QueenstownTravel Guide

Queenstown would have to be the ultimate mini-break from Australia. The ‘adventure capital of the world’ turns it on for winter or summer, with some of the best skiing and snowboarding you’ll ever see, as well as white water rafting, rock climbing, bungy jumping and the Nevis Swing, with its epic 300-metre arc. After all that action, you also have an enticing range of wellness options, such as day spas and hot pools, as well as a dining scene that is a fantastic adventure in its own right.If you’re planning a visit, explore our Queenstown travel guide and find out how to make the most of your time in this amazing South Island destination. We’ve collected the best tips from our travel experts, and have all sorts of suggestions for things to do, the best time to travel, where to stay in Queenstown, getting around and more.


Queenstown quick facts


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Explore Queenstown

Where to stay in Queenstown?

When deciding where to stay in Queenstown, you’ll never be low on choices. However, some of the best holiday experiences are waiting to be enjoyed beyond the town itself. For example, you may prefer to stay in the countryside, closer to the stunning vineyards. From Arrowtown to the many ski resorts, there’s accommodation in Queenstown and beyond to suit whatever style of getaway you’re after. Whether you want ski slopes on your doorstep or to sleep next door to historical buildings, we can help you find the perfect place to stay.

Downtown Queenstown is an area filled with five-star hotels and other luxurious accommodation options. If you love a pampering after a long day on the slopes or on the water, or if you maybe just want an especially comfy bed for the night, this area is one of the best places to stay in Queenstown.

Arrowtown is a little way out of Queenstown itself but still provides wonderful rustic hospitality. Perfectly placed for those who wish to tour museums and get into the hills for a hike, Arrowtown is the place to be. A former Gold Rush town, its unique history and architecture set it apart.

Gibbston Valley lies deep in Queenstown wine country. For culture vultures who love a good scenic tour and wine tasting, this is a great place to stay in Queenstown. A short drive back to the town and up to the ski lodges, this is the perfect place to relax and unwind on any tour of the region.

The many Queenstown ski resorts are among the most well-appointed and highest-quality places to stay in town. Placed close to the snowfields to allow easy access to the slopes, lifts and training facilities, if you plan to spend a lot of time in the snow or hiking during summer then these are where you should be looking. It'll be easy to round up gear when staying here too, thanks to the onsite shops and hire centres.

Believe us when we say, this is just the start. Book your accommodation today!

  • People going up in the Gondola with town of Queenstown and ocean views are in the background
    • Autum in Queenstown, all tree leaf's turned brown and snowy mountains in background
    • Distant shot of two hikers taking a selfie on top of a mountain in Queenstown
    • Snowfields in Queenstown
    • Female leaning on boat railings in Milford Sound
  • People going up in the Gondola with town of Queenstown and ocean views are in the background
    People going up in the Gondola with town of Queenstown and ocean views are in the background
    People going up in the Gondola with town of Queenstown and ocean views are in the background
  • Autum in Queenstown, all tree leaf's turned brown and snowy mountains in background
    Autum in Queenstown, all tree leaf's turned brown and snowy mountains in background
    Autum in Queenstown, all tree leaf's turned brown and snowy mountains in background
  • Distant shot of two hikers taking a selfie on top of a mountain in Queenstown
    Distant shot of two hikers taking a selfie on top of a mountain in Queenstown
    Distant shot of two hikers taking a selfie on top of a mountain in Queenstown
  • Snowfields in Queenstown
    Snowfields in Queenstown
    Snowfields in Queenstown
  • Female leaning on boat railings in Milford Sound
    Female leaning on boat railings in Milford Sound
    Female leaning on boat railings in Milford Sound

Things to do in Queenstown

It’s easy to find things to do in Queenstown. As a resort town, the whole place is built to keep you moving from one amazing experience to the next. With so much to see and do on the water, in the hills, in the air and even in the town itself, you’ll have to carefully manage your time if you’re determined to sample everything. To help you see as many Queenstown attractions as possible, here’s a quick overview of this quintessential New Zealand destination.

After a graceful 450m climb to the top, you'll be treated to some of the best views Queenstown has to offer. New Zealand's unique scenery is on full display here, and there's a bunch to do once you've filled your photo quota. Enjoy a drink at the panoramic restaurant bar, watch a traditional Maori performance, or take the fast track back down the mountain with a Skyline Luge ride.

