Queenstown offers a wide range of activities and attractions for thrill-seekers and leisure tourists alike
TALK to anyone who’s been to Queenstown in winter and most of them will say: “I’ve been to heaven and I want to go back.”
What draws visitors to Queenstown and even compels a fair few to put down roots, is its heart and soul. Surrounded by stunning snow-capped mountains, sitting on the edge of an unbelievably clear blue lake, this four-season resort town is large enough to offer a wide range of lodgings, restaurants and watering holes, activities and ski fields, from backpacker to uber-luxury. Yet, it is still cosy enough to make you feel like you belong.
It’s the perfect winter holiday destination whether you’re the outdoors type with an appetite for fresh air, adventure and mountains, or if you’re more at home enjoying a delicious meal, fine wine and a roaring log fire to cap it all.
From early June every year, the area transforms into a winter paradise, attracting snow sports enthusiasts from around the world with its incredible scenery, crisp blue-sky days and easy access to some of New Zealand’s finest skiing.
The ski fields open until October and the buzz is palpable in town when the first snow falls as skiers and snowboarders head to the mountains in search of fresh tracks and fun.
Six ski fields with varying terrain to suit all abilities, ages and styles are between 25 and 90 minutes’ drive from the town.
For those in search of pristine powder, back country heli-skiing is a fantastic option with many local operators happy to take you to the best spots in the Southern Alps.
Winter officially kicked off with the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest winter party, Queenstown Winter Festival (June 22-July 1), a tradition that’s lasted nearly 40 years.
But entertainment continues throughout the season with various events being staged at the ski fields as well as in town.
Highlights include the Winter Games Adventure Film Festival, Free Ski World Cup Half Pipe and Snowboard World Cup Half Pipe (Aug 20-26), Gay Ski Week (Aug 25-Sept 1), Northface Freeski Open of NZ — Slopestyle and Halfpipe (Aug 28-Sept 1 at Snow Park), and the Big Mountain (Sept 3-8 at The Remarkables).
Queenstown delivers the perfect mix of on- and off-snow actions for an unforgettable holiday.
There’s a wide range of year-round high-octane thrills like bungy jumping, jet boating, skydiving, canyon swinging, paragliding and four-wheel-drive adventures to get the adrenaline pumping.
Or if you’re looking to take things at a more leisurely pace, Queenstown is also a great place to relax and recharge. Six golf courses, all within a 25-minute drive from the town centre, offer everything from family-friendly nine-hole courses to immaculately-groomed fairways with rugged mountain backdrops.
Rug up warm and get the blood pumping with a brisk hike or a bike on one of the many trails around the district. Bikes can be hired by the hour or experienced operators offer guided tour options if you’re keen to explore further.
For retail therapy, Queenstown’s shopping precinct is compact and easy to get around. There’s a combination of big brand retail with international labels and locally-run boutiques featuring the best in Kiwi design.
For the ultimate in relaxation, especially after a day on the slopes, a visit to one of several luxury spa resorts is a must-do to revitalise mind, body and soul.
When it comes to eating out, Queenstown may be small but it packs a huge bite! Along with nearby Arrowtown, it’s home to more than 150 cafes, bars and restaurants ranging from celebrity chef to cheap’n’cheerful ones.
Culinary highlights include multi-course degustation dinners, a range of ethnic cuisine, fish and chips on the lakefront, chocolate treats, irresistible home-baked goods and wonderful coffee.
Stylish bars, sophisticated clubs, Kiwi pubs and late night hotspots make Queenstown’s apres ski atmosphere second to none.
It is also well worth taking a day off the slopes for a wine tour to some of the 200 or so vineyards in the district. The guided tours are a perfect way to explore the Central Otago region.
It doesn’t get much better than spending an afternoon soaking up the scenery, drinking award-winning local Pinot Noir and nibbling a gourmet platter of local produce.
Still feeling adventurous? Charming Arrowtown is the perfect choice for those who want to delve more into the area’s gold mining history and explore boutique eateries and retails.
A 45-minute drive west of Queenstown at the end of Lake Wakatipu, the frontier town of Glenorchy has been the backdrop for many films including Lord Of The Rings.