This town loves nothing more than welcoming visitors year-round, but figuring out exactly what to see in Queenstown can be a rather daunting prospect. From its historical sites to its beautiful mountain surrounds, there’s so much on offer that you may wonder how you’ll possibly fit it all into your holiday!
Your sightseeing priorities will depend largely on your personal interests, but there are some key sites you really shouldn’t skip. A ride on the Skyline Gondola, for example, is a must, and you should save at least half a day for Lake Wakatipu (you can admire it from both above and below, after all!).
After a graceful 450m climb to the top, you’ll be treated to some of the best views Queenstown has to offer. New Zealand’s unique scenery is on full display here, and there’s a bunch to do once you’ve filled your photo quota. Enjoy a drink at the panoramic restaurant bar, watch a traditional Maori performance, or take the fast track back down the mountain with a Skyline Luge ride.
Milford Sound is a gorgeous fjord that’s perfect for kayaking and seeing the breathtaking scenery up close. There are also plenty of local attractions that will give you a better idea of the scope and majesty of the area. Wildlife lovers will be particularly content spending hours here, as Milford Sound is home to colonies of fur seals, dolphins and penguins.
One of Queenstown’s most popular attractions, the Underwater Observatory on Lake Wakatipu’s edge offers unfettered views of the life that teems on and beneath the lake’s surface. From eels to truly gigantic trout to recklessly diving ducks, you’ll be surprised what you’ll find waiting to say hello from within Wakatipu’s depths.
South of Queenstown lies Lake Wakatipu. This is one of New Zealand’s largest and deepest lakes (its floor actually lies below sea level despite its position in the mountains). Home to many different local animals, the area has also doubled for Scotland’s Loch Ness on the silver screen and was featured in The Lord of the Rings films. It’s bordered by the spectacular mountain range called The Remarkables.
The Remarkables are a mountain range and major ski field that border Lake Wakatipu. If you love skiing or snowboarding, you’ve chosen the right destination – the slopes here are some of the best anywhere in New Zealand, and they are breathtaking at sunset. In fact, many locals believe the mountains got their name based on the stunning sight they present as night starts to fall. If snow sports aren’t for you, these ranges can also be enjoyed on various walking trails, or even from the air in breathtaking scenic helicopter ride.
The only lake in New Zealand with an unmodified shoreline, Lake Wanaka is another pristine body of water among the Otago Mountains. This is also a gateway to the Mount Aspiring National Park and its many scenic hiking trails. For those looking to get back to nature, Lake Wanaka provides an excellent and life-affirming day trip.
Northeast of Queenstown lies Arrowtown, a Gold Rush-era mining town that’s home to the world-renowned Lakes District Museum. The Gold Rush period in New Zealand was a very unique time and Arrowtown chronicles those years in great detail. This is the perfect place to spend an afternoon immersed in history while surrounded by breathtaking nature.
If you can’t see yourself hiking through the nearby mountains, perhaps you’ll settle for a stroll through Queenstown Gardens. Located on Lake Wakatipu’s northern edge, the gardens are home to beautiful plant life native to New Zealand and from around the world. The gardens are open year-round to visitors, and there are even tennis courts available if you fancy a hit.
Kiwi Birdlife Park is an animal sanctuary specialising in conservation and education. This popular Queenstown attraction hosts regular interactive shows featuring one New Zealand’s most well-known feathered friends, the Kiwi. If you’d like to get up close and personal with indigenous New Zealand animals, this is your best opportunity to do so.