It probably won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone that when I went to Queenstown earlier this year I didn’t do everything you’re ‘supposed’ to do.
After all, I went to Raglan, New Zealand’s surf capital, and didn’t even look at a surf board let alone ride on one so it’s fitting that I travelled to Queenstown, New Zealand’s adventure capital and really didn’t do anything too adventurous.
I’d travelled down to Queenstown with some friends from Auckland and because we only had 4 days there we’d planned out what we wanted to do between us beforehand.
I wasn’t excited about flying there at first (this was before I’d found a cure for my travel sickness) but it was actually fine and it got even better when we started to descend into Queenstown itself:
I knew we’d be flying over Lake Wakatipu to get onto the runway but I didn’t expect to look out of the window and see that we were flying directly between two mountain ranges, giving us an amazing view before we’d even landed!
People have this misconception that not being one to go about throwing yourself off a platform attached to the edge of a mountain so you can say that you’ve done a bungy jump equates to being boring. Newsflash: it doesn’t.
Maybe it’s not your thing, or maybe (like me) you just can’t afford to splash out on extreme sports. Either way, there’s lots more things to do in Queenstown than bungy jumping and canyon swinging:
Visit Skyline Queenstown
One of the most amazing things about visiting skyline Queenstown is the fact that the only way up to it is to ride the gondola; little cable cars which transport you up the side of the mountain. Ok, so for those who are scared of heights, this may be slightly adventurous but seriously, you’re safe in the gondolas – they literally run every day of the year and once you’ve taken in the awesome views outside the car you’ll pretty much forget about where you’re actually sitting anyway.
The best thing about being at Skyline Queenstown though is the amazing views. I literally could’ve stayed there all day gazing at Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains but it was time to get on with our next planned activity…..
Ok confession time: I was scared to go luging. It looks scary right? Racing down a hill in what looks like a modified tin can with not a seat belt in sight looks scary….right? Turns out, it’s a lot less scary than what it actually seems. In fact, what’s scarier than actually luging is getting the ski-lift up to the top of the hill and convincing yourself that you’re going to lose a shoe en route.
Luging is awesome for two reasons:
1. you get to do something fun with your friends and race around a downhill track like you’re a kid again.
2. You get to check out amazing views while you’re doing it. Just keep your eyes on the track for the most part, obviously.
Check out Arrowtown
Arrowtown, about 20 minutes outside of Queenstown, is a former gold rush village which will have you falling in love with its quaint little shops and traditional architecture – this place literally looks like it hasn’t been touched in years, in the best possible way.
There’s lots of shopping and dining opportunities in Arrowtown if you’ve got cash to splash but we opted to save our money and enjoy the sun in the small green in the middle of the village, which happened to be right next to an insanely cute building which, with it’s quintessential British look, had me thinking of home.
Surrounded by mountains and sitting right on the edge of the lake of the same name, Wanaka is a beautiful resort town definitely worth visiting. As with a lot of places in New Zealand, it’s also the journey getting there that’s half the fun as well – if you drive from Queenstown to Wanaka you’ll be met with a lot of winding (but spectacular) roads and if you stop at the large viewing point along the way you might even see Queenstown’s mountains still covered in clouds.
Wanaka itself is small but interesting: you can’t miss the artwork lining the main road where locals have created a timeline with old tiles and you’ll definitely get some great photo opportunities being so close to the water.
Get a Fergburger
Ah Fergburger, New Zealand’s most famous burger joint. And for good reason! The burgers are awesome and there’s a lot of choice but you do have to pick your times to go and it’s probably the earlier the better.
For some reason on the night we went we only had to queue for about 5 or 10 minutes before placing our orders but on some nights there’s a line right down the street of people waiting. I’m literally the most impatient person ever and I hate waiting for things but honestly, it’s worth it.
Drive towards Glenorchy
Drive towards Glenorchy, you’re thinking? Not actually to Glenorchy? Yep, that’s right; I can’t recommend you go to Glenorchy because I never actually went there, although you’re obviously more than welcome to check it out yourself! What I did do though was drive towards Glenorchy just for fun one afternoon and what we found was pretty amazing.
There’s a few stopping places along the way, perfect for a DIY al fresco dinner, beautiful views of the mountain ranges and a calm and quiet pebble beach to admire the lake from
Go to Milford Sound
There’s a couple of options when it comes to visiting Milford Sound, where mountains rise vertically from the calm water below and waterfalls cascade from cloud-covered cliffs.
You can either book yourself onto one of the coach trips that run pretty much daily from Queenstown; packages normally include the return trip from Queenstown town centre and your cruise on the sound and can be bought online or at your hostel through various tour operators.
The other option is to hire a car for the duration of your stay in Queenstown; we hired a car, booked a cruise on Milford Sound and drove ourselves there and back on the day of the tour.
Milford Sound can seem pricey so keep your eye on the New Zealand daily deal sites: we got a discount by finding our Jucy Cruise on Grab One (yep, they don’t just do campervans!) and using Groupon to get cheap car hire between the three of us.
Whatever deal you manage to get, or not get, know this; Milford Sound is worth it. It’s worth the 4 hour drive from Queenstown. It’s worth paying for it because you might never get to go again. It’s worth it just to be awe-struck by scenery that was created completely naturally by glaciers in the Ice Age.
It’s also worth actually driving there yourself so that you can grab a much needed oh-my-God-how-am-I-up-this-early-and-actually-driving coffee in Te Anau on the way there and stay as long as you like at Mirror Lake (seriously a must-see) on the way back.
Queenstown itself is just ridiculously stunning; just take a step out of your hostel and you’ll be greeted with mountains wherever you look. Setting out on foot is also a great way to familiarise yourself with the area and meet other people and some fish ‘n’ chips on the beach is a great way to relax and rest your feet afterwards.
Travel Tips for Queenstown
How to get around: If you’re travelling to Queenstown I’d definitely recommend hiring a car. Using public transport or getting about on foot is fine if you’re going to be sticking to the main city centre but I found that having a car gave us so much more freedom to drive around the lake, the towns that surround Queenstown and also make our own way to Milford Sound instead of jumping on a coach trip.
Where to stay: there are lots of hostels in Queenstown to choose from but we stayed at Nomads Queenstown and would definitely recommend it.
Where to drink: fancy a tipple after a day sightseeing? Searle Lane Bar & Rotisserie behind the Nomads hostel is really chilled-out, has a roaring fire and awesome live music.
How to save money: if you’re riding the gondola up to Skyline and you’re going luging as well, it pays to buy a combo ticket at the bottom or book in advance online here.
When to go to: The best time to visit Queenstown depends on what you want. If you want to ski or go snowboarding you need to head down there during winter (June – Sept ish). If you want warm weather, less crowds and clear views across the lakes I’d recommend going in March.
Personal travel tip: If you think you’re going to get sick on the Milford Sound cruise literally stuff your face with ginger biscuits for the entire trip. I speak from experience.
Do you have any tips on non-adventurous things to do in Queenstown?