Queenstown on New Zealand’s magnificent South Island is synonymous with outdoor adventure and there’s certainly no shortage of ways to get the adrenalin pumping. But this is a destination that will appeal just as much to the urban adventurer. Here are 13 experiences not to be missed during your visit.
Put the pedal to the metal on the Shotover River
There’s one adventure activity that every visitor should try and that’s jetboating. New Zealand invented the jet boat and Shotover Jet will take you on the ride of your life through a series of heart-stoppingly narrow canyons along the Shotover River. Don’t try this at home in your tinny.
Reach for the sky on Bob’s Peak
Bob’s Peak isn’t just good for jumping off the top of. It provides truly stunning views of the Remarkables – the majestic mountain range to the south of the Lake Wakatipu. A gondola ride up to the peak is an absolute must. Once you’ve had your fill of the spectacular outlook there’s a variety of activities on offer, including the famous luge. Stargazing tours are also popular.
Take a leap into the wild blue yonder
The Queenstown adventure vibe is legendary, and while diving head first into the Kawarau Gorge with a bungee cord strapped to your ankles is not everyone’s idea of a good time, there are plenty of less jarring options. G-Force Paragliding offers an extraordinarily gentle tandem glide off Bob’s Peak which will see you soaring 450m above the city and majestic Lake Wakatipu.
Wake up to the lake
When deciding where to rest your weary adventurer’s head, choose a hotel that offers a lake view. Waking up to the lake is one of the greatest joys of travelling to Queenstown. The Oaks Shores offers contemporary apartment style accommodation and most rooms have stunning water vistas.
Dine with a conscience at Sherwood
On the subject of hotels, just a few minutes’ drive from town you’ll find Sherwood – an upcycled motel complex that dances to a very different beat to your average place to stay. But even if you’re not staying at Sherwood, you absolutely have to go there for dinner. The menu is sassy and sophisticated, yet designed to sooth the soul with a focus on ethically sourced local produce.
Survive a ride with Hydro Attack
For a slightly different take on exploring the lake, Hydro Attack sees you climb inside an 18-foot semi-submersible high-powered watercraft that looks like a giant shark – and leaps and dives like, well, a giant shark!
Enjoy fine dining that’s fun at Rata
There are some 140 places to eat in Queenstown, which makes the culinary scene very competitive and generally top-notch. To celebrate something special, book a table at Rata. The service is impeccable and the wine list extensive. Celebrity chef Josh Emett’s take on New Zealand slow-cooked classics is deliciously good fun.
Settle in at The Winery
Queenstown is Pinot Noir territory through and through, but if you are yearning for something a little more full-bodied, head for The Winery in the heart of town. Sample 80+ wines from across New Zealand using a self-pour system. If that sounds a little dangerous, best we not mention the cheese platters and very comfy leather armchairs.
Try top drops and nosh on a wine tour
Wine lovers will absolutely adore Queenstown. While Pinot Noir is the main game, the Otago region also produces mighty fine Chardonnays, Rieslings, Sav Blancs and Pinot Gris. Visit the top cellar doors on a gourmet food and wine tour with Appellation Central Wine Tours.
Get arty at the market
If you have a more modest budget for an artistic souvenir, head for the Creative Queenstown Arts and Crafts Market – held every Saturday by the waterfront. Only locally made products are permitted. Browse the eclectic wares or find a shady spot to enjoy the live music and watch the world go by.
Shop for a masterpiece
Queenstown is a truly beautiful place, and one that offers local artists no end of inspiration to capture on canvas. For those looking to buy a piece, there are galleries around town, while Black ZQN offers private art tours to meet some of the region’s top artists at their studios.
Go for gold in Arrowtown
Queenstown and nearby towns came about largely due to the Gold Rush of the 1860s. Historic Arrowtown makes a great day trip and you can hire a gold pan from the Lakes District Museum and seek your fortune in the Arrow River. For inspiration, visit The Gold Shop to view nuggets that have been found locally.
Cruise back in time
The TSS Earnslaw steamship carried supplies to the far reaches of Lake Wakatipu for most of last century. Today she carries visitors, with an endearing old-world grace. There are 1.5 hour cruises and longer runs out to Walter Peak High Country Farm.