You’d have to work damn hard to visit Queenstown and be bored.
Natural beauty abounds in the south-west of New Zealand’s South Island, from majestic alpine mountains to the crystal clear waters of Lake Wakatipu. That staggeringly perfect setting provides an ideal backdrop for the resort town known as the adventure capital of the world (and to film fans as Middle Earth).
Over 2 million visitors from all walks of life flock to Queenstown each year. Those seeking heart-pumping thrills come for kayaking, bungee jumping, white-water rafting, hiking, skiing and other outdoor pursuits. Those in search of a more sedate experience enjoy locally sourced cuisine and sample the goods from the region’s famous wineries.
Whether you fancy yourself cosmopolitan or country, an adrenaline junkie or a sophisticated soul, you’ll find something to amuse in Queenstown.
Accommodations in Queenstown cater to every taste and budget, from backpacker hostels, to motels and hotels, to self-contained apartments and luxury private retreats. For the cream of the crop, book your stay at one of these top spots.
Azur offers first class service, stunning views everywhere you turn, and all the privacy you could possibly want in its 9 villas. Features of each include a private deck and lounge area, rainforest shower heads and spa tubs, a gas fireplace, and luxuriously large king beds.
Sofitel Queenstown Hotel & Spa
Blend the charms of Paris with the hospitality of Queenstown and you get the Sofitel. Guests are treated to a tasteful combo of French antique chic and local avant-garde design, plus an award-winning day spa, a stylish martini and champagne bar, and contemporary cuisine.
The Rees Hotel & Luxury Apartments
Savour the rich heritage, vibrant culture and diverse attractions of New Zealand’s Southern Lakes District from the edge of Lake Wakatipu. Take in the panoramic view from your balcony, explore the extensive wine cellar, or gaze at the star-filled southern night sky from the True South Observatory.
Hotel St. Moritz
Hotel St Moritz is a lodge-style boutique hotel that skillfully blends understated luxury with warmth and hospitality. Each of room and suite is handsomely appointed with a fusion of classics and modern essentials. Book on the higher floors for a lake view.
Queenstown is best known for more daring activites, but shopping options are available for travellers looking to return with an extra suitcase in tow. Head to the pedestrian-friendly CBD for luxury brands, souvenirs, New Zealand design stores, and outdoor equipment aplenty.
To make the most of your time in NZ, forget about scoring designer duds. In Queenstown it’s all about local products and gear for your next adventure. This is arguably the best place in the world to score traditional wool and sheepskin clothing, as well as indigenous Pounamu (greenstone) and, of course, fine New Zealand wine. Local arts and crafts include prints, paintings, carvings, jewellery, and glass art.
On the gear front, outdoor and sports suppliers are plentiful. Top of the line equipment is available for whatever you’re into, whether it’s a snowboard for a winter expedition or boots for some Kiwi-style tramping. The lengthy list of Queenstown’s outdoor outfitters includes Kathmandu, Alpine Sports, Outside Sports, and Canterbury of New Zealand. Just remember how hard it will be to get a kayak on the plane home and try to control your spending.
Enticing food is always on the menu in Queenstown. Restaurants offer local cuisine as well as international fare, plus superb wine lists, first-class service, and striking views. Try one of these beloved spots when you’re in town.
With an emphasis on innovative dining, Botswana Butchery’s diverse menu is all about flavour with a focus on fine cut meats and locally sourced foods. The ambience is warm and welcoming all year round, with roaring log fires to keep you toasty in the cooler months.
Flame Bar & Grill
Carnivores can’t miss Flame Bar & Grill. The emphasis is on meat, sourced from the green and unpolluted pastures of Southland and Otago, with a South African influence. The steak, ribs, and seafood are prepared to perfection while you enjoy an extensive cocktail selection and balcony views.
Chef-owner Josh Emett opened Rātā after earning Michelin stars for restaurants in London, New York, and LA. The Queenstown spot is an upmarket but informal eatery with a neighbourhood feel and inspired cuisine. Emett’s food is unflashy but consistently exceptional.
Fergburger & Fergbaker
You can’t come to Queenstown without sampling one of the big-as-your-head gourmet burgers at Fergburger. You may have to wait, but wading through the mosh pit will be worth it. Visit Fergbaker next door for dessert if there’s still space in your stomach after scarfing all that cow.
Queenstown offers ample opportunities for imbibing, from cozy wine bars to thumping clubs. A party can be found any day of the week, which means you’ll stop long before the action does. For a taste of the local nightlife, have a tipple at these top-notch watering holes.
As the name suggests, Barup is found up a flight of stairs. It’s not a large space, but it’s cozy and intimate, and well removed from the street’s hustle and bustle. The boutique lounge feel is complemented by a impressive cocktail list and a private deck.
A Queenstown icon since 1867, Eichardt’s Bar oozes all the warmth, comfort, and style of the hotel to which it’s attached. Cocktails here are created by top New Zealand bartenders who mix years of experience and passion into every drink.
Pub On Wharf
For a more laidback experience, try Pub on Wharf. The establishment proudly boasts that it serves “no meals over 20 bucks” and Mac’s craft beers in real pints. Live music and ubercool interior design make this a hipster hideaway that feels like your local, even if it isn’t.
Up the class factor at Bardeaux, a cave-like wine bar decorated with plush leather arm chairs and a fireplace crafted from local rock. The star of the establishment, of course, is its vast wine list. The selection of local Pinots is large and eclectic, with a cellar of vintage wines and champagne to please other palates.
What To Do
A smorgasbord of activities awaits in Queenstown. When we say there are hundreds of opportunities for adventure in the area, it’s no exaggeration.
Queenstown is a major centre for snow sports in New Zealand. Skiers and snowboarders converge on the four main mountain ski fields (Cardrona Alpine Resort, Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, and Treble Cone) each year. If barreling down hills at blazing speeds isn’t your thing, cross country skiing is also available at the Waiorau Snowfarm.
In warmer weather, there’s no shortage of chances to put your life at risk. Get your blood pumping with jet boating, bungee jumping, white water rafting, paragliding, ziplining, and skydiving. Other activities include cycling, cruises, fly fishing, horseback riding, and scenic flights.
For something less likely to end in an obituary, visitors can enjoy golfing, spa treatments, guided tours, and wine tasting.
Whatever brings you to Queenstown, you’re in for excitement, energy, and a unique atmosphere all year-round.