Queenstown: Main Sights
The Adventure City
Action packed Queenstown offers traveller a wealth of sights – both natural and man-made.
Glacier-fed Lake Wakitipu is one of the main natural attractions of Queenstown. It’s the third largest lake in New Zealand and is a stunning sight with the Southern Alps rising sharply from its shore. Not being content with providing this majestic landscape for awestruck visitors to Queenstown, the lake has another impressive card up its sleeve. Lake Wakitipu rises and falls rhythmically by roughly 12 cm every five minutes. Maori legend suggests that the giant S shaped lake is actually a wounded monster and the rise and fall of its water level is caused by the beast’s breathing. A host of activities are available on and around the lake including a cruise on a vintage paddle steam ship, sailing, trout and salmon fishing, and walking around the lake’s massive expanse of shore.
TSS Earnslaw Steam Ship
The TSS Earnslaw is one of the Southern Hemisphere’s last remaining passenger steam ships and it’s a popular attraction with visitors to Queenstown. A trip on this 100 year old paddle steamer is a relaxing way to see some of the Queenstown District’s stunning scenery while discovering a little about Queenstown’s fascinating early history.
NZL14 America’s Cup Yacht
Sailing on Lake Wakitipu is another popular activity for visitors to Queenstown and visitors have the chance to sail on the NZL14 America's Cup Yacht. A great opportunity to try your hand at sailing (or just relaxing) onboard this sleek boat built specifically to compete in the world’s most famous yacht race.
Queenstown is dominated by the majestic Remarkables mountain range (part of the Southern Alps). Living up to their name, the Remarkables rise sharply from the shore of Lake Wakitipu providing visitors to Queenstown with a stunning vista. One of the best views of the Remarkables is at sunset when the mountains glow under the setting sun. The mountain range offers a wealth of adventure activities and in winter becomes the centre of attention in Queenstown as skiers and snowboarders descend on the Remarkables ski field. The Remarkable Ski Field is one of the most popular in the Southern Hemisphere and is equally popular with young adrenalin hungry skiers and snowboarders as it is with families due to its diverse and well maintained slopes.
Wild, dangerous, and beautiful the Kawarau has always been an important river. During the Gold rush of the late 1800’s, the Kawarau River saw much gold mining activity and some of the old miners huts still line the banks of the river. Modern day activities on Queenstown’s Kawarau River include whitewater rafting, jet boating, river surfing, and the world’s first commercial bungy jump. The river was also the setting for the Pillars of the Kings in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy.
The Shotover River
Once one of the richest sources of gold in the world, the Shotover River features strongly in Queenstown’s early history as a major gold rush town. The gold’s all but vanished but the river still features heavily on the agenda of most visitors to Queenstown. The fast running Shotover River is now the focus of a number of adrenalin fuelled activities including whitewater rafting, jet boating and of course, that perennial Queenstown favourite - bungy jumping.
The Nevis River
Another scene of frantic gold mining activity in the early days of Queenstown’s history, the Nevis River is now best known for activities such as kayaking, fishing, and as the site of one of the world’s highest and most hair raising bungy jumps – the Nevis Highwire.
A short drive from Queenstown lies the historic gold mining settlement of Arrowtown. Part of the Queenstown Lake District, Arrowtown is nestled beside the Arrow River and offers visitors the opportunity to dip into the regions intriguing gold mining history. Activities and attractions include panning for gold, tours of historic gold rush era buildings and a traditional Chinese Miners Settlement, the district’s museum, and a variety of walking trails. Arrowtown can be visited as a day trip from Queenstown or included as a stopover on your way to or from Queenstown.
The Skyline Gondola and Luge
Skyline is Queenstown’s cable car which takes you to the summit of a hill where incredible views over Queenstown, the lake, and the surrounding mountains can be appreciated. To tempt you to open your wallet at the summit is a restaurant, and of course, it wouldn’t be Queenstown if there wasn’t some sort of adventure activity to be found at the top. This comes in the form of the Skyline Luge where adventure seekers can hurtle down a winding hill in what is essentially a plastic box on wheels. If you’re feeling energetic (or watching your budget) you can walk to the summit and enjoy the view for free. Gondola rides cost around 10 Euros per adult, 4.50 Euros per child, or around 23 Euros for a family ticket. Gondola and Luge packages costs from around 13 Euros per person, 8.50 per child, or around 34 Euros for a family.
Wine in Queenstown is becoming big business as the town is situated in New Zealand’s fasted growing wine district. The awards for Queenstown wines have been coming thick and fast and tourists are welcome to visit many of Queenstown’s nearby vineyards. If you’ve got a nose a for a fine drop or are curious to find out a little about wine making in Queenstown, you can visit or join a wine tour of the vineyards in Gibbston Valley - Queenstown's main wine producing area. New Zealand Wine Tours, Appleton Central Wine Tours, and It’s Wine Time are just a few of the companies that provide organised wine tours of the region.
Kiwi Birdlife Park
Queenstown’s Kiwi Birdlife Park is a chance to see native flora and fauna in an 8 acre park just minutes from the town centre. Attractions include a live conservation show, native garden trail, replica Maori hunting village, restaurant, and of course, the opportunity to see some of New Zealand’s wonderfully strange native birds up close including the shy, nocturnal kiwi (if they’re not sleeping). Adults from 15.60 Euros. Children from 6.50 Euros (free if under 15 and accompanied by a paying adult).
The Lord of the Rings
Interested in exploring Middle Earth? The stunning area around Queenstown was the setting for numerous scenes from Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. The Lord of the Rings highlights around Queenstown include the location of the Eregion Hills, and the Pillars of Argonath. Lord of the Rings site and activity tours can be booked in Queenstown and cater for hardcore Tolkien fans and those with just a passing interest. Even if you’re not a fan of the Lord of the Rings films, it can be a fun way to check out some of Queenstown’s most stunning scenery.