20 things to do in Queenstown in Winter 2020
Want to know what to do in Queenstown in winter? We’ve got you covered with 20 of the coolest activities this side of the Southern Hemisphere!
If you’ve never been to Queenstown, it’s a must-see on your next adventure to New Zealand. Queenstown is the gateway to the Fiordlands, Glaciers, Ski Fields and Vineyards so finding plenty to do is not that hard, even in winter. The lakeside city of Queenstown is a natural playground for locals and tourists alike, with incredible backdrops to an abundance of sights to see and things to do for adventurers of all persuasions.
For all you northern hemisphere folk, winter in New Zealand falls in the months of June, July and August, weird right?! When your used to summer hols, and sand castles by the sea we’re building igloos and making snow angels in the mountains. So get ready for a feast of winter activity ideas – and yes, we did test them ourselves.
1. Before you do anything else remember to just enjoy the natural beauty
Queenstown is known for the stunning views of Lake Wakatipu, the Maori called this lake “the hollow of the giant”, which according to legend, was formed by the resting shape of a fearsome mountain giant. And because the waters rise and fall arithmetically throughout the day, they say his heart still beats on.
If you’re lucky enough to rise early to the morning sun, you’ll be rewarded with a magnificent view of the lake on a cold winter’s morning. As the fog starts to lift, uncovering the beauty of the lake with the snow-covered mountains, you’ll realize that this might just be the most epic white holiday destination in the world.
Queenstown has some awesome walks around the lake, if you’re looking for an easy walk from town include the Frankton Arm Walkway in your itinerary, for a reasonable challenge the Queenstown Hill Loop is a three-hour walk and offers amazing views of the Wakatipu basin, the Frankton Arm and Queenstown Bay. There's so many walk options to choose from, you can find them all here.
2. Festivals – we love our festivals and these are two of the best
The Queenstown Winter Festival which heats things up in June each year is full of activities, super cool vibes, music, mulled wine, mountain snow bikes and you can part in the Matariki torchlight hikoi. It’s an epic long weekend that’ll kick your adventure off to a great start.
Winter Pride Festival that takes place in August is a fun & colourful festival celebrating diversity amongst locals and visitors and offers heaps of events over the festival’s 10-day span.
Bungy jump – it is the home of this crazy sport after all! And there are options.
3. Nevis Bungy – it’s the highest Bungy in New Zealand, 134m high to be exact – suspended in a cable car in the middle of a huge canyon. If that’s not thrilling enough for you, we don’t know what is.
4. The Ledge Bungy – 47m freestyle Bungy – located in the middle of Queenstown at the top of the skyline Gondola, ensuring you get an incredible view over Queenstown. It’s freestyle, so you can jump off, flip off or fling ya-self off however you want.
5. Shotover Canyon Swing – it’s also a freestyle setup and just as we mentioned earlier with The Ledge Bungy, you can let your freak flag fly high here, as long as you stick to the basic safety rules.
Jetboating – it’s not cold it’s exhilarating – wear a beanie!
6. Shotover Jet – Queenstown is home to the original famous Shotover jet which has been zooming down the crystal-clear river waters for over 50 years. The reward here is visiting the stunning canyon you’ll pass through along the journey.
7. Skippers Canyon Jet - The views further upstream from Skippers Canyon launching point are amazing. The tour operators here will also take you for a drive down Skippers Canyon Road. Sure, it’s one of the most dangerous roads in the world, but don’t worry; they have a 100% safety record. It’s kind of important to keep in mind that this will see you getting an in-depth tour of Queenstown’s history – so set aside at least 3 hours for the trip.
Gondola – all the views without the works
8. Queenstown Skyline Gondola to Bobs Peak – Take in the sweeping views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables. Make it to the top (we promise you won’t be disappointed) and then ride, slide or glide back down the mountain. Either way, you’ll get one of the best views in town. They also have a great lunch or buffet dinner.
It’s the main reason to come for most and by July, winter sports season is in full swing in Queenstown. We’ve got three main ski fields.
9. First, there’s The Remarkables Ski field which is 35mins from Queenstown city centre and is suitable for beginners and seasoned skiers.
10. Then there’s Cardrona – closer to Wanaka, which includes more advance terrain, half pipes, and just happened to be the biggest of its kind in the southern hemisphere.
11. Last but not least, there’s Coronet Peak – about 25mins from the city. The field is located within a spectacular resort with thrilling roller coaster terrain as well as a dedicated learner area. After you’re done skiing and the dusk begins to set in, the park offers some pretty cool night-time entertainment too. Just a little bonus tip!
Eat & Drink – it’s winter so beach bods are out and baggy jumpers are in- phew!
12. Fergburger is quite the icon in Queenstown with queues since the moment they open their doors, and for good reason. It’s been reviewed as one of the best burger joints around thanks to their homemade burger buns, juicy patties, and heaps of flavour. Just a word of warning: come hungry because these are not your mama’s burgers, they’re HUGE!
13. Cookiebar – A proudly New Zealand product, Cookie Time cookies are well-known delicacies to all Kiwis. Their humble beginnings date back to a factory in Canterbury, and since then, these fresh, hot and insanely delicious cookies have made their way across to Queenstown. F.Y.I - you can also get them in shakes, ice cream, hot chocolates, s’mores and the no-bake cookie dough version….taste explosions everywhere and in every way!
14. Patagonia Chocolates – Perfect for a winter night treat, Patagonia homemade chocolates, award-winning ice-cream & sorbet, hot chocolates and coffee are the kind of things that just complete life.
15. Remarkables Sweet Shop – missing home or your childhood lollies? A quick visit to The Remarkables Sweet Shop can sort that out in two ticks. These guys stock most of the world’s most popular sweet treats. A favourite of ours is the Crème Brule fudge that they make.
16. Just 30 minute from Queenstown you’ll find a small wine region in the valleys of Gibbston. To keep warm, many Queenstown wineries have wine tastings and restaurants on-site so you can taste world-class wine, stay indoors and indulge while being surrounded by an outlook of spectacular snowy mountains. Or take part in a guided wine cave tour and wine tasting at Gibbston Valley Winery.
17. Minus 5 Ice Bar & Below Zero Ice Bar is made from actual ice, so there’s a lot of power hiding in the names of these frosty establishments! Not only are these ice bars beautifully sculptured so you can hang out in below temperatures, but they also serve up fabulous cocktails, which of course have to be enjoyed in style…by wearing a proper Eskimo jacket!
Day Trips – you shouldn’t miss these.
18. Milford Sound – Keen on undertaking a day trip to the eighth wonder of the world? All you need to do is take a 4 ½ hour drive OR fly with Air Milford (who was voted #1 Scenic Flight on Trip Advisor) if that’s within your budget.
19. TSS Earnslaw (nicknamed the Lady of Lake) is an iconic part of Queenstown. This steamship has been cruising back and forth on Lake Wakatipu for over 100 years, and it transports people all day, several times a day, every day to the beautiful Walter Peak farm tour, where you can get an epic buffet lunch or dinner (renowned for being the best meal in Queenstown).
20. Onsen Hot Pools - If you’re looking for an attraction that’s a little more low key, these private jacuzzies with their views over the Shotover River and valley will really warm your soul. After sunset, there’s even a hot pool experience by Japanese lantern lights….so dreamy!
Enjoy the gentler rhythms of nature at its best or spike up your adrenaline levels and experience all the beauty and splendour that is Queenstown.
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.