If you feel the need for speed, aboard Shotover Jet Queenstown is where you need to be. Who doesn't love the idea of rocketing across gorgeous New Zealand lakes at breakneck speed on a boat? This is a fun way to spend an afternoon, especially if you go as a group when the weather's fine.

The Remarkables are a mountain range and major ski field that border Lake Wakatipu. If you love skiing or snowboarding, you've chosen the right destination – the slopes here are some of the best anywhere in New Zealand, and they are breathtaking at sunset. In fact, many locals believe the mountains got their name based on the stunning sight they present as night starts to fall. If snow sports aren't for you, these ranges can also be enjoyed on various walking trails, or even from the air in breathtaking scenic helicopter ride.

Northeast of Queenstown lies Arrowtown, a Gold Rush-era mining town that's home to the world-renowned Lakes District Museum. The Gold Rush period in New Zealand was a very unique time and Arrowtown chronicles those years in great detail. This is the perfect place to spend an afternoon immersed in history while surrounded by breathtaking nature.

Queenstown is bordered on all sides by glorious hills and mountain ranges just perfect for hiking tours and day trips on foot. Hiking Queenstown is among the most rewarding ways to experience the natural wonder of the Otago region first-hand. If you're not sure where to start, don't worry! There are plenty of guided hiking groups that embark regularly from the town centre and cater to all levels of fitness.

Love nothing more than finding a nice quiet river and throwing a line out? Fishing in Queenstown is another popular way to spend time on your holiday. There are plenty of rivers and lakes for fly-fishing and a colourful variety of fish to discover. Embark alone or go on a tour – it's entirely up to you!

Kiwi Birdlife Park is an animal sanctuary specialising in conservation and education. This popular Queenstown attraction hosts regular interactive shows featuring one New Zealand's most well-known feathered friends, the Kiwi. If you'd like to get up close and personal with indigenous New Zealand animals, this is your best opportunity to do so.

Milford Sound is a gorgeous fjord that's perfect for kayaking and seeing the breathtaking scenery up close. There are also plenty of local attractions that will give you a better idea of the scope and majesty of the area. Wildlife lovers will be particularly content spending hours here, as Milford Sound is home to colonies of fur seals, dolphins and penguins.

South of Queenstown lies Lake Wakatipu. This is one of New Zealand's largest and deepest lakes (its floor actually lies below sea level despite its position in the mountains). Home to many different local animals, the area has also doubled for Scotland's Loch Ness on the silver screen and was featured in The Lord of the Rings films. It's bordered by the spectacular mountain range called The Remarkables.

The only lake in New Zealand with an unmodified shoreline, Lake Wanaka is another pristine body of water among the Otago Mountains. This is also a gateway to the Mount Aspiring National Park and its many scenic hiking trails. For those looking to get back to nature, Lake Wanaka provides an excellent and life-affirming day trip.

If you can't see yourself hiking through the nearby mountains, perhaps you'll settle for a stroll through Queenstown Gardens. Located on Lake Wakatipu's northern edge, the gardens are home to beautiful plant life native to New Zealand and from around the world. The gardens are open year-round to visitors, and there are even tennis courts available if you fancy a hit.

Taking to the many lakes around the town is one of the best ways to gain an appreciation for the majesty of the area. Kayaking Queenstown will see you gliding across the many beautiful lakes, surrounded by towering cliff faces and waterfalls. Watch out for the odd jetboat, but the lakes are large, so they shouldn't disturb your serenity too often.

Give your pounding heart a break by immersing yourself in some Queenstown arts and culture. The town centre is brimming with art galleries and examples of Maori culture. Interested in the region's pioneering history? Save time in your itinerary for a visit to nearby Arrowtown (a 20-minute drive from Queenstown) and its world-class Lakes District Museum.

One of Queenstown's most popular attractions, the Underwater Observatory on Lake Wakatipu's edge offers unfettered views of the life that teems on and beneath the lake's surface. From eels to truly gigantic trout to recklessly diving ducks, you'll be surprised what you'll find waiting to say hello from within Wakatipu's depths.

Looking for an immersive experience? Then a tour is the way to go.

Queenstown travel tips

Travelling somewhere new can be a little scary, so here are some Queenstown travel tips to help you feel prepared and comfortable. First, some good news: New Zealand is one of the simplest countries for Australians to visit, both in terms of entering the country through customs and in terms of getting around and communicating with the locals. From tipping to power plugs, nearly everything in Queenstown will feel familiar.  Remember too, you can always speak to your Flight Centre agent should you have any concerns about your trip to New Zealand.

