Nestled among the stunning Southern Alps, Queenstown is one of New Zealand’s most beloved destinations. Not only is it breathtakingly beautiful, but it’s also home to a wide array of adventure activities, awesome bars and restaurants and an endless list of fun things to do. A place on most people’s bucket lists, Queenstown is a destination you’ll keep coming back to time and time again. To help you #TravelWell, here’s our ultimate guide to Queenstown.
How to get to Queenstown
Located on the picturesque shores of Lake Wakatipu in New Zealand’s spectacular South Island, Queenstown is a must-visit destination for visitors. Set against the dramatic Southern Alps, you could easily fly into Queenstown Airport or you may like to add Queenstown to a larger road trip itinerary. We’ve done this a few different ways, including flying into Auckland and making our way down from the North Island and flying into Christchurch on the South Island and making our way down from there.
Most recently, we included Queenstown in a 3 1/2 week long road trip through the north and south islands. We visited Auckland, the Coromandel, the coastal Bay of Plenty, Rotorua, Taup? and Napier with a plan to visit Wellington. Sadly, we had to cut our Wellington visit from our itinerary due to a change in local restrictions. We caught the ferry from Wellington to Picton then onto Christchurch, Tekapo and Aoraki, Wanaka and Queenstown.
If you’re on a road trip and plan to catch the ferry across the Cook Strait to the south island you must read our guide: How to catch the ferry from Wellington to Picton.
How long to spend in Queenstown
How long do you have? Because Queenstown is one of those places you’ll always wish you had more time to explore. As part of a road trip I would recommend a minimum of 3 nights but if you’re just visiting Queenstown, you’d want to aim for 5 nights or more.
You could quite easily fly into Queenstown and spend your entire holiday there and never run out of things to do and great places to eat. If you are flying in and out of Queenstown, I strong recommend you hire a car and visit a few other spots including Wanaka, Arrowtown, Glenorchy and Milford Sound. Ideally, you should spend at least 1-2 nights in Wanaka and 1-2 nights in Milford Sound. Argh! I’m getting frustrated writing this because there’s so much to see and do in New Zealand, you kind of just need to clear an entire year! It’s THAT good! Trying to fit it into one visit is just cruel.
Where to stay in Queenstown
We stayed at Holiday Inn Queenstown Frankton Road, located along Frankton Road as you drive into Queenstown. We had never stayed in this area before and loved the easy access it gave us to the ski fields and downtown Queenstown. What’s more, the hotel offers incredible views of the Southern Alps.
Staying in room 506, we found the room to be a great size and fitted out with everything we needed for a comfortable and enjoyable stay. As luck would have it, our room had two beds so we were both able to spread right out after being on the road for 3 1/2 weeks! Both beds had warm blankets, soft pillows and electric blankets to keep us toasty warm.
Equipped with a great size en-suite, hanging closet, tea and coffee making facilities, small fridge, a flat-screen tv, work desk and lamp the room had all the features we most needed. Best of all, it opened up onto a private patio with a table and chairs and sweeping views over the Southern Alps. Waking up each morning to those views was very special and made sure we were able to enjoy Queenstown, even if we were in the room. The hotel also offers a fitness centre, spa and on-site restaurant serving up all-day dining. Find Holiday Inn Queenstown here.
How to get around Queenstown
Our visit to Queenstown was part of a 3 1/2 week road trip so we collected a hire car in Auckland at the start of our adventure. We went with GO Rentals, opting for a small SUV (Toyota RAV4), owing to the length of our trip. Having a hire car allowed us to be able to head out to the snow easily! If you’re thinking of doing a road trip, we had a great experience with GO Rentals and highly recommend them.
Planning a Queenstown itinerary? Here’s a look at what we got up to:
1. Hit the slopes at Coronet Peak
Make the most of a winter visit by getting up to Coronet Peak, one of my favourite snow fields in New Zealand! This spot is great for a wide range of abilities so if you’re a beginner, don’t worry, they’ve got you covered with lessons and really fun runs. Established in 1947 it’s actually New Zealand’s first commercial ski area and easily visited from Queenstown. We love their Night Ski which goes down from 4-9pm on Wednesdays and Fridays from late June to late August. Find Coronet Peak here.
2. Feast at Fergburger
Iconic Queenstown experiences don’t get much better than a visit to Fergburger. Serving up epic burgers since 2001, this beloved burger spot is an absolute must-do with great service and a long list of tasty burgers to choose from. From classic beef burgers, lamb and chicken burgers to fish and vegetarian/vegan options, they’ve got you covered no matter what you’re craving. They also offer gluten-free buns. Be sure to check out nearby Fergbaker for tasty baked goods, Mrs Ferg for gelato and Ferg’s Bar for food and drinks. Find Fergburger here.
3. Go Yonder
If you find yourself visiting on a rainy day and need a cheery spot to brighten your world or simply love good food and coffee, head directly to Yonder. The decor here is really cool and they serve up really good coffee too. Satisfy your hunger no matter the time of day with a great brunch and dinner menu to peruse, stacked with options for every dietary requirement. Find Yonder here.
4. Enjoy the views at Skyline Gondola & Luge
For the best views of Queenstown and a very fun way to spend a few hours, head directly to Skyline Queenstown! Climb aboard the Skyline Gondola and take a ride on the steepest cable car life in the Southern Hemisphere. At the top, you’ll be 480 metres above Queenstown with panoramic views over Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains. Be sure to get tickets for the Skyline Luge too – it’s unbelievably good fun racing your friends, family or partner around the track with those epic views in the background. The Skyline is also a perfect spot for sunset and you’ll find a few spots to grab a bite to eat or a drink as well. Find Skyline Gondola & Luge here.
5. Shout & Scream at the Shotover Canyon Swing
You cannot go to Queenstown without doing an adventure activity or two and the Shotover Canyon Swing is the perfect starting point. You’ll meet in the heart of Queenstown before heading out to the canyon, getting harnessed up and heading out to the ledge. It’s around then surges of hot and cold adrenalin start coursing through your body. There are loads of jump styles to choose from including tandem and solo. No matter what you choose, you’ll be packing it… trust me! We had SO much fun doing this, even if our nerves were shot afterwards. Find Shotover Canyon Swing here.
6. Dine at Margo’s Queenstown
Located in the heart of Queenstown Mall, Margo’s serves up Mexican eats in a very cool setting. Unfortunately for me, my new favourite Mexican restaurant is now some 2,393km away. Thankfully I made the most of it while I had the chance because their food and drinks are fantastic. The seasonal menu makes it hard to choose what to have because everything looks so good! We absolutely loved the tacos, nachos and margaritas, with delectable options for every dietary need. The service here is awesome too so, whatever you do, don’t sleep on Margo’s! Bring me back a take-out order, please! Find Margo’s Queenstown here.
7. Cool down at Minus 5º Ice Bar
Unique and iconic bars don’t get much cooler than MINUS 5º ICE BAR, a true Queenstown institution! Visitors get checked in, rugged up and briefed on how to hold the carved ice cups without sending them flying across the room before heading into the bar. Inside, it’s like a speakeasy at an ice carver’s shop with ice sculptures, your favourite ‘night-out’ tunes and drinks flowing. Bonus points if you don a fluffy hat! Surprisingly, all that dancing and sipping cocktails keeps you nice and toasty inside. Find MINUS 5º ICE BAR here.
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