There are a lot of reasons to fall in love with Queenstown. The stunning Southern Alps, snow-capped, jutting out of the earth, taking on different colours throughout the day. The unique energy of the busy little city centre, fuelled by a rotating roster of backpackers and young locals who love it so much they don’t want to leave. The fine dining, cheap eats, adventure activities, million-dollar views and picture-perfect ski fields. One visit to Queenstown and there’s a good chance you’ll be hooked. If you’re planning a trip but aren’t quite sure how to spend your time, here’s my guide on how to spend an incredible three days in Queenstown!
Grab an early breakfast
You’ll need to be up nice and early to grab breakfast and fuel up before hitting the slopes! My good friend, Mindy, lived in Queenstown for a few years and highly recommends Vudu Cafe and Larder for a great breakfast and fantastic coffee. On our last trip to Queenstown, we stopped in at Joe’s Garage, enjoying the coffee and simple road-house-style meals. Another local favourite and fantastic option is The Exchange, which serves up great cups of coffee and delicious breakfast bites.
Time to get your shred on! A great place to start is The Remarkables, which offers something for everyone. When we visited, the guys took off up the mountain and spent the day snowboarding on the more advanced runs. As a total novice, I joined in a group lesson and had a great time making friends, learning to stop and turn and then whizzing up and down the beginner’s hill. The views from the top are pretty spectacular too and there are a few great restaurants up there, offering really delicious options for lunch. I’d recommend grabbing a proper plate of food over the grab-and-go options as the food’s actually really yummy and it’s worth taking some time out to have a good lunch! (p.s. The hot chocolates are yummy too). If you don’t have a hire car, don’t fret, you can still get up the mountain on a shuttle bus service.
Burgers for dinner
Trust me, when you get off that mountain after a big day of snow fun, you’ll be ready for an absolute feast. It’s guilt-free eating, you guys, cos you’ve pretty much been a pro athlete all day. So, make the most of that big hunger and indulge in that most fabulous of Kiwi meals – burgers! Fergburger is the obvious choice. Every man and his dog will recommend it to you and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll get a bit sick of hearing about it because there’s more to Queenstown than Fergburger. The queues at Ferg are ridiculous but you can always phone ahead with your order to skip them. If you’re keen to try something else, Devil Burger also do a great bite!
Breakfast at Bespoke Kitchen
Start the day at Bespoke Kitchen with a nourishing, delicious and beautiful breakfast. Just be sure to get up early or go a little later to avoid the peak-hour rush, especially in the height of winter cos sitting outside can be a bit chilly. It’s well worth it though because the food here is really great! There are loads of really creative options with a focus on fresh and healthy ingredients. The coffee is fantastic and the cabinet is full of too-good-to-resist treats, lots of them vegan, gluten-free etc.
It’s time to explore Queenstown and get a feel for what it’s all about. Wander the town centre on foot, stopping in at clothing stores and boutiques, exploring winding alleys and taking in the fresh air and local sights. If you have a sweet tooth it’s worth visiting The Remarkables Sweet Shop where you can try endless samples of fudge and take some with you for later (the Malteser flavour is divine!). You may also like to treat your sweet tooth to a visit to Cookie Time for a freshly baked, hot cookie.
If you have a car, I’d recommend taking a drive out to Glenorchy. It should take you around 45 minutes to get there from Queenstown and along the way, you’ll be treated to absolutely stunning views of the water and Southern Alps. There are a few great photo spots to stop at along the way, which I highly recommend doing. If you’re organised, you might like to grab some takeaway coffees and freshly baked pastries (or four) from Fergbaker to have a DIY morning tea at one of these picture-perfect stops. In Glenorchy, be sure to visit the jetty.
If you don’t have a car, I recommend heading up to the Skyline for unbeatable views of the local area that will take your breath away. Seriously, it’s so beautiful up there! Catch the gondola up then have fun whizzing down the luge tracks, racing each other against one of the most beautiful backdrops imaginable. There’s a cafe and restaurant up there so you can grab a hot chocolate or coffee and just sit for a while, soaking in the views.
Coronet Peak Twilight Session
One of my favourite ski sessions from our trip took place at Coronet Peak when we took part in their Twilight Session! After spending a whole day exploring Queenstown we headed up to Coronet Peak in the afternoon, just as most people were leaving. We got to watch the sunset over the stunning mountains (the views from Coronet are insane!) and take advantage of having so few people on the slopes with us. Coronet comes alive as the sun goes down with a DJ playing great music, mulled wine flowing, delicious pizzas on offer and fire pits lighting up the night. It was just the best atmosphere – so chilled and fun. Of all the fields we visited, Coronet offered some of my favourite views. You’ll find Coronet Peak a 25-minute drive from Queenstown with night skiing on offer from 4 pm to 9 pm on specific days (it was Wednesday, Friday and Saturday during our July visit).
Grab a late dinner
Trust me, the hunger will be real and that can mean only one thing – it’s time to carb load. Head directly to Bella Cucina and get stuck right into their delicious menu of pizza and pasta – be sure to get the freshly baked dough balls (they’re soooo good!). If the menu at Bella Cucina doesn’t take your fancy, you could also have dinner at The Cow, another favourite spot for pizza, pasta and all those cheesy, carby, delicious things we know and love. Either way, be sure to make a booking or you’ll find yourself waiting for a while to get a seat.
Queenstown is famous for great adventure activities so you should definitely make sure you do at least one while you’re there. If you’re after something really fun that isn’t too crazy, I’d recommend The Shotover Jet. I absolutely loved it as it was a great mix of fun, adventure, adrenaline and sightseeing and is a good choice for families (probs not best to make your kid bungy jump…).
That said if you’re after something a tad more terrifying it might be time to tick a bungy jump or skydive off your bucket list. In Queenstown, you can join the AJ Hackett Bungy team and do the Nevis bungy or swing, the Ledge bungy or swing and the Kawarau bridge bungy. If the idea of a bungy cord seems a bit amateur for you, you might like to consider jumping out of a perfectly good plane with NZONE or you could go parasailing with the guys at Queenstown Paraflights. The great thing about all of these places is they’ll pick you up and take you there, so don’t stress if you don’t have a car. Be sure to read my guide to the best adventure activities to try in New Zealand.
After all that heart-pumping fun, it’s time for a glass of wine or 10. I’d definitely recommend joining a guided winery tour as it means you don’t have to worry about sticking to the legal limit, you’ll get to visit the best local wineries, it takes the guesswork out of everything and just makes for a more enjoyable day. We’ve done DIY tours as well as guided ones and much preferred the guided option (more booze!). There are loads of operators in Queenstown so do your research and choose one that meets your needs and budget. You can find a whole range of guided winery tours here.
Catch the sunset at Lake Wakatipu
Do some research and find out what time sunset is, then head down to Lake Wakatipu. Sitting along the water’s edge is the perfect spot to watch the sunset and see the colours of the sky change against the Southern Alps. I got some of my favourite photos from my trip down by the water toward sunset, it was just gorgeous and a really pretty place to spend a few hours, just letting it all soak in.
End it all with a delicious dinner
Time to treat yourself to a very delicious last dinner in Queenstown. There are some really great restaurants offering amazing meals, like No 5 Church Lane, one of my all-time favourite restaurants in Queenstown. Other great picks for dinner include Botswana Butchery, Rata, Ivy & Lola’s, The Bunker and Jervois Steakhouse. If you can’t be bothered with all that and just want a tasty, cheap bite then you can’t go past Taco Medic or Caribe Latin Kitchen.
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