This picturesque resort town, nestled between jewel-like lakes and snow-capped mountains, also has an impressive culinary scene, high class vineyards, a thriving art and culture community and great shopping.

There’s something for everyone here and it’s not surprising that it’s one of the most popular destinations in New Zealand.

The downtown area is quite compact, so it’s easy to get around on foot. You can spend hours simply perusing the local shops and galleries.

From almost anywhere in town you can enjoy spectacular views of The Remarkables, a range of jagged mountain peaks framing the lake and town.

Queenstown is buzzing no matter what the season, with festivals in the Winter and live outdoor music in the summer.

Every Saturday you can check out the Creative Queenstown Arts and Crafts Market held at Earnslaw Park, featuring handcrafted wares by local artisans. It’s also a fascinating spot for history lovers.

Arrowtown (only a 15 minute drive away) is one of the most significant historic settlements on the South Island and has many well preserved Gold Rush era buildings.

Even if you don’t feel like getting an adrenaline rush by jumping out of a plane or hurtling down a mountain, you’ll love just relaxing and admiring Queenstown’s natural beauty.

Queenstown

Activities & Attractions

Dining

One of the most famous local restaurants in Queenstown is Fergburger, a relaxed gourmet burger joint known for unique, fresh toppings. There’s a permanent line out front, but the short wait is worth it (try the lamb burger with mint jelly!).

Speaking of lamb, you’ll want to visit Roaring Megs Restaurant. Established in 1981, it has won multiple awards for its high quality racks of Canterbury lamb. Or, you can treat yourself to the seasonal menu at Amisfield Winery & Bistro, paired with wines and a stunning view of the landscape.

Over 900 hectares of land in this region are used for wine production, which means that you’re never far from a winery and therefore a classy restaurant set amongst the vines. Be sure to check out some of the local vintages, in particular the Pinor Noir.

Wine Tasting Queenstown

Hiking

Queenstown attracts outdoor adventure seekers from all over the world. Yes, there are the extreme activities such as bungy-jumping (which was invented here) and heli-skiing, but thankfully there are also many mellow day hikes where you can take your time.

Walk to the top of Queenstown Hill and you’ll be rewarded with an unforgettable view. Bob’s Cove is also a lovely place to stroll, and you can go for a swim afterwards to cool down. Bob’s Peak is another relatively easy hike with spectacular views.

Routeburn Track Queenstown

Shopping

Queenstown might be small, but it has a thriving cosmopolitan shopping scene. There are many opportunities for retail therapy, whether you are looking for locally designed clothing, unique souvenirs or gourmet treats take home.

For the big name brands such as LuluLemon, Bendon and Country Road, there’s the Queenstown Mall. If you’re looking for outdoor gear for your next hike, Shotover Street is where you’ll find retailers like North Face and Roam Clothing. For local treats like chocolate, scarves and souvenirs, take a walk down Beach Street.

 

Museums

On a rainy day when you can’t explore the great outdoors, there are many galleries and museums to keep you engaged. One of the most interesting museums in the area is the Lakes District Museum in Arrowtown.

Here you can learn all about the mining heritage of Queenstown, as well as the Chinese history and the development of the railway. In the town centre of Queenstown you’ll also find Central Art Galleries and Queenstown Fine Art Gallery – both showcasing some impressive local New Zealand artists.

History & Culture

Around 15,000 years ago, a glacier carved out a thin S-shaped gouge between the rugged mountains – creating Lake Wakatipu. This area was first inhabited by Maori people in 1200AD, before the European and Chinese settlers arrived during the gold rush in the 1860s. (There were many Chinese immigrants, as they were brought in to work on the mines when the European miners left for the West Coast gold rush in 1864.)

The Maori believed this lake was created when two young lovers, a warrior named Matakauri and Manata (the daughter of a Maori chief) wanted to marry. The chief did not allow the marriage. Then, a giant named Matau kidnapped Manata and imprisoned her in the mountains. The chief said any warrior who could rescue her would be allowed to marry her.

Matakauri took on the challenge, waiting until the warm wind from the north west lulled the giant to sleep. When he arrived on the mountain Manata was tied to the giant with a magical rope, but when she started to try her tears melted the rope. Matakauri set fire to Matau the giant and as he melted he formed Lake Wakatipu, which means “Hollow of the Sleeping Giant.” The waters of the lake have a mysterious 12cm rise and fall, which is said to be because the heart of the sleeping giant still beats there.

When gold was discovered during the 1860s, the settlement quickly grew into a large community and the population boomed. Tourists eventually replaced gold miners and now this location is known for being one of the major outdoor adventure destinations in the world.

Key Facts

  • The easiest way to get around Queenstown is via bus. The public transport company is called Connectabus and it runs throughout the town daily.
  • The town may be named after the town of Queenstown in Cork Harbour, Ireland. Queenstown in Ireland eventually had its name changed to Cork and it was the last port of call for the Titanic before it left on its ill-fated voyage.
  • Many scenes from Lord of the Rings were shot in and around this beautiful area of New Zealand.
  • Winter Pride in Queenstown is the largest gay pride festival in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Lake cruises are offered on the historic steamer TSS Earnslaw, a beautifully preserved boat that was once a ferry service (pictured below)
Queenstown

Queenstown with MoaTrek

MoaTrek tours that visit Queenstown include the following; 

  • Three nights in Queenstown allowing time to explore the town and surrounding region, including Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park (we have many optional activities to select from). 
  • Travel through the dramatic scenery of the Lindis Pass and Kawarau Gorge to arrive in Queenstown.
  • Your Kiwi guide will tell you about Arrowtown’s place in the gold mining history of New Zealand.
  • Wander the shores of the Great Southern Lakes of Wakatipu.
  • Tour the most scenic road in New Zealand from Queenstown to Milford Sound with your MoaTrek Kiwi guide.
  • Experience the pristine landscapes of Milford Sound with a 1.45 hour nature and wildlife cruise.
  • Return to Queenstown after your day in Milford with a scenic flight over the Southern Alps.

Some of our optional activities include a cruise on the TSS Earnslaw, jet boating through Lord of the Rings scenery on the Dart River or doing a day walk on the Routeburn Track (one of the Great Walks of New Zealand). 

Have a look at the range of optional activities on this tour.

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