Queenstown Travel Guide

Filed under Destination Guides, travel

Queenstown seen from The Remarkables

Words: Winsor Dobbin


Queensltown may only be a small city in terms of population, but whether you are a thrill-seeker, outdoor enthusiast or a lover of fine food and wine this South Island resort offers a diversity of activities and attractions.

The area surrounding Queenstown is known for some of the best ski runs in the southern hemisphere, and also for kayaking, bungy jumping, jet boating, white-water rafting and hiking.

The less adventurous can enjoy a leisurely cruise through nearby Milford Sound, part of the Fiordland National Park World Heritage area, or perhaps sample some of Central Otago’s renowned pinot noir from one of the region’s 70 wineries.

From the Onsen Hot Pools to the Skyline complex high above the city – reached by a gondola cableway – or maybe mountain biking, trout fishing or hiking, the leisure options are endless.

During winter, skiing at resorts like Cardrona Alpine Resort, Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Treble Cone take centre stage, while the town is also known for its vibrant night-life scene.

There are two very different demographics; younger snow sports enthusiasts and an older, more sophisticated crowd, but the permanent population is under 15,000.



HeliWorks Queenstown
HeliWorks Queenstown

There is something for everyone in Queenstown, whether your tastes run to fine dining with local wines, a selection of some of the most hair-raising adventure activities on the planet, or visiting the Central Otago vineyards and meeting the growers. In winter, Queenstown is one of New Zealand’s snow sports capitals and it hosts the annual Winter Festival each June.  

TSS Earnslaw

It is de rigueur for visitors to take a cruise on Lake Wakatipu on board the gracious steamship the Earnslaw, which was built in 1912 and is the only remaining passenger-carrying coal-fired steamship in the southern hemisphere. Known as “The Lady of the Lake”, she makes several trips each day across the lake.

Central Otago Vineyards

The vineyards of Central Otago, known for producing some of the finest pinot noir in the world, are right on Queenstown’s doorstep and visitors can choose from driving themselves or taking an organised tour. There are over 200 vineyards within a 1½ hour drive of Queenstown, many of them with cellar doors. Names to look out for include Felton Road, Mount Difficulty, Peregrine and Quartz Reef.

Skyline Gondola

Just a short walk from central Queenstown, this ski-resort-style gondola carries visitors above Queenstown to the Skyline complex that’s located on Bob’s Peak. There are dramatic views from several observation decks, an upmarket restaurant and Maori cultural performances. There is also a downhill luge ride and a track used by mountain bikers.

Over The Top

The best way to see Queenstown and Central Otago is from the air and Over The Top helicopter tours can arrange to visit some of the best vineyards like Felton Road or Mount Edward, or arrange a picnic or romantic rendezvous on a glacier or mountain. Destination options include fjords, glaciers, hiking, fishing, or maybe mountaintop dining.

Nevis Bungy Jumping

Queenstown is the global birthplace of bungy jumping, the adventure sport that has become a global craze. This is the highest bungy jump in the region at 134 metres and is owned and operated by AJ Hackett, who invented the sport. You’ll spend several hundred dollars for an adrenalin rush that lasts around 8.5 seconds.

Shotover Jet

Billed as the world’s most thrilling jet-boat ride, this adventure has been a Queenstown staple for over 45 years and has been enjoyed by over three million people. The V8-powered boats rocket down the Shotover River canyons, missing rocks and boulders by centimetres. For those with nerves of steel, the 360-degree spins on the fast-moving, crystal-clear waters are a highlight.


This former gold mining town on the Arrow River has a population of under 3,000 but is a major destination for visitors who enjoy the well-preserved buildings from the mining era and several bars and restaurants. Just out of town is Milbrook Resort, which has a spa and 27-hole golf course considered among the best in the country.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound has been described as “one of New Zealand’s most stunning natural attractions”. In Fiordland National Park it is a scenically beautiful region that is around a four-drive from Queenstown but is a popular side trip with coach tours, cruises, kayaking and hiking on offer. Dolphins and penguins abound in the glacier-fed waters

  1. The Winery

Utilising high-tech Oenomatic machines, this tasting room and retail outlet in downtown Queenstown offers visitors the opportunity to taste up to 80 New Zealand wines in the one place. Guests choose from either a taste, half or full glass of each wine – and can select from cheese and salumi platters to accompany their choices.  

