Activities & Tours
Queenstown activities are prolific. This isn’t a holiday destination where it only needs to be about the skiing. Winter is the “quiet” season for Queenstown
, which gives you a bit of an idea about the number of Queenstown attractions for tourists. The tourist trade caters to the thrill seeking adventurer as well as those wanting to take it down to a slower pace.
If you want to do various Queenstown activities, check out Queenstown Combos
to get better value and to make the most of your time.
Queenstown Heli Skiing
There are a few heli skiing companies that operate out of Queenstown. One example is Harris Mountains Heli-ski who has the benefit of being able to access a wide range of terrain. If the snow conditions are not ideal around Queenstown they can utilise a staging area near Wanaka, a little further north. Other great Queenstown heli ski operators include Southern Lakes Heliski and Alpine Heliski.
You can check out our reviews of the Queenstown heli skiing companies:
Of if you want to take it a bit higher, you can go heli skiing in the Mt Cook region. Both Mt Cook Heliski
(formerly Wilderness Heliski) and Harris Mountains Heliski
offer Mount Cook heli skiing packages that include scenic flights between Queenstown and Mt Cook. This is the ultimate!
Jet Boating Queenstown
New Zealand and Queenstown are renowned for jet boating, and the Shotover Jet
is the most famous. They have access to a great waterway to provide thrills as they weave down narrow canyons in incredibly shallow water. It isn’t cheap to go jet boating but it’s an essential Queenstown experience. See our overview of the Shotover Jet
for more information or to make a booking.
Kawarau Jet is another well established jet boating company. The one hour trips head across Lake Wakatipu into the Kawarau River and into the Shotover River. Conveniently these jet boat rides leave from the main town wharf.
Another Queenstown jet boating operation is the Skippers Canyon Jet, a delightfully boutique operation. For the same price as the Shotover Jet you not only get the jet boat ride, but also a guided trip to Skippers Canyon. The drive along the gnarly road perched above cliffs is a large part of the adventure, and the guide/driver provides a humorous slant on the history of the hardships of the old gold miners that worked in Skippers Canyon. The jet boating itself is fantastic because there’s less water in the Upper Shotover River (compared with where the Shotover Jet operates) so it adds to the thrills of skooting over the shallow water between the tight canyon walls.
Bungy Jumping Queenstown
Bungy jumping is another must-do when in Queenstown. The town was put on the tourist map when AJ Hackett introduced the first commercial bungy jump in the world. The original bungy is the Kawarau Bridge jump, but AJ Hackett also has bungy jumping at the top of the Skyline gondola, or the Nevis Highwire if you’re very very brave. Like other activities, bungy jumping will eat into your budget, but you have to do it. You wouldn’t want to tell people you visited Queenstown and didn’t go bungy jumping. OK I confess – I was too much of a chicken to do it!
Other Queenstown Activities - Adventure
Another way to take in the sights of the Queenstown area and get some exercise at the same time is with Fat Tyre Adventures, a mountain biking tour operator. They offer single day and multi-day tours as well as heli-biking!
A rest day from skiing could also be spent whitewater rafting
, hang gliding, sky diving
, para-panting, or riding a cart at the luge at the top of the Skyline gondola
Experience the thrill of Queenstown's most famous jet boat ride. Travel through tight canyons at warp speed and hang on for your life as the boat spins 360 degrees. This is a "must do" if you are in Queenstown.
Experience the thrill of skydiving in New Zealand with a tandem parachute jump 15,000ft above Queenstown. No prior skydive training needed, just a sense of adventure. Click on the link for rates & bookings.
||Skydive Paradise Glenorchy
Discover your own natural high while jumping from a plane 15,000ft above New Zealand's most stunning alpine scenery! Complimentary transport to/from Queenstown to Glenorchy.
||Elevation Paragliding Queenstown
Treat yourself to an incredible paragliding experience, enjoying breathtaking views, taking off from Coronet Peak, the highest take off in Queenstown! Ages 8 - 88. Pick up from QT.
Exciting half day white water rafting trips on the Shotover and Kawarau Rivers, including Heli-Rafting options. Experience the ultimate Queenstown adventure!
