Winter Highlights of Queenstown

New Zealand

Queenstown is located on the shores of the South Island’s Lake Wakatipu and set against the dramatic Southern Alps, which in my opinion, is among some of the most dramatic mountain ranges in the world! Also known as the adventure capital of the Southern Hemisphere, there are plenty of activities to keep you occupied for all ages. If adventure is not your thing and you just want a holiday to relax and rejuvenate, there are plenty of experiences on offer to suit your needs too!

How to get there?
There are a couple of ways to make your way to Queenstown – if time isn’t on your side, the quickest and most direct route is to fly straight into Queenstown Airport. Depending on the airport you are coming from, you may have to get a connecting flight as only certain size planes can make the flight into Queenstown Airport due to the mountain ranges nestled either side of the runway. It sure does make for a dramatic entrance and incredible views of the landscape when descending upon the town.
If you do have some time to spare, you can always fly into Christchurch which is located at the top of the South Island and hire a car and make the 6 hour drive down to Queenstown at your own pace. The scenery on the drive is worth the extra couple of hours of travel!

I have been lucky enough to frequent this beautiful town a few times now so I hope I can shed some light on a few of my favourite activities to do when I am in town. Like I mentioned above, there are plenty of things to keep you busy in all seasons of the year which is why I have decide to split this blog post up and just focus on of the winter time fun that can be had in this great town! So whatever pace you want to take, there is something for you…

Ski Fields
There are three main ski fields nestled around the Queenstown region and all have their own charm. Getting to and from the mountain each day is a breeze with the Queenstown Snow Centre located in the heart of the town. The centre offers transport (Snowline Bus) to and from the ski resorts with various pick up and drop off locations scattered around town. You can purchase your ski passes online or speak with a customer service person at the Snow Centre on your arrival.

The Remarkables – the second closest of the three ski resorts to Queenstown. An awesome mountain range for all levels of skiing and snowboarding and the Kea Club offer all day children’s group ski and snowboard lessons for the kids with a range of lessons available for kids ranging from 4 to 15 years of age. What makes this location great, is it has some awesome runs for beginners of all ages. It hosts three surface conveyer lifts (aka Magic Carpets) which for a learner means never having to master the dreaded t-bar! Win-win! It’s a true alpine mountain experience, with the mountains reaching 1943m high with a 468m virticle drop! You can get here by the Snowline Bus service or if you have your own transport, the drive is about 40mins from Queenstown but just a warning – it can be a bit of a hairy drive up the mountain itself so if you aren’t confident driving in these conditions, I would suggest sticking with the Snowline bus!Coronet Peak – the closest ski resort to Queenstown and I believe a great all-round location for all ages and ski/boarding abilities. It’s a larger ski resort than The Remarkables with the longest run being 2.4kms and offers four Magic Carpets, one six seater express chair and two high speed quad chairs. There is plenty of mountain space and night skiing is also available on certain days of the week. They have a tubing park so some additional snow fun and again it’s a great place to learn the ropes for all ages with their learn ski/board programs which run multiple times daily. Coronet Peak also offers a selection of dining options with three outlets in the base building and a gorgeous mountain restaurant, Heidi’s Hut, at Rocky Gully.

Cardrona Alpine Resort – This is arguably New Zealand’s most popular ski area, attracting all kinds of snow enthusiasts – from beginners & families, to Olympic & X Games athletes. They also have a tubing playground on offer so with plenty of ski/boarding/tubing opportunities for all levels, it’s a must visit in my eyes. It’s about a 60min drive from Queenstown, but don’t let the distance stop you from checking this resort out! There is a shuttle bus that can get you to and from Queenstown or if you have your own car it’s a beautiful and quite easy drive up the mountain.

If you are after some gear hire, there are plenty of options lining the streets of Queenstown. If you are going in peak season I would recommend booking your hire in advanced, otherwise you can just pop your head into any of the hire shops around town and the guys will be able to help you out! A few places I would recommend are:
Snow Rental
Quest Snow Centre
Browns Ski Shop

Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of the Southern Hemisphere and there sure are plenty of this to do to get your adrenaline pumping! Activities range from the iconic Queenstown bungy jumping to whitewater rafting, river surfing, canyon swinging and thrills on a jet boat.
With plenty of activities to choose from, here are a few I have had the pleasure of experiencing:

Queenstown Bungy Jump and Swing Drop  – Situated 400 metres above Queenstown, the Ledge enables you to put your own twist on bungy lumping whilst taking in the views over all of Queenstown. With the choice of the standard bungy jump or taking on the bungy swing, either one will get your blood pumping! To get to the top, take the Skyline Gondola up the mountain and take a leap of faith off the ledge if you dare!

Ziptrek Ecotours – Enjoy zipling along the forest canopy high above Queenstown, on Skyline Gondola hill. With two styles of tours to choose from there is something for all ages and adrenaline levels – one of the tour options finishes with a zipline ride that descends 30 storeys at speeds of up to 70kph!

Shotover Jet Boat – If you enjoy speed than this is the activity for you! You’ll speed over 10cm deep water, along the famous Shotover River and deep into the Shotover River Canyons where the skilled drivers will a times scare the life out of you with their speed and precision turns and tricks.

Skyline Luge Track – Now this is a fun activity! Take the Skyline Gondola up Skyline Hill to experience these purpose built Luge carts that put you in complete control as you take on over 800 metres of banked corners, tunnels and dippers. Once you’ve conquered the course, hop on the chairlift and do it all again, and again, and again. You’ll be hooked, once is never enough!