If you're a permanent Australian resident travelling on a current Australian passport, you don't need to apply for any New Zealand visas or waivers unless you're intending to stay in the country for longer than three months. This means your trip through customs will be over in a jiffy. Look up the New Zealand government website for additional information.

Most New Zealand food is quite similar to what you're used to eating at home. This means there are options to keep everyone happy, whether you're getting classic fish and chips or trying a local specialty. For a taste of something delicious, scope out the fine-dining available at your accommodation – Queenstown's best restaurants are often attached to the resorts.

The good news continues. New Zealand uses the same electrical plugs as Australia, which means you'll be able to charge tech items like laptops, smart devices, tablets, cameras and portable batteries without an adapter or converter. So you won't miss out on taking beautiful photos of the mountains just because your phone is on the brink of running out of battery!

Queenstown Airport may be where you catch your first glimpse of New Zealand's legendary South Island landscapes as you come down from Auckland. The terminal itself is very easy to get around, with domestic and international areas clearly divided. This is not a busy airport either, so you won't feel too stressed on arrival. Queenstown Airport provides a fabulous first impression.

New Zealand's monetary system is no different from our own – dollars and cents. The New Zealand dollar is usually slightly lower than the Australian dollar, which means you may feel rather wealthy after exchanging your holiday cash. What better excuse is there to treat yourself to a Queenstown shopping splurge?

Just like Australia, New Zealand has a laidback approach to tipping for service providers (e.g. waiters, hotel staff, and taxi drivers). It's entirely optional and generally only used as a compliment for exemplary service. While many workers will be delighted to accept a tip for providing great service, you shouldn't feel bad if you can't afford to do so or simply prefer not to.

Language is no barrier for Australian visitors in Queenstown. English is the primary language used in Queenstown and in wider New Zealand. However, you may hear examples of the native Maori tongue here and there during your stay. Locals may also drop slang into their conversations. Simply ask politely and they'll happily translate, perhaps after a quick laugh at your expense.

Flights to Queenstown

Queenstown food and drink

Queenstown food and drink embodies the high quality you would expect from a resort town. The steady flow of tourist dollars has lured high-profile restaurateurs, hoteliers and chefs, each attempting to outdo the others with incredible food and dining experiences. If you’re staying in the town proper, you’ll have your pick of everything the area has to offer in the form of cafes, bars, and restaurants. However, don’t forget to venture out of town to enjoy the wonderful wineries of the region.

Prefer to prepare your own food, even when you're on holiday? Head to the Farmers' Market on a Saturday morning to round up your favourite produce and support local growers. If you're here between October and April, visit the Remarkables Market in the suburb of Frankton or drive 50 minutes east to Old Cromwell for the Central Otago Farmers Market. Our pick...

Want to get in a quiet drink at the end of a busy day or perhaps meet up with new friends for a fun night on the town? Queenstown bars and nightlife have everything you need. From humble pubs to upmarket wine and cocktail bars, there's a venue to suit every mood, taste and budget. Again, beyond the town centre, check your hotel – many of the town's best nightspots are attached to accommodation.

Looking for a more refined holiday experience? Wondering how you've ended up in a town where everyone loves jumping off things and sliding around? Never fear, culture vulture, because Queenstown wineries are here to give you a moment of respite. Book a day tour, get out of town for a while, and sample some of the finest wines the Otago region has to offer.

The only Queenstown restaurant precincts are found in the town centre itself. Beyond this, a good proportion of the best restaurants in town are connected to hotels and other accommodation. The good news is that the range of cuisine is broad indeed, so even the pickiest eater will find a delicious meal to suit their taste and budget.

Queenstown cafes are everywhere, providing the perfect indoor sanctuaries for warming up on a cool day. After all, the area is well and truly in New Zealand's snow country! A staunch competitor with Wellington for New Zealand's best coffee, Queenstown baristas know their way around a roast. Grab a cup to un-numb your fingers and replenish your energy after a day on the slopes.

Get a real taste for the local cuisine by booking a tour.

Queenstown through your eyes

Where to shop in Queenstown?

