Queenstown (New Zealand)
Situated on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand's third-largest lake (291 km 2 or 112 sq mi) and one of Otago and New Zealand's most scenic lakes, surrounded by mountains, it's not hard to see why its stunning scenery draws people here year round. Queenstown happily caters for all visitors with a full range of attractions, activities, accommodation and eating options for any budget, from backpackers to five-star luxury. This popularity is not without its problems though - in many respects, Queenstown can be a tourist trap. However, reasonable prices and a few bargains can be found for those prepared to look for them.
Queenstown is a bustling town throughout the year, peaking over summer and during the ski season. There is a vibrant nightlife with the town's small central area packed with bars and restaurants. If you plan on getting a good nights sleep, then you might consider staying slightly out of town. It's common to see people on the streets up to 5AM returning from disco or pub. If you're looking for a relaxing scenic holiday, Wanaka (just over an hours' drive away) is smaller and more tranquil with less of a manic teenage party atmosphere.
Queenstown has a temperate climate with four distinct seasons, mild summers, cool winters, and rainfall evenly distributed throughout the year.
Local newspapersThe Mirror. The first of two free community newspapers to hit the streets (on Wednesday morning), The Mirror is a great source for catching up on all things that are happening in the entire Queenstown-Lakes area. In addition to the news articles, there is a weekly restaurant review and profile of a band or DJ that will be headlining at one of Queenstown's many nightspots that week.
Lakes Weekly Bulletin is an additional source of second-hand items for sale, community noticeboard, employment vacancies, film/gig guide, flatmates and rentals.
phone: +64 3 442 4100address: 42 Camp St, Queenstown CentralVisitor information and brochures.
Queenstown AirportThe country's 4th busiest airport by passenger numbers. It is served by Air New Zealand, Jetstar, Qantas and Virgin Australia. There are direct flights from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Gold Coast in Australia, and from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch in New Zealand. The frequency of flights varies seasonally, with the biggest number during the winter ski season. Typically, flying to Queenstown is more expensive than to other South Island destinations from Australia.
Queenstown Airport is known for its spectacular approach, the snow-covered mountains of the Southern Alps surround it on four sides and there is a complicated path to the runway. Low cloud and cold weather can close the runway, especially in winter, resulting in cancelled flights; however new precision approach equipment has considerably reduced this.
Queenstown Airport also provides for private jets and other aircraft, and there is a huge number of helicopter take-offs and landings each day. Scenic flights and heli-skiing are a popular attraction for the region.
From the airport, the cheapest way into town is on the Orbus service 1, which runs every 15 minutes and this costs $10 (cash) or $2 GoCard one way - pay the driver when boarding (2018 prices). Alternatively, catch the bus from the McBride St station on Kawarau Rd (10 minute walk from the airport) and the cash fare is $5 into town. Taxis into town cost about $35-45 while Supershuttle shared vans will take you straight to your accommodation for $26 for one or two people (Mar 2019).
By busDaily services from Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill, Te Anau, Wanaka and the West Coast (Fox Glacier, Franz Josef and Greymouth) .
National bus operator InterCity Coachlines and Newmans Coach Lines provide daily services in and out of Queenstown with connections throughout the South Island. Fares start from just $1 and can be purchased on-line or via numerous local ticketing agents including the i-SITE information network. Services arrive and depart from the Athol Street car park located in the main retail shopping area.
National sightseeing tour operator GreatSights New Zealand has daily tour options to Queenstown from Christchurch via Mt Cook and operates daily services to the West Coast including (Fox Glacier Franz Josef and Greymouth).
There are also a number of smaller shuttle operators who connect to and from Queenstown including Tracknet. Ritchies have several return trips to Wanaka a day.
Many international tour companies carry holidaymakers into Queenstown by coach.
By carQueenstown is 6.5 hours non-stop from Christchurch via the Mackenzie Country and the Lindis Pass, so allow a full day driving. The drive is spectacular, through the diverse countryside of New Zealand's South Island, with vast plains, rolling hills, multicoloured lakes and mountain passes. The Lindis Pass does occasionally close in winter due to snow; a slightly less scenic detour via Oamaru and Alexandra will add 2–4 hours to your journey.
