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Queenstown stands out in a country spoiled for spectacular scenery. Whether you’re after laidback ski culture and incredible slopes, off-the-beaten-track outdoors, historic small towns or award-winning dining and wineries, you’ll find it in this southern gem. Here are a few of our favourite finds.
1. Take in the views over Queenstown.
For incredible vistas over Queenstown and the surrounding mountains, ramble up the well maintained Queenstown Hill Hike. It’s relatively short, with plenty of switchbacks through a pine forest your nose will love. At the top, you’re rewarded with sweeping views over Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables Mountain Range. You’ve more than earned yourself a drink. We recommend Altitude Brewing.
If you’d rather skip the whole physical element, grab a coffee and settle into a gondola for the ride up Bob’s Peak. It’ll take you straight to the Skyline complex, with panoramic views of Coronet Peak, across the Remarkables and to the mountains beyond — minus the leg work!
2. Go for a wander in Wanaka.
Wanaka is a charmingly laid-back mountain town with serious outdoor vibes. There are plenty of welcoming pubs and restaurants — not to mention the iconic tree — but the real highlight waits out of town. Roy’s Peak Track is a stunning day hike from lake level to the peak of Mt Aspiring. To do it, you’ll need reasonably good fitness, some snacking materials and plenty of water, but the views at the top are of nothing short of spectacular.
3. Savour a sip in Central Otago.
Wine is a way of life in this beautiful region, and that’s something we can get behind. Just 20 minutes from Queenstown, Gibbston Valley offers a range of vineyards, restaurants and cafés. Join the Gibbston Valley Winery's tasting tours for a peek into New Zealand’s largest wine cave and learn how local experts make magic from their grapes.
For a real treat, have lunch in Amisfield Bistro & Cellar Door. Then make time for tastings at family-owned and run Wooing Tree, with its excellent white pinot noir, and Brennan, with its rustic kiwi charm and spectacular setting.
4. Find movie sets in Glenorchy.
Less than an hour from Queenstown, you’ll find stunning Glenorchy, with its backdrop of beautiful beech forests and soaring peaks. The town itself is worth a wander, but most visitors love finding iconic Lord of the Rings filming locations. True fans will spot Isengard, Amon Hen, The Misty Mountains and more. For a little adrenaline, try the Dart River Wilderness Jet, which takes visitors down glacier-fed rivers into Mount Aspiring National Park for a riveting half-day water adventure.
5. Hit the slopes outside Queenstown.
Queenstown’s four ski areas offer something to challenge every skiier. With one of the longest seasons in the hemisphere, you’ll find powder from June to October — not to mention incredible scenery, top-class infrastructure and broadly varied open terrain.
6. Step into history at the Cardrona Hotel.
Dating from 1863, the face of the Cardrona Hotel is iconic New Zealand. One of just two remaining buildings from the Cardrona Valley gold rush era, it’s like stepping into the past. And we reckon there’s no better place to while away an afternoon than alongside one of its historic tables.
7. Take to the trails.
Queenstown is brimming with cycling and hiking tracks. You’ll find something for everyone, from easy scenic walks to challenging backcountry tracks. The Queenstown Cycle Trail is our top pick: The route passes through the breath-taking scenery of Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables to make stops at gold rush-era Arrowtown, iconic Kawarau bridge and — should you work up a thirst — plenty of cafés and wineries.
8. Pop into Arrowtown.
Just 20 minutes from Queenstown, Arrowtown is a historic former gold mining town with plenty of heritage and character. Built on the banks of the Arrow River, it once attracted miners from around the world, and the legacy of those early settlers is preserved in Arrowtown's historic buildings and sites. Curious? Make a visit to The Lakes District Museum, the focal point for the history of Arrowtown and surrounding areas.
Today's Arrowtown is home to world-class restaurants and boutiques. We love the fantastic Spanish fare at La Rambla. Into golf? You'll want to play a round at the award-winning Millbrook Resort, home of the New Zealand Open.
9. Explore the Fiordlands.
Fiordland National Park is one of the Southern Hemisphere’s most spectacular wilderness regions and even a World Heritage site. Here you'll find Mitre Peak, the breath-taking fiords of Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, the welcoming lakeside towns of Te Anau and Manapouri and incredible tramping along the multi-day Kepler, Milford and Routeburn Tracks. Get a taste by day trip from Queenstown or, to really soak in the scenery, give yourself a few days to immerse: You can explore Milford Sound by kayak, on a short cruise, from the hiking tracks or even on a scenic flight. For an unforgettable underwater vantage point, try a guided diving experience or visit the underwater observatory.
There's so much more where that came from. Maybe it's time to start exploring your own backyard!