A complete travel guide to the absolute best things to do in Queenstown, New Zealand. From adrenaline activities to nature attractions and hikes, this is the only adventure guide you need to explore Queenstown!
Arriving in Queenstown, New Zealand without any plans would leave anyone feeling just a little overwhelmed. From jet boats to bungee jumping to paragliding, it’s very easy to see why this small mountain town attracts over 3.3 million adventure-seekers yearly.
In this guide, I’ve compiled the most extensive list of the best things to do in Queenstown. I’ve spent a fair amount of time exploring this adventure capital. I’ve also written many comprehensive guides for each Queenstown activity or attraction. You’ll find links to each of these below each attraction or activity below, which contains loads more photos and information.
Best Tours & Day Trips From Queenstown
Before I get into the complete list of things to do in one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist destinations, here’s a quick run-down on the best tours and day trips from Queenstown!
The Shotover Jet is one of the most exhilarating tours you can book from Queenstown. This is one of the longest running jet boating rides in the region and is incredibly fun.
There’s wall-to-wall action at high speed, covering shallow waters and copping 360-degree spins! If you book online with Get Your Guide, the trip includes transport from Queenstown.
Spirit of Queenstown Lake Wakatipu Cruise
This next tour is one of the most-booked experiences in New Zealand, and for good reason.
The truth is, this 1.5 hour cruise is one of the best ways to take in the amazing sights of the Remarkables mountain range, Bob’s Cove, Cecil Peak, and Mt. Earnslaw. The trip includes a luxurious lunch!
Milford Sound Full-Day Trip by Bus & Boat From Queenstown
One of the most amazing experiences you can have in Queenstown is a visit to the one and only Milford Sound. This incredible Fjord is arguably the most scenic part of the country, and you’ll want to see it from the water!
Queenstown Alpine Helicopter Flight
Looking for the ultimate way to take in spectacular views of New Zealand’s South Island? Look no further than this 45-minute alpine helicopter flight from Queenstown.
Not only will you get panoramic aerial views of the Skippers Canyon and the Queenstown Basin, but you’ll even get an alpine landing included!
36 Best Things to do in Queenstown New Zealand
Okay, with a quick list of the top-3 tours out of the way, let’s get into the real list! Remember, even with 36 items, there are just so many epic things to do and see in Queenstown that this long list barely scratches the surface.
Nevertheless, these travel tips, outdoor activities, and adventure ideas will surely help you plan your New Zealand adventures. So, without further ado, let’s get into the list.
1. Bungee Jumping with AJ Hacket
By far, the most iconic Queenstown adrenaline activity is a bungee jump with AJ Hackett.
In fact, many Queenstowners consider this a rite of passage!
Having been around since 1988, AJ Hackett is the world’s best, safest and biggest bungee jumping company. If you’ve always wanted to try bungee, then there’s no better place than the birthplace of bungee in the adventure capital of New Zealand!
You’ll have a few options; The Ledge (47 metres), Kawarau Bridge (43 metres), and the Nevis (137 metres).
2. The Skyline Gondola Ride
Did you know that Queenstown is home to the Southern hemisphere’s steepest cable car?
Taking the Skyline Gondola offers great views of Queenstown. At the top, you’ll have impressive panoramic views from Bob’s Peak overlooking the town, the Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu.
There are also plenty of Queenstown activities to choose from at the top, including the Luge and the Nevis bungy.
The cost per adult is $44, however, there is an online deal where you can purchase a Gondola + 2x Luge rides for only $57.
3. The Luge
Located right beside the gondola, the Skyline Luge is a popular adventure activity worth your time.
The luge track snakes and turns through banks, tunnels and forest with constant views of the Remarkables, surrounding mountains, and Lake Wakatipu. When it comes to luge rides, I’d say this has to be the most scenic on earth!
4. Tiki Trail to the Skyline Gondola
For those of you who’d prefer to lace up the boots and hit the trails then Queenstown also has some of the most accessible hiking trails in New Zealand.
Just beside the Skyling Gondola is Queenstown’s Tiki Trail, which twists and turns steeply up the mountain to Bob’s Peak and the Skyline Gondola.
This is an enjoyable hike passing through dense birch and fir forest with sounds of native birds and wildlife. It’s certainly a peaceful hike until you unexpectedly cross the downhill mountain bike trails which is a great reminder that you are in the adventure capital of the world!
