At the end of our 2 week road trip around New Zealand, we spent 3 days in Queenstown. To be honest, it was one of the least impressive parts of the trip, it just couldn’t compete with the natural wonders of Tongariro, Abel Tasman or Mt. Cook. But it was a good point of entry/exit, and there was enough to do to keep us entertained, so sharing our favorites here:
Best hike: Ben Lomond Track is must-do for any active visitor. You can start the trek basically from the city, but that first uphill doesn’t seem worth it, so it’s better to catch the Skyline gondola and start from that peak. From there, we hiked for a bit under 2 hours to the Saddle, surrounded by gorgeous, colorful mountains, and the occasional goat.
Beyond the Saddle, the trail got quite strenuous, and it took us over an hour and a few breaks to reach the summit. The 360 view of Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountain ranges, including the infamous Remarkables, was spectacular, even on a cloudy day. The numerous keas, a beautiful bird autochthonous of NZ, gliding and landing around us, made the scene even more memorable. The way down felt so much easier, and we were back at the gondola complex about 5 hours after starting.
Best activity: Queenstown is considered the adventure capital of NZ, if not the world. Bungee jumping is a classic, but the offering is endless: skydiving, jetboating, ziplining,… Even though we tend to be very much into this type of stuff, this time we didn’t feel like signing up for any tours. For those less adventurous, or with little kids, I’d recommend the luging at the Skyline gondola peak. Super fun and easy!
Best city walk: All of it. Queenstown is very manageable and enjoyable to walk around. The neat downtown is full of life: restaurants, old-school candy shops, street performers, etc. The lake is the hangout spot for the local youth. And the botanical gardens are pretty and lively, with a rose field, water features, and frisbee golf (which is exactly how you are imagining it).
Best day-trip: Arrowtown is a classic excursion from Queenstown. The goldminer settlement still preserves that 19th century vibe, many original buildings on its main street, and a sort of reenactment museum where you can learn about the Chinese miners. If you feel particularly lucky, you can rent a goldpan and go for it at the river. Some people do Milford Sound as a killer daytrip from Queenstown, but we chose to take longer and enjoy it properly as a 2 day camping trip.
Best food: The culinary scene in Queenstown is fantastic. If you’re looking for something special, I can recommend Rata, a modern take on NZ cuisine by Michelin-star chef Josh Emmett. And you should probably try Fergburger to see what the fuzz (and the long, long line) is all about. The ice creams and chocolates from Patagonia were really good too.