Quick… what’s the first word that comes to mind when you think of Queenstown? You wouldn’t be off track to go with charming, adventure, fun, luxury or nature as your first stop. To be honest, one word just doesn’t do this place justice. It’s like being in a European village in the Canadian Rockies with the culture and hospitality of the Polynesian Islands. Many Aussies have already visited this beautiful little pocket of paradise that sees each day before us. Perhaps that’s you, perhaps you keep saying one day, or perhaps it’s not on your radar (yet). Queenstown is a place of extremes – indulgence, activities, and secrets (many of which are in plain view)! Here are some of our Queenstown favourites which we think should be included on your next trip.
When Captain Cook’s fleet first arrived off the coast, the dawn chorus of birdsong was described as “deafening”, with naturalist Joseph Banks claiming “certainly the [most] melodious wild music I have ever heard, almost imitating small bells but with the most tunable silver sound imaginable.’ Over time, humans and introduced predators have slowly turned this volume down. All is not lost though. A lot of work is going into the preservation and rehabilitation of New Zealand’s birdlife. And Kiwi Birdlife Park is just the place to learn about it, see birdlife throughout the park including the famous kiwi, and join the efforts to turn that birdsong volume back up again. It’s an educational, fun, and an important insight into how our planet and wildlife need us to take care of them.
If you have already been to Queenstown, chances are you have walked right by this ultra-cool attraction. This 10–15-minute show takes place underneath Lake Wakatipu and takes you back in time. 90 million years to be precise. Your time travel pilot will then take you on a journey back to the present day through a state-of-the-art animated show. You’ll meet dinosaurs, learn about Maori legends, and you might even hear that birdsong Captain Cook spoke of with such fondness.
A personal helicopter experience is both unforgettable and worth every penny! With Heli Glenorchy you’ll soar over Queenstown, Glenorchy and beyond, taking in wilderness forests, pristine lakes, jagged mountain peaks and cascading waterfalls. When you’ve gotten sick of that (like that’s even possible) you’ll literally land on top of a snow-capped mountain where you’ll celebrate the thrill of it all with a bottle of local bubbles. This is just one of many heli experiences you can have – other options include heli-hiking, heli-picnic, heli-paddle boarding, heli-skiing, heli-fishing and more.
This place is epic and it’s fun. In fact, when we tried it, we had literal tears of joy streaming down our faces. There are three activities to choose from including jet sprint boats, ultimate off-roading and clay bird shooting. The jet sprint boat is next level, accelerating you to 100 kilometres per hour in 2½ seconds and pulling 3-4 G forces. Your off-roader is one of a kind, taking gullies, boulders and angles that seem unfathomable, while the clay bird shooting introduces a healthy spot of competition between you and your pals. A safe and fun experience is included regardless of the package you go for.
When it comes to what to do and who to do it with, your options are seemingly endless. The great thing about Queenstown is the ability to create your own private tour or experience with all the benefits and bonuses of going with a group. And the types of activities are so varied you and your personal travel manager could essentially create your own complete itinerary with the same one team of experts on the Queenstown side. They’ll get to know you, what you like, and how to surprise you. And it can all start with your airport arrival. They do it all! Transfers, gin tours, wineries, beer tasting, Milford Sound, hikes, multi-day, day cruises and more. When we travelled to NZ, we had that exact experience with the teams at Alpine Tours, Altitude Tours and Queenstown Expeditions. And we loved it!
Arriving into Queenstown you’d probably think to take a cab, hire a car or book a transfer. And while there are loads of high quality options for your journey into town, we like the idea of arriving into the centre of town aboard a luxurious private yacht. Pacific Jemm can do just that. It’s such a decadent experience, and if you are celebrating a special occasion or travelling with a big group, it’s worth considering a private charter tour during your stay. Your hand-crafted menu is both creative and wholesome, while mother nature’s display is matched as you take in the surrounding mountain ranges of Lake Wakatipu.
Once the gold capital of the world, Queenstown and the Central Otago region has a rich gold mining history. And apparently it hasn’t all been found yet. If you’d like to try you’re luck, you’ll want to head off-road with an expert who knows where to look. A private tour with Nomad Safaris can take you to such places. It will be tricky though, determining if you’re looking at gold or the reflection of the crystal clear waters in which you seek. Even if not in pocket, you are almost certainly guaranteed to leave richer in life.
For some, jumping out of the sky, whether it’s from a plane or off a platform, is the ultimate adrenaline rush. For many, that’s a little too extreme. If you’d like a toned-down version, a little closer to the ground, consider iFLY, New Zealand’s only indoor skydiving experience. iFLY creates a smooth, wall-to-wall cushion of air on which anyone can safely float – no experience necessary. Simply lean into the airflow and that’s it – you’re flying. There’s no parachute, no jumping, and nothing attaching you to Planet Earth.
Kinloch Lodge is only an hour away but once you are there you feel like you are a million miles from nowhere! And sometimes that’s just what you need. Eco cabins blend in seamlessly with their surrounds and your floor to ceiling windows allow you to lie back in blissful comfort as you take in the landscape in front of you.
Back in Queenstown, The Rees Hotel is the place to stay if you want to follow in the footsteps of global superstars and dignitaries. Accommodation options range from hotel rooms to multi-room lakeside residences and either way you go, the beds are so comfortable the mere thought of the pillow is enough to send you off to sleep. Try not to sleep in though, because you’re going to want to spend some time enjoying the world-class dining options as you gaze out over the lake.
Chances are you are not going to be in Queenstown long enough to try each and every one of its highly rated restaurants. A progressive dinner allows you to experience three in one meal, with a scenic drive between each course. Your evening begins with a wine tasting and entrée overlooking the vineyards, before your main in historic Arrowtown, and then dessert back in the heart of Queenstown. Join a group and make new friends, or create your own custom experience just for you and your travelling buddies.