Home of whitewater rafting & adventure combo packages. Raft the mighty Shotover & Kawarau Rivers, or try our wilderness trips on the Landsborough River. The original adventure- since 1974.
||Goldfields Jet - Kawarau River
A spectacular ride on the mighty Kawarau River through the heart of one of New Zealand’s most historic gold mining regions. Join us on an unforgettable 40-minute ride.
Do it all! Save time and money on a range of adventure activities. Options include jet boating, rafting, helicopter flights, skydiving, bungy, canyon swing, mountain biking, gondola and luge.
A slightly less adventurous activity would be a tour to Milford Sound. This is an absolute must-do when in Queenstown! Head out there with Mitre Peak Cruises. It’s an early start to the day but the bus trip around to Milford Sound is a relaxing one, and includes a couple of very scenic stop offs. A two hour boat cruise then heads through the absolutely spectacular Milford Sound out to the entrance of the Tasman Sea. See wildlife, waterfalls, and the dramatic cliffs that jut straight out of the water. See our Mitre Peak Cruises overview for more information.
With Mitre Peak Cruises there’s also the option of a scenic fixed wing plane flight from Milford Sound back to Queenstown, although “scenic” would be an understatement. The views of the sound, the mountains, and the turquoise waters of Lake Wakatipu are jaw droppingly gorgeous. The flight will rock your world!
Milford Sound Scenic Flights offer flight and boat cruise combinations for Milford Sound - the ultimate combo!
||Mitre Peak Cruises
Mitre Peak Cruises leads the way in small, scenic, uncrowded cruises of spectacular Milford Sound. Luxury coach departures from Queenstown and Te Anau, and Flyback options are available.
||Milford Sound Scenic Flights
Take one of the most magnificent flights in the world, from Queenstown over the Southern Alps and into the majestic Milford Sound. Fly, Cruise, Coach, Helicopter and Charter options available.
Sightseeing & Leisure If you want a rest from physical activities there are options such as Lord of the Rings tours, or a visit to the Skyline gondola which provides panoramic views of the Queenstown area. This seems to be a classic tourist activity, and is often associated with having a buffet lunch or dinner at the Skyline restaurant. Obviously for people who ski a lot, riding in a gondola isn’t that much of a thrill!
An iconic Queenstown activity is a tour on the historic Earnslaw steamboat. They offer lunch and dinner tours to Walter Peak Estate, a picturesque sheep farm. The tour includes a hilarious sheep shearing and sheep rounding up demonstration, and is ideal for those seeking a more relaxed Queenstown activity.
Tours of Skippers Canyon are also very enjoyable and Queenstown also has lots of golf courses.
||Heliworks Queenstown Helicopters
Exciting helicopter tours to Milford Sound, Fiordland & Mt Cook. Exclusive landing rights in spectacular locations - luxury lodge transfers, Lord of the Rings flights, guided heli-hikes & skiing, heli-weddings....
||The Helicopter Line
Take a breathtaking scenic flight and discover New Zealand’s National Parks, glaciers, mountains and lakes from above. Fly from Queenstown, Mount Cook, Twizel, Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier.
||Sunrise Balloon Adventures
View Queenstown in all of its glory from the air. New friends, breathtaking lake & mountain views topped off with a champagne breakfast. And still time to get a day of skiing in!
Glacier Helicopters operate a range of scenic helicopter flights at the West Coast glaciers. Spectacular scenery and glacier landings from Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier.
||Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopter Tours
Awesome scenic helicopter flights of mountains and lakes in and around Queenstown, Milford Sound & Fiordland National Park with glacier and snow landings. Hunting, fishing, heli-skiing & heli-hiking
Queenstown Wine Tours
The Central Otago region has many wineries which are easily accessed from Queenstown. This includes the wineries around Gibbston (25km from Queenstown), Cromwell and Bannockburn. The wines are cold-climate, but even within such a small area there are various micro-climates producing different styles of wine. Many of the wines are at boutique prices as the wine yields are fairly low, although one exception is the Mt Rosa winery which is very affordable.
If you don’t want to self-drive there are various companies offering a variety of winery tours. Appellation Central Wine Tours offer half day or full day wine tours. Queenstown Wine Trail offer a range of winery tours including a trip that incorporates helicopter flights.