Major international and all national rental car and camper van companies have offices in Queenstown.
By trainThere is no rail line into Queenstown. There used to be a rail line from Invercargill to Kingston at the southern tip of Lake Wakatipu, but the line closed after a major washout in 1980, well before Queenstown's tourist boom.
The Taieri Gorge Railway scenic tourist train seasonally operates to Pukerangi and Middlemarch, with a coach connection for the remaining distance to Queenstown.
The Queenstown town centre itself is small enough to walk around. Parking is at a premium and can be hard to find during the day. For further distances a bus or car is necessary.
There are a number of tour operators to be found in the CBD of Queenstown. Transport from Queenstown's CBD to adventure activities is often part of the tour package. Some operators may pick up from your tourist accommodation.
By boatA number of boat tours depart from the Queenstown Wharf at the bottom of the Mall - including the historic steamship TSS Earnslaw, affectionately known as the "Lady of the Lake".
There is also a water taxi service.
By busQueenstown has a small local bus service operated by Orbus . There are four routes - the most useful for tourists being services 1 which run every 15 minutes to the airport and the Remarkables Park shopping centre. Fares are reasonable if you pay cash: $5 for most trips and $10 to the airport. If you are using a few buses, then get a GoCard for $5 and top it up with $10 to get $2 fares on all buses. The bus network has two hubs, at Camp Street outside the O'Connell shopping mall in central Queenstown, and on Kawerau Road at the Frankton shopping centre (junction of Highway 6 and 6A) near the airport.
By carRenting or buying a vehicle is convenient for getting around town, and to nearby areas. Many budget and premium car rentals provide services in Queenstown.
After that though, there are not a lot of things to 'See'. Its in the 'Do' category below where Queenstown really excels. Nevertheless, there are a few sights around the town to check out:
Skyline GondolaOne of the best views is from the top of Bob's Peak reached by the Skyline Gondola. Breathtaking views of Coronet Peak, the Remarkables mountain range and across Lake Wakatipu to Cecil and Walter Peaks. It's truly magnificent and awe-inspiring! If you're fit, you can save money by hiking up the Tiki Trail, a very steep 1-2 hr hike from town.
Queenstown GardensJutting out into Lake Wakatipu, these botanical gardens contain a variety of exotic and native trees and plants as well as a large pond and a range of facilities.
address: Upper Brecon StWildlife attraction featuring native New Zealand birds
address: Corner of Stanley and Ballarat StreetsContemporary art exhibitions and artists studios. Has some paintings for sale.
address: 39 Camp StCommercial art gallery selling the very large oil paintings by local artist, Ivan Clarke. As the prices start around $5,000, most visitors come away empty handed. The paintings are a mixture of local landscapes and a quirky set of dogs dressed as humans (The Lonely Dog).
Queenstown also has a full range of more gentle attractions, including relaxing tours, and luxury spas.
SkiingSkiing & snowboarding - There are four large commercial ski fields, and two specialist fields easily accessible from Queenstown. There are also a number of heli-skiing providers.
- Coronet Peak - The closest to Queenstown, about 15 min from the Centre of town via a sealed access road (all other ski fields have unsealed/gravel access roads), features a full range of slopes.
- Remarkables - Nestled in the Remarkable Mountain range which towers above the airport. Slightly smaller than Coronet, but still easily accessible from town. New lifts/runs and an access road upgrade for 2014.
- Cardrona - In the crown range, approximately 60 min (58 km) from Queenstown along the windy Crown Range Road. It features mostly mid-level terrain and a large terrain park.
- Indoor Snow Park - In the crown range across the other side of the valley from Cardrona, the Snow Park is a snowboard-orientated world-class Terrain park.
- Snow Farm - Next to Snow Park, this is a specialist cross-country ski area.
- Treble Cone - The furthest field from Queenstown, about an hour and a half away. Usually visited by people based in Wanaka, Treble Cone is seen as more of a skiers field and generally features more advanced terrain.
Adventure tourismThere are dozens of attractions and providers. The information centre in town acts as a booking centre and is a great place to start inquiries. Most businesses will have a store in the CBD where they can arrange things for you. Hostels and hotels generally have a stack of pamphlets showing what is on offer, and staff are generally happy to help with recommendations and bookings. All providers generally provide transfers from Queenstown.
