Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand. Here, nature and tourists alike come to play and you can choose from a vast array of options to spend your time and get your blood pumping.
Pro Tip: If flying into our out of Queenstown during daylight hour be sure to get a window site as the airplane view is absolutely breathtaking. You also literally land in a valley between multiple mountain ranges (The Remarkables which is the best mountain range name of all time) which is a pretty unique experience.
We stayed at the Lomond Lodge Motel and Apartments during our stay. They were very accommodating when it came to holding our bags during our multi-day excursions. Day time and multi-day excursions are hugely popular in Queenstown so I am sure all of the hotels offer this service but it might be something to check when booking. Lomond Lodge is located just off the main strip of restaurants and shops making it a little cheaper. We only had to walk about 5-7 minutes to reach anything so it was still very convenient.
If you will be arriving during busy season I would absolutely recommend booking your hotel in advance as it is a pretty small little town with limited resources. The place comes alive during the warmer months with adventure seekers and then again in the winter for snow lovers.
Shopping, Eating and The Basics
Queenstown is really quite tiny with only a couple major streets and one town center. The shops and restaurants are nearly all located in the town center which is very easily walked. Definitely take the chance to walk near the lakefront where you will also find a large park that sometimes has festivals.
Note that most things in Queenstown are rather pricey as the location is bit remote and they know there is a captive audience with the tourists. If it is a souvenir that you know you can by elsewhere you might be better off waiting.
Unless you are planning to do trips far outside of town without tour groups there is really no need for a car in Queenstown. All of the activities and excursions include transportation from the main street of Queenstown. There is also a local bus system that can be used to hit some of the local communities nearby.
There is a very nice shuttle service from the airport that you can also schedule in advance to pick you up whenever you need to head back. This can be scheduled at the airport, with the taxi company itself or through your hotel or using their phone app. There are tons of airport transportation options no matter what your needs are. Everyone at the airport, hotels, drivers and tour operators are incredibly friendly and helpful so don’t be afraid to ask around.
Interested in learning more about New Zealand? Check out my other New Zealand Travel Tips & Tricks
Activities and Excursions
There are information booths and places to book activities and excursions EVERYWHERE in Queenstown. This tiny little mountain town is built on tourism and they know it. You can book anything you want to do right on the spot and often the same day or just 1 day prior. We booked our bungy jumping adventure and Milford Sound cruise in advance because we did not want to miss out.
If you are unsure of what you want to do or have several days to fill I would recommend just heading to an info booth on arrival to explore all of your options. A lot of places also offer packages if you want to do multiple things. There are so many options of things to do that it can be a little overwhelming when looking online. I found it much easier to speak with an actual person and prices were pretty comparable.
Queenstown is where bungy jumping was invented so we definitely chose to take advantage of that and jump of Kawarau Bridge with AJ Hackett Bungy Jumping. As with almost all of the tours in Queenstown, you meet at a local shop in town to start your tour. Transportation to and from the location of your activity is included in the price.
I had never bungy jumped and I can’t recommend it highly enough. If we went back again I think we would do the higher jump because it was SO much fun!
Para Gliding and Hang Gliding
On a total whim we decided to go para gliding. We had some time to kill so we walked into an info booth to see what our options were for the day. We booked immediately with Coronet Peak and left about an hour later for our trip. It was only a 3 hour excursion but it was wonderful! We had no idea what to expect as we had never even thought of para gliding. Anything you can do to get up high and see the view of Queenstown and the nearby Remarkable Mountains you should absolutely do. You will not be disappointed.
Queenstown Gondola and Skyline Luge
The gondola and luge was recommended to us by our hotel since we arrived too early in the day to go into our hotel room. You can walk there from the center of town easily. I would recommend going early in the morning unless you are keen to waiting in line. You take a short gondola up to a little visitors center and then take the luge down. You can purchase packages with 2, 3 or 5 luge rides. We did 2 and that was more than enough as there are 2 different tracks to take.
Be sure to wander around the visitors center as there are stores, a cafeteria and balconies with amazing views. Just note that you are not able to take backpacks and other loose objects on the luge. There are some lockers at the top you can use but they fill up super fast. Better to pack light for this one.
Milford Sound Cruise
The drive to Milford Sound is still quite long, about 4 hours. However, Queenstown is one of the most popular jumping off points for this trip. If you can spare 2 full days I would recommend it, if you can afford to fly to Milford Sound that is another option. It was so cool that is deserves its own post so head over to Milford Sound for the details.
Other Queenstown Activity Options
The list of activities is much too long but the Queenstown website does a great job of listing your options. Again, if there is anything you absolutely do not want to miss I would book in advance. Otherwise, I would show up with an open-mind and a brave face and see what you are up for.