5. Ben Lomond Track
Now for the best hike in Queenstown – the Ben Lomond summit track. This is one of the most epic views you’ll find in town!
Continuing on from the Skyling Gondola, the track continues around the bend to a grassy, hilly plain that climbs gently to the Ben Lomond saddle. The final summit push to Ben Lomond’s 1748M peak is accessible from the saddle and can be attempted by most fit hikers!
Not only is the Ben Lomond hike one of the best walks or tramps in the area, but many also consider the journey to the summit one of the absolute top things to do in Queenstown New Zealand.
At the top, you’ll get insane views of the Remarkables Range, Lake Wakatipu, and the Queenstown foreshore. The summit of Ben Lomond is one of my favourite places in the country. The view from the top is easily worth the effort.
6. Mountain Biking
Queenstown is one of the best places on earth for downhill mountain biking. There is a huge international and local scene here and Queenstown is also the stage for several downhill competitions every year.
There are hundreds of maintained tracks ranging from beginners to professionals. If you don’t have your own bike, it’s possible to rent one from several bike shops in Queenstown.
You’ll also find the best resource on Queenstown bike trails on the Queenstwon Trail website.
7. Queenstown Helicopter Tour
By far the best way to see Queenstown is from the sky.
8. Skippers Canyon
Queenstown is the doorstep for a multitude of epic canyons, gorges, and rapid rivers. Visiting Skippers Canyon is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon. Here, you can do a few short walks and even swim in the turquoise flowing waters of the Shotover River.
Near the car park, you will also find the Edith Cavell Bridge, which is undeniably one of the most scenic bridges I’ve ever come across!
9. Shotover Jet
The Shotover Jet is yet another of Queenstown’s iconic adrenaline activities! Located at Skippers Canyon, just next to the Edith Cavell Bridge, this jet-boating activity is one of the most iconic in the world.
Screaming around tight canyons bends and skimming across seemingly inches of water at over 85 kilometres an hour, this is definitely one for adrenaline junkies.
Surprisingly, the Shotover Jet is one of the most affordable activities on this lest of best things. todo in Queenstown. If you book online, you also get a bus transfer from Queenstown.
10. Canyoning Trip
Yep, just 15 minutes from Queenstown and you can be walking through ancient beech forest towards steep-walled canyons.
Canyoneering trips in Queenstown are top-notch and most include ziplines, abseiling, waterfalls, cliff jumps and everything you’d expect from an epic canyoning adventure.
Queenstown canyoning guides are very skilled and no experience is typically required.
11. Take a Tour to Milford Sound & Doubtful SOund
A trip to New Zealand’s wild Fjordland sounds is one of the best things you can do in the country. Best of all, it’s very easy and relatively inexpensive to book a day-trip to both Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound directly from Queenstown.
A cruise down the famous fjords is the best way to take in the sights of the snow-capped mountains of the Southern Alps. This is the very best of New Zealand’s wild landscapes. From the towering Mitre Peak to lush rainforest carved by numerous plummeting waterfalls down the sheer cliffs, it’s difficult to understand just how incredible the Fjordlands are without visiting them yourself.
Tip: For those with their own car or camper, you can take the scenic drive to Milford Sound by yourself and book a sound cruise directly from the National Park for under $60.
Full Guide: How to Visit Milford Sound from Queenstown
12. Zip Trekking
Looking for an epic zip-lining adventure in Queenstown? The Ziptrek Ecotours is an epic 2-hour ziplining activity that is ranked as the world’s steepest tree-to-tree zipline!
If you’re looking for a longer-lasting adrenaline hit that is easier on the wallet, then this Queenstown activity is a great bet.
$5 OFF: Ziptrek Ecotours when you use code: OLLY5
13. Hike to Queenstown Hill for Sunset
Queenstown Hill is probably the most iconic sunset hike in town. This hike is much easier than the Tiki trail, yet just as rewarding – especially for sunset or sunrise.
The viewpoint at the top of Queenstown Hill offers arguably the best views of the town, as well as clear views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables.
FULL POST: Queenstown Hill Hiking Guide
14. Play Frisbee Golf in the Queenstown Gardens
After a long day of adrenaline-pumping adventure activities and hikes, what better way to unwind than to have a beer or two and play frisbee golf with your mates in the Queenstown gardens?