Onsen Hot Pools

When visitors have had their fill of wine and food they can relax, unwind and soak up the spectacular mountain scenery at the Onsen Hot Pools. In a stunning location high on the cliffs overlooking the Shotover River canyon, the pools here come complete with private showers, changing areas and picture windows that are retractable at the touch of a button.



There is a wide selection of hotels to choose from in and around Queenstown, ranging from those with views over Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables mountain range to remote luxury lodges in the vineyards of Central Otago. Most of the hotels have been built over the past 20 years and offer all modern comforts and there are rooms available at a range of price points.

Matakauri Lodge

Matakauri Lodge is the newer sister property to two of New Zealand’s highest-rated luxury lodges, Kauri Cliffs and the Lodge at Cape Kidnappers. It sits out of Queenstown overlooking Lake Wakatipu and is part of the Relais & Chateaux group. There are just 11 suites, each with private terraces, and tariffs include dinner, breakfasts and complimentary mini bar.

Peppers Beacon

The ideal hotel choice for those who like a garden setting, Peppers Beacon is just a short stroll to central Queenstown and has a lake-front setting with a park and children’s playground. There is a range of accommodation choices; from hotel rooms and studios to four-bedroom penthouses, many with lake or mountain views.

The Rees Hotel and Luxury Apartments

Just a short walk from the downtown core, The Rees is known for its high-quality service. With views over Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables, this boutique hotel has 60 hotel rooms and 90 apartments all with private balconies. The restaurant, True South Dining, offers gourmet cuisine, including an extensive wine cellar, and specialises in local produce.

Blanket Bay Lodge

A regular winner of international hotel awards, this bijou luxury lodge, a member of Small Luxury Hotels, is one for guests who like a bit of isolation and a lot of fresh air. Think rustic stone and timber and a choice between rooms in the main lodge or in separate chalets, most with fireplaces and decks with remarkable views.

Azur Lodge

A short drive out of Queenstown, this luxury property is in the hills overlooking Lake Wakatipu and comprises timber chalets with private decks along with whirlpool baths and all modern facilities. Complimentary breakfasts, afternoon tea and evening canapes are served in the main lodge building – and evening meals can be arranged.

Eichardt’s Private Hotel

A member of the Small Luxury Hotels group, this is a quirky boutique hotel on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, with just 10 rooms. With a history dating back to 1866, it is at the heart of the action and has five suites, four boutique apartments and a private lakeside residence. Known for its gourmet focus.  

Whare Kea Lodge

If you are looking for a remote base away from the hustle and bustle, this dramatic glass and steel property is known for its wine and food. It is now available only to groups for exclusive use. Indulgent, understated and with superb views, you’ll find it overlooking Lake Wanaka, around 7km outside Wanaka town centre.

Novotel Queenstown Lakeside

No surprised here. This well-situated, four-star hotel is part of the global Accor group and offers affordable luxury to guests on a budget. It has a central location and is a bright and breezy space with its own on-site restaurant, Elements. The Novotel is a popular venue for business meetings and conferences.

Sofitel Queenstown Hotel and Spa

With the French accent and welcoming “bonjours” that define all Sofitel properties, this five-star hotel is close to all of Queenstown’s bars and restaurants. Think good-sized rooms, bathrooms with rainfall showers and soaking tubs, along with in-room Nespresso machines. There are a gym and spa on site as well as a café and cocktail bar.

The Spire

If you like small, chic hotels with personalised service then this independent property will appeal. Just set back from Lake Wakatipu, this five-star boutique hostelry with just 10 suites is a favourite with couples seeking a downtown getaway. It takes its name from a nearby church steeple and is home to signature restaurant and bar No.5 Church Lane.

