Queenstown is a small resort town in New Zealand that sits on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and boasts beautiful views of snow-covered mountains. Not too long ago, it was known mainly as a skiing getaway, but that has changed dramatically. Today, visitors flock to this self-proclaimed “Adventure Capital of the World” year round to enjoy all that the stunning region has to offer, including white water river rafting, hiking and jet boating.
And if those activities are too tame for you, Queenstown also has plenty of unusual adrenaline sports that you can try, including zorbing, canyon swinging and white water sledging. Although this town loves to brag about its wild side, you can also find plenty of peaceful escapes just a short day trip from Queenstown.
If you enjoy strolling through quaint little villages, you’ll love Arrowtown. This former gold mining town, which is located approximately 20 minutes from Queenstown on the banks of the Arrow River, still maintains much of its historic charm.
Do you want to learn more about New Zealand’s gold rush and the history of this area? Then make sure to check out the Lakes District Museum and take a jaunt over to the interesting Chinese miners’ settlement. Feeling lucky? Then you’ll want to try your hand at panning for gold. And because the area surrounding Arrowtown boasts many trails, including the Queenstown Trail, it is also a popular spot with cyclists and hikers. Although Arrowtown is a four-season town, it is known for being especially beautiful in the fall when the foliage is changing colors.
The Central Otago Wine Region is known for being the most southerly commercial wine-growing region in the world. It is also New Zealand’s highest and — arguably — it’s most scenic. The Central Otago Wine Region’s mountainous setting provides its vineyards with winters that are cold and summers that are hot and dry. Rain is minimal in this area. So weather-wise, the Central Otago Wine Region is perfect for producing Pinot Noir wines.
You can self-drive and experience this region’s many vineyards on your own or you could participate in a guided tour and let someone else do the driving for you. And if you’re interested in really getting to soak in the beauty of this region, you could always opt to take a cycling tour of the wineries instead.
This is New Zealand’s third largest national park and a paradise for photographers. In Mt. Aspiring National Park, you’ll find glaciers, soaring mountains, beautiful valleys, unique rock formations and lovely waterfalls and lakes. This park also boasts a large number of hiking trails, ranging from short jaunts to long, arduous treks that will test your fitness. One of the most popular trails is the short, 30-minute walk to the absolutely stunning, crystal-clear Blue Pools.
Adrenaline junkies can get their fix in this park with jet boat rides or heli-skiing and heli-hiking. Are you a fan of the “Lord of the Rings” movies? Then you might recognize this park, which was used as the settings for Lothlorien and Isengard.
If you’re searching for a day trip from Queenstown that will satisfy the animal and scenery lovers in your group, consider heading to Doubtful Sound, which is located in Fiordland National Park. Although it is three times longer than and ten times larger than Milford Sound, it is the lesser known of the two sounds and so gets fewer visitors.
The travelers who do venture to this remote area are rewarded with a pristine wilderness that is unbelievably peaceful and jaw-dropping-ly gorgeous. While in the sound, keep an eye out for dolphins and Southern fur seals. And if you’re really lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the very rare Fiordland crested penguin also known as Tawaki.
The Wanaka region is located in the beautiful Southern Alps and is an adrenaline junkie’s dream come true. It, in fact, it claims to be one of the world’s best adventure towns. Wanaka is popular with skiers in the winter and with hikers and rock climbers during the summer. Situated at the southern end of Lake Wanaka, you can also go jet boating, take a helicopter to a glacier, parasail, skydive, test your skills on a Via Ferrata tour or go four-wheel-driving.
Wanaka also has a large number of activities for non-adrenaline junkies, including stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking. Of course, all of these activities are sure to leave you hungry and thirsty. Fortunately, the town of Wanaka boasts more than 150 restaurants and bars, so refueling for your next adventure should not be a problem even for the pickiest diner.
Glenorchy is just a 45-minute drive from Queenstown, but in other ways, it seems a world apart. The landscapes around this small, rustic town are, in fact, so unique and magical that many scenes for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, X Men Origins: Wolverine, and Narnia were shot here. So it’s probably not surprising that the town of Glenorchy, which sits on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, has been called the “Gateway to Paradise.”
Glenorchy is also the starting point for the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s most popular and well-known hikes. In addition to hiking, other ways you can explore this region include horseback treks, kayaking and jet boat safaris.
Milford Sound, which is located in Fiordland National Park, is known for its amazing scenery, including sheer cliffs that plunge into the waters of the fjord and beautiful waterfalls. In fact, this area is so magical that Rudyard Kipling once called Milford Sound the “eighth wonder of the world.”
One of the best ways to enjoy Milford Sound is on a boat tour, where you might spot dolphins, seals and penguins. Other popular ways to explore Milford Sound include hiking, biking and kayaking. And if you’re interested in checking out the creatures that live under the sea, you’ll want to keep a spot open in your itinerary for a stop at the underwater observatory at Harrison Cove.