But, what’s frisbee golf you may ask? It’s exactly that. The game has similar rules and objectives as golf, yet is played with frisbees.
This is one of the best free things to do in Queenstown if you have your own frisbees. Otherwise, you can rent them from most sports and outdoor stores in Queenstown.
15. Swim in Lake Wakatipu
Queenstown’s resident lake is one of the most picturesque in New Zealand and also makes for a great place to cool off in the summer months!
However, this is a mountain lake, so prepared to get a little chilly!
16. Take in the Lakeside Sunset Views
Not looking to leave town and want a great sunset spot? Why not head down to the lakeside boardwalk to unwind with a stunning Queenstown sunset?
The boardwalk and lakeside area usually attracts dozens of groups, so it’s also a great place to meet other travelers.
17. Hike at Bob’s Cove
The Bob’s Cove track is one of the best bang-for-buck hikes in Queenstown in terms of views! What I mean by this is that after just a very short yet scenic walk around the edge of Bob’s Cove and a small hill-climb, you will be rewarded with one of the best coastal views near Queenstown!
Even if you’re not into hiking, I highly recommend visiting Bob’s Cove if you’re wondering what to do in Queenstown.
18. Head to Moke Lake
Moke Lake is a more off-the-beaten-path mountain lake hiking and camping area just a stone-throw away from Queenstown.
Of course, you’ll need your own transport to drive the short, 20-minute road to Moke Lake. If you are exploring New Zealand in a non-self contained camper, then visiting Moke Lake is also one of the best and most affordable places to spend the night!
READ: Moke Lake New Zealand
19. Drive the Scenic Road to Glenorchy
The Glenorchy-Queenstown Road has to be one of the world’s most scenic drives! Following the edge of Lake Wakatipu, the road winds gently through the mountain ranges with mind-blowing views of snow-capped peaks and distant glaciers along every turn.
There are also several pull-over areas on the side of the road where you can stop and snap some shots or simply admire the view!
20. Hike the Routeburn Track
The Routeburn Track is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. In my opinion, it’s also probably the best of all the Great Walks in New Zealand, and that’s saying something!
Although the Routeburn departs from nearby Glenorchy, many hikers depart early from their base in Queenstown to hike a section of it on a day trip or the whole thing!
FULL GUIDE: How to Hike the Routeburn on a Day Trip
21. The Earnslaw Burn Hike
Hobbit fans rejoice! The Earnslaw Burn hike follows the path of Bilbo and his companions as they march on their quest through Middle Earth.
Even if you’re not a Tolkien fan, the Earnslaw Burn hike is still one of the best hikes in New Zealand and certainly one of the best things to do near Queenstown. The track dips and climbs through dense beech forest before opening up into a spectacular glacial burn with a track that leads all the way to the Earnslaw glacier.
Similarly to the Routeburn, this hike departs from neighbouring Glenorchy, but can easily be reached from Queenstown following a quick drive on the scenic lakeside road.
HIKING GUIDE: Earnslaw Burn Overnight Hike
22. Lord of the Rings Tour
Did you know that both the North and South Island of New Zealand was the location of all Lord of the Rings filming sets? Of course you do!
There are hundreds of different locations that you can discover that were featured in the epic trilogy.
23. Stand-Up Paddleboarding and Kayaking
Especially popular in summer, renting a kayak or SUP on Queenstown’s Lake Wakatipu is one of the best things to do in Queenstown.
Make sure to pick a calm day, because strong winds are common in Queenstown, especially in the afternoons!
24. Drive to the Remarkables Ski Area
The Remarkables mountain range is one truly worthy of the name. The constant Queenstown backdrop also features a great ski area that is very popular during the winter months.
Even if you’re visiting outside of pow season, driving up the access road to the Remarkables Ski area is still a worthwhile trip. You will have to pay $10 during summer, but don’t worry the views are definitely worth it!
25. The Lake Alta Hike
While the Remarkables Ski Field probably deserves its own spot on the list of the best Queenstown attractions, there’s a secret lake hike worth checking out year-round! Located right beside the Remarkables Ski Field, this is a short track to one of Queenstown’s most scenic alpine lakes; Lake Lata.
