There are many ways to come into Queenstown. You can fly in from Australia or other parts of New Zealand. On a clear day you get the privilege of watching the large mountains below you as your plane eventually slices between them. You get to see the magnificent, turquoise Lake Wakatipu that looks too perfect to be real. Or you could drive or take the bus and pass through barren, high mountains that glimmer brightly with snow in the winter and look inviting for a hike in the summer. When you arrive you are overwhelmed with all the activities there is to do. It is, after all, considered to be the adventure capital of the world. While it would be nice to do everything chances are your budget won’t allow it. I think they say the typical tourist in New Zealand only lasts about 3 days in Queenstown. So, what activities do you select? And without blowing your savings?
(1) Eat at Fergburger. I’m not just saying this because I work there. It’s become part of the Queenstown experience and you will never see another burger restaurant like it. With names for the burgers such as Cockadoodle Oink, Southern Swine, Bun Laden, and Morning Glory, you can’t go wrong. The burgers are massive enough to keep you full for the rest of the day and they are delicious. On a busy winter day you will see the queue outside of the shop as the small restaurant is packed with people trying to stay warm. You get to watch as the workers hustle quickly on an efficient “bun line” that produces the burgers. The beauty of it is that they are open until 5 am so you can be satisfied with a burger after a night out on the town. Which leads me to number two…..
(2) Enjoy the night life. Queenstown is a small, yet busy town. It consists of only a handful of main roads. However, you will find over 30 bars, each with its own personality and draw to any crowd. If you are looking for a quiet more cozy night you can go to Pog Mahones, Brass, The Whiskey House, Pub on Wharf or other pubs. Many of these places have live music going on every night. If you are looking for a fun night of clubbing look no further than Buffalos, Winnies, or Altitude which advertise cheap drink specials and theme nights such as Jelly Wrestling or Ginger Night. And if you are looking to just get some cheap drinks with good company go to Surreal or Searle Lane. Of course I am not mentioning the countless other pubs to check out. Really if you are done with one place just walk a few yards and you will end up somewhere new. If you are feeling particularly indecisive join the daily bar crawl and have someone decide your pubs for you. Just be sure to bring your ID and be prepared for a night where anything is possible where you will have the opportunity to meet people from all over the world.
(3) Partake in one adrenaline activity. There are quite a few to choose from in the adventure capital of the world, with 3 different bungees, 3 sky swings, 4 jet boat rides, sky diving, paragliding, parasailing, white water rafting, lugeing, off-roading, zip lining, canyoning, river surfing, and wake boarding. I personally did the Nevis bungee, 134 meters and one of the top 5 highest in the world. I will never forget crying as I approached the ledge, made the mistake of looking down into the canyon below me and the thrill of my stomach going into my throat as I plummeted down into the abyss with a blood curdling scream. You need to get yourself scared somehow in this town. Not only is it part of the Queenstown experience, but also a must-do for New Zealand in general.
(4) Experience Milford Sound. You can take a cruise, helicopter or plane ride through some of the most magnificent areas you will ever see. You will stare in awe at the beautiful waterfalls, lush greenery and stunning nature. Nestled in the Fiordlands, you will get to see the images of New Zealand that you’ve seen in the movies; the imagery that may have motivated you to come to New Zealand in the first place. If you wish to go slightly off the beaten path then see Doubtful Sound instead which has even more incredibly sights and wildlife to see. An added bonus is the beautiful sights you will get to take in on your bus ride there. If you take the cruise, you will get unlimited tea and coffee, which is something this backpacker fully took advantage of. Milford Sound is even more exciting when you are highly caffeinated. If you have the time, organise a road trip with other travelers you meet in town and make the trek over there yourself. The best way to experience New Zealand overall is road tripping with some good mates.
(5) If it’s winter go snowboarding or skiing. Queenstown is a ski resort. It’s what drives the town. People come from near and far to chase the powder June through September. With the Remarkables and Coronet Peak close by and Cadrona not too far in Wanaka, there is lots of fun to be had. Even if you don’t do either buy a sightseeing pass and get to experience stunning views at the top of the mountains. If it’s the summer go on one of the many hikes. Go to the top of Queenstown Hill and catch the stunning views of the lake on a sunny day. Or climb the hill the gondola goes up and save money. If you have a mountain bike take it with you up the gondola and take one of the daredevil biking trails back down. However you do it, you must catch the views of Queenstown from above. You will feel like you are gazing down on a land from another world.
There are so many things to do in Queenstown. I haven’t even mentioned Frisbee golf, or Lord of the Rings tours, hiking a multi-day trek, or swimming in the lake. I arrived in Queenstown almost 7 months ago and loved it so much I decided to stay. It’s a funny place, quite international and full of youth and life. It’s like a small city crammed into a tiny town. If you are planning on visiting New Zealand you must make it stop on your itinerary. The best thing about it is there are so many ways to enjoy it, no matter what budget you are on. I hope you come to love the place as I have.