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Queenstown: A Destination for All Seasons and Moods

Queenstown is a unique and beautiful city, nestled between Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables mountain range. It’s a small city by New Zealand standards, with only 16,000 residents, but it attracts many visitors who come for the ski fields in winter and outdoor activities in summer. Queenstown is not any typical Kiwi town—it has a cosmopolitan vibe, with international shops and restaurants. Visitors can find adventure or relaxation here, depending on one’s mood.

Here are the 10 best things to do in Queenstown:

1. Take the Skyline Gondola to the Top of the Hill

One of the must-do activities in Queenstown is riding the Skyline gondola to Bob’s Peak, which is 1,476 feet high. Travelers can enjoy the stunning views of the city, the lake, and the mountains from the outdoor and indoor viewing areas (and grab a snack at the café). It can get chilly up there, so bring some warm clothes.

2. Have Fun on a Luge

Another fun thing to do at Bob’s Peak is the luge. Visitors can hop on a luge cart and zoom down the tracks, which have twists, tunnels, and dippers. People can go as fast or as slow as you like, and when you’re done, you can take the chair lift back up for another go, or take the cable car back down to the city. Kids need to be at least 6 years old, or 3.6 feet tall (110 centimeters), to ride their own luge cart.

3. Discover the Gold Rush History of Arrowtown

Arrowtown is a charming town on the Arrow River, only 12 miles from Queenstown. It’s a great place to visit for a day, or to stay for longer if you want a quieter base. Arrowtown was founded in 1862, during the gold rush era, and it has more than 60 heritage buildings that reflect the European and Chinese influences of the time. Many Chinese gold miners came to the area in the 19th century.

4. Walk in the Mountains

Queenstown is close to some of New Zealand’s most famous and scenic hikes, such as the Milford Track in Fiordland National Park, but one can also find some great walks within the city itself. Whether you want to stroll along the lake or climb up the hills for amazing views, you have plenty of options, such as:

The Ben Lomond Track: This is a challenging trail that starts from the bottom of the gondola in Queenstown, and is about 7 miles long.

The Gibbston River Trail: This is an easy trail that takes you to some wineries, and is about 5.5 miles long.

Lake Rere Track: This is a moderate loop trail that shows you the Greenstone River, Lake Rere, and Lake Wakatipu’s Elfin Bay, and is about 9 miles long.

5. Paddle on Lake Wakatipu

Lake Wakatipu is a beautiful lake that is shaped like a finger and is surrounded by mountains and beaches. The area near downtown Queenstown can be busy with boats and jet skis, but visitors can find some quieter spots to kayak. Visitors can rent a kayak from one of the companies around the lake, and they can recommend some routes for you.

6. Go Mountain Biking in the Hills

If you’re someone who enjoys cycling, you’ll love mountain biking in Queenstown. There are many places to rent bikes in the city center, and you can take them to different trails in the hills and mountains. You can also use the Skyline gondola to take your bike up to the mountain bike parks, and then ride down the slopes. 

Bonus for others: You can get a ride at the Coronet Peak ski resort, which is only 20 minutes away from Queenstown by car; they have bikes and gear for rent.

7. A Variety of Tourist Attractions:

Queenstown has a lot of local art, and you can see it in many galleries around the city center. Most of the art is inspired by the stunning landscapes of the lake and the mountains. You can enjoy the art without buying anything, but if you want to take something home, you’ll have plenty of options, such as the Ivan Clarke Gallery and the Queenstown Arts Centre.

8. Try Bungee Jumping With a View

Bungee jumping was popularized by New Zealander A.J. Hackett, who opened the world’s first permanent commercial bungee jumping site in 1988. That was at the Kawerau Bridge, 15 miles from Queenstown, where people can still bungee jump every day. If you and your friends ’re brave enough to jump off a platform with a cord tied to their ankles, Queenstown is a great place to do it. The Kawerau Gorge has turquoise waters that look inviting.

9. Taste Central Otago Wines

Central Otago is the second-largest wine region in New Zealand, after Marlborough. It’s known for its pinot noir, which is made at more than 100 wineries around Queenstown, Wanaka, and Cromwell. Visitors can visit the winery with a restaurant and enjoy a delicious meal, take a winery tour and learn about the wine-making process, or buy a local bottle at any store or restaurant in Queenstown.

10. Drive to Glenorchy

One of the most scenic road trips in New Zealand is the drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy. Glenorchy is a small town on the northeastern tip of Lake Wakatipu, 28 miles from Queenstown. It takes about 45 minutes to drive there, but you’ll want to stop along the way to take pictures. The road follows the eastern shore of the lake and gives you amazing views of the mountains. Glenorchy and nearby Paradise (yes, that’s a real place) were used as filming locations for the “Lord of the Rings” movies.

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