To access this hike, you will need to take the ski field access road mentioned above. There is a sign once you arrive at the carpark which leads the way.
I also found a little-known track that climbs the saddle to a spectacular viewpoint of the Lake and of Shotover country below. If views are your goal, then the Lake Alta hike is one of the best things to do in Queenstown!
FULL GUIDE: Lake Alta Saddle Viewpoint
26. Visit Coronet Peak
On the other side of Shotover country is another of Queenstown’s popular ski fields. Similarly to the Remarkables ski area, there is a well-maintained, yet steep access road to the top.
Having adrenaline withdrawals? Skydiving in Queenstown is arguably the most beautiful place to do so in the entire world!
With a huge skydiving scene, there is also loads of competition, meaning that prices are actually pretty reasonable.
For those not ready to jump out of a plane, how about launching off a mountain?
If you’ve already arrived in Queenstown, then you probably would have already noticed the hundreds of paragliders and hang-gliders that dot the skies above Queenstown. That’s because paragliding is one of Queenstown’s most popular adventure activities.
Though you don’t need to be a pro to partake in the fun. There are many sports and adventure stores in Queenstown that can hook you up with a tandem, or you could compare prices and book online.
29. Drive to Arrowtown
Arrowtown is a small, historic mining town that is located only a short distance from Queenstown.
The town itself is very small, consisting only of a main road and a few tourist shops. Still, if you’re interested in the mining history of New Zealand, or you want to see its quaint and picturesque buildings and mountain backdrops, then add Arrowtown to your Queenstown itinerary!
30. Hike or Unwind by the Arrow River
Arrowtown is also a mini-hub of short hikes and river walks. Located just near the main Arrowtown visitor’s carpark is a hiking area that is very popular with day-trippers from Queenstown.
For those visiting Arrowtown, make sure to stop by the Arrow river for lunch or for a quick swim!
31. Stick a Thumb Out
I know, this is a little bit of a random one. However, Queenstown is known as one of the easiest places in the world to hitchhike!
The combination of a large backpacking community and the warm, welcoming Kiwi spirit has created a scene where hitchhiking has become a regular form of transport for many travelers and locals.
So, if hitchhiking is on the bucket list, or if you’re looking to save money on transport to any of the Queenstown attractions on this list of best things to do in Queenstown, then go ahead and give it a go!
32.Visit the Kawarau Gorge
While most people visit the Kawarau Gorge from Queenstown for the famous Bungy bridge, I think that it’s a worthwhile destination in itself!
With pristine aqua waters and jagged canyons, the Kawarau River is begging to be explored. I’d recommend stopping by Roaring Meg for some of the best photo opportunities of the gorge.
RELATED: Discover the 8 Best Hikes in Town
33. Eat a Fergburger
No, this isn’t a food blog, but eating at Fergburger is so iconic that this burger joint seems to make its way onto every list of Queenstown attractions!
Yes, the burgers really are that good, especially after a long day of hiking and exploring. Now that I’ve mentioned it, you’ll likely see those paper-bag wrapped wonders in the hands of every second person on the Queenstown boardwalk!
Fergburger even caters for vegans and vegetarians, so nobody has to miss out.
34. Devil’s Staircase Lookout
While the Glenorchy to Queenstown road certainly gets more attention, on the other side of the elbow is yet another incredible lakeside drive.
The Devil’s Staircase lookout is located on the road between Queenstown and Kingston and is a popular stop for those driving south to the Fjordlands.
35. Hit the Road!
Put simply, with so many epic things to do in Queenstown, you just won’t run out of things to do or see.
However, Queenstown is just the start! The South Island of New Zealand is one of the most adventure-packed and wild places on earth, so it’d be a shame to miss it.
Some of the best adventures and memories are made on spontaneous trips! If you haven’t yet, get your set of wheels and just drive, the roads surrounding Queenstown are so picturesque that they deserve a spot on the list!
36. Visit Wanaka
The adventures certainly don’t end at Queenstown! Known colloquially as Queenstown’s tamer little brother, Wanaka is another hotspot for great hikes and activities.
Located only an hour from Queenstown, many travelers only stop by for a day trip. However, if you want to check out some of the must do’s, including climbing Roy’s Peak or the majestic Blue Pools, then it’s worth stopping for at least a few days.
