Queenstown, New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places in the world. If you haven’t been there yet, you need to add it to your bucket list now!
A friend and I visited New Zealand during February, so my tips below are primarily focused on the warmer months in New Zealand. However, you can go on many of the same experiences in the winter months, too.
Keep reading for the best things to see and do (and eat!) in and around Queenstown, New Zealand.
- 15 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting New Zealand
- 7 Reasons You Need to Visit the Skyline in Queenstown, New Zealand
- 5 Tips to Plan the Ultimate Trip to Milford Sound, NZ
1. Explore the Skyline on Bob’s Peak
Have you seen those amazing, bird’s eye pictures of Queenstown? Many of them are taken from the Skyline viewing deck on Bob’s Peak.
But taking pictures isn’t the only thing you can do at the Skyline. At the Skyline, you can:
- Ride the gondola
- Eat at the amazing restaurant
- Embrace your Olympic dreams on the luge
- Watch a Haka dance
- Mountain bike or hike
- Take in the beautiful sunset above Queenstown
- Stargaze in the pristine, clear skies
2. Take a jet boat ride
If you do nothing else on your trip to Queenstown, you need to take a jet boat ride. We took a jet boat ride up the Dart River and then canoed back downstream.
This is was my favorite experience of the trip. This is where you really get to take in the majesty of New Zealand while also embracing the New Zealand love for adventure.
Some things to keep in mind for this excursion:
- Wear a bathing suit underneath your clothes. Depending on which boat ride you take, you may be asked to put on a wetsuit. A wetsuit won’t fit over your regular clothes, so you just want to be prepared if you have to remove some layers if asked to put on a wetsuit.
- Plan on getting wet. Even if you’re not asked to put on a wetsuit, you’ll likely get some spray from the water during the ride.
- Bring something to cover your ears (hat, headband, earmuffs, etc.). Even in the summer months, the wind will feel chilly on the jet boat. Something to keep your ears warm will make the experience more enjoyable.
- Wear insect repellent. Sand flies seem to be everywhere along the river. They might buzz annoyingly, but they’re less likely to bite if you wear insect repellent.
- Apply sunscreen. Since it can be cool along the river, it’s easy to forget to apply sunscreen and end up with a bad burn.
There are several different jet boat experiences:
- We went on the Dart River jet boat and canoe trip. We went with this trip because it combined the jet boat with canoeing, so we got a chance to experience more of the spectacular scenery. It did not disappoint. This was my favorite excursions of our trip.
- The Shotover Jet is one of the most popular jet boat experiences in Queenstown. You’ll see advertisements for this big red boat all over Queenstown.
- Skippers Canyon is another popular jet boat ride. We heard positive reviews about this one from fellow travelers during our trip.
3. Plan a day trip to Milford Sound
Milford Sound is a beautiful fjord on the South Island’s west coast. At Milford Sound, take a scenic cruise to see waterfalls, seals, pristine water, and soaring mountains. Read this post for everything you need to know to plan a great day trip to Milford Sound.
4. Join a Lord of the Rings tour
I was skeptical about going on this Lord of the Rings tour. Although I love Lord of the Rings, I thought the tour might be a little too cheesy for my tastes.
Boy, was I wrong – it was just cheesy enough for me!! (As you can see in my picture below.)
If you’ve watched the Lord of the Rings or Hobbit movies, you know they have some fantastic scenery. And all that scenery can be found in New Zealand.
On a Lord of the Rings or Hobbit movie tour, a guide will take you to places where scenes were filmed for the movies. Don’t worry – you don’t have to remember the movies. The guide will have pictures from the movie to point out landmarks that were in the films. One of the most interesting parts of the tour was learning how directors used different camera angles and perspectives to transform the landscape into a magical movie scene. I highly recommend this Lord of the Rings tour!
5. Go on a wine tour
The Central Otago wine country around Queenstown is known for their amazing pinot noir. Many of the vineyards are small, locally-owned vineyards that only make a limited number of barrels per year. That means that you’ll have an opportunity to taste wines here that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
In addition to their pinot noir, we absolutely loved the rosé we tasted at the vineyards. It was a lighter version than the rosé we’ve tasted in other areas of the world. And you have got to try it!
6. Test your limits with adventure activities
If you like adventurous activities, then New Zealand has plenty to offer you!
- Bungee jumping (or bungy, as they spell it in New Zealand): Several friends who visited New Zealand said this was the highlight of their trip. My artificial hip and I will be staying far, far away from those cords, but it looks like an amazing experience for those of you who don’t have a bionic joint!
- Skydiving: The landscape is so amazing around Queenstown that you want to find every opportunity to explore it – including skydiving! As of yet, I’m too chicken to try this out, but if I ever did try skydiving, it’d be in New Zealand.
- Paragliding: We saw a number of paragliders during our trip to Queenstown. It looked like such an amazing way to see the scenery. When I go back to Queenstown, I’m signing up to do this.
- Mountain bike: Add a little exercise to your trip (with the option for an electric assist) and bike around Lake Wakatipu. Or if you’re even more adventurous, you can hook your bike up to the gondola for the trip up to Bob’s Peak and then ride your bike down the mountain.
7. Eat ALL the burgers
Queenstown is known for its exceptional burgers.
The most well-known burger place in Queenstown is Fergburger. You’ll easily spot it by the long line out the door most hours of the day.
They have huge burgers with delicious, fresh toppings and a little something called tomato relish that will change your life. Seriously. Get the tomato relish.
If you’re not a burger person, I can attest to their delicious chicken sandwiches and egg sandwiches. I can attest to that because I ate at Fergburger 3 times in 7 days. Yes, it was gluttonous. No, I don’t have any regrets.
TIP: If you don’t like standing in line, you can call ahead and pick up your order at Fergburger.
Locals will also direct you to Devil Burger for some delicious eats. Give both Devil Burger and Fergburger a try to see which burger place reigns supreme in your opinion.
8. Eat ALL the sweets
There’s a dessert place in Queenstown called Cookie Time. You need to stop there. And you need to try as much as you possibly can. But if nothing else, you need to try a cookies & cream shot. It’s even more delicious than it sounds.
Gelato is another Queenstown must-have. I’m partial to the mint chocolate chip at Mrs. Ferg’s (one of the companion stores to Fergburger).
BONUS: Visit Lake Wanaka
Looking to see more of the area outside of Queenstown? Head to Lake Wanaka, where you’ll see the famed tree in the lake (see my token tourist shot below). Locals told us that Lake Wanaka is where they like to vacation, away from the more touristy Queenstown. Check it out for great hiking and relaxation on the lake’s shores.
Want to learn more about New Zealand? Read more here to find out what you need to know before visiting New Zealand.