Queenstown shopping is quite different than it is in other New Zealand cities. As a resort town, there aren’t any particular shopping precincts here. Instead, Queenstown shopping centres are the order of the day, stocking a wide variety of things most visitors will need during their stay. The question of what to buy in Queenstown is typically more about utility than fashion. Need some skiing gear or some extra layers to keep you warm? Perhaps you ‘misplaced’ your sunglasses while bungy jumping and need a replacement pair before hitting the snow. Whatever the case may be, ask your hotel receptionist for a Queenstown shopping guide and you’ll quickly find your nearest centres and stores.With that said, if shopping ‘til you drop sounds better than dropping from a 400m ledge, you’re also in luck. With boutiques and high-end fashion labels, there’s enough Queenstown shopping for a good day of retail therapy. Make sure to visit the arts and craft markets too – local vendors pour into town every weekend with their wares, so you’re sure to pick up a unique keepsake to remind you of your journey.

Looking for a safe and simple way to bring your money when you travel? Our Travel Money Card has you covered!

When is the best time to travel to Queenstown?

Weather in Queenstown is a bit on the unpredictable side, which can make planning your itinerary a challenge. The city sits in a very temperate area that is regularly quite cool and prone to frequent snowfall (especially higher up the mountains). Here’s a handy guide on what to expect from each season so you can have a clearer idea of what to organise prior to arrival. To put it simply, though, you’ll need warm outfits no matter what time of year you visit – particularly if you plan on hitting the slopes!

Summer is one of the milder local seasons. The Queenstown rainfall finds its lowest ebb for the year and the temperatures rise to an average high of about 16°C. This makes it the perfect season for hitting the water on a jetboat or kayak, getting out for fishing, or heading into the air for skydiving. Appropriate clothing: A jumper and warm pants. Don't forget: Sunscreen – it's cool outside but you can still get sunburnt.

This is the coldest time of year, but it's also the best time to travel to Queenstown for some people because this is when the ski season really kicks into high gear. The slopes are at their most glorious, there's fresh powder every day, and for those who live for snowboarding and skiing, Queenstown has become paradise. Appropriate clothing: Snow gear/heavy winter wear. Don't forget: Your goggles and gloves for when you're on the slopes.

Autumn sees the Queenstown temperature begin to plummet towards its winter averages, dropping from 15°C in late summer down to an average of 8°C. As the cold begins to build, the average rainfall begins to rise. This means you may run into a few wetter days, which could hamper your outdoor plans. Appropriate clothing: Warm clothes and layers. Don't forget: Your scarf – it's easy to leave it behind in a nice heated bar.

As the colder Queenstown seasons come to an end, the mercury begins to rise again – and so too does the rain return as the winter snow becomes water once more. Rain is heaviest throughout October on average, but it clears as the summer months arrive. This is the perfect opportunity to visit the many Queenstown galleries and other indoor attractions. Appropriate clothing: Warm clothes, maybe a raincoat. Don't forget: Some solid waterproof shoes if visiting in October.

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How to get around Queenstown

As this destination is a town rather than a city, Queenstown transport is more than manageable. With convenient and frequent services, combined with relatively short travel distances, you won’t need to stress about planning every detour to the exact minute. Whether you travel by bus, by bike or on foot, you can quickly get just about anywhere in Queenstown. Plus, the welcoming locals are always happy to give you directions, and taxis are plentiful if you want to take a spontaneous trip to somewhere off the main route.

Several taxi companies service Queenstown, making it easy to get where you need to go – even if you don't know how to get there. Queenstown taxis are great for getting somewhere that isn't accessible by bus, or if you're simply not a fan of public transport. Plus, thanks to most distances here being short, fares are typically quite reasonable.

Queenstown is only a town, so striking out on foot isn't a bad idea. Unless you're heading into the mountains for the day, walking Queenstown is one of the simplest and most enjoyable ways of getting around. Get out and get a feel for your temporary home!

To truly make the most of Queenstown public transport, it's a good idea to familiarise yourself with the Connectabus service, which does a loop of every major hotel and motel every 15 minutes or so. This is perfect for airport transfers, but also if you need to transfer hotels or get downtown in a hurry.

Getting around Queenstown on a bike is another affordable option. While there are a few hills here and there that may pose a challenge, for the most part the town lies quite flat against the lake. Locate your nearest Queenstown bike hire and explore by yourself, or join a tour around the entire basin with a group.

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Ski and snow in Queenstown

Skiing doesn't get any better than shredding the snows of New Zealand's Southern Alps. Whether you're an absolute beginner, a seasoned skier or showy snowboarder, there's a woah-moment waiting for you on a Queenstown slope -- the views are THAT spectacular. The Queenstown ski areas listed below also provide amenities that make your day-on-the-downhill all the more smoother, including chairlifts, ski, boot, goggle, helmet and snowboard hire, cafes, bars, learners slopes and lessons. But be prepared for the cold and changeable weather conditions. Dressing warm means layering up with a thermal top and leggings as a base through to waterproof pants, jacket and gloves. A sturdy pair of boots or shoes with decent treads will save you slipping up before you’ve even clipped in. Slap on sunscreen smear on some lip balm too, as New Zealand’s mountain sunlight is fierce all year round.

