Dubbed as the “Adventure capital of the world”, a “place fit for the Queen”, and “heaven for thrill seekers”seem to be synonymous with the beautiful town of Queenstown, New Zealand. Queenstown is surrounded by the majestic mountain ranges and is nestled on the shore of beautiful Lake Wakatipu. This lakeside settlement packs a punch in the form of world class wines, excellent accommodations, art galleries, lively cafes and the most extensive bouquet of exhilarating adventure activities. Featured image by Martin Tyler
It comes as no surprise when Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf in the LOTR series) says this :-
“I feel I know Queenstown quite well. I’ve been to places that have the same sort of spirit elsewhere in the world but nowhere in quite such a magnificent setting.”
Speaking of the setting, it is not easy to beat the remarkable alpine scenery, idyllic lakes, clear air and rugged mountains and if that was not enough, you have an entire gamut of activities for adrenaline junkies like bungee jumping, jet-boating, rafting, hiking and skydiving. Centrally located, Queenstown also serves as a gateway to Fiordland and destinations such as Te Anau, Wanaka , Milford and Doubtful Sounds. Other destination spots such as Glenorchy, Arrowtown are all an easy drive.
It is clearly a problem of plenty, when it comes to plan your trip in Queenstown. We present to you a definitive guide on how to relax, unwind and rejuvenate in the beautiful city of New zealand. The sheer breadth of activities available here is impossible to list, let alone cover in a few days. So to spend less than 4 days in Queenstown is strongly discouraged.
Arrive by noon and settle down in your accommodation. We would recommend taking a self catering service apartment vis-a vis a hotel room, to imbibe the spirit of town and feel like a local. One such apartment facing the lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables and just outside the town centre is Villa Del Lago Apartments. It is a perfect place to base yourself, it comes with amazing views and all the peace you want, just a stone’s throw away from the town centre. Image Source :– Shobhit Agarwal
Need to know : Rates starts from USD 195. It comes with free wi-fi, parking, complimentary laundry, a decent DVD collection and very hospitable host. More details from the website.
Once you have admired the setting of your villa, step outside and walk towards town centre along the lake side promenade. It is a ten minute walk but takes way longer as you cannot resist frequent breaks to capture the beauty of Lake Wakatipu in your camera and memory. Lake Wakatipu has an unusual rhythmic rise and fall in its water level every five minutes. A Maori myth says it is the beating of a monsters heart lying in the depths of Lake Wakatipu!
Explore the town on your foot, book your excursions for the following days, before you take the Skyline gondola up to Bob’s Peak. Located an easy five minute walk from central Queenstown, Skyline Queenstown, offers awe-inspiring views of the region and an abundance of entertainment and adventure for the whole family. It gives you a bird’s eye view of the whole city. Try to be there before six as sunset is amazing from the peak. Luge ride deserves a special mention. Skyline Restaurant at the peak has a very interesting buffet with a great spread, but the best part of the restaurant is the view of Queenstown. No doubt it is a must do activity in Queenstown but I would insist on doing it first to get an idea and feel about the town. Image Source : Nicolas Coupet
Need to know : Family Luge Pass – Return Gondola ticket and 10 luge rides comes for USD 125. Dinner costs upwards of USD 80. Lunch is cheaper. More details from the website.
An action packed combo of Shotover Jet and White-water rafting awaits you. But first you need to tank up. Head straight to Vudu Cafe, for their banana bread, brownies, ginger crunch and excellent coffee. It is located right on the edge of Lake and is rated best cafe for successive years. One look at the menu and ambience and you will know the reason for its formidable rating on Tripadvisor.
Post breakfast, proceed to the Shotover Jet office. Upon reaching the shore, you will be briefed and given raincoats and before you know it, the red boat will be off at a speed of over 80 km/ph, twisting, turning in a terrifyingly narrow canyon. After crossing the canyon, the driver raises one finger above his head and moves it in a circular motion — it’s time for a 360-degree turn. This process repeats a handful of times and you pass through the narrow canyon walls at least 4 times. It is a complete adrenaline rush replete with laughter and delight as the large boat spins around again and again. You may have done plenty of water sports before, but the Shotover jet is something else. At the end you will be left with a churn in your stomach and an unparalleled adrenaline rush. Image Source :– Shobhit Agarwal
After this, you will be taken for a guided, White-water rafting journey through the canyon. The bus ride to the top of the mountain, is also thrilling as the bus travels through narrow mountain roads with the incline on one side and the steep valley on the other. It’s a 3 hour activity where you would float through the peaceful waters of Deep Creek before heading to the exhilarating rapids of the lower canyon. The raft goes over appropriately named, adrenalin-pumping rapids—Rock Garden, After Shock, Sharks Fin, Toilet, Pinball, and Jaws. The thrills will continue as you raft through the 557-foot Oxenbridge Tunnel before shooting the Cascade Rapid at the end. Rafting is more relaxing and a wonderful way to enjoy the splendid New Zealand outdoors in the day.
Need to Know :- Check out this website for various combo passes.