- Bungy jumping. Queenstown is home to the world's first commercial bungy jump, established on the Kawarau Bridge in November 1988 and still operating today.
phone: +64 3 450 1300address: Gibbston Hwy (SH 6), Gibbston ValleyThe 43-metre (141 ft) bungy jump off the Kawarau Suspension Bridge is the world's oldest commercial bungy jump, and the only bungy jump in Queenstown offering tandem jumps.
phone: +64 3 450 1300address: Brecon St47-m drop. Bungy or swing.
phone: +64 3 450 1300New Zealand's highest bungy at 134 m. The bungy is 45 min east of Queenstown; shuttles depart are from the AJ Hackett office on the corner of Shotover St and Camp St in central Queenstown.
Nevis CatapultDescribed as "bungy jumping on steroids". Opened in August 2018.
- Jet boats. Exciting jetboat rides have been operating near Queenstown for 50 years. The jet boats carry passengers at high speeds over shallow waters performing stunts like 360-degree pirouettes in the water.
phone: +64 3 442 8570address: Gorge Road, Arthurs PointThe original Shotover Jet is billed as "The World's Most Exciting Jetboat Ride".
Kawarau Jet launches into Lake Wakatipu from the centre of town.
LugeA fun-filled gravity ride for all ages and abilities. You control your own gravity-propelled vehicle down the track. Choose from two tracks, one scenic and gentle, the other advanced and adventurous. Children must be at least 6 years old and 110 cm (3ft 7in) tall to ride alone; those younger or shorter can ride in tandem with an adult.
phone: +64 3 442-7797address: 37 Shotover StreetAn action-packed and personally challenging white water activity.
Cruise on the TSS EarnslawLake cruises on Lake Wakatipu offer great views of the town, surrounding mountains, etc. The TSS Earnslaw is a popular historic (1911) steamship which offers daily tours. There are also private charter providers.
CyclingHire a bike for the day and use your legs. There is a cycle path which runs around the edge of the lake from the centre of town to the golf course opposite.
Off the RailsGuided cycle tours on the world famous Otago Rail Trail from Sept to May. Departing from Queenstown. Includes bike hire, accommodation, breakfasts and transport.
Horseback ridingThere are some great tours that pick up in Queenstown and take you into the valleys, through rivers, etc. Pamphlets can be collected at any hotel or hostel to explore the dozens of horseback tours
Fishing and flyfishingLake Wakatipu is known for trout. You cannot buy fish from lakes in New Zealand, you have to fish for them yourself. Flyfishing is also available locally.
Queenstown Garden ToursOperate small group garden tours to 3 private residential gardens in and around Queenstown during spring & summer.
Scenic flightsThe helicopter and light aircraft flights around Queenstown and to Milford Sound and Fiordland are rated amongst the best in the world. It is easily possible to fly from Queenstown in the morning, cruise Milford Sound over lunch, before returning to Queenstown in the afternoon, replacing what could otherwise be a long day on the road.
phone: +64 3 442-2207address: Queenstown AirportScenic flights to Milford Sound, Mount Cook and the Glaciers
phone: +64 3 441-4011address: Queenstown AirportExciting scenic flights in & around Queenstown & Milford Sound, Lord of the Rings flights with the pilots who filmed the trilogy.
address: 35 Lucas Place, Queenstown AirportOffers a selection of daily scenic flights over the iconic landscapes of the Wakatipu and Fiordland and Mount Aspiring National Parks. Alpine or snow landings are part of all their flights or you can discover the uniqueness of a glacier landing, included in all their Milford Sound experiences.
Wine tastingThe southernmost vineyards in the world are close by.
Appellation Central Wine ToursAppellation Central's team of specialists guides will host you on a memorable day out in Central Otago wine country. Small group tours depart daily from Queenstown.
Queenstown Wine TrailDaily guided wine tours to renowned Queenstown & Bannockburn wineries
Top quality knitwear, Sheepskin and Possum Fur products, Greenstone (Jade) and bone carvings, and fine New Zealand wine is available for a price.
