect for enjoying a drink with friends.
It’s a smaller hostel which I personally prefer because I find these are much more homely and are better for making new friends. Adventure Q2 is also perfectly located, it’s only a couple of minutes walk into the city center. It’s actually the perfect distance for finding your way home after a fun night out in Queenstown.
Getting Around Queenstown
The truth is, if you really want to get off the beaten path and see what New Zealand truly has to offer in terms of natural wonders, I would always suggest driving around by yourself.
As a country that really does lack reliable public transport, I would always suggest that you have access to your own car while traveling anywhere within New Zealand. However, Queenstown is definitely an exception here.
It is by far one of the best set-up places in New Zealand for getting around using public transport alone. The majority of the tour companies, like Canyon Swing, White Water Rafting, and popular day trips to places like Milford Sound, offer coach services to and from all major attractions. This way, Queenstown really takes care of its car-free tourists.
Therefore, most transport to and from any surrounding activities can be planned from within the city center itself, which is very small and easy to walk around simply on foot.
And in the winter there are buses which will take you to and from the local ski slopes. There is also a bus service that will take you to and from the Queenstown Airport and neighboring towns too.
BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN QUEENSTOWN | TRAVEL GUIDE
“There is a reason Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of the world.
Gather your courage and discover why first hand.”
The legends who precede you have jumped off bridges, conquered shallow rivers with spinning jet boats and explored the depths of these towering mountains. Queenstown is a beautiful natural playground, inviting you to ‘go big or go home’.
Hit The Slopes!
Many people like to explore New Zealand in the summertime, but they forget that Queenstown and its surrounding mountains truly transform into a winter wonderland as well. There are actually three different ski resorts, all operating within a few hours from Queenstown, so you definitely won’t be stuck for places to try out.
The three resorts include:
- Coronet Peak – “Only 20 minutes from central Queenstown. New Zealand’s first commercial ski field, celebrating good times since 1947.”
- Cardrona – “With wide open trails, challenging chutes, world-class beginner facilities and the Southern Hemisphere’s most extensive terrain park, there’s something for every snow enthusiast who likes skiing and snowboarding at Cardrona.”
- The Remarkables – “Experience big mountain terrain just 45 minutes from central Queenstown.”
All three are very popular spots for beginners and professionals alike and are guaranteed to be some of the best snowboarding and skiing facilities you’ll ever experience.
Fair warning, though, they’re always quite busy during the winter season, so if you’re around at the right time, don’t miss out on the opportunity to learn some new skills.
VISIT NEVIS – AJ HACKETT BUNGY, SWING & CATAPULT
Try out the most famous swing in the world – The Nevis Swing. Featuring a terrifying 300m arc to swing across, it is actually one of the biggest swings in the world. And it is definitely one of the most thrilling experiences you can sign up for while in Queenstown.
But what I think is actually more terrifying is New Zealand’s highest bungee jump. I found the courage to conquer this one, and it was an unforgettable adrenaline rush and bucket list achievement.
The Nevis Bungy: “Go full throttle with our 440-foot bungy – the highest in New Zealand. Freefall for 8.5 seconds in a blitz of pure fear and adrenaline. Don’t say we didn’t warn you because this will definitely put the cement in your coffee.”
EXPERIENCE THE WORLD’S HIGHEST CLIFF JUMP
The Shotover Canyon Swing is not only the world’s highest cliff-jumping adventure, but I’d argue that it’s the most scenic as well. After running and launching yourself off the 358-foot Shotover Canyon cliff edge, you’ll look down at the beautiful bright blue Shotover River.
The free fall itself is 197 feet, combined with a 656-foot swing out across the stunning canyon, which is the only place in the world where this adventure design system exists. Next up is the Shotover Canyon FOX, which was my personal favorite.
The best part about it is that you can choose all these different “swing styles”. I went with “The Chair” because it seemed the most interesting. They play around with you a bit with the feeling of “leaning too far back in your chair”, which really added to the experience.
The highlight for me was the staff working there. Not only are they extremely professional, but they’re also absolutely hilarious. They go out of their way to be playful and comedic while making fun and trying to scare you that little bit more.
They know when to be serious, but for the most part, they will have a lot of fun and have an amazing laugh. They absolutely make the experience of jumping off a cliff one to remember.
You could do just one of these, but the combo for both of these is only $369 N.Z.D, which I think is a pretty sweet deal.
GO ON A SHOTOVER JET BOAT RIDE
The Shotover Jet Boat ride looks so much fun. I never had the chance to try this one because I decided to go for the whitewater rafting experience instead. But when I saw this ride in action during my time rafting, I wished I had the chance to give it a go as well.
It’s fast, powerful, and extremely adrenaline-inducing. You get to experience the real contrast of a serene, beautiful river and canyon environment mixed with a fast and powerful jet boat ride.