The town’s centre in Queenstown offers an array of bars, cafes and restaurants and no two meals need to be the same. We really liked the cosy ambience and pizza in Cows Restaurant. Their garlic bread is must try. Image Source :– Shobhit Agarwal
There is no better way or time to end the day filled with adventure activities then immersing yourself in the Onsen Hot Pool at Arthurs Point. It is constantly rated as one of the top activity in Queenstown. Picture a hot/cold water tub (depending on your preference), a bottle of wine, candle light, a glass roof and a glorious sunset in Arthurs Valley. With a click of button, water gushes out from the top into the tub and another button, windows that retract into the roof. This private pool will relax your body and mind, like nothing else. The experience is just as lovely as the thought.
Start your day with the classic Fergburger in town centre. It is known for serving head size burgers, the menu is limited but the burgers are yummy, wash it down with the fresh smoothies and reach the Nzone Skydive counter in town at time.
You will be briefed at the Nzone HQ , which will be followed by a 20 minute drive out to the drop zone. Tension and exhilaration is palpable, when you reach the site. You will be briefed again on the flight and safety instructions in the Hangar and will be given sexy boiler suits. The rush and utmost fear hits everyone at some point. For some it will be when you take that long walk towards the deafening sound of a tiny fixed-wing airplane, for some when the plane goes up, for some when you look down at the time of jump and for rest, when they have jumped. It is a tandem dive, where the expert dives with you, attached to your body suit.
After the 30, 45 or 60 seconds of free fall (depending on which option you choose) and absolutely breath-taking scenery, your pilot will pull the parachute and everything will go silent. For several minutes, you would hear a noisy plane and then gusty wind blowing past your ears at a high velocity…but after some time, nothing, complete peace! Free falling in warm air, incredible views of Queenstown, for one full minute, will be difficult to describe in words. It is an experience that can spark hour long conversations! After a perfect landing, with your heart going faster than trance music, its time do high-fives, thump your chest, as you strut back to the hangar.
Let the feeling sink in for sometime, after all, you don’t jump from the sky everyday and live to tell the story. Collect your thoughts, emotions and limbs, take a short trip to the nearby Gibbston Valley wine region to enjoy lunch at one of its renowned vineyards. It is a 20 minute scenic drive from Central Queenstown. The high altitude region is known for its Pinot Noir and its fine selection of cheeses. The Gibbston Valley, also known as the ‘Valley of the Vines’, is one of the most scenic wine growing areas you’ll ever encounter. Vineyards are sandwiched, sometimes precariously, between rugged schist mountains and the rocky Kawarau River gorge. Spend the afternoon sampling the local vintages on a boutique wine tour of the region and lunching in one of the wineries. Laze around, stroll on the rolling hills, shop for the cheese hampers and have a relaxed afternoon.
Need to know :- We really liked Gibbston Valley Restaurant and would recommend them for cave tours, private wine tasting and lunch. More details from the website. At the western end of Gibbston Valley is the Kawarau Bridge (birth place of bungee jumping), where you can watch bungy jumpers leap into space above the turbulent river from the viewing deck or you can take the leap yourself, if the adventure spirit in you permits.
In the evening, drop your car at the Villa and hit Winnies in town centre for drinks and their famous Gourmet pizzas. It offers the best pizza and casual dining experience in the town and as the sunsets, this place transforms into one of Queenstown’s busiest nightclub.
Need to know :- Don’t drink and drive in New Zealand, they are pretty strict about it. There are at least 2-3 checkpoints at night to check for drunk driving. It can ruin your whole trip.
After two action packed days it is time to take it easy. You may opt for one of the Lord of the Rings tours, where they will take you through locations in which the trilogy of LOTR is set. You will be taken to the countryside of Glenorchy, where you can view breathtaking scenery of an ancient beech forest, braided rivers and glacier carved valleys or venture out on short walks or take photos with movie props and listen to the commentary of personal guides. These are leisurely conducted tours and you sure are going to have fun, even if you are not a huge fan of LOTR. Image Source :- Scott-Pudwell
Need to know :- Tour departs around 10 AM from Queesntown and come back by 5 PM. You may like this tour company, which is rated quite highly.
Come back to town, spend rest of the evening strolling in the garden of main square and in the Queenstown wharf. It is laidback yet bustling and the sunset is magical. Head to Sombreros Mexican Cantina (Mexican cusine) or Bombay Palace Indian Restaurant ( for Indian cuisine). Both places serve delightful and spicy meals, welcome change from the Italian and continental meals.
Post dinner, spend some time on the jetty in front of your villa, which protrude into the lake. Come back to the villa, grab a bottle of wine and a tub of popcorn and enjoy rest of the night, catching up on a movie, wrapped in a blanket by the fireplace in your living room.
It will be the best four days you can spend while travelling. As said in the beginning, it is difficult to find this combination of spirit and setting. If you staying longer then you have many other options of playing golf, going for long treks, surfing and snowboarding (in the winter) or do day trips to Arrowtown, Wanaka and Milford Sound.