Aro Ha

One for nature lovers, this eco-lodge/wellness retreat is set on a 10-hectare property in the shadows of the Southern Alps. Activities here include yoga, meditation and strength training. The purpose-built sustainably-managed property keeps guest numbers low and offers five-day or seven-day retreats throughout the year.



New Zealand is full of fresh produce, whether your tastes edge towards lamb and beef, local seafood, or fresh vegetables. Pacific Rim cuisine is a style of its own – but almost always casual. In summer in Queenstown, al fresco diners line the streets and crowd balconies. In winter, roaring log fires are a feature and provide a cosy alpine ambience.

True South

The signature eatery at The Rees Hotel and Apartments is noteworthy not only for chef Ben Batterbury’s regional and seasonally-driven cuisine, but also for a remarkable wine list that covers choices from New Zealand to Bordeaux. The service is top-notch, too. Think Merino lamb rump and shank with celeriac and smoked beetroot, or roast wild Southland venison.

Madam Woo

Its only been open a couple of years but Asian fusion eatery Madam Wood has become a firm favourite with its “Chinese and Malay-style street food”. There is range of hawker-style dishes

from satays and dumplings to Hainanese chicken rice in a busy, buzzing space. The drinks list focuses on good cocktails.

Fishbone Bar and Grill

For over two decades, Fishbone has been Queenstown’s stand-out seafood restaurant, specialising in fish dishes and local crustaceans like clams and mussels. All the seafood is all local and purchased direct from fishing boats, while fruit and vegetables are sourced from the eatery’s own farm.


Looking for quality Italian food and a lively ambiance? Sasso, which means stone in Italian, is a lively and casual eatery just back from Lake Wakatipu. You’ll find a combination of traditional and innovative dishes. Choose from pizza and a beer to a five-course degustation dinner.

La Rumbla

Travel out to Arrowtown, a small town with a colourful gold mining past, to check out La Rumbla, a tucked-away wine bar that serves tapas-style food and has quickly built an impressive reputation for its cuisine, wine list and wide range of cocktails. The service here is invariably spot on.

Amisfield Winery and Bistro

Amisfield winery, one of the closest to Queenstown, offers a Trust the Chef signature tasting menu.

Guests put themselves in the hands of chef Vaughan Mabee, who crafts a menu using fresh local ingredients. Think Canterbury smoked eel, cured Akaroa salmon or perhaps Cloudy Bay clams – along with fine wines.

Botswana Butchery

This is destination for those who liked to be pampered. The lake views and winter fires are matched by the top-notch service and menus with dishes like sauteed abalone, veal cutlets, rabbit and smoked bacon pie or roast lamb shoulder. Drink choices range from cocktails to a world-class wine list.

Kappa Japanese

A local favourite for over a decade, Kappa serves authentic Japanese dishes at reasonable prices. On the first floor of a building on the Mall, it is nothing flash, but is lots of fun. There is a good choice of dishes from tempura to tonkatsu and the bento boxes are very popular.


There are queues outside this legendary fast-food joint at all times of the day and night. Something of a Queenstown legend for 15 years, it serves large and very tasty burgers to a crowd that ranges from backpackers to gourmets. The burgers are made from beef, pork chicken, even deer, and the place is open 24 hours.    

Rata Dining

This extremely popular fine diner is part owned by star New Zealand chef Josh Emmett. There is a courtyard and bar for daytime dining, or a serious dinner menu with dishes like seared sirloin with ox tongue, or pan-fried cod with green lipped mussels. The wine list highlights regional stars.   



Given Queenstown’s widely diverse demographic, you’ll find everything from waterfront bars serving cold beers to late-night dive bars offering negronis and other cocktails. There is a good coffee culture, and, as you’d expect, plenty of places at which to sample the wines of Central Otago.


Owned by a large hospitality group, this popular lounge bar on Searle Lane has several different spaces, including a long central bar, relaxed lounge area and a comfortable courtyard with an open fire. There is a comprehensive cocktail menu and wine list but be warned that Barmuda can be a popular party venue late at night.

