Being renowned for The Remarkables, Wakatipu Lake, Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge, Treble Ski Area,… Queenstown brings tourists an indescribable feeling. Here’s what 48 hours should look like in this much-loved resort town.
1. Overview of Queenstown
Queenstown city is located on the West coast of the South Island of New Zealand and very close to Lake Wakatipu. Since the city is not quite densely populated, it is a good place for people who want to escape from the hustle and bustle life of the city. Being surrounded by undulating mountains, nature here becomes even more attractive. Visitors can admire the exquisite landscapes and fresh air at any time of the year.
Best time to travel
The peak tourist season in Queenstown lasts from early June to the end of October because of the ski season and cool weather. However, you can also find most activities in Queenstown during the summer between December and February. Autumn, which is between March and May, often witness fewer travelers and smaller crowds due to the unpredictable weather that temperatures range from -3 to 26℃ and may affect the journey. As a result, traveling in May is generally the cheapest. Here is the suggested time to get these activities:
- Snow and skiing: The best time to go skiing in Queenstown is around September and October since the snowfall is more consistent. Treble Cone (the largest ski field), Cardrona Alpine Resort (suitable for beginner skiers and families with young children), Coronet Peak (ideal for all types of ski), The Remarkables (a wonderful ski resort for freestyle skiers who can’t get enough of the terrain park) are the most famous one when it comes to ski fields in town.
- Water sports: Summer months are the most ideal for water sports when the weather is warm.
- Extreme sports: This type of sport is available all year round but tourists should try to avoid autumn since the weather may be unfavorable and unpredictable.
Transportation to get around Queenstown
Finding means of transport doesn’t seem to be a big concern in Queenstown. The city offers a wealth of options such as public buses, airport shuttles, track shuttles, ski field shuttles, and water taxis. Though the fare is not cheap the service is modern and satisfies even the roughest travelers. Taking a taxi in Queenstown is a good option when the bus services are no longer running on an evening or if your destination is far from the bus route. Taxi starting prices are usually around NZ$5 and are on average NZ$4 per kilometer. Some common taxi brands in Queenstown include Bluebubble Queenstown, Green Cabs, Corporate Cabs.
The fastest and most preferred way to commute from A to B is crossing the Lake Wakatipu, that is why water taxies are put into use. They stop at 6 locations: Queenstown Bay, Queenstown Golf Course, Bayview, The Rees, Marina & Hilton Hotel. A water taxi drive starts from $50, depends on where you want to go. The company also offers an exclusive lake cruise. It is easy to book a water taxi by phoning, which is available for 24 hours and 365 days a year.
The hotel option is plentiful and affordable. Accommodation in Queenstown consists of motels & hostels, but there are also good hotels, apartments and comfy B&Bs (Bed and Breakfast). Head for the outskirts if you're after a quieter spot. Shotover Street area is where backpackers gather the most, and to the west, past Beach Road located some luxury lodges and boutique B&Bs.
Queenstown has over 20 hostels that are all within walking distance of the city center, from Queenstown Hill to the lakeside leading to Fernhill. Throughout the year, we recommend booking the hostel a couple of weeks in advance of the travel.
Here are 4 common areas that tourists often stay when they come to Queenstown:
- The city center - Queenstown CBD: The CBD is the best place to stay for those who want to be close to entertainment facilities, nightlife activities and have a wide variety of food choices, shopping malls. Moreover, visitors who do not have their own vehicle can easily hire local tours.
- Fernhill: Fernhill is located on the lower slopes of Ben Lomond Mountain, west of Queenstown CBD. If you want to get a spectacular view of Lake Wakatipu, heading to Fernhill where accommodation ranges from hostels for a backpacker to resorts. Fernhill is also suitable for trekking lovers.
- Kelvin heights: It is one of the most expensive suburbs in New Zealand in which to buy a house. Therefore, it is an excellent area to stay in Queenstown for those seeking a luxurious and relaxing vacation away from the hustle and bustle of the city center.
- Frankton and around the airport: Frankton is very close to the airport and can be easily accessible by car. Therefore, accommodation can be affordable.
2. Daytime activities for tourists when in Queenstown
Whenever you visit this little town on the South Island, you are welcomed with lots of fun activities. The fun here doesn’t stop even when the sun goes down. Here’s some inspiration for how to make the most of Queenstown all day and after dark.
