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Getting around Queenstown and where to stay
Love adventure? Then don’t miss Queenstown, New Zealand. Surrounded by mountains and set on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, the town is known for its beauty and adrenaline-pumping sports. Try everything from bungy jumping to jet boat riding and enjoy the vibrant nightlife scene and astounding nature. Here’s everything you need to know about getting around Queenstown, its top attractions, activities and where to stay.
What’s in this guide?
- Getting from the UK to Queenstown
- Queenstown neighbourhood guide
- Getting around Queenstown
- Queenstown’s top attractions
- Shopping in Queenstown
- Where to eat in Queenstown
- Best places to stay in Queenstown
Getting from the UK to Queenstown
Flights to Queenstown from London Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester Airport take up to 31 hours. There are two connections, the first is usually in Dubai or Hong Kong, the second in Sydney or Auckland. Airlines serving these routes include Emirates, Qantas, British Airways and Air New Zealand. Flights are also available with different airlines from other major UK cities.
Alternatively, you can fly from London Heathrow or Manchester to Christchurch with one stopover in Singapore or Hong Kong. This takes up to 25 hours with Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines or Air New Zealand. Once in Christchurch, you can rent a car and make the six-hour drive to Queenstown or catch a one-hour connecting flight with Air New Zealand.
Queenstown neighbourhood guide
Queenstown is a mid-size resort town in New Zealand’s South Island covering an area of 8,705 square kilometres, roughly split into the following neighbourhoods:
The town centre is Queenstown’s main hub, with a thriving restaurant scene as well as bars, cafes and Queenstown Mall. There are dozens of accommodation options in this area, from hostels to apartments and hotels, as well as tour and adventure sport companies. Shotover Street is the backpacker and adventure tourism centre, home to hostels and the legendary Fergburger.
Fernhill lies at the bottom of Ben Lomond, on the lower slopes of the mountain. The suburb is a good place to stay if you’re keen on hiking, as there are many trailheads in the area. These include the Fernhill Loop Track and Arawata Terrace Track.
This area lies to the east of Lake Wakatipu, near the banks of the Shotover and Kawarau Rivers. The suburb has a rural feel with views of the Remarkables Mountain Range but is close to the airport and less than nine kilometres from the town centre. The area extends across the river to a tranquil countryside area with camping parks.
Kelvin Heights sits south east of Queenstown’s centre and is one of the most expensive residential areas in the whole of New Zealand. The neighbourhood has beautiful lake views, a golf course and swanky holiday homes. Try hiking the Kelvin Peninsula Trail, which heads along the lakeside.
The 907-metre-high mountain to the north, Queenstown Hill, boasts a neighbourhood overlooking the town. You can trek the 1.5-kilometre Queenstown Hill Time Walk for panoramic views from the top of the mountain, which is known in Maori as Te Tapu-nui.
This suburb is situated to the north, next to Queenstown Hill and near Bowen Peak. Despite being less than 10 minutes from the town centre, you can enjoy quiet countryside living. The renowned Shotover Jet offers exhilarating jetboat rides from Arthur’s Point.
Frankton is home to Queenstown Airport and the Remarkables Park Town Centre shopping area. Located on the banks of the lake, Frankton is also home to Kawarau Falls Scenic Reserve, Davies Park and the Queenstown Events Centre.
Getting around Queenstown
Queenstown is extremely walkable, but many visitors hire a car to explore the surrounding area. There are public buses that run from Queenstown to the suburbs, stops include the Remarkables Shopping Mall, Arthurs Point and Fernhill. You can also travel further afield to Arrowtown by bus and the number 11 goes from the airport to the centre of Queenstown. Water taxis deliver fast services across Lake Wakatipu to multiple jetties including Kelvin Heights, Frankton, Walter Peak and Hidden Island. Tour companies will arrange transfers to activities, attractions and treks, while bicycles are also a great way to get around Queenstown.
Queenstown’s top attractions
From bungy jumping to gondola rides, river cruises and hikes, here are some of Queenstown’s top attractions:
Take a gondola ride up to Bob’s Peak for incredible views of the Remarkables Mountain Range, Coronet Peak and Lake Wakatipu. After admiring the scenery, you can ride the two hilltop luge tracks, opt to hike back down or do some daring downhill mountain biking.
Lake Wakatipu cruise
To really appreciate Queenstown’s beauty, take a cruise of the 50-mile-long Wakatipu, the third-largest lake in New Zealand. You’ll be surrounded by towering peaks, lush forests and some of New Zealand’s best Lord of the Rings style scenery.
Get on your bike and explore Queenstown’s many bike trails, which include the mountain bike track on Ben Lomond. The most popular is the Queenstown Trail, known as New Zealand’s Great Ride, which stretches for 120 kilometres. Cycle alongside rivers and flawless countryside to Arrowtown and the Gibbston River Valley.
Just a 20-minute drive from Queenstown, this pioneering gold rush town is well worth a visit. Arrowtown dates back to the 1860s when miners came to the area to search for gold. Wander vintage streets to see old churches, do some gold panning and visit the Lakes District Museum.
This pretty botanical garden is filled with native and exotic flora and fauna. It’s the perfect place to relax and stroll or have a game of tennis, lawn bowls or a spin on the 18-hole disc golf course. In winter, there’s even an ice skating rink.
Take a walk to Marine Parade, a grassy haven overlooking the lake and Queenstown’s beach. The area is home to the Queenstown Fallen Soldiers Memorial and has a cute Bathhouse café, with plenty of space to chill out.