Relax and Rejuvenate
Although Queenstown is known for it’s fast past, adrenalin pumping, extreme sports, there is another side to it that is softer, calmer and all round relaxing. There are a whole range of relaxing activities that you can make the most of while in town and below are a few of my favourite “quiet” activities to experience:

Queenstown Gardens – located on the outskirts of Lake Wakatipu, this is the best place to take a quite stroll and enjoy the serenity. The botanic gardens are a sight to be seen and with the backdrop of the surrounding mountain landscape its a photographers dream. The gardens offer some fun activities for all the family including, tennis, hockey and skateboarding but my all time favourite is Frisbee golf!

Queenstown Beach – although there won’t be any swimming happening in the winter time there is just something special about this small pebble beach located in the heart of town.

Skyline Hill – Just a few mins walk from the town centre, jump on the Gondola and head up the mountain and experience 360 degree panoramic views over the Queenstown region and beyond.Onsen Hot Pools – this is probably my most favourite thing to do while in Queenstown. Located high on a cliffside overlooking the Shotover River canyon, while providing views over breathtaking alpine scenery it’s the perfect way to wind down after a day on the slopes. Each pool comfortably accommodates four adults so whether you want a relaxing setting with a partner or a group of friends, I can’t recommend this place enough!

Day Trips
Although there are plenty of activities to keep you occupied within Queenstown itself, there are many more options of things to do and see outside of the region so if you are lucky enough to have a spare day or two I would recommend check out a few of the below:

Milford Sounds – this has got to be one of the greatest natural attractions that you will ever experience. Nestled within Fiordland National Park, it’s home to a magical combination of mountain peaks, ink-dark waters and dramatic forest-clad cliffs – it must be seen to be believed. The fiord is also home to fur seal colonies, penguins and dolphins so keep an look out! Day trips can be purchased online or at any of the activity centres around Queenstown and will involve a bus trip through the incredible South Island countryside and finish with a cruise along the sound itself. I highly recommend getting out and seeing this place for yourself!

Mirror Lakes – exactly as the title suggest, Mirror Lakes is an incredible photo opportunity on a still day as they display a perfect reflection of the Earl Mountains. Located along the journey to Milford Sounds, it’s the perfect place to have a break, stretch your legs and enjoy the scenery around you!

Arrowtown – a charming yet quirky gold rush village nestled below the beautiful peaks that surround the Arrow River. A short 20min drive or bus ride from Queenstown, Arrowtown is a historic village that still to this day has a real heritage feel about it. Take a stroll down the historic Buckingham Street, browse the boutique shops, grab a bite to eat or just enjoy the old-town feel and hang out by the river.

Lake Wanaka – take a drive out of Queenstown and head up towards Wanaka where you won’t be disappointed by the views that you will find. About an hours drive out of Queenstown and you will come across the main feature which is Lake Wanaka. Stop and take a few pics, take in the views and enjoy the serenity. Make a pit-stop at Puzzling World on the way back in to town – fun for kids of all ages!

Food & Drinks
Although Queenstown is a small town in comparison to the bigger cities, it offers quite a variety of great dining choices for all budgets. With over 150 bars, restaurants and cafes to choose from in the region, you certainly won’t go hungry! I just wanted to give a special shout out to a few of my favourite establishments…

Fergburger – You can’t go to Queenstown without trying the famous Fergburger. It’s an institution for tourists and locals combined and your taste buds will thank you for it. I don’t know what it is that makes these burgers taste so incredibles but just take my word for it and give it a try! Oh and don’t let the long waiting lines scare you off –  it will be worth every minute of your time!

Winnies Gourmet Pizza Bar – Winnies is a real winner when it comes to comfort food after a long day on the slopes of just being a tourist! Their pizzas are world famous and taste exactly that. Located right in the heart of Queenstown there should be nothing stopping you from checking this place out for a slice or two!

Patagonia Chocolates Queenstown – nothing quite compares to a steaming hot chocolate on a cold winters day and I have found the perfect location for one while in Queenstown. Patagonia Chocolates offers something to suit any sweets craving, where you can enjoy an morning coffee and fresh hot churros or delicious ice cream or dessert after dinner. And located on the beautiful Queenstown lakefront just off Beach Street, it is the perfect reason to take a stroll past and enjoy a treat!

Minus 5º Ice Bar – if you are after something a bit different and fun check out this place. With over 18 tonnes of crystal clear ice architecture, experience extreme temperatures whilst living an afternoon like you are in the Antarctic, just like a penguin! They dress you warm like an Eskimo so you can explore ice furniture, handmade ice carvings and taste their excellent drinks from ice glasses, choosing from a selection of delicious cocktails.
Stratosfare Restaurant – Offering a yummy buffet lunch or dinner Skyline’s Stratosfare Restaurant and Bar is located at the top of the Gondola. The menu is inspired by iconic New Zealand cuisine and infused with international influences. As you dine, the panoramic view from the windows will captivate your day or night. It’s the ideal place for a special night out and the best place in Queenstown to watch the sun go down.

So as you can see there will never be a dull moment in Queenstown! It’s got everything going for it and then some and I hope that something may have inspired you to check it our for yourself! Feel free to comment below if there is anything you can add to this feature!

Kia Ora!

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