12 Must-Do Things in Queenstown (That Aren’t Skiing)
YHA has two quality budget hostels in Queenstown and a whole bunch of inspiration for your next trip to the adventure capital of New Zealand.
Queenstown’s dramatic alpine terrain creates a natural playground that skiers and snowboarders flock to, but what else is there to do outside the slopes of Coronet Peak, Cardrona and the Remarkables? From adrenaline-pumping experiences that give New Zealand’s adventure capital its reputation, to budget-friendly activities that are a little gentler on a backpacker’s bank account, these are the 12 things you have to see and do on your visit to Queenstown.
Do the world’s first bungy jump
New Zealander AJ Hackett was the first person to come up with the idea of tying an elastic band around your feet and throwing yourself off a bridge, and he made his vision a reality by building the word’s first commercial bungy jump on Kawarau Bridge in 1988. You can still take the plunge off the 130-metre-plus platform with Hackett’s company— a thrill that’s as historic as it is heart-racing.
Leap out of a plane on a skydive
If you’d rather hurl yourself towards the earth without being tethered to a bungy cord, jump out of a plane instead. Countless tour operators can take you to the skies for a skydive, showing off spectacular aerial views of Queenstown as you’re plummeting back to solid ground. If your nerves can’t handle a skydive, then book a seat on a scenic flight, taking in those same jaw-dropping vistas minus the butterflies in your stomach.
Make a splash on a jet boat ride
The Shotover Jet is a quintessential Queenstown experience. Head to the Shotover Canyon 10 minutes from the middle of town, strap yourself into the jet boat, then enjoy the wind in your hair as you scream past towering cliffs at 85km/h, zooming over rapid currents for 20 minutes of white-knuckle speed, acrobatic trickery and high-octane excitement.
Relax on Lake Wakatipu
If all these extreme sports make you want to curl up in the foetal position, then exploring the serene Lake Wakatipu might be more your speed. Neighboured by Queenstown itself as well as the striking Remarkables mountain range, New Zealand’s third-largest lake is a haven for walking, cycling and picnicking around its tranquil shores. Hop on a sunset cruise to see Lake Wakatipu shimmer during the golden hour.
Admire the view from Bob’s Peak
Your Instagram followers will love the panoramic vista from Bob’s Peak, which overlooks Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the snow-capped Southern Alps. There are two ways to get to the top: the Tiki Trail, a steep hour-long hike through the forest, and the Skyline Gondola floating up to the summit. The funnest way back, though, is the serpentine luge track snaking down the mountain — an exhilarating return ticket to the bottom.
Conquer the Ben Lomond Track
After tackling the Tiki Trail, keen hikers can keep walking towards the summit of Ben Lomond (1728m), a rugged six-to-eight-hour trail open over the warmer months. The reward at the end of this demanding hike is the lofty vantage point over the Remarkables, Coronet Peak, plus Mounts Aspiring and Earnslaw in the distance on a clear day. You might even meet some Kea (NZ alpine parrots) at the top.
Feast on Fergburger
All that exercise is hungry work… Fergburger to the rescue! The monster-sized masterpieces coming out of this Queenstown institution have been described as the world’s best burgers — sink your teeth into a Fergburger (prime New Zealand beef topped with lettuce, tomato, red onion, aioli, tomato relish and your choice of cheddar, blue, Swiss or brie cheese) to taste what all the fuss is about.
Stroll up Queenstown Hill
This small hill is the perfect hike for people who don’t like hiking. The gentle Time Walk trail winds though pine forest towards to the top of Queenstown Hill, which only stands 900 metres tall, but still offers sweeping views over Queenstown and its surrounds. Pop up at sunrise or sunset to see the area glow in golden light.
Play frisbee golf in the Queenstown Gardens
These immaculately curated botanic gardens in the middle of Queenstown provides a relaxing oasis where you can soothe your nerves after jangling them on a jet boat, bungee jump and skydive. The leafy gardens themselves are lovely — just ask the hundreds of people who picnic there on sunny summer days — and the 18-basket frisbee golf course dotted throughout the park is another great reason to visit.
Visit autumnal Arrowtown
Sitting on the banks of the Arrow River just 15 minutes from Queenstown, Arrowtown is a beautifully preserved Gold Rush village surrounded by craggy mountains, gorgeous picnic spots, and a web of scenic trails for walking and cycling. Time your visit during autumn to see this quaint 19th Century township ablaze with brilliant red and yellow leaves.
Sip on local wines
You can’t leave Queenstown without sampling Central Otago’s world-class Pinot Noir. More than 200 vineyards blanket the area around Queenstown and nearby Gibbston, producing the cool-weather wines that this part of the world is famous for. Queenstown itself is home to 150 restaurants, cafes and bars serving fresh local produce, best washed down with an award-winning glass of Pinot Noir or other Central Otago varietals like Riesling, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.
Take a trip to Glenorchy
If you stick to the central city, you're missing out on the charming settlement of Glenorchy. Set against lush forest, soaring peaks and the sparkling waters of Lake Wakatipu, this is a must-do day trip from Queenstown. You might even recognise Glenorchy from its cinematic appearances — this tiny town was a filming location for Isengard, Amon Hen, Lothlorien Forest, the Misty Mountains and Ithilie in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The town of Paradise another 20km up the road also lives up to its name - you can even stay lakefront here at YHA Kinloch, Glenorchy. Bonus activities: stop off at Moke Lake for the 'gram, Dart River Safaris for watery adventures, and Dart Stables for epic horse-trekking!
YHA Queenstown Central
In the fast-beating heart of Queenstown, this modern backpacker hostel is a secure, comfortable base near everything this alpine town has to offer.
YHA Queenstown Lakefront
This recently refurbished modern, superbly-equipped and friendly backpacker hostel is a short lakefront stroll from the heart of Queenstown.
YHA Kinloch, Glenorchy
Relax and restore yourself at YHA Kinloch, Glenorchy. This lakeside lodge with its stunning views is a great base for a getaway, or a pre- or post-hike stay.
While Queenstown gets all the glory for being New Zealand’s adrenaline capital, we know a few more hotspots to suit your mood and adrenaline tolerance!
Love skiing, snowboarding, snow shoeing or any and all fun on and off the piste? Check out our great snow hostels located near New Zealand's best slopes.