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5 things that you NEED to do in Queenstown , New Zealand

Friday, December 18, 2015

View from the Skyline Gondola in Queenstown New Zealand
Once a town rich in gold, Queenstown now stands as a town rich in nature, food and adrenaline activities. With so much to do, and often too little time to do it all, having at least an idea of what you NEED to do in Queenstown will go a long way in avoiding the dreaded fear of missing out - although it doesn't hurt to add some spontaneous jumping off things so as to avoid the pre-jump nerves in the preceding days. What follows is my 5 favourite Queenstown activities that I encourage you to try for yourself if you happen to find yourself in that neck of the woods.

Things to do in Queenstown New Zealand : Shotover Canyon Swing

Before I left for New Zealand, I swore to my parents that I would not be jumping off anything during my 10 day stay, and given my fear of heights they believed me and I believed myself. Fast forward one day into my Southern Explorer Topdeck tour and, whether motivated by the buzz of my fellow travelers or an intense desire to appreciate the New Zealand scenery from every angle, I had signed myself up to not only jump off something, but to make the world's HIGHEST cliff jump on the Shotover Canyon Swing! The jump involves a 109 metre jump into the world famous Shotover Canyon, including a 60 metre vertical freefall down a steep rocky cliff face and a swing of  200 metres. Scared of heights too? I recommend taking the slide jump style to help trick your brain into believing that you are at Universal Studios on a VERY high-tech 3d ride. You have my word that within second of sliding down the slippery dip you will be riding one the highest of highest and already budgeting to make a second jump*. Check out the Shotover Canyon Swing website here for the endless other jump styles that range from 'very scary', to 'very,very,very scary'. 

* Fun fact: Once you've paid the $219NZD for the first jump you can return to make a second jump at ANY point in the future for only $45NZD

Things to do in Queenstown New Zealand : Lord of the Rings Horse Ride

After your adrenaline-pumping cliff-jumping date, it's time to go on a whole different kind of adventure - an adventure to Middle Earth. The Glenorchy region, just 45 kilometres from Queenstown, is the setting for a number of pivotal scenes in Peter Jackson's 'Lord of the Rings' and 'The Hobbit' films - as well as Taylor Swift's next video clip which was wrapping up filming the day we visited! Although it is also possible to tour the area on a jet boat or jeep, I recommend the 'Ride of the Rings' tour offered by Dart Stables which involves both a 4WD road trip up to Mount Aspiring National Park - one of New Zealand’s three World Heritage Areas - visiting locations used in the filming of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Narnia and Wolverine, as well as a walking paced hour -long horse ride along the Dart River surrounded by picturesque views of the Wizard’s Vale and the Misty Mountains in the Dart Valley (i.e. the location of Isengard) - you may even get to ride a horse featured in one of the films! The entire tour costs $165NZD (+$20NZD if you require a transfer from Queenstown).

3. Hike up the Queenstown Hill

Things to do in Queenstown New Zealand : Queenstown Hill Hike

The Queenstown Hill Time Walk is where nature and education melds with fitness - it's the equivalent of working out to a David Attenborough documentary. As you wander through the 1.5 kilometer path of pine forest, you are invited to learn about the past, present and future of Queenstown and the area around Lake Wakatipu via regularly posted signposts. After a 500 metre ascend in altitude, you are rewarded with a 360° view of some of the main landmarks of the area at the summit of Te Tapu-nui, including the Remarkables, Cecil Peak, parts of Lake Wakatipu and the Kawarau River. If you happen to have packed a small picnic, this is where I'd recommend setting up camp and enjoying the views not only down to Queenstown but also up to the paragliders soaring through the neighbouring skies. Otherwise, I definitely recommend following up your hike with some of the most delicious ice cream and frozen yoghurt that my taste buds have ever been treated to back down in Queenstown on the lake front at Patagonia*.

*Be sure to taste the blueberry frozen yoghurt!

4. Unwind at the Onsen hot pools

Things to do in Queenstown New Zealand : Shotover Canyon Onsen Hot Pools

It's time to reward yourself and take a break from all those adrenaline inducing activities. What better way to sit back, relax and reflect than in your own private hot pool overlooking Shotover Canyon - the very same canyon as you just cliff jumped into! The Onsen hot pools are set in private cedar rooms which can be converted from indoors to outdoors with the touch of a button. The water is a mix of mountain spring water, rain water and lake water, with the temperature set according to the day. Should things get a little too steamy however, you can add a stream of cold water with the touch of a button which pours down into the pool from above, as if sent down from the gods. As you take in the fresh mountain air, soaking in the warm, pure waters of your own private pool you’re transported to a rare state of serenity. For an even more relaxing (and romantic) experience, visit during the evening and relax in the soothing water as you gaze at the stars above surrounded by candlelight*. Due to the popularity of this spot for both tourists and locals, pre-booking is highly recommended and is necessary in order to arrange a free courtesy pickup from the city centre. 

*This is definitely on my to do list when I return!

Things to do in Queenstown New Zealand : Sunset from the Skyline Gondola

Finally, soften your Queenstown goodbyes from above while watching the sunset over Queenstown and it's encompassing glacial lake from the Queenstown Skyline Gondola station. Top off the experience with a stargazing experience from above the Gondola station where the clear, unpolluted skies of Queenstown are the perfect setting to view an amazing array of stunning sights, from the iconic Southern Cross, to nebulas, planets, the Milky Way and other galaxies.

Have you already been to Queenstown? Let me know your favorite activity in the comments below or over on my Facebook page - I'd love to get some ideas for my next visit!

x L