Don’t be fooled by the Minus 5° ice bar—Queenstown isn’t a city where you spend time indoors. While the downtown pubs and trendy restaurants are good for spending evening out on the town, daytime in Queenstown completely revolves around adrenaline-pumping outdoor excitement.
From the peaks of the Remarkables to the shores of Lake Wakatipu, the outdoor activities in Queenstown are some the most riveting and breathtaking in the country. During the summer month, river activities such as jetboating, kayaking, and whitewater rafting dominate the Kawarau River. When floating downstream, be sure to look up as you pass AJ Hackett Bungy for the chance to watch visitors throw themselves off the bridge. Below the water, it’s even possible to swim beneath the currents and go scuba diving in the river on the “fastest scuba dive” in the world.
On land, mountain biking and hiking dominate the outdoors scene, and dozens of trails encircling the area around between Queenstown, Wanaka, and the valley out towards Glenorchy. In Queenstown itself, one of the most popular hikes for those looking for a workout is the climb to the summit of Ben Lomond. This six-hour trek climbs high above the city and gazes out over the spine of the Southern Alps. Or, if you only have a few hours to kill and are looking to work up a sweat, make the climb up Queenstown Hill for a view looking back over the city. Backcountry trampers also use Queenstown as a base for embarking on the Routeburn Track, a three-day trek across the Southern Alps that ranks as one of the best hikes in the world.
Out on Lake Wakatipu—the elongated, 112 square mile lake that fronts the city of Queenstown—outdoor activities from jet skiing to sailing dominate the summer watersports scene. You can ply the water on a stand up paddle board, pedal in circles on a lazy peddle boat, or even go sailing east towards the mountains with the afternoon wind in your hair.
All of this, of course, is during the long summer months, and the winter in Queenstown in an entirely different scene where snow and ice transform the terrain. The city is sandwiched right between some of the best ski resorts on the South Island, and from the slopes of Cardrona to the peaks of The Remarkables, Queenstown is a city that comes alive during the winter. With all of the outdoor activities on offer, even the chill of the Southern Hemisphere winter can’t seem to keep Queenstown folks indoors.
In downtown Queenstown you’ll often find ice skating at a hockey rink in the center of town, and you can also find night skiing at Coronot Peak. Or, for an extreme thrill that you wouldn’t expect to find in winter, strap on a parachute to your tightly-bundled back and go sky diving during the winter in Queenstown. Though flights don’t operate in the middle of storms, you can still spend clear days flying across a sky which is punctuated by a carpet of white.
Active, fast-paced, and incomparably thrilling, once you experience the number of outdoor activities in Queenstown, you’ll quickly understand why this is the adventure capital of the world.