Situated in the verdant southwest of the South Island, Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand. It sits on the banks of Lake Wakatipu, one of New Zealand's largest bodies of water, and provides access to the country's best national parks and stunning wine and ski regions.
Queenstown came about as a base for gold explorers routing around in the Shotover Canyon in the 1800s, and while it has always been a popular tourist destination from an early age, it has seriously taken off since the 1980s as an adventure sports haven.
Queenstown itself is compact and super-trendy, with a charming look and feel owing to cute shopping arcades, its lakeside setting and the backing of the Southern Alps. It is inherently beautiful and easy to spend several nights in without becoming bored.
The town butts up against Lake Wakatipu and is essentially one major street, which goes off and up toward the northern district of Wakatipu Heights. Downtown Queenstown is where most of the fun is at.
Downtown is just a quarter mile or so across in an area bounded by Shotover Street, Stanley Street and the water's edge. Most of the action can be found in this small area which consists of pedestrianized streets, numerous bars and cafés, and excellent shopping.
The Queenstown Mall is in the center of downtown Queenstown and is a pedestrian thoroughfare going from the lake for a few hundred feet up to Camp Street. Some of the best shopping can be had here and it is a great place to hang at any time of the day or night.
Shotover Street comes in from the Esplanade and Beach Road and is the widest, albeit two-lane, street in town. It is just a half mile long and contains most of the adventure tour operators and many of the most popular nightspots and hotels.
Steamer Wharf is located along the water's edge just west of downtown Queenstown, where Shotover Street and Beach Street come together, and it is known for its grassy areas and quaint eateries. There is a bit of shopping here, including the Queenstown Arts Center which is set up every Saturday. The classic TSS Earnslaw steamer sails from Steamer Wharf.