Joe’s Garage

Espresso? Ristretto? Macchiato? Hidden away on hipster hangout Searle Lane, Joe’s Garage has been serving quality coffees for 16 years and is regarded by locals as the best in town. Licensed and open seven days a week, Joe’s is a great place for a casual hangout and does excellent breakfasts and brunches.


Owned by the same group as Barmuda, this a popular venue for the apres ski crowd. It is an upmarket cocktail bar with a large open fire that boasts a large selection of cocktails and wine list with many top Central Otago pinots. A more relaxed hangout than many of its neighbours.

Atlas Beer Café

A newcomer to the Steamer Wharf scene on the waterfront, Atlas promotes itself as “Queenstown’s home of craft beer”. It is a busy buzzing place that in addition to a wide range of beers also serves breakfasts and lunches, including tapas and steaks. There are 22 varieties on tap, including Altitude Brewers, Emerson’s and Tuatara, as well as guest brews.

The Bunker

This dark cocktail bar with a clubby ambiance has been a Queenstown favourite for almost 20 years and draws an adult audience. It is tucked away behind a rustic old wooden door,  but once you find it there is a restaurant, bar and private dining room. There is an ‘Old School’ wine and cocktail list. Open late.

Cru Wine Bar and Lounge

Think plush leather lounge chairs and glasses of local wine; next door to the Wakatipu Grill in the Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa. Arrive in a water taxi for a different experience and then match a whisky or wine with a cheese platter. There is a resident mixologist and cocktail making classes here are popular.

Cardrona Distillery

A family business opened in late 2015, this boutique spirits producer bills itself as “the world’s southernmost distillery”, and produces a small range of artisan drinks. The picturesque stone distillery, barrel warehouse and adjoining museum, shop and café are open seven days a week.

Eichardt’s Bar

Tucked away in one of Queenstown’s most discreet boutique hotels, this is a popular venue for couples. Think classy cocktails and late-afternoon tapas dishes, or maybe a glass of Bollinger Champagne by the glass as you sit on the comfortable leather sofas and enjoy the open wood fire. A local favourite since 1867.


Part wine bar, part restaurant, this is tucked away in the suburb of Fernhill and is a popular and unpretentious local hangout. The owner has worked in the wine trade and prides himself on his list, as well as the regular wine tasting events. This is the place to come to try a glass or two of actor Sam Neill’s picnic wines.

Speight’s Ale House

This is the Queenstown branch of leading New Zealand brewery Speight’s, based in Dunedin. It is set in the  former Queenstown Council Chamber, built in 1880. If you like hearty portions of comfort food matched with eight beers and ciders ranging from Triple Hop Pilsener to 5 Malt then you’ve come to the right place.


New Zealanders are very proud of their native produce and ingredients so it is not hard to find something different to take home as a gift. Downtown Queenstown has its own department store, H & J Smith, and a range of global chains, along with small local producers selling everything from jewellery to local cheeses.  

Browns Ski Shop

If you’ve forgotten to bring any piece of ski equipment with you for the winter season you’ll probably find a replacement here. Think a range of ski apparel, high-tech skis and boots – and a lot of gear is also available to rent before you buy. Plenty of free advice, as well.

Aotea Gift Shop

This is the place to go if you need a last-minute gift or souvenir. There is a huge range of Kiwi-made products ranging from gourmet choices like Manuka honey or avocado oil to health and beauty products; possum, merino and baby lambskin garments. Open until 10pm every day of the year.

Waka Gallery

Extremely popular with visitors, this store offers a range of Tahitian Black Pearls, Australian South Sea White Pearls, natural Gold Pearls from the Phillipines, and New Zealand Blue Pearls. The pearls are all sourced directly from pearl farms. It also sells pounamo (jade), opals and other jewellery.  

Gibbston Valley Cheese

Located alongside the Gibbston Valley Wines vineyard, this dairy/café makes cheeses from sheep, cow and goat milk – in a wide range of styles. Visitors are offered complimentary tastings or can buy lunch platters. The shop also sells local chutneys and pastes – along with boxed cheese colllections.

