Queenstown is set next to the shores of beautiful Lake Wakatipu, with The Remarkables mountain range providing a magnificent backdrop from across the lake’s deep blue waters. In autumn or winter, when the surrounding peaks are capped with snow, like icing sugar on a cake, the setting is more than picturesque, it is absolutely stunning!
Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand.
Inevitably, the South Island’s premier holiday resort is as packed with tourists as it is with things to do, but no first time visitor to New Zealand can afford to miss it on their itinerary. Queenstown does, after all, cater to all pockets: Backpackers can find plenty of budget accommodation to offset the expensive hotels, and prices at many restaurants are surprisingly reasonable.
Queenstown Vacation Packages
However, any visitor wishing to take part in organised activities in Queenstown should be warned that some of these can be expensive. Still, in Queenstown the rule of thumb is that if you can pay for it you can do it and the range of activities is enormous; ballooning, kayaking, jet-boating, parapenting, rafting, river surfing (shoot the rapids on a boogie board) and the list goes on.
Less of a test of courage but also very exhilarating are the jet-boat trips on the Shotover, Kawerau and Dart Rivers. In real demand among many visitors is the ride with the famous Shotover Jet through the spectacular scenery of the Shotover River Canyons, but the trips offered by other companies such as Kawerau Jet and Dart River Jetboat Safari are certainly worth a try too.
White water rafting is also popular on the Kawarau and Shotover Rivers, though the trip on the Shotover through the Oxenbridge Tunnel is meant to be the most exciting. Leisurely three-day rafting tours are organised on the Landsborough River.
Other places to visit in town include the Queenstown Motor Museum with its collection of vintage cars, and the Kiwi and Birdlife Park. Both are located near the lower terminal of the Skyline Gondola in Brecon Street. The gondola is an attraction in itself and the spectacular ride up Bob’s Peak is not to be missed. At the top one can enjoy a splendid panorama of lake and mountains from the comfort of a licensed restaurant.
In winter Queenstown is no less active than in summer, the only difference being that activities have shifted to the surrounding ski fields. Closest to town are Coronet Peak and the Remarkables but daily shuttle buses also run to Treble Cone and Cardrona near Wanaka. The ski season lasts from about June to October.
AprÃ¨s-ski fans will appreciate that Queenstown’s nightlife is somewhat more lively than in other New Zealand towns. There are a number of places where one can wine, dine and dance until late in the night. Live entertainment is offered at the Skyline Restaurant, Chico’s Restaurant and Bar, the Lone Star Saloon and Vilagrad. A good cold beer can be enjoyed till the early hours at McNeill’s Brewery CafÃ©, the Pig & Whistle or Eichardt’s. Solera Vino is a wine bar which is meant to be good for a wild night on the town. All in all Queenstown has over 20 bars, four nightclubs and over 100 restaurants to choose from.
Visitors who do not have their own transport, or want to save themselves the drive from Queenstown, can book a variety of day trips to Milford or Doubtful Sound. The trips include a cruise on the sounds and can be done with the bus, a combination of bus and plane or, quickest of all, by flying there and back. The journey using only the bus is certainly the cheapest but it makes for a long day: the Doubtful Sound trip takes 14 hours and the Milford trip takes 12 hours. Day trips are offered by Fiordland Travel, Mt Cook, Pacific Tourways and a few others. Shop around for the best deals.
The road south from Queenstown to Te Anau (109 miles/177km) is quite scenic with the first leg of the journey following the Wakatipu shoreline as far as Kingston, at the lake’s southern tip.
At Five Rivers turn right off SH6 towards Mossburn. From here SH94 is followed to Te Anau and Fiordland.