If you've heard anything about Queenstown you probably know it as the “Adventure Capital of the World” and the rumors are true. It really is the place to go, not only for thrill-seekers, but also for those who prefer a more sedate type of holiday. Nestled near the bottom of the South Island, don't let the location fool you; while it retains its small town charm, Queenstown is quickly becoming even more of a must-see destination.
What to see and do in Queestown
There's so much to do in Queenstown, you should take the time you think you'll need to see everything and double it.
Adrenalin-junkies will find a vast array of activities to keep them satisfied. Commercial bungee jumping was started in New Zealand by A J Hackett, and this is the place to go in Queenstown. You can still jump from the first commercial bungee jumping in the world - the Kawaru Bridge Bungy for $159. For those who really want to push the limit, NZONE has skydiving in Queenstown up to 15.000ft, and who wouldn't want to throw themselves out of a plane?
Queenstown is also famous for its white water rafting; in fact it has the largest white water rafting company in New Zealand. Try the Shotover River, or for those looking for a more relaxing experience the Kawarau River gives you time to take in the scenery.
You can't go to Queenstown without a ride on the Shotover Jet Boat. This jet speeds through the Shotover River and along the canyons. You'll be skimming past rocks and boulders, and the driver will even spin the boat 360 degrees. Another option is the K Jet, which hurtles through the Kawarau River, reaching speaks of up to 85 miles an hour in water that's often around 5cms deep.
For those that are there for the scenery (and who isn't?), check out Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters. These guys operate helicopter tours to The Remarkables, Milford Sound, and the Glaciers. Lord of the Rings fans might like to do the tour which includes a commentary by the pilots who helped with the filming, and also has a second landing at a middle-earth location.
There are over 75 wineries located around Queenstown, so it's a great chance to do some tasting, or even a wine tour. The Queenstown Wine Trail offer both daily and private wine tours, with a Summer Sampler tour that includes cheese tasting and lunch as well.
The Skyline Gondola is one of the most popular attractions in Queenstown, and for good reason. Take a ride up on the Gondola to see spectacular views of Queenstown, and stop up the top for a meal with a view in the Skyline restaurant. Don't forget to take a ride on the luge while you're there - it's so addictive you'll want to go again.
Shopping in Queenstown
Good news for shopaholics; you'll find plenty to keep you busy in Queenstown. For some of the best shopping, head to the centre of town between Shotover Street and Stanley Street, and you'll find a traffic-free area known simply as “The Mall”. Often there will be street entertainers or “buskers” set up here, and it's where you'll find more reasonable prices compared to some of the tourist spots.
The Creative Queenstown Art and Craft market is set up in the Earnslaw Park every Saturday, and this is a great place to go to get your hands on some souvenirs. Everything here is made in New Zealand, and you'll find a wide variety of Jewellery, Soaps, Sculptures, Woodwork, Clothes, and much more.
The O'Connells shopping centre is the biggest shopping centre in Queenstown, and is located close to The Mall, and across Camp and Beach Streets. If you're looking for some modern New Zealand art, then O'Connells is the place to go.
Food and Eating Out
Queenstown has some of the best restaurants in New Zealand, and some great options for those on a budget.
Make sure you try Fergberger on Shotover Street, which has some of the best burgers in Queenstown, possibly even in New Zealand. You'll be able to spot the place by the amount of people waiting in line. The burgers are huge and they even have options for vegetarians.
For amazing pizza visit Winnies. This gourmet pizza bar has dine-in, takeaway and delivery options, a huge menu, and the restaurant turns into a bar after dark. Check out the roof which opens right up, allowing you to dine outside.
For a special night out, you can't do much better than Lombardi for both the food and the gorgeous view across Lake Wakatipu and the mountains framing it. This is an incredibly popular restaurant though, so you'll need to make a reservation.
Make sure you stop by the Cookie Time Cookie Eatery on Camp Street for some warm cookies and milk or hot chocolate. Cookie Time made the world's biggest cookie in 1996 and these are a kiwi staple-found in high school tuck-shops everywhere. It's also a store, so you can stock up on a number of different cookie-themed treats.
Weather in Queenstown
Queenstown is a gorgeous place to visit any time of the year. The colors in autumn are incredibly striking, and you can head to Arrowtown (20 minutes from Queenstown) to see an amazing display of color. In Winter the ski fields are the place to be, and the temperature will often drop below zero so make sure you pack wisely. Temperatures can reach 30 degrees Celsius in summer, so pack plenty of sunscreen in preparation for the harsh New Zealand sun.
If you're in the South Island of New Zealand, you can't pass up a trip to Queenstown. No matter how you like to travel there's something there for everyone and you'll soon see why it's one of the most popular tourist spots in New Zealand.
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