How to unwind in the adventure capital: 10 relaxing things to do in Queenstown
Queenstown New Zealand is the holiday destination for thrill-seekers, adrenaline junkies and adventurers alike. It’s the birthplace of bungy, home of the Shotover Jet and holds the biggest swing in the world. But nestled between the base of the Southern Alps and the Wakatipu basin, Queenstown is also a charming little city filled with relaxing activities that you can do with your feet firmly on the ground.
Come for the bungy, stay for the serenity. Here’s our guide to Queenstown for visitors who just want to chill out.
Onsen Hot Pools
The Onsen Hot Pools Retreat and Day Spa is located in Author’s Point, just 10 minutes out of Queenstown. Chances are you’ve seen photos of visitors who have been here, because it’s one of the most picturesque places in town to visit. The spa offers many services such as massages and facials, but what the people travel far and wide for is a soak in their hot tubs with a view. Situated on the side of a cliff, you can sit in the hot pools at the base of the Shotover Canyon and relax in the breathtaking backdrop of alpine scenery. This is one hot spot, so make sure to book well in advance (they charge by the hour).
Kiwi Birdlife Park
During my trip to New Zealand, I believed that Kiwis were as easy to spot in the wild as sheep are. You can imagine my surprise when I found out that Kiwi birds are actually endangered, nocturnal and very good at hiding from curious tourists. The best way to see the incredible Kiwi is to visit conservation sanctuaries like the Kiwi Birdlife Park in Queenstown. The five acre park is home to 30 native species of birds and animals where there’s also helpful guides to tell you all about them. Walk around the park in an hour or two to see the wildlife, or pack a picnic and spend the day watching the feeding and flight shows.
The famous Remarkables Mountain Ranges house some of the best slopes in the country. There are various terrains and services available for every level of skiing experience, from first-ever-timers to seasoned pros. If you’re not here for the extreme sports, enrol in one of the skiing group lessons for beginners or a private lesson with an expert. Skiwiland is available for young kids who want to learn, and the Kea Club puts on day-long or holiday-long programs for older kids a bit more comfortable on the snow. There’s also a café and a restaurant at the top for you to kick up your skiis and enjoy the view.
One of the most beautiful places in the world is on the doorstep of Queenstown, so if you have a day to spare, jump on a tour to the great Milford Sounds. The full day trip from Queenstown includes a bus and a boat ride; the coach ride from Queenstown to the Sounds is just as picturesque as the destination – plus the drivers know all the best places to stop for photos. Once you arrive, you’ll hop on the boat which will take you around the Sounds where you’ll see the incredible greenery, waterfalls and maybe even some marine life. There are heaps of stops throughout the day to grab something to eat, as well as a café on the boat, but pack some snacks for the bus and something warm as the sea breeze is freezing.
Tip: there are many ways to see Milford Sound; from overnight cruises on the water to aerial flights in a sea plane. Do some research on the tour options and operators available to find the right experience for you.
Walking and hiking tracks
Queenstown is nestled among some of the most spectacular mountain ranges in the country, the peaks of which provide some of the best views in the country! There are numerous walking tracks and hiking trails in and around Queenstown which range from leisurely 30 minutes strolls to several-day-long hikes for experienced climbers only. Just remember with any trek, the terrain can drastically change and routes can be disrupted and re-routed due to weather, so pay attention to signage. Drop into any of the information centres in town to find out more about the native tracks, or ask a local; they’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.
Frisbee Golf in Queenstown gardens
The Queenstown Disc Golf course in the Queenstown Gardens was the first of its kind when it was built in 1996, and is now a full 18-basket course and hosts three annual tournaments. Based on the premise of regular golf, the aim of the game is to make your way around the ’18 holes’ by getting your Frisbee in the basket. The course is open to everyone from amateurs to competitors and welcomes spectators as well. If you happen to be in Queenstown on the first Sunday of the month, drop by in the afternoon and for just a gold coin donation, you can play for the trophy.
There are over 75 wineries in and around Queenstown, several of which are award-winning. In one of the greatest wine countries in the world, no trip to New Zealand is complete without experiencing a Kiwi vineyard. Hire a bike and enjoy a leisurely ride out to one of the wineries near town or jump on an organised tour and immerse yourself in the full experience. From tastings to long lunches and even make-your-own-wine activities, there’s something for every wine lover.
In and around Queenstown are beautiful lakes such as Lake Wakatipu and Lake Wanaka which provide great countless spots for kayaking. On many of the banks and beaches you’ll find independent rental services that have kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, aqua bikes and other fun water devices to hire out by the hour. Many companies also offer guided kayak tours out to islands or natural sight-seeing spots around the area. Whether you spend an hour or a day out on the water, pack something warm and don’t forget the sunscreen.
Depending on budget, there are a range of different scenic flight options available in Queenstown. Hop in a light plane or helicopter for a short scenic flight taking in the stunning alpine and lake views, see the sun rise from the sky in a hot air balloon, or get a private charter to take you on a tour of the local wineries. If you’re in Queenstown for snow season, to hike, or mountain bike, taking a plane or helicopter can take you some to the highest or most remote points and let you see the sights before your ride back down.
Queenstown is home to some of the most exciting attractions in the world, but also some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the country. Whether heights aren’t your thing, or you’re all bungeed out, there’s so many places to go for relaxation, pampering and enjoying the wonders Queenstown has to offer.