The first thing that probably comes to mind when you hear Queenstown is ‘Adventure Capital of the World.' That it certainly is, but there is so much more to it.
The beauty of Queenstown is obvious, it smacks you in the face the moment you step off the plane. Approaching by road over the Crown Range, through the Kawarau Gorge or the winding Devils Staircase gives you a sneak preview of what is to come.
Aside from the evident horde of adventure activities to choose, from there are still some lesser-known hidden gems to be discovered.
Wine & craft beer in the heart of Otago
Nestled at the end of Gibbston Valley, the Waitiri Creek vineyard and Cargo brewery has something for everyone. The old church is the main focal point. Originally a Presbyterian Church, it was relocated from Wangaloa on the back of a truck, a journey of 300km’s.
Instead of having to make the difficult choice of what to drink, try their tasting boards, a selection of craft beers and wine. With a delicious platter on the side, sitting in the sun or in the shade of a tree, you won’t want to leave! Kids are welcome too - it’s a family friendly area with a large outdoor space and a bunch of games and sports equipment to while away an afternoon.
See a kiwi, up close and personal
If you have been lucky enough to spot a kiwi in the wild, you’re very fortunate - being nocturnal and quite elusive it isn’t easy to come across one. A visit to the Kiwi Birdlife Park will provide you with a guaranteed viewing of our shy kiwi birds. Just a short walk from the hustle and bustle of town, it’s set in a 5-acre oasis of native New Zealand bush.
Gateway to Paradise
All of our trips include destinations that will prompt the use of the word paradise, but if you take a drive along one of the most scenic roads in the world, you can literally go to Paradise.
On the spectacular lakeside road from Queenstown to Glenorchy, you will be blown away by the views and there are a few spots that are well worth stopping for.
A few km’s out of Queenstown there is a turn off to Moke Lake. A short drive along a gravel road takes you to a stunning alpine lake surrounded by rugged mountains. On a calm day, the reflections of the surrounding mountains are so perfectly clear it’s hard to tell which way is up! A 6km loop walk follows all the way around the edge of the lake.
Continuing on the main road, the next primo view point is Bennetts Bluff. There’s a pull out area on the roadside - as you come around the corner the vista opens up all the way to the far end of the lake taking in Mount Albert, Earnslaw glacier and the Mount Aspiring National Park mountain ranges in the distance.
Glenorchy is a small village located at the head of the lake. Park up near the famous red shed for the obligatory photo opportunity and take a wander down the jetty for the stupendous 360-degree views. For Lord of the Rings fans, you have arrived in Middle Earth!
It’s not much further from here to reach Paradise. The Paradise road sign is one of the most photographed in New Zealand. Take the turn off to the Paradise Homestead, make sure to have a bit of cash to hand over for a donation. There are a couple of short walks here, immerse yourself in the beauty of the scenery and the serenity of Paradise and if you’re a fan you might be able to pick out some of the Lord of the Rings locations.
Explore on two wheels
The network of Queenstown Trails encompasses over 100km’s of tracks, suitable for hikers and bikers.
You can pretty much explore the whole of the Wakatipu basin without having to go on a busy road. It’s easy grade riding on gravel track following the lakeside and on the edge of the stunning Kawarau, Shotover and Arrow Rivers.
Whether you want to head out and explore on your own or take a guided trip, there are options to suit everyone. The pick-up/drop-off services available enable you to do a long one-way ride and then get brought back into town at the end. If you choose to finish your ride at a vineyard in Gibbston Valley you may want to take the pick-up option!
Love them or hate them, E-bikes can also be a great way to get around, just to take the edge off those hills and enable you to cover a larger distance.
The natural beauty of Queenstown is really the main drawcard for this region. The rugged mountains, pristine alpine lakes and sparkling rivers have been here for millennia, long before tourism was thought of. Every which way you turn affords a new breath-taking view, so make sure your camera batteries are fully charged to record new memories!