Queenstown made its global debut on the big screen back in 2001 when it was famously used as a backdrop for the Lord of the Rings movies and since then has become a sought after destination for thrill seekers, foodies, wine connoisseurs and nature lovers alike. Queenstown’s small town vibe but big city offerings is what makes it an ideal location for a weekend getaway or month long adventure – simply read on to discover my guide to Queenstown.
Getting in and getting about Queenstown
You’re not going to want to miss the views as you fly over the Southern Alps so if you can fly during daytime and nab yourself a window seat, you won’t be disappointed with the dramatic landscapes below.
As for getting around once you’ve hit the ground, the best way to see the South Island is undoubtedly by car and you’ll have plenty of options right at the doorstep of the airport to hire something to suit any kind of adventure.
Accomodation in Queenstown
A short five-minute drive from Queenstown airport, The Sherwood is a newly renovated manor that sits just outside of town perched on the hillside, offering views of the Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu. Its cosy rooms give that 1970’s alpine lodge vibe, and are fitted out with locally-made wall art and New Zealand woven woollen blankets, so it’s hard to not feel right at home. Plush beds and a well-stocked mini bar with the very best Kiwi snacks are ideal additions to year round getaways, especially after a day up the slopes.
Following the ‘Be Here Now’ lifestyle which encourages connecting with nature and a moment in time, the Sherwood has done the perfect job of creating a space that makes you want settle in and soak up those mountain views.
Downstairs at the restaurant and bar, you can enjoy a hobbit-style breakfast buffet with homemade spreads and locally-sourced ingredients, many of which are grown on the property’s gardens which you’re welcome to take a wander through. And during ski season, what’s a day on the mountain without an après-ski? Serving up homemade mulled wine by a roaring fire is what the Sherwood does best, and make sure to stick around for dinner because with dishes like chestnut & kiwi quinoa risotto and green lipped mussels, you are in for a real feast.
There’s always something going on here throughout the year so if the ping pong table, yoga studio and sauna don’t take your fancy, there’s bound to be a local gig or farmers market happening. The only thing left to say is be here now.View hotel
Explore more accommodation options in Queenstown with hotels with lake views.
Adventure activities in Queenstown
They say Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand and they’re not wrong.
Head up the mountains by foot, taking in the views from Queenstown Hill, a moderate 3-hour return climb or clock up some serious steps with a trip up Ben Lomond which is a demanding 6-8 hour return trip which boasts magnificent views of the lakes below and surrounding mountains, especially if you’re game enough to summit for sunrise.
If you’re heading for the slopes, there are two main ski resorts close to town – The Remarkables and Coronet Peak, as well as Cardrona and Treble Cone located nearby to Wanaka.
For those wanting to splurge, see the mountains in style by jumping in a scenic helicopter flight with The Helicopter Line who will take you up to The Remarkables with a snow landing where you’ll get to hop out and set foot in the fresh powder. You’re forgiven for feeling like your head’s in the clouds up here as you take in the awe-inspiring landscapes.
Relax in Queenstown
The region isn’t just great for adventure but if you’re into the art of relaxing and looking to enjoy the views at ground level, Queenstown’s got you covered.
The region is known for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and there are plenty of wineries spotted around just outside of town where you’ll be spoilt for choice. There’s nothing quite like an Amisfield Winery Pinot Noir paired with a Lindis Pass Brie from Whitestone cheeses all whilst taking in the rolling hills around you. At Amisfield, they believe in not just living on the land, but living from it. Enjoy a meal here and you’ll first hand experience the meaning of farm to table with a menu that celebrates the region and delivers local and seasonal flavours.
Start your morning right at Bespoke Kitchen, named one of the best cafes in the country who offer a healthy & fresh menu. Their breakfast tasting platter leaves no room for indecisive morning choices especially if you can’t decide between sweet and savoury and their raw vegan slices never fail to go down a treat with a hot brew. The lines which often flood out their doors are a sure sign that they’re doing something right.
For a real taste of New Zealand, Little Blackwood bar on the waterfront has an impressive wine & cocktail list as well as a toasty fireplace. And with a menu inspired by their travels, Yonder Cafe does a fantastic breakfast, dinner and everything between.
You can quite literally soak up the views with a glass of bubbly and Kapiti ice cream in hand in your private hot tub at Onsen Hot Pools, which is especially spectacular during winter. With valley views of the lower Kawarau River, you can watch thrill seekers from afar on the Shotover jet that spins through the river at 95 kilometres an hour just below. Located just outside the bustle of town, they also offer massage therapy for those feeling like a real dose of relaxation.
Surrounding Queenstown you’ll find the quaint village of Arrowtown, a charming and quirky historic gold mining town. After a wander through the shops, pop into Slow Cuts for one of their juicy burgers and a pint or The Chop Shop who are known for their drool-worthy menu including dishes like crisp duck salad with chimichurri and ricotta hotcakes with roasted quince and vanilla mascarpone.
The end of the road town of Glenorchy is a short 45 minute drive from Queenstown and known to be one of the most stunning scenic drives in New Zealand. It’s the journey that counts and here you’ll find wild rivers and soaring mountain landscapes. If you fancy seeing the area by horseback, Dart Stables will have you experiencing the most picturesque horse trek in the country.
What’s often referred to as Queenstown’s little sister, the town of Wanaka is just over an hour’s drive away, which is best reached via the Crown Ranges route, a 60 kilometre drive that calls for multiple pit stops to take it all in. Once you reach the town of Wanaka, be sure to grab a coffee from Federal Diner and park up down by the lake to soak up the views.
If you’re feeling up to the challenge, the Roy’s Peak hike is a 6-hour return trip that boasts jaw-dropping views of Wanaka below. It’s steep and a real workout but well worth every step.
When the evening falls, you can’t go wrong with the family-run White House bar in town where you can cosy up by the fire in winter or enjoy their outdoor courtyard in the summertime.
About the Author
Sophie is a freelance travel content curator from Auckland, New Zealand. She lives for adventure, experiencing destinations off-the-beaten path. Find out more on her blog, sophoclesblog.com.