It’s been around since 1965 and is considered one of the world’s ultimate jet boating experiences. It’s definitely one of the top 10 things to do in Queenstown and not something you want to skip.
GO WHITEWATER RAFTING ON THE SHOTOVER RIVER
An experience of a lifetime. Whitewater rafting is exciting, scary, and full of surprises. There is a real danger when it comes to taking on the uncontrollable grade 4-5 rapids of the famous Shotover River. Rapids include Aftershock, Squeeze, Toilet, and Pinball. You also get to raft down a small waterfall at the end.
The instructors were professional. They knew exactly when to get us thinking quickly and panicking for our life. But they also knew how to make us feel safe and in control of the boat.
Teamwork is hugely emphasized, but don’t be afraid to go solo either.
I wasn’t the only solo traveler taking on the rapids, so it felt great when they put me in a boat with many other solo travelers too. Whitewater rafting is the only real extreme sport that’s left in Queenstown that you can partake in.
So don’t miss out on this exciting adventure.
VISIT THE LEDGE BUNGY JUMP & SWING
It’s not the highest, but it is the most unique jump you can do in Queenstown. You have the choice of choosing the 154-foot bungee jump or the swing. Both are stomach-dropping and are located right in the heart of the town, which means it’s super accessible and is set over the most stunning views available in all of Queenstown.
You can enjoy a gondola ride up to Bob’s Peak, where you can view the gorgeous lakes and mountains surrounding the town. Then you can launch yourself off the edge with the ultimate freestyle bungee. This means you can jump off any way you like so you can make the most dramatic jump you can possibly think of.
This is one of the most enjoyable and diverse things to do in Queenstown. There are zip lines across the gorge and opportunities for climbing, hiking, scrambling, swimming, and hiking.
As you work from the top of the gorge to the bottom, you get the chance to slide down natural water slides, dive through waterfalls, and jump off rocks into stunningly clear blue pools. You will feel like a badass, and you will have a lot of fun.
Like all of the adventure activities, the staff at Canyoning Queenstown are professional and fun. The guides know the perfect balance between having a laugh with you, and also making sure you are being safe during the whole adventure.
EMBRACE THE FEAR!
Jump out of a plane at 15,000 feet with a 60-second free-fall at 124m/hour. This will be the ultimate experience of a lifetime as you’ll get to marvel at the incredible skyline Queenstown is blessed with.
With mind-blowing views over the lakes and mountains, this isn’t just a regular skydiving experience. It’s considered one of the most beautiful ranges in the world. And with the choice of jumping out at altitudes of 15,000 feet, 12,000 feet, and 9,000 feet, I can guarantee you will make some memories for life.
I didn’t get to jump with them, but I’d recommend the people at NZONE Skydive.
“NZONE Skydive, Queenstown is New Zealand’s 1st Tandem Skydive Operation. Having commenced operating in 1990 we have gained over 25 years experience in the industry and jumped over 300,000 customers to-date.”
GO TO THE ORIGINAL KAWARAU BRIDGE BUNGY JUMP
Another bungee jump? Well, this is Queenstown, so what did you expect? This bungee jump is special, though. It’s the original site of the Queenstown bungy jump. This means it was the first ever organized commercial bungy site in history.
It’s seen over 650,000 people jump from the historic suspension bridge over the years. It even offers the option for splashing into the crystal blue water with your head as you reach the end of your bungee line.
It’s also the only company in Queenstown that offers the chance to bungee jump in tandem. I think if you’re going to bungy jump, you should do the biggest one possible, but this one is great for people who might be really scared or for people who are on a tighter budget.
“As you shuffle out to the edge of the bridge, heart pounding and mind racing, remember this – you’ve found yourself at the World Home of Bungy. This is the original. Many people have come and gone, on a mission to push the limits and test themselves. Time for you to make the same leap of faith.”
HIKE TO THE TOP OF BEN LOMOND PEAK
The Ben Lomond track is the perfect full-day hike to get your insulin levels back down after all of the thrilling adrenaline-boosting activities you must have been having. The roundtrip journey to the peak will take you anywhere from five to eight hours to return.
Personally, as someone with a decent fitness level who is used to full-day hiking, I found it only took me around five hours to complete (and I did have quite a few breaks on the way).
The return journey to Ben Lomond Peak is steep and challenging at times. The last hour of the hike does require some climbing abilities and good fitness levels.
But overall, I saw many people doing this with their (older) kids, and I myself didn’t wear hiking shoes (just a pair of basic runners). So don’t be put off; I feel that anyone with standard fitness can do the Ben Lomond hike, and the views at the top are well worth the hours of hiking to get there.
The trailhead begins at the top of the Skyline Gondola on Queenstown Hill, but you can walk from the bottom (at Tiki Track) if you want the extra challenge or to save some cash.