Te Huia

Looking for something unique from New Zealand as a gift? This Arrowtown store boasts that “everything in stock has been designed and produced right here in New Zealand”. Think locally-crafted clothing, leather, designer jewellery and wellness products.

Opal and Jade Factory

Arrowtown Jade & Opal Factory has been operating in the former gold mining town for over 25 years and employs local craftsmen. Visitors can choose from a range of opal, jade, paua, bone and pearl designs, and visitors can watch skilled jade carvers in action.  

Remarkables Market

Held every Saturday morning at The Red Barn in the Remarkables Park Town Centre (an industrial area near the airport)), this market offers visitors the chance to browse through local arts and crafts and a selection of local produce, including hot dishes to take away. There is also live music.  

Golden Fleece

Located in Arrowtown, Golden Fleece is one of New Zealand’s leading producers of merino and possum knitwear and accessories. The store also sells a range of unique Kiwi souvenirs, including designer leather jackets. This family-owned business also sells alpaca and mohair clothing.

Reel Collectibles

Billed as “New Zealand’s premier store for rare and limited edition movie and TV collectibles”, this Queenstown shop specialises in Lord of the Rings products and merchandise, along with Star Wars memorabilia, Doctor Who items and other TV and movie posters, artwork, games and toys.

Living Nature

This skincare and cosmetics retailer says its products are “100% natural and uniquely New Zealand”.  The products are made at Kerikeri on the north island using Manuka honey and oils, Harakeke flax gel, kaolin and other indigenous ingredients. The shop is in suburban Frankton.  



Coronet Ski fields

Queenstown and surrounds are a paradise for lovers of the outdoors with myriad walking and hiking opportunities. Central Otago boasts extremely diverse geography, flora and fauna with the Fiordland and Mount Aspiring national parks on Queenstown’s doorstep. There are dozens of outdoor options depending on fitness levels, ranging from kayaking to golfing.

Jack’s Point Golf Course

There are six golf courses within half an hour of Queenstown with Jack’s Point the newest and among the most spectacular. Completed in 2008 on a former high country sheep farm, it has a 6,388-metre, par-72, 18-hole course with wetlands, native bush and rocky outcrops, along with spectacular views.

Ski resorts

There are four major snow resorts within 90 minutes of Queenstown, Coronet Peak (the closest), the Remarkables, Cardrona and Treble Cone, and the ski season is one of the longest in the southern hemisphere, usually running from June to October. All offer shuttle services and a selection of terrains.

Cycling trails

There are numerous cycling opportunities in Queenstown, including The Queenstown Trail, which is billed as “one of New Zealand’s flagship trails” and is one of 24 national cycleways known as a New Zealand Great Ride. The Trail covers 110kms and has diversions into Queenstown, Arrowtown and the Gibbston Valley.


The many mountain ranges and rocky outcrops surrounding Queenstown make for a wide range of climbing options. Climbing Queenstown has a schedule of activities including half and full-day rock climbing, alpine trekking and abseiling, all in the care of professionally qualified guides. Full day trips offer multiple experiences.

On the water

Want to try the new craze of Stand Up Paddle Boarding on Lake Wakatipu? During the summer months, Queenstown Water Sports offers several different water sports activities, including paddle boats and aqua bikes for young members of the family, or a variety of half day and full sea kayaking tours.

Hot-Air Ballooning

You need to be up before dawn to enjoy the rill of ballooning over Queenstown and surrounds with Sunrise Balloons. Flights start as the sun rises and balloons rise to as high as 6,000-feet above sea level, taking in the lakes and mountains before ending with sparkling wine, coffee, croissants and muffins.

Millbrook Resort

This spectacular resort course between Queenstown and Arrowtown has several times been named the best in the country and has hosted the New Zealand Open. There are three nine-hole layouts (The Remarkables, The Arrow and The Coronet Nine) from which to choose. Originally designed by Sir Bob Charles.  


