7 Reasons You’ll Love Queenstown
The crowned 'Adventure Capital' of New Zealand, Queenstown is a scenic town on the country's South Island. It sits alongside Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand’s longest glacial lake at 52 miles, surrounded by the Southern Alps, and is home to an abundance of year-round outdoor activities which have helped it earn its title. But while it is undoubtedly a veritable Mecca for adrenaline junkies, there's plenty for the more timid traveller too. Whatever your travel style, we know you'll love Queenstown, and here's why:
It has the best tarmacs in the country
It probably doesn’t sound particularly special, but the road from Queenstown to the town of Glenorchy may just be the most scenic in all of New Zealand. The drive takes you along the edge of Lake Wakatipu, which consists of three straight sections connected at angles to one another. It is a relaxing drive without being boring, plenty of bends and hills, but nothing that should have you feeling nervous or fearful, and the constantly changing scenery is gorgeous in all weathers. Even a grey cloud looks spectacular over Lake Wakatipu.
You can get to Middle Earth from here
New Zealand is a haven for anyone that loves Lord of the Rings and Queenstown has no shortage of opportunities to explore the beloved literary universe. You can take a half-day 4X4 tour to numerous locations used throughout the movie trilogy, including The Remarkables (which stood in as the Misty Mountains and various other mountain scenes), Queenstown Hill, or Deer Park Heights, which was used during the Warg battle scene and housed some Rohan refugees. Or why not take a tour that will take you on the aforementioned drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy, as well as offering a picnic in Isengard after visiting Lothlorien and The Forest of Amon Hen? This type of tour is packed with insider information about the filming and history of the locations you’ve visited and is led by an expert tour guide.
Bob’s Peak has some unrivalled views
Bob’s Peak is part of Ben Lomond Mountain, overlooking Queenstown for one of the best views of the town. If you’re fairly athletic you should be able to climb up in around an hour, though if you don’t routinely hike up mountains you might want to set aside a bit more time. Luckily if you don’t feel able or inclined to undertake the trek, you can always hop on the steepest gondola in the southern hemisphere instead! It’ll take you up to the lookout hassle-free, allowing you to walk around the summit at your leisure.
The gardens are blissfully stroll-worthy
The Queenstown Gardens are located on a little peninsula that juts out into Lake Wakatipu, and are a little way along the beach from the harbour. Like most of Queensland, and New Zealand in general, the gardens pose a fantastic opportunity to take pictures – so be sure to keep your camera handy! The park offers magnificent views of the town and flanking mountains and, from the right spot, you can look out across a completely building-free landscape. If that sounds too relaxing there’s also a frisbee golf course, as well as a tennis club, ice rink and bowling club.
The locals are lovely
New Zealand is a truly friendly place and, if you take a morning walk around Queenstown Gardens, you’re likely to get a lot more ‘Good Mornings’ than you would at home. But when I recommend hanging with the locals I also mean the wildlife, particularly New Zealand’s native and incredibly rare kiwi bird. Queenstown's Kiwi Birdlife Park is a five-acre breeding sanctuary that helps to keep these struggling creatures from extinction and is also home to numerous other native birds and reptiles, including the fascinating tuatara. The park runs feeding talks throughout the day where you can witness conservation in action.
You'll get your adrenaline fix
Lake Wakatipu is getting a lot of mentions, and for good reason. This glacier-carved inlet is so worth exploring up close; you could take a gentle cruise and take in the beautiful mountain and lake vistas or, for some real thrills, you could also embark on a Hydro Attack tour. The aerodynamic, shark-shaped submersible boat will not only take you onto the lake, but into it, and even over it. The vessel can not only breach the surface but the operator can also launch all six metres of the vessel out of the water and into the air – albeit briefly. Speed along at 50mph on the surface and 25mph underwater. The operator can even roll you onto a 90° angle at high speed, which is sure to get your heart pumping.
If you’re heading to Queenstown in winter and have ever considered skiing or snowboarding (or are a veteran of the sport) then add it to your Queenstown itinerary. There are plenty of locations to pick from and Coronet Peak is New Zealand’s most accessible ski resort. It’s only a 20-minute drive from the town and caters to all skill levels, from expert thrill seekers to beginners.
True adrenaline junkies will want to head to the home of the world's highest cliff jumps: the Shotover Canyon Swing and Canyon Fox. The Canyon Swing is 109m high and strapping yourself in will allow you to experience a 200m swing that starts with a 60m vertical drop down a rocky cliff face into a pendulum ride above the Shotover River. And if that's not enough, Queenstown is also the supposed birthplace of the bungee jump, as well as being an impressive location for your first skydive.
Hiking and biking is a big deal
Even if you don’t normally hike or get around on two wheels, it'd be sacrilege not to do so while you’re in Queenstown. The scenery and the atmosphere will make all the effort worthwhile and, with trails for novices and expert hikers alike, there's no excuse to not strap on your walking boots.
The Ben Lomond Track offers an entire day of activity for the experienced tramper – you can take yourself all the way up to Ben Lomond Summit or, if you’re less adventurous, stop off at the Ben Lomond Saddle before heading back down to the town centre. The Queenstown Trail attracts walkers and cyclists alike and is made up of 74 miles of trails set against alpine vistas, river gorges, lakes and hidden ruins. It allows unprecedented access to unspoilt private land, includes two suspension bridges across three rivers, and encircles two lakes. The trails have even been planted with over 5,000 native plants to encourage biodiversity and help mitigate the effects of the trails themselves. Most importantly though, it is open all year-round and has trails that’ll range in duration from an hour to a full four-day excursion.