Take a short, three hour flight out of Sydney and arrive at Queenstown, the ultimate holiday destination that’s quicker to get to than most of Australia!
Queenstown, is one of those remarkable cities that’s great to visit all-year-round. Surrounded by majestic mountains and nestled on the shores of crystal clear Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown is a place of pure inspiration.
Tourists flock from around the world to experience NZ’s thrilling adventures. Fly off a cliff in a paraglider, conquer your fears with bungee jumping, hop into a Jetboat for some hydro-thrills or get shredding on the slopes at Coronet, The Remarkables and Cardrona. After a day of snowy adventure, there is nothing better than settling down with a winter warming drink at one of the restaurants or Après-skiing bars around the town. Wrap up your trip with a relaxed breakfast, followed by a full-body massage.
The hotter summer months will see a different breed of thrill seeker, adventuring in the Four Lakes district, hiking and relaxing at local vineyards with tastings ripe for the taking. When the vineyards are at their most beautiful, the wine lovers will be found sipping some of the Central Otago Region’s famous Pinot Noir.
Whether you are there for a few wines in winter or a few wines in summer, there is plenty to love about Queenstown. Please enjoy our go-to guide for discovering this magical place.
Rata dining is owned by New Zealand’s internationally recognized Michelin star chef Josh Emett and well respected local restaurateur Fleur Caulton. Together they have taken inspiration from the southern landscape and everything that epitomizes New Zealand and created a relaxed dining space with great food and service. Discreetly tucked away amongst heritage buildings, you could easily feel as though you’re dining amongst a rainforest if sat against the back wall. It’s covered with a floor to ceiling rainforest scape and instantly makes you feel at ease. The menu can be designed to share with lots of small plates or try one of their set menus if you don’t feel like making any decisions.
Rata Te Nuku, 43 Ballarat St, Queenstown, 9348
Before your flights are even booked, someone will tell you that you have to go to Fergburger. They are right, it’s a must-try. Brave the 40 minute line, prolonging your hunger just a little longer so that you can taste the incredibly delicious burgers at Fergburger. You might come for the two-hands-worthy size of these burgers, but you will stay for the freshness. Fergburgers are filled with fresh, crisp lettuce, tomato and in-house made sauces all between a bun that is baked fresh daily at FergBakery (next-door).
FergBurger, 2 Shotover St, +64 3-441 1232
If you are all about sticky ribs and tender steaks, then book yourself a table at Flame. As you contemplate whether to have a half or full rack of pork ribs, have a look around you; these rib portions are enormous. That’s right not generous, not big, enormous. The rule at Flame is that you can’t order your steak cooked well-done, they simply won’t do it. It’s rare, medium-rare or nothing. We suggest sharing a bottle of Rabbit Ranch Pinot Noir from the Central Otago region with your meal.
Flame, 61 Beach Street, +64 3 409 2342
As with most quality restaurants in Queenstown you will need a reservation at Captains. Looking around the venue, there are a number of cliché boat references, which are played down by the dim lighting and great service. The list of specials available takes a few minutes for the waitress to go through and leaves you salivating. We began with a flavoursome and generous serve of New Zealand green lipped mussels steamed in tomato and garlic sauce with gremolata. Then onto the aged Angus beef ribeye (250g) served on a bed of wilted spinach, roasted potatoes and roasted shallots. Many won’t be able to go past the roasted crispy skin pork belly, surrounded by garlic mashed potato, steamed bok choy, thyme jus and piled high with crackling. Captains’ Wine list boasts a large selection of NZ wines from both Islands, highlighting the Central Otago Pinot Noir and Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.
Captains, 11 The Mall, +64 3-441 1633
With 80 New Zealand wines and over 700 wines in total, on offer at The Winery, you’d be hard pressed not to find one that you liked. Unless of course you are into whiskey, there are eight NZ single malt whiskies available as well as other premium spirits from around the world. Unlike a regular bar, The Winery has a self-serve function. You can attain a Winery card and glass at the counter, then peruse the selection of wines available at each station, choosing a taste, a half, or a full glass. The Winery is an ideal location to escape the winter chill and share a large cheeseboard amongst friends whilst sipping on a few glasses of fine wine. If you’re there during winter be sure to try the mulled wine it’s excellent.
The Winery, 14 Beach Street, +64 3 409 2226
Habana Rum Bar
Tucked away in an alleyway full of bars, Habana Bar should be your new favourite Rum Bar bursting with rum and beats. It is easy to have an intimate night here, chatting over spiced rums, taste testing expensive bottles and listening to upbeat rhythms. Habana Rum Bar has only been open for a few months and, already, it is attracting a loyal following of rum lovers. You might not find it publicised, but ending a cold day on the slopes with a stiff rum sounds good to us.
Habana Rum Bar, Down Searle Lane, Queenstown
Rhino’s Ski Shack
Rhino Bar is a great place to go straight off the slopes in winter. You can wear your ski gear inside and it’s very casual complete ski decorations and boarding videos on flat-screen TVs. Try the Hot Buttered Rum; buttered rum covered in cream, sprinkled with cinnamon delivered toasty warm. It’s what we imagine Butter Beer from Hogwart’s tastes like.