Whether you are an absolute novice, or a hardened thrill seeker, there is a ziplining experience for every skill level – and right on the Skyline gondola hill. Ziptrek Ecotours offers an exciting eco-adventure through the high forest canopy at all times of the year, ranging from a starter experience to one that reaches up to 70kph.

Walk and Wine

This experience offers the chance to combine some of the region’s most spectacular scenery with some fine food and wine. A 7km walk through the Gibbston Valley River Trail includes a lunch hamper and a stroll from Peregrine Wines to the Kawarau Suspension Bridge (watch the bungy jumpers) while tasting wine along the way.

Queenstown Gardens

Dating back to 1867, these botanical gardens are a lovely spot for a casual stroll or a picnic. The gardens contain a selection of both exotic and native trees and plants and there are several walking trails with mountain views and overlooking Lake Wakatipu.



While it is true that Queenstown is more an adventure destination and a gourmet hub than a centre for arts, the region still has several galleries and theatres. Queenstown’s laidback charm has attracted many artists and craftspeople, including painters, sculptors, photographers, musicians and jewellers.

Kiwi Haka

For those visitors keen to learn more about the Maori culture and language, this is a live show performed by Queenstown’s leading Kapa Haka group and looks at Maori stories, traditions and culture, song and dance. Located in the Skyline complex, Kiwi Haka can be enjoyed as a stand alone, or with dinner in Stratosfare Restaurant.

Milford Galleries

With galleries in both Dunedin and Queenstown, Milford Galleries represents a number of New Zealand’s leading artists and has paintings, sculpture, ceramics and glass works on display. The gallery is open daily and prides itself on showing works from emerging local talents. An upstairs gallery presents solo and group exhibitions.

Photography classes

Queenstown Centre for Creative Photography hosts photography workshops from beginners to  advanced level. A team of experienced professional photographers are on hand to offer guidance in landscape, portrait and travel photography and cameras and tripods can be loaned. Advance bookings are essential.

Remarkable Theatre

This amateur theatre company, founded in 2009, puts together a range of shows and events across the Wakatipu Basin, primarly Queenstown, Wanaka and Arrowtown. Shows range from Shakespeare in the Park to Pint Size Plays.

Artbay Gallery

Based in a delightful historic waterfront cottage with wonderful views, this private gallery features every comtemporary genre from landscape works to sculpture and specialises in matching tourists with New Zealand art to take home, organising international shipping. It hosts regular seasonal exhibitions.

Lakes District Museum

Head to the old gold mining centre of Arrowtown to discover this bijou museum which reflects early life in the Wakatipu District. There are displays relevant to pre- European Maori, European settlement and the gold rush periods and the museum also has an attached art gallery, book shop and gift shop.

Queenstown Arts Centre

The main drawcard of the Arts Centre is that all the artwork on display has been created by local craftspeople and artists. The contemporary Cloakroom Gallery features seasonal exhibitions of paintings and drawings, pottery, photography and jewellery – all the artwork is for sale. The Arts Centre also houses studio spaces, where local artists work.

Central Art Gallery

The Central Art Gallery is one of new Zealand’s oldest privately-owned galleries and is in the centre of town opposite the Steamer Wharf. Works by leading New Zealand artists Dale Gallagher, Richard Wilson, Mark Rodgers, Peter Beadle and Peter Hackett are on show and prices start from $20.

Arts and Crafts Market

In a beautiful outdoor setting right on the waterfront, some of Queenstown’s most talented artisans show off everything from home-made jewellery to leather work, pottery and hand-crafted soaps. The market is held every Saturday morning and everything is guaranteed 100 per cent New Zealand made.

Ballarat Trading Co.

A “gastro pub” in the Queenstown Mall, Ballarat Trading Co. is inspired by an 1850s trading post but is also known for live music several nights of the week. This is the place to go and see local rock acts, often up-and-comers, in a relaxed environment.