I definitely recommend you start early in the morning (because the track is very exposed and can get hot) and take lots of water.
Thoroughly enjoy taking in the breathtaking views of the Remarkables Mountains range and Coronet Peak standing across the lake. The views get better and better the more you climb, and trust me, that final push at the end makes it all worth it.
Tip: Avoid this in the wintertime as often the track will be closed due to snow and avalanche warnings.
CATCH THE SUNRISE OR SUNSET AT THE TOP OF QUEENSTOWN HILL
This is the perfect place to find the most incredible views without a full day of hiking. It has similar views to the Ben Lomond, but Queenstown Hill is only a 2-3 hour return walk.
Watching a sunrise or sunset here is one of the best things to see in Queenstown – and it’s easy to see why. The track starts on Belfast Street and takes you through a woodland trail on the way, which is perfect on a hot summer’s day to keep you out of the direct sun.
In the end, the hike will reward you with a fantastic 360-degree view of the surroundings. Including Lake Wakatipu, the Remarkables, Cecil Peak, and Kawarau River. It’s well worth the effort and is the perfect stop for sunset.
Tip: Make sure to take a torch with you for the return journey coming back down.
GOOD FOOD & DRINK RECOMMENDATIONS IN QUEENSTOWN
Finding the perfect place to eat is one of the best things to do in Queenstown. Adding well-reviewed restaurants and local favorites to your Queenstown itinerary will make sure you only get the best of New Zealand cuisine.
FERGBURGER – RATED ONE OF THE TOP 10 BEST BURGERS IN THE WORLD
This might sound bad… But the first thing I did when I drove into Queenstown was to park my car and head straight into Fergbuger to find out what the hype was all about.
You really can’t miss it. There is usually a long line of people waiting outside. It’s always busy, and it’s considered one of the top 10 Best Burgers in the World. Some people think they’re overrated; some say a Fergburger is the best burger they have ever tried.
In my opinion, it’s worth finding out.
With a decent menu of options, you will have plenty of time to decide which one to order as you queue outside for over an hour. However, a local tip I heard was that you could ring the shop in advance to order your burger, avoiding the queue.
But in my experience, this didn’t work as I found that the phone lines were always too busy to take my call. Personally, I found waiting in line part of the experience. But if you truly hate queuing up, I’d recommend going in at a less busy time, such as in the mornings or later at night.
Tip: Order your burger to go (the shop is always too packed to sit inside and eat anyways), then you can walk over to Queenstown Lake and enjoy your burger with a stunning view. Also, these burgers are huge. One is filling, so make sure you go in on an empty stomach.
TRY AN ICONIC NEW ZEALAND COOKIE TIME AT THE COOKIE MUNCHER COOKIE BAR
One of my favorite memories in New Zealand was as simple as tasting my first ever Cookie Time Cookie. They’re all over the supermarkets, gas stations, and general stores.
Cookie Time is iconic in the whole country, and what better way to try your first Cookie Time Cookie than by having a warm, freshly baked one? Cookie Time Queenstown’s menu is packed with so many incredible choices and flavors and is the perfect sweet treat after a full day of adventuring.
HAVE THE BEST ICE CREAM AT PATAGONIA CHOCOLATES
Literally, the best ice cream you can find in New Zealand is at Patagonia Chocolates. I tried my first-ever Patagonia ice cream while I was in Wanaka. It was so delicious I just had to have some again on my visit to Queenstown.
They don’t only sell ice cream, though. There is also an extensive selection of world-class chocolates and truffles, as well as hot drinks such as coffee and hot chocolate.
PIG AND WHISTLE, QUEENSTOWN
If you’re not really interested in lining up for over an hour to order a Fergurger, and sweet treats aren’t really going to cut it either. Then the Pig And Whistle should definitely satisfy your appetite with some wholesome, hearty, and traditional English pub food.
One of my favorite things about New Zealand was the homely pub meals. Serving traditional Kiwi meat pies, bangers and mash, and traditional roast dinners, the Pig And Whistle, like most Kiwi pubs, will make you feel right at home.
There’s also a great choice of beers, ciders, and wines to choose from. As well as the lively atmosphere and often live music which make this place feel perfect no matter what the time of year.
NIGHTLIFE IN QUEENSTOWN
Every Queenstown itinerary must feature a few bars or pubs. This way, you get to immerse yourself in the city’s vibrant nightlife, and you’ll get to meet some of the locals.
Rhino’s Ski Shack
If you want a little European/Kiwi bar hybrid, then Rhino’s Ski Shack is the perfect little bar for you. It’s where many of the skiers and snowboarders hang out after a day on the slopes (but in the summer, it’s just as busy and cool).
