Queenstown is a small tourist town, situated down south on the South Island of New Zealand. Famous for it’s exceptional ski fields, it is surrounded by mountains and a gorgeous Lake Wakatipu in the middle. Anyone that’s been in Queenstown has probably felt that there’s something magical about this town. For us the magic lies in its snowy mountain tops, chilled out vibes, Christmas lights and friendly locals but also the feeling of Christmas time back home in Estonia.
Obviously travelling to new places, we all have different expectations and experiences and thus it’s not easy to make a list of things to do in Queenstown. Furthermore, the fact that we have always been in Queenstown during New Zealand winter (June-Aug) makes it even more challenging. That said, we will do our best to give you a great overview of this magical town. Anyway, lets stop the jibber-jabber, welcome to a week long experience in the “Winter Wonderland” of New Zealand.
Most importantly – make it into a road-trip
The best way to travel down to Queenstown is by car. We’ve done this trip twice from Christchurch and once from Auckland. While it might seem extreme to drive down instead of taking a short flight, it is 110% worth it. The scenery that you’ll see along the way is just breathtaking.
Moreover, the paddocks with hundreds of lamb, cows as well as alluring deer that you’ll see on the roadside farms is what New Zealand is all about.
Whether you’ll start your road-trip from Auckland or Christchurch, one of the most impressive villages to make a stop along the way is Lake Tekapo. This small but extremely scenic village has one of the bluest lakes we’ve seen.
The lake is called Lake Tekapo and majority of it’s turquoise water comes from a large river system that extends right back into the valleys of the Southern Alps. Feeding these rivers are the impressive glaciers.
Beside the lake, Tekapo also has the largest Dark Sky Reserve in the world and is hence known to have one of the busiest night skies in the universe. So, if you are not in the rush, we would recommend to make an overnight stop in Lake Tekapo.
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Munch away a Fergburger
Once you’ve arrived to Queenstown, you’ll most likely be “hungry as”, from all the driving. So one of the first things to do in Queenstown would be to feed your hunger. And there is no other place you are “allowed” to do this than the infamous Fergburger.
Now, I’m not saying that they have the best burgers. There are tastier burgers and definitely nicer places to eat in Queenstown but when it comes to Fergburger then its an iconic place. It’s a tradition for all tourists and travelers while down in “Q” town. Whenever we travel to Queenstown, this burger joint will always be the first place we visit. Beside the burger shop, they have also opened a neighboring Fergbakery, Mr Ferg Gelato Shop and Fergsbar.
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Drive up to The Remarkables Ski Area
On of the main reasons why we drove to Queenstown was to see and play in the snow. Growing up in Estonia we use to get heaps of snow in winter and thus it’s something we tend to miss a lot. So, obviously we made sure to drive up The Remarkables on the first opportunity we got.
As we were visiting Queenstown during winter, we didn’t want to stop with just the views. On that same evening, we went to Snow Rentals and rented us snowboards and other useful snow-gear for the full experience.
As it was Simon’s first time to try out snowboarding we made sure to watch some useful videos from YouTube channel SnowboardProCamp, so that we won’t look like complete idiots on the mountain. Next day, we got up at The Remarkables Ski Area bright and early to practice, practice, practice (on the beginners hill), before taking the lift up to the top.
I’m not going to deny that while waiting to get on the lift we both felt a bit nervous. The mountain was intimidating and we where not sure weather we have practiced enough. That said, our fear vanished after our first “successful” slide down.
As you can imagine, we had a lot of fun at The Remarkables but at the same time it was seriously hard yakka. For the next two days every muscle on our body was aching.
To sum up our experience, no matter the season, driving up to one of Queenstown peaks for either a view, some winter sports, snowball fight or just a cup of coffee, is definitely one of the must things to do in Queenstown.
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Breathe in some fresh air at Queenstown Garden
No matter the season, if you have a mood for a walk at the park then Queenstown has a beautiful park on a peninsula by Queenstown Bay. So on our fourth day we went for a nice 30 minute stroll along the Queenstown Garden waterfront path. It has stunning alpine vistas on one side and views of the bay, beach and town on the other.
While most of the walking trails are paved, there are few unpaved paths as well as stairs. Among the garden is also a disc-golf course, picnic tables, rose garden, Queenstown Ice Arena, tennis courts and bowling club.
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Experience Minus 5° Ice Bar
One of the coolest things to do in Queenstown is a visit to Minus 5° Ice Bar. This awesome bar is crafted entirely of ice. Everything from the walls and furniture to the bar and even glasses are hand-crafted from ice.
Best thing, this fantastic bar helps you to experience winter degrees all year round. PS! If you don’t have warm clothes then they’ll lend you jackets, gloves, winter boots as well as an awesome hat. So there’s no need to worry about catching a chill 😉
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Get your adrenaline pumping
Now if you’ve already done some walking and sightseeing and enjoyed a drink at the Ice Bar then it’s time you do something more thrilling. To do that you don’t even need to travel out from the downtown as right from the waterfront you can catch a high speed jet boat ride. These jet boat experiences will take you across the water 95km/ph, make 360 degree spins and shoot through narrow rocky gorges.
If you wan’t to save some money then check out discounted offers at bookme.co.nz. Alternatively you can choose in between a number of jet boat operators right at the wharf.
Show Queenstown Wharf on map
Be ready to sh#t your pants
If the jet boast ride didn’t get your heart pumping then make your way to the Fear Factory. If you are ready to be scared out of your skin and don’t mind getting unexpectedly touched while in a dark rooms, then this activity is for you.
The experience can be quite scary but if you loosen up a bit then it could be also super fun. PS! Don’t go alone, take your best buddy with you, so that you could both lean on each-other in case it gets too scary.
Fear Factory Queenstown on map
Drive out from the city
If you have the time and opportunity then take a day and drive out from the city to a nearby scenic areas. There are heaps of walking tracks in and around Queenstown that will keep you fit and amazed at the same time. One of the tracks that we did was a 20 min Bob’s Cove Track that has views over beautiful emerald green water as well as mountain slopes.
On your way there you will also drive past other beautiful lookouts and bays. One of our favorite stops to make on that route is on Wilson Bay.
Indulge your mind and body in hot pools
There is nothing more relaxing than a soak in hot pools. Just a short 10 min drive from Queenstown downtown you’ll find Onsen Day Spa. This fabulous spa offers a high-quality boutique retreat for your ultimate relaxation. One of their coolest features are the hot pools that are overlooking spectacular views of Shotover River and stunning mountain range.
Some could say that it is a bit pricey, but honestly how often to you take a trip down to “Q” town 😉 PS! Make sure to book ahead or you might get left behind the door…that’s exactly what happened with us 🙁
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End your trip with a view
If you don’t own a car or simply don’t have time to drive out from the town to see some amazing views then no worries. To enjoy some of the best views over Queenstown you don’t actually have to travel out. Right from downtown doorsteps you’ll find access to the famous Skyline Gondola. Whether you get up there for sunrise, sunset or in the middle of the day, just sit back and enjoy some of the best scenic views while racing down the mountain.
PS! On a busy day the queue can get pretty long but don’t worry, it will go reasonably fast. As it’s a rather price activity we skipped the gondola and enjoyed views from other lookouts around the hill side.
Show Skyline Gondola on map
Enjoy Winter! No #winter lasts forever so #enjoy it while it’s present