Bike Festival

Held in late March-early April, this annual Queenstown Festival is devoted to bikes, bike riders – whether amateurs or professionals. There are over 25 events for cross-country riders, downhillers, freeriders or roadies, along with concerts, film screening and social events.

Jazz Festival

Jazz lovers descend on Queenstown for four days of concerts and fun over the Labour Day Weekend (October 21-24 in 2016). The festival has grown from humble beginnings back in 1978 to become one of Queenstown’s most popular music events, attracting musicians and fans from around the globe.

Winter Festival

Traditionally held over 10 days in late June and early July, this is the biggest sports and social event on the Queenstown calendar. The recent 42nd festival included 60 events and entertained an estimated 45,000 people. In 2017, the festival will be revamped into an action-packed four-day event.

Cromwell Wine and Food Festival

Held annually on the first weekend of January, this is held in the grounds of Old Cromwell Town Historic Precinct and offers the chance to taste wines from several small wine producers who do not have cellar doors. Local food producers have stalls alongside each tasting stand serving dishes like whitebait or rabbit sausages.

Gibbston Valley Winery Summer Concert

Held in late January each year, this concert has featured some of the biggest names in entertainment; think rock bands Foreigner, Heart and Creedence Clearwater Revival. On January 21, 2017, the headliners at the open-air venue next to the winery will be Bonnie Tyler and Icehouse.

Arrowtown Autumn Festival

The historic gold mining town of Arrowtown celebrates its storied history over five days from April 20, which is the week after Easter. There will be a traditional market, a street parade, scarecrow competition and several other community activites over the event.

Arrowtown Arts Festival

This is the second year of the Arrowtown Arts Festival, which will run from September 15-18 in 2016. Local artists will be showcasing their talent and running a series of workshops on topics as diverse as poetry and sculpture. There will be an arts and crafts market on Buckingham Green on the final day.

Queenstown International Marathon

Runners from around New Zealand, and possibly further afield, will descend on Queenstown for the inaugural marathon on November 19, 2016. There will be full marathon, half marathon and fun run options on a course with a backdrop of dramatic mountain ranges.

Queenstown International

Pro golfers Lucas Parsons and Greg Turner are the hosts for this four-day golf competion, which debuts beween November 20-24, 2016. The package includes three rounds on tournament courses, four nights at Millbrook Resort, and evening wine and food functions.

Rhythm and Alps

A two-day rock music festival held at Wanaka over the New Year break, it will be held on December 30-31 in 2016. R&A attracts a young crowd in party mode – but there are VIP packages available for guests who do not want to rough it.  



There are over 200 vineyards in the Central Otago region within a 1½ hour drive of Queenstown.  Of these, 80 have cellar doors for tasting – and there are several winery restaurants. The vast majority of the grapes produced are pinot noir, the wine for which the region is world-renowned. Central Otago is the world’s most southerly wine region.


The vineyards and the wines are certified organic at Carrick at Bannockburn, one of the region’s leading producers and home to a modern restaurant where visitors can eat al fresco in summer or inside by the fire in winter. The food is simple and seasonal but hearty, the pinots and chardonnays stellar.  

Mount Difficulty

One of the highest-profile wineries in the Bannockburn region for almost a quarter of a century, Mt Difficulty is open seven days a week for tastings and lunch. There is a restaurant with a terrace that is hugely popular in summer; serving dishes like twice-roasted duck in pinot noir. Pay a gold coin donation for a wine tasting.

Wooing Tree

Family-owned and good place to taste and enjoy lunch if you have kids on board; there is a sand pit and a slide to keep them busy. Within walking distance of downtown Cromwell, Wooing Tree offers wine tastings, light lunches and gourmet platters during the warmer months.

Chard Farm

It is a dramatic drive in to Chard Farm in Gibbston, via a winding dirt road that sits above the Kawarau River Gorge – but the journey is worthwhile. The wines are excellent and you’ll find old images and mining relics along with a sculpture of a bicycle made from vine cuttings. Open daily.

