Still, turquoise lakes, countless vineyards and mountains for days… This is what you experience when you touchdown in Queenstown, New Zealand. True story.
Sitting on the shores of the South Island’s Lake Wakatipu, this mid-sized town is renowned for its range of adventure sports in addition to its breathtaking views. I mean, there’s a reason it’s called the Adventure Capital of the World.
Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, lover of the outdoors or just want to be flawed by natural beauty every single day, Queenstown is a travel destination not to be missed.
Read on for the complete Queenstown travel guide, by someone who is currently living here on a one-year working holiday visa. (Hi, that’s me.)
Let’s get one thing straight here: Queenstown is a very transient town. People come and go all the time. Therefore, if you’re going there for a holiday or a brief pitstop during your New Zealand travels, you probably won’t want to linger for too long.
Why? Well, it’s a smaller town than newbies realise. Plus, all the fellow tourists that you meet on the way will soon be gone.
That said, a good amount of time to spend solely in Queenstown as a visitor is 4-5 days. On the other hand, if you want to do a lot of activities or day trips of the surrounding villages, then you could easily stretch this out to 7-10 days.
If you’re a fellow Brit, you’ll know that the Australasia continent has winter when we have summer and vice versa. (Yes, I realise it completely messes with your head.)
Therefore, the best time to go to Queenstown for gorgeous, sunshiny days with temperatures in the early thirties (degrees Celsius) is December/January.
However, if you’re an avid skier, you might want to head to Queenstown in June/July to make the most of the slopes of The Remarkables and Coronet Peak.
Either way, just make sure you go at some point. Queenstown is undeniably beautiful at any time of year.
Queenstown travel guide 101: Are you from the UK? If so, I’ve got some bad news for you. Sorry, but you have to catch three flights if you want to sample the town’s nirvana.
The most common route is London or Manchester to Dubai (7 hours), Dubai to Auckland (16 hours) and then Auckland to Queenstown (1 hour).
Personally, I stopped over in Bali on the way to break up the journey, but do whatever feels comfortable for you. Oh, and don’t forget your flight socks!
Another bit of bad news – it’s kind of expensive to stay in Queenstown’s CBD, whether this is in a hotel or an Airbnb.
Having said that, you could always look for Queenstown accommodation in the surrounding suburbs.
Looking to see as much as possible of the South Island while you’re in New Zealand? Be sure to rent a car.
Alternatively, you can rely on the local Orbus (which costs just $2 per one-way ride) or the InterCity bus company that will take you further afield.
When it comes to the CBD though, Queenstown is pretty walkable. Just make sure you learn from my past mistakes and wear comfortable shoes to tackle those pesky hills!
Without a doubt, the food is incredible in the Queenstown area. I haven’t had a bad meal yet (and I’ve been living here over two months!)
Whether you’re a brunch fan or you prefer a tasty dinner out, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
Got your Queenstown itinerary sorted? Not to worry if not – we’ve talked about ski bunnies being able to get their slope on in the winter, but let’s cover all-year-round activities.
If you’re a bit of a daredevil, you can go bungee jumping at the world’s first ever bungee site founded by AJ Hackett.
You can also go jet-boating down Shotover River or take a Gondola up Bob’s Peak to go Luge carting down the mountain.
There’s an abundance of scenic walks that you can do around the CBD.
Whether you go up to Bob’s Peak, take the Ben Lomond track or head up to Bob’s Cove, Queenstown sure is a hiker’s paradise!
Once you’ve spent a day walking around the CBD, doing a little shopping and overindulging on Fergburger, any Queenstown travel guide will tell you to check out some of the surrounding suburbs.
Shopaholics would enjoy the Five-Mile Shopping Centre in Frankton or nature lovers might appreciate the quiet serenity of the Lake Hayes area. However, the one you certainly must see (if you get time) is Arrowtown.
Nestled amongst the mountains, Arrowtown is a historic gold mining town that’s situated on the banks of the Arrow River. It has great walks, cute eateries and independent boutiques aplenty.
There are so many amazing places outside of Queenstown that make for wonderful day trips.
Love a glass of wine? I’ve got good news for you. Queenstown is the gateway to the Central Otago region where there are 200 vineyards around a 40-minute drive from the CBD.
Amisfield is just outside of Arrowtown and is extremely popular with wine enthusiasts. If you have a car, you can also drive 10 minutes to Gibbston where you will find a number of vineyards within several feet of each other. I kid you not.
Either way, make sure you sample some of the local wines while you’re in the area – and I guarantee you won’t regret it.
Even though every human being is completely different in this world and we all have varied personalities, I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t fall head over heels in love with Queenstown once they have the opportunity to visit.
Whether you can only spend a couple of days there before you move on or linger for weeks and weeks because you’re captivated by its charm (cough, me), one thing’s for sure: Queenstown looks and feels like heaven on earth.
For a brief period, I’m so lucky to be able to call it home.
TEE – THE WAREHOUSE (similar) / DRESS (WORN AS SKIRT) – RUE 21 (similar) / TRAINERS – THE WAREHOUSE (similar) / SUNGLASSES – TOPSHOP (similar) / WATCH – ADEXE LONDON (*) / HAIR CLIP – EBAY (similar) / BAG – FOREVER 21 (similar)
Have you ever visited New Zealand? Did you find this Queenstown travel guide useful? Let me know in the comments!