New Zealand's original ski-field is the closest to Queenstown, just a quick 16-kilometre trip from the town's centre either by car or regular bus service. The peak's slopes offer rollercoaster terrain for all skill levels. Beginners enjoy a huge range of learner's lessons -- there's even a 'Skiwiland' school for under 5's -- and user-friendly chairlifts and gondola. More seasoned skiers and boarders love the area's 462-metre drop spread over 280 hectares of curated runs and Coronet Peak's ever-popular night skiing sessions under floodlights.

Nicely located between Queenstown and Wānaka, Cardrona is New Zealand's most popular ski field. It's 465 hectares present no end of thrilling terrain for skiers and boarders and are serviced by six chairlifts and a gondola. Although you can self-drive the 58 kilometres from Queenstown (34 kilometres from Wānaka) to the resort, be aware that the last 14 kilometres is an unsealed road that snakes its way up the mountain. You might appreciate the drive's jaw-dropping views better from the comfort of a bus – regular services run from both Queesnstown and Wānaka.

Dubbed "Queenstown's big mountain" the Remarkables Ski Area boasts 385 hectares of relentless slopes and more off-piste 'freeride' bowls and chutes than you can shake a ski pole at. Snowboarders are spoiled for choice with oodles of jumps, rails and customised surprises. You can self-drive the 24 kilometres from Queenstown or opt for the bus that's integrated with the Coronet Peak bus service. Both ski hills are so close to town locals are known to head up for morning ski and back down to town for afternoon mountain bike ride during the Spring months!

With 550 hectares of skiable slopes above Lake Wānaka, Treble Cone is the largest ski field in the South Island. As 90% of its terrain is graded for intermediate skill and above,  Treble Cone isn't as well suited for beginners as the other ski fields in the Queenstown district. But this only plays into your hands if you're a more seasoned skier or snowboarder, as you're treated to some of New Zealand's longest runs of up to 4 kilometres over a total drop of 700 metres. You can self-drive the 26 kilometres from Wanaka village to Treble Cone (it's 90 kilometres from Queenstown), but we advise taking the free shuttle bus up the last 7 kilometres of unsealed access road up the mountain  as it’s a dicey prospect for uninitiated drivers.

There’s a slope with your name on it, for sure. Let’s give you peace of mind with travel insurance.

Queenstown Frequently asked questions

Queenstown is widely regarded as the adventure sports capital of the world, so be sure to pack your sense of fun (and perhaps a spare pair of pants). Foodies, you’re in for a treat with world-class dining options aplenty, so throw in your stretchiest pants and comfortable shoes for when you need to walk off the impending food coma. The rest will depend on the time of year you plan to travel but as a rough guide, aim for layers, sturdy shoes and don’t forget your camera.

Lake Wakatipu is a Queenstown must, whether you’re into fishing, jet boating or you’re just looking for a nice spot for a picnic, it doesn’t disappoint. For panoramic views of the lake, take a scenic gondola (cable car) ride to the top of Bob's Peak and soak in the serenity. Once you’ve returned from your sightseeing adventures, be sure to carve out some time to enjoy a leisurely stroll through the charming town centre and explore the many shops and restaurants. If you’re keen to hit the slopes, the aptly named mountains – The Remarkables – offer some of the most beautiful fields in New Zealand, and if you’re up for a thrill, head to Nevis Valley for biking, bungy jumping, horse riding or four-wheel driving.

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The excellent news is that Queenstown is a year-round destination, so there’s always something to keep you entertained. The best time, however, depends on your interests – winter is ideal for skiing and snowboarding, while summer offers perfect weather for outdoor adventures like hiking and kayaking. Spring and autumn are great for outdoor activities, with fewer crowds and relatively mild temperatures.

Get the blood pumping with a thrilling jet boat ride, go bungy jumping, sip your way through Queenstown’s wine region, take a scenic flight, hit the golf course, explore one of the many hiking trails, ride a cable car to the top of Bob’s Peak, cruise Lake Wakatipu, sink in to utter relaxation at Onsen Hot Pools and, if weather permits, hit the slopes. Queenstown really is the perfect launchpad for adventures of all kinds.

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