It has a little hidden basement shack-style bar with options for food, drinks, and party games. Rhino’s is the ultimate evening spot to socialize, chat, meet new people and experience a truly warm and friendly vibe. Later on, the place takes on more of a club vibe with a dance floor and buzzing music.
A lesser-known club featuring a live DJ, open mic nights, and a pool table, Vinyl Underground is open until 4 am for drinking, dancing, and socializing. It’s a popular spot for ending your night in Queenstown, and it’s always thriving with good vibes and fun people.
If you’re looking for a cozy little cocktail bar, then BarUp is the place for you. Perfect in summer and winter alike, this spot is popular for its comprehensive cocktail menu and its open fire and cozy vibe. You’ll also enjoy live music, New Zealand wines, and craft beers.
QUEENSTOWN TRAVEL TIPS
Like with any holiday, there are certain tips and tricks that one could use to get a better deal. From the best Airbnbs in Queenstown to combo deals and some of the best free things to do in Queenstown, I’ve got you covered.
SAVE MONEY WITH COMBO DEALS
When I booked my adventure activities in Queenstown, I found it was great to book a few at once with the combo deals.
Personally, I chose to book a deal that included the Shotover Flying Fox and Canyon Swing Combo. This is a helicopter ride over the canyon that ends at the top of the Shotover River for a whitewater rafting experience.
I saved over $150, and it was all organized for me on the day as the staff was all aware of the deal I purchased. So I was picked up and dropped off at all the correct places at the right time. This is a good way to get a lot packed into one day, and it makes the day super exciting, and action-packed.
I highly recommend booking a combo deal if you plan on taking on a lot of activities in a short space of time.
BOOK YOUR ACCOMMODATION & ACTIVITIES IN ADVANCE
Seriously, Queenstown books up fast. I am definitely one of those last-minuters when traveling. I like flexibility, and I never know how long I want to be someplace. However, with Queenstown, it really is necessary to have an idea of where you want to stay and what you want to do before you arrive.
I found myself having to sleep in my car twice due to my lack of planning and pre-booking a hostel (they were all sold out). I visited in December and January (the busiest times of the year), but generally, Queenstown is one place that is always busy. So it’s not worth the risk of leaving things to the last minute.
This includes hostels, Airbnbs, hotels, tours, and activities. I know a few people who couldn’t even get in for the Canyon Swing because it was already fully booked for the week they were there.
TAKE A FREE WALKING TOUR
For a real Kiwi experience, discover Queenstown with a friendly local guide on a 2-2.5 hour walking tour. It’s the perfect way to learn about the town and how to find your way around.
The tours start at either 10 am or 2 pm daily at the Memorial Arch and include lots of useful info such as history, stories, and even some tips on the best nightlife spots.
In a typical Kiwi manner, they are always running no matter the weather. So if it’s cold, wrap up, turn up, and don’t forget to tip your guide at the end if you enjoyed it.
BEST DAY TRIPS FROM QUEENSTOWN
Now if you’ve got a bit more time in Queenstown to explore the nearby attractions (which I’d highly recommend), here are a few amazing day trips to book
Milford Sound Early Bird Coach & Cruise Day Trip: “Catch the sunrise, avoid the crowds, and be back in time for Happy Hour aboard the “Sunriser”. Take in the stunning views and wonderful wildlife as you boat cruise around Milford Sound. Relax on board with tea and coffee, enjoying the commentary as you go.”
Milford Sound: 2-Hour Small Boat Scenic Cruise: “Climb aboard a smaller boat for a 2-hour scenic cruise of Milford Sound. Navigate closer to the shoreline and get right up close to cascading waterfalls, rainforest, and wildlife under the expert care of your friendly, local crew.”
Spirit of Queenstown Lake Wakatipu Scenic Cruise: “Cruise farther and see more on this 1.5-hour Queenstown scenic cruise. Sit back, relax and enjoy spectacular views of the Remarkables, Bob’s Cove, Cecil Peak, and Mt. Earnslaw from the comfort of the Spirit of Queenstown – an environmentally friendly and luxurious cruise boat. Take in panoramic views from the open top deck. Enjoy refreshments, snacks, and lunch served in the café on board.”
AM I MISSING ANYTHING FROM MY QUEENSTOWN ITINERARY
Have you been to Queenstown recently and think I need any specific restaurants, activities, adventures, or tours on my list? I’d love to keep this list as up-to-date as possible, so please do let me know how I can make this post better.
Just writing this article has gotten me super keen to get back to Queenstown myself, and potentially even find a cute little mountain apartment.
PLANNING A TRIP TO NEW ZEALAND…?
Well, that was all from me on the ultimate Queenstown guide. I hope you found this useful and that it’s helped you to plan your trip to Queenstown so much more efficiently. Visiting any other spots in New Zealand?
I also have tons of other articles surrounding New Zealand, so take a look while you’re here:)
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