Best things to do in Queenstown
Find out more about those top places in Queenstown
Set against the towering peaks of the Southern Alps, the South Island city of Queenstown is a gateway to New Zealand’s natural wonders. While Queenstown is one of the South Island’s most cosmopolitan cities with a host of picturesque lakeside parks and buzzing eateries, the city is best known as an ideal base for exploring the surrounding region, which became famous across the world as the filming location for much of The Lord of the Rings. Lake Wakatipu can be explored by a variety of means – steamboats, water taxis, jet skis, canoes and submarines – while the churning waters of the nearby Shotover River are perfect for white water rafting. New Zealand’s most spectacular fjord, the Milford Sound, can also be accessed from Queenstown by boat or helicopter. While the Southern Alps are no longer a hidden gem, they remain one of the country’s most jaw-dropping locations.
Queenstown stretches along the zigzagging coast of Lake Wakatipu and there is no better place to start your tour of the city than on the water. Surrounded by the towering snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps, the lake can be explored by a variety of means including thrilling speedboats, historic steam cruise-ships and even submarines that give a unique view of its icy depths.
Offering breathtaking views of the Southern Alps and the lightening bolt shaped Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown’s Skyline Gondola is the city’s newest standout attraction. It takes you to a height of 400 meters from which point you can continue upwards on hiking trails to the rocky summit of Ben Lomond, test your mountain biking skills, try the heart-pumping luge track or go bungee jumping. For the more romantically inclined, night trips up the gondola offer remarkable star watching.
Queenstown’s premier day trip takes you to the South Island’s western coast to explore the plunging fjords of the Milford Sound. Tours depart the city by bus, which has a specially designed observation deck, and culminate in a breathtaking cruise down the sound where you will see countless glacier carved fjords, the roaring Stirling Falls and some of New Zealand’s most spectacular wildlife.
Even if you have not heard of Queenstown it is likely you will be familiar with the scenery, which was the backdrop for much of Peter Jackson’s blockbuster Lord of the Rings trilogy. Tours take you from Queenstown to nearby Paradise Forest, which was the filming location for Rivendell, and the Dart River, better known as the setting of Isengard.
One of Queenstown’s most sedate attractions is the ever-charming Kiwi Birdlife Park, which is home to New Zealand’s national bird, the kiwi. Guided tours of the complex are available that offer fascinating insights into the lives of these tiny birds and the challenges they currently face from invasive species.
For a relaxing break from Queenstown’s adrenaline fueled activities, head for the city’s gardens that elegantly line the shores of Lake Wakatipu. The Victoria-era gardens contain a historic monument to Captain Robert Scott Cook, who famously led an ill-fated Antarctic expedition, alongside exotic trees, picture-perfect rotundas and stunning views of the Southern Alps.