Outdoor suppliers are plentiful, with equipment for trampers (hikers), mountain bikers, skiers and snowboarders, and many others who use Queenstown as the launching-pad for expeditions into the nearby National Parks.
There are a handful of convenience food stores in the town centre, most open until midnight and beyond. Two large supermarkets are on the outskirts of town.
Most of the stores in Queenstown are open daily until 20:00 or 21:00.
address: Shotover StreetSmall supermarket.
address: 64 Gorge RdMid-sized supermarket
The suburb of Frankton next the airport has the main supermarkets and large chain stores.
address: 30 Grant Rd, FranktonSupermarket
address: 1/12 Hawthorne Dr, Remarkables Park,Supermarket with Harvey Norman electricals next door.
address: 302 Hawthorne Drive, FranktonSupermarket, with a Mitre 10 Mega hardware store next door.
The WarehouseBudget department store.
Due to the large number of restaurants, Queenstown is a culinary hub for New Zealand, and you will find regional produce such as pinot noir wine and Canterbury lamb on display in many of the restaurants. Fine restaurants also serve world-class seafood (local mussels, oysters and deep sea fish such as blue cod), game and red meat (farmed venison and beef).
There are also a number of wineries in the Gibbston Valley (20 minutes drive) with restaurants attached, most of which are open for lunch.
BudgetBudget food is a little harder to come by in Queenstown. There are a few small fish and chip shops, kebab joints, and the usual KFC and McDonald's. Your best bet if your looking to save a few dollars is to hit the supermarket. The other option is to wander around and check out daily specials on the sandwich boards of restaurants.
phone: +64 3 441 1232address: 42 Shotover St, Queenstown CentralLegendary, large burgers, insanely busy most of the day.
Night n' Dayaddress: Church StHot food and groceries, also at 48 Shotover St.
At Thaiphone: +64 3 442-3683address: Church StreetThai cuisine
phone: +64 3 442-8588address: Cow LanePizza & spaghetti house
phone: +64 3 442 6768address: 7 Beach StQueenstown's seafood restauarant, serving South Island fish & shellfish.
phone: +64 3 442 9995address: 14 Brecon Sttex-mex, casual dining
address: 45 Beach StJapanese
Skyline Queenstown RestaurantTaste of New Zealand buffet offers delectable fresh seafood, salads, roast meats and delicious desserts.
phone: +64 3 442-8635address: Upstairs, 7-9 The MallCompetitor for the best pizzas in town, caters for everyone and family friendly (before the drinkers start to come in the evening)
address: 7 Rees Street
phone: +64 3 442-6994address: 17 Marine ParadeA great restaurant with ambience, sensational service. The menu is extensive and specialises in meat. The whole leg of lamb for 2 could feed 3! The wine list is very good. Prices are at the higher end but sensational for a special occasion. Smaller private room dinning opportunities as well as a great bar room for pre-dinner drinks.
- The Bathhouse Fine Restaurant, Esplanade +64 3 442-5625 (fine dining)
- The Bunker, Cow Lane +64 3 441-8030 (fine dining)
- Public Kitchen & Bar Steamer Wharf +64 3 442-5969 (previously Wai Waterfront Seafood Restaurant).
There are cheap bars popular with backpackers and young locals, and sophisticated and expensive wine, cocktail and imported beer bars. Many bars and pubs have sunny outdoor courtyards in the summer months, and roaring open fires in the winter. Major sports events are normally to be found on screen somewhere in Queenstown.
There are two small casinos for adult entertainment.
A selection of some of the most well known places follows:
address: Upstairs, Cnr Searle Lane & Eureka ArcadeA boutique nightlife bar, the upstairs bar has a lounge feel about it, warmed by an open fire with a private deck. It has an extensive cocktail list.
Bunker Baraddress: Cow LaneHard to find boutique bar on Cow Lane, upstairs with open fires and a private deck. It has an extensive cocktail list.
The Findaddress: 53 Shotover StSuccessor to the burnt down World Bar. Another popular backpacker bar. The specialty is cocktail-like drinks served in teapots.
Locoaddress: Shotover St, attached to the base backpackersBig backpacker bar popular with tour bus groups. Drink specials and theme parties nightly. Not the place for a quiet drink.