Rhino Ski Shack, Cow Lane/ The Mall, +64 3 441 3329
The Naughty Penguin
The Naughty Penguin is an unassuming bar for connoisseurs of craft beers, spirits and specially cocktails. It’s also home to some of New Zealand’s best bartenders. They have a giant whiteboard on one of the walls with the heading “Things To Do Before I Die” which gets interesting after a few cocktails. The music is also great with classic tunes and DJ sets on the weekends.
The Naughty Penguin, Cow Lane, Queenstown
New Zealand’s snow is comparable to some of America’s mountains, with people travelling from around the world to visit these slopes. Queenstown is the hub for any skier or boarder looking to hit up The Remarkables and Coronet Peak.
Beginner riders should look into Coronet Peak, where there are two slopes designed for first-timers and intermediate levels. Contrastingly, The Remarkables has one beginner slope and then advances you straight to green, with a slope that should definitely be classified as blue.
For the advanced skiers and boarders, there are lots of slopes at both The Remarkables and Coronet Peak. There is a Terrain Park at The Remarkables that caters for beginner to advanced riders. Whereas, Coronet Peak has a beginner Terrain Park, which leaves the advanced riders longing for more action.
Wanaka Lake and snow fields are just an hour away from Queenstown, where you will find Cardrona and Treble Cone. You can buy your passes, hire gear and get a bus from Queenstown to Cardrona. If you’re a pro look into Heliskiing at Alpine Heliski.
Paragliding and Bungy Jumping
One of the more adventurous activities in Queenstown is to strap yourself to a stranger and jump off a cliff, or as the locals know it…paragliding. There are a few paragliding outlets in Queenstown including Coronet Tandem Paragliding or GForce Tandem Paragliding. Or if you are into throwing yourself over a ledge and into the abyss, try Bungy Jumping at AJ Hacket Bungy.
For those who haven’t tried Jet Boating before, prepare yourself for a thrill ride along the Kawarau River, Shotover River or into the Lake Wakatipu harbour. Choose between ShotOver Jet Boating, KJet or for a unique experience with even more G-Force, check out Hydro Attack.
Treat yourself to a massage at one of the many massage parlours in Queenstown (full list here). Reward yourself and enjoy one of these pampering sessions. Your body will thank you for it.
Visit a Vineyard
Grant Taylor is the man behind Valli Wines, and with his 20 hectares of grapes in the heart of the Gibbson Valley, his Pinot Noir is not to be missed. His has won the Best Pinot Noir Trophy at London’s International Wine Competition, an unprecedented three times. The Pinot Noir hits your palette with bold flavours, leaving an earthy spicy taste at the finish. If you can’t make it to the Vineyard, you can try this delicious wine at The Winery (mentioned above).
Valli Wines, 2330 Gibbston Hwy, Gibbston 9371, +64 210 821 3057
Amisfield Winery and Bistro
You can’t visit Queenstown and not check out Amisfield Winery and Bistro. Specialising in Pinot Noir this boutique winery also produce a small range of aromatic white wines. Their Lake Hayes Bistro and Cellar Door at the Winery is set amongst a picturesque setting to enjoy lunch and wine tastings. Choose from the daily changing a la carte menu or try Amisfield’s famous shared dining experience. The ‘Trust the Chef’ set menu includes a selection of dishes designed to be shared at the table; all dishes are seasonal and chosen by the chef based on the freshest ingredients available on the day.
Amisfield Winery and Bistro, 10 Lake Hayes Road, Queenstown 9371, +64 3-442 0556
Whilst you are away, it is comforting to know that you can book a home away from home through Air BnB. Queenstown is a compact city, so it is not difficult to book accommodation that is either within walking distance or a short bus-ride from the centre of town. We enjoyed a 3-bedroom house on upper Suburb street, with a furnace that warmed the small house and a verandah overlooking the Wakatipu Lake.
Eichardt’s Private Hotel
If you’re looking for luxury then book yourself into Eichardt’s Private Hotel. This boutique accommodation is a Queenstown icon born from the wealth of a booming gold-mining town. The landmark building, located in the heart of Queenstown in premium lakefront position, was transformed into a luxury hotel late in 2001 and has hosted a veritable gallery of international guests and local personalities. The décor reflects contemporary provincial elegance and modern features. Curl up in front of the fireplace and take in the stunning view. This is the ultimate luxury Queenstown accommodation.
Eichardt’s Private Hotel, Marine Parade, Queenstown
For extensive list of Hotels on offer in Queenstown, from the budget friendly to the luxurious click here.
Air New Zealand flies from Sydney to Queenstown everyday, with more flights scheduled over the weekend. Ticket prices vary from $300-400 throughout the year, but keep your eye out for special deals.
Queenstown is rated as one of the world’s top destinations and the Southern Hemisphere’s premier four season lake and alpine resort. This vibrant, cosmopolitan town offers a year-round playground with adventures from the mild to the wild, romance, relaxation and rejuvenation, world-class food and wine.