In winter it’s all about the snow but this beautiful town, nestled between mountain ranges on the edge of a stunning lake, buzzes with energy all year.
1. Need for speed
Jet boats are, in a word, thrilling! And Queenstown, with its gorgeous scenery and super-amped sense of fun, is the place to do it. Once you’re in a splash jacket and life vest, you cram onto the speed machine, hold on tight, and go.
You just have to believe that the jet boat captain knows what he or she is doing when they roar off, zig-zag madly across the lake and, with a casual circling motion of their hand to warn you, spin right around at a crazy speed. Jet boats can move through very shallow water, so adventuring up rivers that seem unnavigable is part of the thrill, too. You get to see another angle of the town, albeit in a bit of a blur.
2. Cruise the lake
Lake Wakatipu is deep, long, mysterious and very, very picturesque. Taking a cruise on it is an absolute highlight of any visit to Queenstown. Aboard the famous TSS Earnslaw is a good way to go – a romantic, vintage steamship that still operates the old-fashioned way; you can pop down and watch the men shovelling fuel into the burners and marvel at their stamina.
But it’s really the scenery from the decks you want to be soaking in. The Lady of the Lake cruises from Queenstown to Walter Peak Station, where you can opt to take a farm tour or enjoy a meal – or simply cruise back. There are other tours on the lake, too, including the Spirit of Queenstown cruise which carries passengers further up the lake to Mt Nicholas Station.
3. Long lunches
Enjoying a long lunch at a winery is a bit of a must-do, considering you’re in wine territory.
There are numerous options for this particular indulgence, close to Queenstown itself and within a short drive, in Gibbston Valley.
4. Eat locally
A big part of Queenstown’s buzz is down to its abundance of restaurants and bars. Locals and visitors wander the streets in the evenings, checking out the menus before deciding which incredibly tempting option to go for.
Will it be classic or contemporary cuisine, Japanese or Italian, or maybe a cocktail and snacks lakeside before dinner? Another option is to buy takeaways - of which there are many excellent recommendations – and gather at Perky's Floating Bar, where BYO food can be enjoyed with your glass of whatever, at one of the best seats on the lake!
5. Hit the markets
Queenstown’s Saturday morning craft market is fantastic. The Creative Queenstown Arts and Crafts Market – as it is formally known – attracts makers from far and wide, with artists from Nelson, Dunedin, Christchurch, Invercargill and the West Coast contributing to the vibrant, colourful mood of the market. Not only is it bristling with creative produce, from handmade clothing, homeware and jewellery, to original art – it’s also lively with music; quality buskers are a constant feature of downtown Queenstown, adding genuine warmth to the scene.