The adventure capital


The adventure capital

Queenstown is unashamedly a tourist town. Sitting on the shore of Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by majestic mountains it’s easy to see why this cosmopolitan town is a year-round adventure seeker’s paradise. In warmer months there’s every imaginable adventure activity on offer with adrenalin thrills aplenty and in winter, it’s the après ski place to be.

Queenstown region marker

So yes, Queenstown is an energetic town with an action vibe, filled with visitors who want to live fast and play hard, day and night. But there’s way more to this town and the surrounding area than meets the eye. If you simply want to get out and enjoy the natural beauty, there’s much to see and do beyond the highly publicised adventure rides and activities. And it doesn’t have to cost a thing.

Here are approximate travel times and distances to and from Queenstown.

Drive times

  • Christchurch to Queenstown (via Tekapo): 480 km / 298 miles – 6 hours
  • Dunedin to Queenstown (via State Highway 8): 280 km / 174 miles – 3 hours 40 minutes
  • Invercargill to Queenstown (via State Highway 6): 187 km / 116 miles – 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Queenstown to Wanaka (via Cardrona): 67 km / 42 miles – 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Queenstown to Glenorchy (for Routeburn): 46 km / 29 miles – 50 minutes
  • Queenstown to Te Anau (for Milford Sound): 172 km / 107 miles – 2 hours 10 minutes

Travel times can vary significantly, particularly in popular areas during peak visitor months (December – February). For current travel times and updates on delays, roadworks and road closures, use the NZ Transport Agency journey planner before travelling. It’s always a good idea to allow extra time for photo stops and, when travelling longer distances, rest stops.

Queenstown Airport is located 15 minutes from downtown Queenstown..

  • Auckland (AKL) to Queenstown (ZQN): 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Wellington (WLG) to Queenstown (ZQN): 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Christchurch (CHC) to Queenstown (ZQN): 55 minutes

A number of international airlines including Qantas and Virgin Australia fly into Queenstown from Australia. Check the Queenstown Airport website for details.

Summer in Queenstown (December – February) is peak season and it’s all about long sunny days, perfect for exploring in the mountains and then cooling off in the lake. The average high in summer is 22 °C / 71.6 °F but it can reach 30 °C. The average summer low is 10 °C / 50 °F and early summer mornings can still be a little cool before the sun warms the day.

Queenstown has very distinct seasons, most noticeable in autumn (March – May) as green leaves turn to shades of red and orange in a stunning display, with nearby Arrowtown being a particular highlight. Temperatures range between 25 °C / 77 °F and 5 °C / 41 °F.

With clear blue skies and snow on the surrounding hills, winter (June – August) is possibly the most scenic time in Queenstown as everyone flocks to the nearby ski resorts. The average high in winter is just 9 °C / 48.2 °F and the average winter low is 0 °C / 32 °F but be prepared for minus degrees celsius.

Spring in Queenstown (September – November) sees warmer, longer days returning although the weather can be a little unpredictable so it pays to be prepared for anything. Snow on the peaks means that it’s still cool in the mountains even as the valleys and lake starts to warm up. Temperatures range between 8 °C / 46.4 °F and 22 °C / 71.6 °F.

Check current conditions and get the latest weather forecasts on MetService.com.

While there’s not much you can do about the weather once you’re here, it’s worth knowing what to expect at different times of the year and in different parts of the country. These two articles are well worth reading:

Top things to do in Queenstown

Looking for ideas to help you plan the ultimate New Zealand outdoor adventure? Here are some of the top things for active travellers to see and do in the Queenstown region.

Get your adrenaline fix

In 1988, Kawarau Gorge suspension bridge near Queenstown became home to the world’s first permanent commercial bungy jump. Since then, the town has built a reputation as being the adventure capital of the world so if you want to get the heart racing, here are some activities to consider:

  • Bungy jump off Kawarau Bridge or experience the Kawarau Zipride with AJ Hackett. For the ultimate thrill, check out the 134m Nevis bungy, New Zealand’s highest.
  • Get wet with Canyoning Queenstown or go white water river rafting with Go Orange.
  • Race through the spectacular narrow Shotover Gorge in a jet boat with Shotover Jet.
Queenstown bungy

Climb Ben Lomond

Perched above Queenstown with its gift store, cafe, restaurant and other attractions, the Skyline Queenstown complex on Bob’s Peak is a popular tourist attraction. Most visitors will catch the gondola up to the top while the more adventurous will walk up via the Skyline access track which gently winds its way through the forest.

But if you’re up for more of a challenge, you can continue along the Ben Lomond Walkway towards the summit of Ben Lomond. This is a full day hike but worth it for some of the best panoramic views of the surrounding area.

Ben Lomond

Venture offroad

A more relaxing, but no less exciting option is to go on a 4WD tour with Nomad Safaris. They offer tours through some of the incredible high country around Queenstown including tours to see all of the Lord of the Rings film locations in the Queenstown and Arrowtown area.

Skippers Canyon

Head for Paradise

Yes, Paradise can be found here in New Zealand, but blink and you’ll miss it as this small locality about an hours drive north of Queenstown is little more than a signboard and a few farm houses. But the scenery is spectacular with a number of Lord of the Rings filming locations in the area.

If you’re heading out this way you may also want to head over to the start of the Routeburn Track, 25 km / 16 miles north of Glenorchy. The full track is a multi-day hike and one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. If you don’t have time to do the full hike, a day walk to Routeburn Falls and back is definitely worth it.

Routeburn Track

Visit the ski fields

When it comes to skiing and snowboarding in winter, you’ll be spoilt for choice with four ski areas and a long ski season that runs from June to October. There’s everything from gentle beginners slopes to some of the country’s best ‘in-bounds’ backcountry and black diamond runs. There’s also some of the most extensive terrain park facilities in New Zealand.

The Remarkables ski field is also popular outside of the winter season. The winding mountain road up to the base offers some spectacular views over Queenstown, and there are a number of scenic walks including the Lake Alta walk and a climb to a spectacular viewing point above the Shadow Basin ski lift.