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A guide to the Queenstown region - New Zealand’s adventure capital

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Framed by the aptly-named Remarkables Mountains and nestled next to the pristine waters of Lake Wakatipu, the iconic all year resort has become the most coveted adventure destination in New Zealand. Today adrenaline junkies arrive in search of Queenstown’s seemingly boundless offering of outdoorsy pursuits, while the patchwork of craggy limestone canyons, superlative wine country, gushing rivers and former goldrush towns, make this one a veritable bucket-list regular. 

Mike Watt

My Destination local expert on

Queenstown (NZ)

Adventure travel

 

At last count Queenstown was home to more than 200 separate adventure travel activities; from whitewater rafting to skydiving, and with all the stomach-wrenching possibilities in-between. What’s more, the rough-cut limestone gorges of Queenstown’s back garden claim to be home to the world’s original jetboating and bungy jumping sites, making this one of ripest hunting grounds for thrill-seekers on the planet. For those in search of something inspiring on two wheels, the 100 kilometre Queenstown Trail encompasses some of the region’s historical landmarks, cultural hotspots, and non-stop beautiful views.

 

Culture & historical sites

 

In 1862 Queenstown became the king-pin of South Island’s goldrush and thousands of hopeful prospectors flocked to the rugged cliff-bays along the Arrow, Kawarau and Shotover Rivers, where makeshift wood-towns shot up en masse. Arrowtown remains a fascinating relic complete with saloon-style bars still fronted with the cowboy colonnades of yesteryear, while the town’s Chinese Settlement illuminates the historic role of workers from the orient. Heading towards Cromwell, the Goldfields Mining Centre offers a hand-on insight into the region’s prospecting past, while the Bendigo Historic Reserve is an expansive conservation area encompassing ex-mining territory and its ubiquitous eerie ghost towns.

 

Skiing

 

Queenstown is a hive of winter sports from June to October. The versatile slopes at the nearby Remarkables and Coronet Peak ski fields offer a spread of beginner to advanced runs under 45 minutes’ drive from town, while the more difficult terrain at the colossal Treble Cone resort above Lake Wanaka to the north presents higher level riding opportunities to boot. In the winter months, Queenstown buzzes with Apres-ski enthusiasts, with the biggest crowds hitting town for the Queenstown Winter Festival in June, which draws more than 45,000 visitors to celebrate the start of the skiing season.

 

Food and drink

 

The late-night bars here have given Queenstown a reputation for youthful hedonism that’s only extolled by the city’s appetite for unbridled adventure travel, and there are few cities in New Zealand with the same after-dark energy as this. For food tourists too, the offering is not to be sniffed at; restaurants specialising in South Island meats and fresh seafood catches are close by, while the eateries on Steamer Wharf throw in unrivalled panoramas of Lake Wakatipu, gratis. Within an hour’s drive await the cellar doors and restaurants of the award-winning vineyards of Gibbston, Bannockburn, Cromwell and Alexandra.