Day trips from Queenstown
There are dozens of day trips to take from Queenstown, including excursions to nearby lake towns like Wanaka and Glenorchy. Visit Mount Aspiring or Fiordland National Park, sail Milford or Doubtful Sound and visit the Gibbston Valley for wineries. For some of the best South Island scenery, drive the Crown Range or Skippers Canyon Road.
Queenstown is a hiker’s paradise, with a range of trails starting from the town. Popular hikes include:
- The Tiki Trail – this one-hour hike starts at the bottom of the gondola and takes you through the forest to Bob’s Peak
- Ben Lomond Hike – this challenging day-hike takes up to eight hours return and scales Ben Lomond’s 1,748-metre summit
- Queenstown Hill Time Walk – takes up to three hours and is a gentle hike with spectacular views
- Frankton Arm Walkway – is a fairly flat trail that winds alongside Lake Wakatipu in Frankton
Skiing and snowboarding
Between June and October, Queenstown transforms into a winter wonderland. Snow-sport enthusiasts use the town as a base to visit four ski areas between 20 and 90 minutes away: The Remarkables Ski Area, Coronet Peak Ski Area, Treble Cone and Cardona Alpine Resort. You can also visit the Snow Farm NZ, a Nordic Ski area for cross-country skiing.
Most visitors try at least one adventure sport while in Queenstown, including:
- Bungy jumping – the Kawarau Bridge is the commercial birthplace of the sport, established by AJ Hackett in 1988. Try the original 43-metre jump or New Zealand’s highest bungy, the 134-metre Nevis Bungy
- Jet boating – New Zealand is also the birthplace of the jet boat, invented by engineer Bill Hamilton to operate at high speeds over shallow water. Take the famous Shotover River ride, which hurtles down the river at speeds of up to 85 kilometres per hour, with 360-degree spins
- Ziplining – soar through the air on one of Queenstown’s two zip lines. Zip Trek Eco Tours is the world’s steepest tree-to-tree zipline, launching from Bob’s Peak. Slightly further from town, the Kawarau Zipride whizzes alongside the river
- Skydiving – if you’re feeling even more adventurous, nothing beats the rush of skydiving. The two main operators are Skydive Queenstown and NZONE Skydive, both offer tandem dives from 15,000 feet, with 60 seconds of freefall at a staggering 200 kilometres per hour. On the way down, take in views of the countryside, lakes and mountains
- White water rafting – the Shotover and Kawarau Rivers feature up to grade five rapids for exciting rafting adventures. There are sections of water for all ability levels, from beginners to experienced rafters
If you’re not keen on throwing yourself off a bridge or out of a plane, you can still get stunning aerial views of Queenstown by taking a scenic flight. A helicopter, light jet or even a hot air balloon will fly you over the town to Fiordland.
Shopping in Queenstown
When it comes to shopping, Queenstown has everything from malls to markets and boutiques. Head to the modern Remarkables Park Town Centre for big brands, outlets and department stores. The smaller O’Connells Shopping Centre has some outdoor clothing specialists, including Canterbury of New Zealand. Wander Queenstown Mall, a high street with souvenir shops and fashion. Every Saturday, the Creative Queenstown Arts and Crafts Market is held at Earnslaw Park.
Where to eat in Queenstown
Queenstown has over 150 restaurants, bars and cafes serving everything from world cuisine to burgers and New Zealand wines. Some of the top options include:
- Fergburger – a Queenstown institution, the queue for this famous burger joint often runs around the block. Their huge burgers are made from New Zealand meat, with veggie options available. Fergburger is open 21 hours a day, ideal for late-night eats
- The Bunker Restaurant & Bar – tucked down an alley in the town centre, this venue has a restaurant with a cocktail bar upstairs. The menu specialises in seafood dishes and game meats
- Eichardt’s Bar – set in the award-winning hotel which dates back to 1867, the Grille at Eichardt’s overlooks the lake. Dine on tapas such as seafood chowder or an oyster menu
- Rata – serves traditional European and seafood meals with a contemporary twist, created by the Michelin-starred chef Josh Emett. Pair your meal with a wine from the Central Otago region and try the local cheese
- Taco Medic – the best place for Mexican food in Queenstown, the restaurant is in Searle Lane and there’s a food truck on Brecon Street. Try some delicious themed tacos, including seafood and beef specialities
- Madam Woo – if you’re looking for Malaysian and Chinese cuisine, this is the place for you. Don’t miss the Hawker Rolls, a favourite option on the Asian-inspired menu. Madam Woo is also created by Josh Emett and Malaysian chef Jane Leong
- Botswana Butchery – try a combination of French, Asian and New Zealand food at this top-rated eatery. As well as local meat and seafood, you can opt for veggie dishes and pair everything with New Zealand wines
- Taj Indian Kitchen – a great choice in Queenstown for authentic Indian food. Taj lies on Beech Street and boasts lake views, with two tasting menus and a la carte options featuring your favourite Indian dishes
Best places to stay in Queenstown
- The Spire – a contemporary hotel in the heart of Queenstown with luxury suites boasting balconies and spacious en-suite bathrooms. There’s a stylish restaurant and bar, as well as a gym and library
- Eichardt’s Private Hotel – situated on Lake Wakatipu’s shores, this atmospheric hotel dates back to the gold rush days. The separate Residence and Penthouse are the most luxurious options and there’s a cosy bar with fireplace and restaurant
- The Dairy Private Luxury Hotel – this boutique hotel hails from the 1920s and is just five minutes from the centre of Queenstown. Enjoy en-suite rooms with alpine views, breakfast in the old dairy, a spa, lounge and mountain bikes
- Scenic Suites Queenstown – stay in a chic suite at the foot of the Southern Alps, with mountain views. There’s an on-site spa, the Hillside Brasserie for dining and comfy rooms with modern amenities