Mountain biking, Queenstown – Image courtesy of Destination Queenstown
Things to do in Queenstown
Queenstown offers more thrills per square kilometer than anywhere else in New Zealand.
Skiing – The scenic Southern Alps offers several ski fields including Treble Cone, the largest ski area in the South Island; Coronet Peak, the South Island’s most popular ski area; the Remarkables, with 220ha of terrain spread across 700ha of reserve in three sunny bowls and Cardrona Alpine Resort, one of the largest ski resorts in the South Island.
Read more about Queenstown ski opportunities . . .
Bungy jumping – There are three bungy-jumping sites in Queenstown, including the original site of the first commercial AJ Hackett bungy venture at Kawarau Bridge spanning the Kawarau River. The sites are all operated by A. J. Hackett Bungy (www.bungy.co.nz), who offer discounts for combined jumps and swings.
The bungy jump at Kawarau Suspension Bridge (43m high) is great for water touches in the Kawarau River. Allow 1 to 3 hours and expect to pay NZ$180 for the full package, which includes jump, T-shirt, video, photos and transport from Queenstown, around 23km away.
The Ledge (47m high) is located in Queenstown at the top of Bob’s Peak and offers a choice between the Wild Side and the Mild Side. Allow 1 hour and expect to pay NZ$180 for the jump, which includes a T-shirt and the gondola ride. There’s also the Ledge Swing that allows you to swing out on an arc of 400 metres over Queenstown. You can also jump at night on both attractions.
At 134m high over the Kawarau River, the Nevis Highwire Bungy is the tallest bungy site in New Zealand. The full package costs NZ$260. Nearby stands the Nevis Swing – a 160m free-fall through the air above Doolan’s Creek Gorge; priced at NZ$180.
Canyoning – Explore river canyons using a variety of means including rappelling, walking, climbing, jumping, swimming and using ziplines. Canyoning NZ (www.canyoning.co.nz) offers a half-day Queenstown trip for NZ$185 and a full-day Routeburn canyoning trip for NZ$240 per person; allow 3 hours.
Jet boating – Sit back, buckle in and feel the thrill of rapid acceleration in a New Zealand invention. Blast through narrow river gorges, almost brushing against sheer rock faces, or skim across the surface of water channels that weave through the shingle banks of braided rivers for a huge adrenaline rush.
Shotover Jet (www.shotoverjet.com) is probably the best-known local operator. Expect to pay NZ$119 for 30 minutes. Kawarau Jet (www.kjet.co.nz) is another established operator that operates every hour from the main pier in the centre of Queenstown.
White-Water Rafting – The Shotover and Kawarau rivers offer great white-water rafting. First-timers are better starting on the Kawarau as the Shotover trips are much more challenging and are usually accompanied by safety kayaks. Expect to pay from NZ$175 for half- and full- day rafting trips from several experienced operators.
Paragliding/Hang Gliding – Head to Bob’s Peak or Coronet Peak and choose from several established and fully qualified paragliding operators that offer an introductory tandem flight from NZ$195 to NZ$275.
River Boarding/Surfing – Don a helmet and cling to a specially designed boogie board for heart-pumping thrills down churning river rapids. Serious Fun River Surfing (www.riversurfing.co.nz) offers a 7km stretch of the Kawarau River for NZ$175. No experience is necessary. Trips are conducted from October to May from 8am to 8pm.
Mountain biking – Choose from a range of self-guided rides or head off on a guided tour. The region around Queenstown offers a wide range of gentle or epic trail rides, extreme downhill tracks and even heli-biking from near the summit of Ben Crauchan.
Several operators provide bikes, helmets and maps for hourly, half and full day hire, or longer. Bikes can be hired from NZ$69 for a half-day and from NZ$99 for a full day.
Sky Diving – Check out the awesome scenery then plunge to earth at speeds of up to 200kmph. Expect to pay NZ$269 to NZ$429 through NZONE (www.nzone.biz).
Walking – Choose from several well-known walks from one to eight hours’ length in and around Queenstown including the Queenstown Hill Track, which starts and finishes on Belfast Terrace. You’ll be rewarded by great views and photo opportunities once you make it to the top.
There are also excellent walks around Lake Wakatipu, including the very pleasant Bobs Cove Track and Nature Trail, which starts 14km from Queenstown on the road to Glenorchy.
Alternatively, head to the little township of Glenorchy, located 47km from Queenstown at the far end of Lake Wakatipu. Here you can find the start of the Routeburn, the Greenstone Valley and the Grand Traverse Tracks.
You can either walk in and out on the same day or alternatively you can sign up for Routeburn Encounter Guided Day Walk (www.ultimatehikes.co.nz). The track is officially open from November to April, with transport from Queenstown provided. The 6.5km long track rises 230m and is suitable for reasonably active people. Warm, waterproof clothing and good boots are essential. Expect to pay NZ$1,350 to NZ$1,495.
Fishing – Several trout-fishing operators offer trips from 2 hours to a full day, with prices ranging from NZ$85 per hour to NZ$800 or more for a full-day excursion. Or for a truly out-of-the-way fishing trip try a guided heli-fly-fishing experience with Over The Top Fly Fishing (www.flynz.co.nz).
Golf – Tee-off at the Millbrook Resort in Arrowtown (www.millbrook.co.nz), a par-72, Bob Charles-designed course. Expect to pay NZ$70 to NZ$165 for a buggy, equipment, instruction and a free shuttle from Queenstown. Or try the 18-hole Queenstown Golf Club at Kelvin Heights (www.queenstowngolf.co.nz), a full-service course with NZ$75 to NZ$90 greens fees and NZ$65 for club rental.
Horse Trekking – Head off for a full- or half-day trek through spectacular scenery. Expect to pay NZ$55 to NZ$125 for a riding tour.
Hot-Air Ballooning – Another way to enjoy Queenstown’s magnificent scenery is aboard a balloon. Sunrise Balloons (www.ballooningnz.com) offers a memorable experience floating silently over the Wakatipu Basin at dawn for NZ$395 and includes a champagne breakfast on landing.
Luge – The Skyline Luge (www.skyline.co.nz) offers nearly 1km of downhill fun at a cost of NZ$33 for the gondola-and single-luge ride. Multi-ride deals are also available. It operates daily from 10am to 9pm in summer (5pm in winter); tickets are available at the Skyline Gondola terminals.
Spas – Pamper those stressed out muscles at one of Queenstown’s spa centres, which offer a variety of aromatherapy, sports massage, shiatsu, reflexology as well as several beauty therapy services.
Try the classy Millbrook Resort Day Spa for a full range of wet and dry massage therapies, facials, beauty treatments, manicures and pedicures; Aspects Day Spa (www.aspectsdayspa.co.nz) for a range of massage therapies, body wraps, Jacuzzis and manicures; or head over to Le Spa at Sofitel, Sofitel Hotel (www.lespaqueenstown.co.nz) – probably the best equipped and most glamorous of the Queenstown day spas.
Tip: You can save money by combining several activities through one operator: the Shotover High Five combines the Shotover Jet with a helicopter ride, luge and gondola ride. Queenstown Combos (www.combos.co.nz) offers about 14 different packages from NZ$257 and can make reservations for you. Extreme Combos (www.nzraft.com) offers a range of rafting-based combos that include bungy, helicopter rides, sky diving and jet boats.