Two Paddocks

Owned by a self-described “itinerant actor”, Two Paddocks at Alexandra is the vineyard of New Zealand’s Hollywood superstar Sam Neill – and home of some outstanding pinot noirs. You’ll need to make an appointment in advance to visit, but the wines are very good.  

Gibbston Valley Wines

With tours operating hourly and a cellar door, gift shop, cheesery and restaurant sharing the same space, this producer is one of the closest to Queenstown and also one of the most popular.  And it is open daily, too.


Amisfield Winery & Bistro is housed in an old stone building overlooking Lake Hayes and offers a relaxed environment in which to enjoy a tasting (for which a minimal fee is charged). Knowledgeable staff make this an ejoyable experience and the bistro serves local, seasonal dishes aimed to complement the wines.

Brennan Wines

This Gibbston cellar door offers a family-oriented Central Otago tasting of varieties like pinot noir along with more unusual grapes like pinot grigio (the only one in the area), and even tempranillo. The wonderfully rustic tasting room here sells a range of picnic and tasting plates, and is open daily.

Judge Rock

Paul and Angela Jacobson make pinot noir at Alexandra, along with experimenting with the rare Austrian grape variety St Laurent. They open their delightful home and garden for tastings from October through to April each year and also have a small, comfortable guest house they rent out.

Felton Road

It is all about the quality wine at Felton Road, in Bannockburn, one of New Zealand’s leading producers of pinot noir and chardonnay. No kids club, or restaurant, just a serious tasting room in which to sample iconic biodynamic wines. Open 2pm-5pm on weekdays only, or otherwise by appointment.  



Queenstown, the vineyards and the ski fields cover such a large area that visitors ideally need several days to explore the region. Even 24 hours in town is not enough to do all the highlights, but you can fit quite a lot of activities in without heading too far out out town.


Take a walk around the Lake Wakatipu waterfront and the Steamer Wharf, framed by the Remarkables mountain range, before too many people arrive. With a length of 80 kilometres, it is New Zealand’s longest lake and also the third largest. Throw in a line for trout or salmon.


Head for popular local hangout Joe’s Garage – a favourite for 16 years – for breakfast/brunch. Choose from warming porridge or pikelets, or a feast of bacon, free-range eggs, toast, tomato, mushrooms and hash browns with spicy bratwurst or kransky sausages.   


Take a 90-minute cruise on the TSS Earnslaw and see some of New Zealand’s spectacular alpine scenery. Cruise passengers are invited to visit the engine room and see the powerful steam engines at work, and to view the collection of historical photos in on-board mini museum.


Take a Skyline gondola ride to a peak high above Queenstown, where you’ll find the Skyline complex with superb views of Coronet Peak, The Remarkables range as well as across Lake Wakatipu to Cecil and Walter Peaks. There are restaurants and cafés serving meals at a range of prices.


Get your adventure gear on for rip-roaring, spinning ride on the Thunder Jet jet boat down the Kawarau and Shotover rivers, or frighten the life out yourself by doing one of the many AJ Hackett bungy jumps in and around town. This, after all, is the birthplace of bungy jumping.


Sample some of the finest wines from around New Zealand, 80 in all, at The Winery in Queenstown Mall. You can choose from a taste, half glass or glass, dispensed by a high-tech machine, or there are 700 different bottles to choose from to pair with platters.


Take a stroll through downtown Queenstown. Many of the shops and art galleries are open late to cater for visitors, particularly during the summer months, when it is fun to find a waterfront bar or café and enjoy a local wine or craft beer, or maybe a cocktails at Eichardt’s.  


Food and wine lovers should head by water taxi to the Rees Hotel and Apartments and True South, one of the finest restaurants in town, casual but sophisticated, and a specialist in local ingredients like Ora king salmon, confit of Canterbury duck leg or Wakanui beef rib eye. There’s an excellent wine list.   


Back into town for a nightcap. Wander to the Searle Lane precinct, which is home to several bars, pubs and clubs catering to different demographics; whether you want a colourful cocktail or a single malt Scotch whisky. Or seek out the Lombardi Bar at the St Moritz Hotel for a flight of local pinots.  

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