Red Rocksaddress: 48 Camp StSmaller backpacker bar with a ski lodge feel and a deck outside.
Tardisaddress: Cow LaneLate night drum and base/dance venue.
phone: +64 3 442-8635address: The Mall, 7 Ballarat StLater in the evenings this pizza bar turns into a popular drinking spot. Dining, drinking and partying under the sun and stars with an opening roof.
phone: +64 3 441-3922address: 5-11 Church StVoted the Best Hostel in New Zealand at the Golden Backpack Awards 2010 and at the HOSCARS 2011. Open fire in lounge area, a sauna and ski storage available. SkyTV cinema, TV lounge, modern kitchen, wheelchair friendly, travel services, girls only dorms, high speed Wi-Fi. Free tea and coffee, light breakfast.
phone: +64 3 442 7400address: 48 Shotover StreetOne of two YHAs in town - other is at 88-90 Lake Esplanade.
phone: +64 3 442-7288address: 7 Melbourne StClean, comfortable and affordable rooms with friendly staff.
phone: +64 3 441 0097address: 139 Fernhill Rd, FernhillThe highest-situated hotel in town, overlooking Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables.
phone: +64 3 450-2674address: 93 Beach StCentral, lakeside location featuring lakeview rooms with full views of the Remarkables mountain range and Lake Wakatipu
phone: +64 3 450 1500address: 91 Fernhill Rd, FernhillQualmark 4 star plus hotel with suites and 3 bedroom villas available. Free shuttle to town.
phone: +64 3 442 4811address: 16 Panners WayAs featured in 'National Geographic Traveler', spectacular lake and mountain views from all rooms and sundecks. Warm, comfortable, quiet bed and breakfast, only a 3 minute drive from the centre of Queenstown. Free Wi-Fi.
phone: +64 3 450-1100address: 370 Frankton RdEstablished nearly 150 years ago, this hotel has king-size beds, NZ wool carpet and heated floors in the bathroom.
phone: +64 3 442 6636address: 28 Evergreen Pl, Sunshine BayOverlooking Lake Wakatipu. Bed and Breakfast accommodation.
phone: +64 3 441-0004address: 3-5 Church LaneThe Spire Queenstown is a personal and inviting boutique hotel delivering guests a superior level of service.
phone: +64 3 441 0450address: 2 Marine ParadeA luxury boutique hotel with a history that dates back to the Otago Gold Rush in 1866.
Although limited in number, the police in the Queenstown area are intolerant of disorderly behaviour and are prepared to arrest for quite minor offences. As with anywhere in New Zealand, they have no tolerance for possession of drugs.
Other emergency services in the area operate on a volunteer basis. Occasionally you may hear what sounds like a World War II air raid siren go off in Queenstown. This is not signalling that someone is trying to attack New Zealand with nuclear weapons, but signalling volunteer fire-fighters to get down to the station because there's a house fire/car accident/kitten stuck up a tree.
Rental car companies have restrictions in their rental agreements to prevent their vehicles being operated on some high country roads. New Zealand's ski-field roads also take many visitors by surprise, but driving to suit the conditions will considerably reduce any risk.
Queenstown Police Stationphone: +64 3 441-1600address: 11 Camp St, Queenstown CentralRemember, in an emergency, dial 111 and ask for police.
phone: +64 3 441 0500address: 9 Isle St, Queenstown CentralGeneral practice with after-hours accident and medical clinic. Has on-site x-ray and plastering for fractures and attached pharmacy.
Czech Republicphone: +64 3 409-0960address: Level 2, 11-17 Church StMrs Vladka Kennet, Honorary Consul can issue emergency travel documents.
Francephone: +64 21 211 8299 (Mobile)address: 24 Milward Place, Kelvin HeightsMrs Beatrice Riso, Honorary Consul.
The drive to Glenorchy, 50 minutes to the northwest and alongside Lake Wakatipu for much of the journey, is rated as one of the top scenic drives in the world.
The Gibbston Valley wine area is 20 min drive, just before the ancient Kawarau Gorge.
More distant tourist destinations such as Te Anau and Milford Sound are a day trip away, with many tour operators providing bus tours and flights.
Fox Glacier, the bigger and less crowded west coast glacier, is 4.5 hours drive north.