Gibbston Valley Wines is one example of a local winery which is located just down the road from the AJ Hackett bungy jump at Kawarau Bridge. The setting is not particularly picturesque by Queenstown standards, but pleasant nonetheless. The main varietal on offer is the award winning Pinot Noir. Unfortunately their other wines such as Pinot Gris and Riesling aren’t worth writing home about. Informative tours are available of their underground cave cellar. The winery is open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week, but it’s pretty popular in all seasons, so book ahead if you can.
The adjacent cheesery has cheese tasting and cheese sales. In true Kiwi style they mainly sell sheep cheese, and those that complement the Pinor Noir wine. The Balfour pecorino is a highlight. The cheesery also sells picnic packs that include gourmet breads with cheese, chorizo and chutney.
If you don’t have the time to go on a winery tour, another way to sample some of NZ’s best wines is to head to Wine Tastes (14 Beach St, Queenstown) where you can taste over 80 New Zealand wines – that should keep you busy!
||Appellation Wine Tours
Need a break from skiing? Take one of Appelation's wine & food tours for a relaxing day out. Experience some of Central Otago's great wines & local produce. Tours leave from Queenstown daily.
||Queenstown Wine Trail
Queenstown's original wine tour, daily small group tours with wine & cheese tastings and superb scenery. And private Bannockburn tours exploring selected Central Otago wineries
Or if you’re more of a beer lover, have fun tasting the various beers at the Arrowtown Brewing Company. The historic town of Arrowtown is 20km from Queenstown. Head there for a half day or drop in for après. In Arrowtown you could visit the museum, go to the historic Chinese settlement, or just stroll around the shops and cafes of this pleasantly peaceful town. Or you could just hang out at the Arrowtown Brewing Company!
QueenstownFor complete rest and relaxation, there are various day spas and massage services around Queenstown. How delightful to relieve tired muscles from skiing, or just have a change of pace from the extreme adventure activities.
A great après activity on the way back from Coronet Peak is to stop at the Onsen Hot Pools on Arthur’s Point Road opposite the Coronet Alpine Hotel. The hot pools can be booked for 1 hour minimum. Half of the roof and the front wall slides back to reveal great views of the Shotover River and mountains, so even though the hot tubs are partially outside, they are very private. If you don’t have your own wheels, they have a courtesy bus to provide transport from Queenstown.
||The Mobile Massage Company
Relax & unwind with a professions mobile massage; no need to leave your hotel room, they come to you. Sports, relaxation or therapeutic or a combo of the three.
Inexpensive Queenstown Activities
Lots of Queenstown activities cost a lot, so if the piggy bank is feeling a little light, here are a few ideas. Queenstown has two mini golf places on the road up to the gondola, or you could try the Skyline luge, or ice skating at the rink near the botanical gardens. For other kids activities, check out kidzgo.
There are a myriad of hikes
around Queenstown with maps available from information centres and hotels. Examples include the Sunshine Bay track alongside the lake (1 hour return – hard), or the Queenstown Hill (2 hours return – v. hard). Or from Arrowtown you can walk to see the historic Chinese settlement huts (30 minutes to one hour – easy).
Many of the trails are also suitable for biking
. One example is the lakeside trail from Queenstown around to Frankton and then to Kelvin Heights and the golf course. The trip can be one-way if you catch the water taxi back from the Hilton Hotel or the golf course. You can hire bikes from Outside Sports (up near the gondola) or the outlet on the corner of Marine Parade and Church Street.
Glenorchy is a small town 46km northwest of Queenstown (a 40 minute drive). The drive to Glenorchy is very picturesque because the road meanders alongside Lake Wakatipu, and the Bennett’s Bluff lookout (about 25km from Queenstown) is really beautiful with views across the lake to Mt Earnslaw and other mountains.
Some tour companies head to Glenorchy (e.g. Nomad Safaris) but if you’ve got a car you can do your own exploring.
There are various walking (tramping) trails around the Glenorchy area. You can get a map from the information centre at the Glenorchy Hotel. One example is a 30 minute lagoon walk for nice views of the mountains. Another option is to drive to the Routeburn Track in the Aspiring National Park which takes about 30 minutes. The Routeburn
(which is famed for the debate about the tunnel through to Milford Sound) has a well developed track of varying degrees of difficulty. Do a hike from 30 minutes to 3 days.