Take a cruise across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak Farm
Lake Wakatipu, which is the longest lake in New Zealand at over 80 kilometers long, is Queenstown’s crown jewel. The local people living in Queenstown are thankful for the huge lake as it serves as the main source of fresh water for the town. Booking a drive with the TSS Earnslaw, the iconic century-old coal-fired steamship, is one of the best ways to see Queenstown’s surrounding landscape. Currently, the ship operates for 11 months a year, transporting passengers between Queenstown and Walter Peak High Country Farm and serving sightseeing excursions on Lake Wakatipu. The 90-minute sightseeing trip is both enjoyable and educational since visitors can enjoy the natural scenery and learn about the history of the ship and the land. While traveling on Lake Wakatipu, do not miss watching the shovel workers shovel each coal into the furnace to refuel the ship's engine.
The boat deck is the most ideal place to enjoy the beauty of Lake Wakatipu.
The TSS Earnslaw used to carry many famous visitors, including Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip and even President Bill Clinton. Undoubtedly, you should not miss this iconic experience.
Besides only taking the cruise, those traveling with kids may also wish to add the Walter Peak High Country Farm option into your trip, which includes a stopover and tour of a working farm. A guided farm tour, horse trek, independent cycling, barbecue lunch, and dinner are also available. Walter Peak High Country Farm is an idyllic place to spend a relaxing few hours. You will be greeted by our rural host upon disembarking the TSS Earnslaw, who will take you to the sheep shearing demonstration and where you will watch the remarkable skill with which the farm dogs round up sheep from the paddocks. You will be greeted by our rural host upon disembarking the TSS Earnslaw, who will take you to the sheep shearing demonstration, where you can watch the remarkable skill with which the farm dogs round up sheep from the paddocks.
You will have time for a walking tour of the farmyard, where you have the chance to try feeding the sheep, deer, alpacas, and cattle. Then strolling to the charming old woolshed for several cups of tea. You may have time to stroll through the lakeside gardens before you re-board the TSS Earnslaw for your cruise back to Queenstown.
Getting to Skyline Queenstown
Visitors should not miss the experience of sitting on the Skyline cable car to the top of the hill to enjoy the beautiful panorama of Lake Wakatipu. Skyline Gondola is a famous recreation and the most modern and steepest cable car system in the southern hemisphere, with a height of 450 m above sea level from Queenstown to the top of Mount Bob. After reaching the peak, visitors can join some family activities then have meals at one of the best restaurants here while enjoying the beauty of the sunset over Queenstown. Skyline offers a restaurant at the top of the cable car and guests' meals can be included in the ticket (base on the ticket you chose).
While in the cable car, you can also catch the sight of bungee jumping from Bob’s peak.
Besides, you can certainly purchase luge tickets in addition to other packages. Skyline Luge has become a worldwide favorite and a must-do activity while in Queenstown. Skyline Luge has two thrilling tracks with internationally acclaimed alpine scenery as your backdrop.
Skiing in The Remarkables Ski Resort
Located on the north-facing slopes of the mountain range known as The Remarkables, about 28 kilometers from Queenstown, is one of New Zealand's best-loved ski fields. It is a wonderful ski resort for freestyle skiers who can’t get enough of the terrain park. The Remarkables boasts world-class and ultra-modern ski facilities that have made it extremely popular with European skiers during their summer.
The ski season usually lasts from June to September, and frequent shuttle bus services run to the slopes from Queenstown throughout the season. However, there is no accommodation for tourists to stay overnight, so you have to commute each day then return to the city center.
The reasons that The Remarkables is an ideal place for everyone at all levels to ski and snowboard:
- The field is very family-oriented as about 70% of the space is designed for intermediate and beginners. Besides, advanced terrain accounts for 30%.
- The day lodge is not only more modern and convenient as compared to other ski fields but also offers great views.
- The access road is mostly paved, so relative to many other New Zealand ski fields, it is easily accessible by most vehicles.
Jet Boating on the Shotover River
Not only renowned for the gorgeous scenery, but Queenstown is also the land of adventurous sports. The Shotover Jet on the Shotover River is also an unforgettable activity when coming to Queenstown. The boat runs at jet speed across cliffs, bumpy streams. It feels like you are on a roller coaster with a broken brake. Moreover, if you have a good budget, you can experience many other exciting games such as skiing, paragliding, rolling ball, or trekking on the pristine and majestic roads of nature. Slice along the water at speeds of up to 53 miles (85 km) an hour and grip your seat as the boatman makes a 360-degree turn. Shotover Jet is the most reputable jet boat operating company allowed to operate on the famous Shotover River, making this a truly unique experience. This 25-minute thrilling boat ride will definitely make you immediately feel excited. A camera is not needed bringing as you can buy professional photos of your trip from the Shotover Jet team.
Tourists must hold on to the safety rail so you can experience the whole journey with peace of mind.
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