Where to Stay in Queenstown
I’ve written a separate, comprehensive accommodation guide to the best places to stay in Queenstown– make sure to check it out get a a great deal! Otherwise, below is a quick summary of my top-picks from a budget backpacker lodge to a luxurious ski resort!
Best Luxury Accommodation: Shotover Penthouse & Spa
Shotover Penthouse & Spa is an incredible apartment that features an outdoor terrace with a barbecue and hot tub. It is situated 200m from the Skyline Gondola and Luge and is 1.3km from the Shotover river.
Best Value Lodge: Melbourne Lodge
Melbourne Lodge is located five minutes walk from central Queenstown. It offers picturesque views of the Remarkable mountains and has a large shared outdoor sundeck.This is a great choice for where to stay cheaply in Queenstown. This lodge is suitable for families or those travelling solo on a budget.
Where I stayed: Spaceship Car
During my recent visit to New Zealand, I cruised around in style in a Spaceship rental car. These are great for budget adventure travelers since you’ll get your accommodation and transport ticked off in one neat package.
Cheapest Hostel in Queenstown: Base Backpackers
Queenstown is known for a lot of things; adrenaline sports, epic day hikes, and awesome nightlife. What it’s not known for is anything to do with the word cheap. In saying that, if you book ahead, you’ll still be able to get a dorm bed for under $25NZD at Base Backpackers.
Lakefront Hostel with a Vibe: YHA Queenstown Lakefront
YHA opposite the incredible Lake Wakatipu is one of the best and highest-rated hostels in Queenstown. If you’re looking to meet other adventure travelers, be close to the action and prefer a comfortable dorm bed, don’t look past YHA Lakefront
Queenstown Travel Guide
Now that you. have a fair idea about things. todo in Queenstown, here is a quick and useful section dedicated to helping you plan your Queenstown itinerary.
How to Get to Queenstown New Zealand
By far, the most popular way to get to Queenstown is to simply fly into Queenstown Airport. This airport is located in Frankton (also Central Otago), which is only a 10 minute drive from town.
This is an international airport with services flying from Australia and other parts of New Zealand including Wellington, Christchurch, and Auckland.
Best Time to Visit Queenstown
The thing about Queenstown is that there are so many things to do and see all year round. As a result, many people are drawn back to Queenstown many times over.
While it certainly is a destination worth visiting any time of the year, the best time to visit will depend on what Queenstown attractions and activities you’d like to do.
Best Time For Hiking
Is hiking on your Queenstown to do list? It should be! This is one of the best regions for hiking in the country!
The best time to visit Queenstown is in the summer months of December through to February. During this time, the weather is great, most tracks are open and there is less ice on the alpine routes.
Visiting Queenstown in Winter
For skiiers and snowboarding, winter is the best time to visit Queenstown! In fact, hundreds of thousands of people visit Queenstown in winter to hit the slopes! There are lots of ski lodges and ski resorts to stay in.
The most popular hill is named Coronet Peak.
Queenstown is Expensive – Tips for Saving Money
Okay, Queenstown clearly isn’t the cheapest place in New Zealand. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s not a budget-friendly travel destination.
In fact, I still managed to spend less than $80 average per day on my recent trip to Queenstown. Below I’ve listed some useful tips to help you stretch the travel funds further.
More Things to do in Queenstown
I hope this Queenstown travel guide has been useful! If you’re looking for even more tourist attractions and things to do around Queenstown, check out this list:
- Mount Aspiring National Park
- Fjordland National Park
- Lake Hayes
- The Lakes District Museum
- Gibbston Valley
- The Kiwi Birdlife Park
- Onsen Hot Pools
- Live music in town
- Happy Hour at the Queenstown Ice Bar
More New Zealand Travel Inspiration
That concludes this mega-guide for the best attractions and cool things to do in Queenstown, New Zealand! I hope that you enjoy this amazing region, it’s truly one of the most beautiful places on earth!
If you’re still looking for more New Zealand road trip and travel inspiration, make sure to check out some more free guides and articles below.
I’ve written extensively on activities, attractions and adventures for other New Zealand destinations around Queenstown and the South Island.
To start off, if you’re into hiking, why not check out this guide to the 31 Best Hikes in South Island New Zealand.