Your guide to Queenstown, New Zealand: the adventure capital of the world
Queenstown is a beautifully scenic, mountainous town filled with stunning water views and natural wildlife. It’s also a buzzing hub of visitors from all over the world who have come to tick some crazy thrill-seeking adventures off their bucket list. Check out the guide below and discover some of the best adrenaline buzz activities in town.
When it comes to New Zealand’s national treasures, Queenstown is one of the country’s most notorious holiday destinations and known by many as the adventure capital of the world. With over 200 attractions in and around the city, deciding what makes the cut on the itinerary can be quite overwhelming. To help you narrow down the list, here’s some of the top adventure activities to tick off.
If you’ve ever had the burning desire to throw yourself off something really tall, New Zealand is the place to do it. Mad man and local hero, AJ Hackett, commercialised the bungy jump in 1988 after doing it for years just for fun. Over the last three decades AJ Hackett Bungy has taken adventure sports across the world and is now universally recognised as a leader in the tourism industry. While there’s several jump sites to choose from in Queenstown, the original ‘birthplace of adventure tourism’ is the Kawarau Bungy site. This site is the most popular place to take the plunge, attracting half a million visitors a year.
If you’d love to do the bungy, but just can’t bring yourself to take the leap, then the Big Swing is for you. The swings are brought to you by AJ Hackett Bungy, so you’ll get the same adrenaline rush as the bungy, but from the slightly more comfortable seated position – no jump required. There’s the Big Swing, which starts 160m above the ground and propels you in a 300 metre arc through the Nevis gorge, and the not-quite-as-big Ledge Swing, which is still sure to get your heart racing as you release the cord yourself for a 50 metre swing above the city.
Tip: To the adrenaline junkies, the AJ Hackett guys speak your language. If you want to swing upside down, in tandem, or backwards, just ask!
Hang Gliding and Paragliding
Whether you’re a veteran glider or you’ve always wanted to try it, hang gliding or paragliding in Queenstown is going to be an unforgettable experience. See the surreal views from the best spot in the sky with any of the professional gliders in town. For first-timers, Skytrek offers tandem paragliding or hang gliding. You can choose from the highest commercial launch site - Coronet Peak - or tandem aero-tow hang glide over Central Otago.
If you really want to get airborne, but the above activities are just way too scary, then parasailing is a great option. Queenstown Paraflights will take you (or you and some mates, they have tandem options available) for a spin on Lake Wakatipu before hoisting you up 600ft above the water. Sit back, relax and take in the spectacular views of the city, sea and Southern Alps as the crew provide a flight catered to your level of comfort; as gentle or exciting as you’d like. No need to bring bathers either, they promise to keep you dry.
The Luge was one of my favourite activities in Queenstown; it’s a kind of hybrid between a toboggan ride and a go-kart, so it’s suitable for the whole family (young children may need to ride with an adult as height restrictions apply). Jump on the steepest cable car in the southern hemisphere - the Queenstown Gondola – and ride 450 metres above the city to the top of Bob’s Peak. Once you get to the top, stop for a coffee at the café, or grab a helmet and jump on the chairlift to the top of the Luge track. There’s two tracks to choose from; race each other to the bottom, and then get up and do it again!
Tip: Once you’re all luged out, get your walking shoes on and go for a wander along any number of the hiking trails while you’re up there. The views are spectacular and you might even spot some mountain goats. If you’re up for the challenge, you can also walk to and from the luge track from town instead of catching the Gondola.
For when gorges and bridges just aren’t high enough, jumping out of the plane is sure to get the heart racing. Skydiving in Queenstown or Wanaka (just 20 minutes out of the city) is the ultimate adventure activity to do in New Zealand. It takes a certain type of person to want to jump out of a plane, but luckily many of them reside in Queenstown and do it for a living. Get strapped in with one of these Tandem Masters so you can just hang out and enjoy the Remarkable views (pun intended) while they do all the work.
There’s two zip-line adventures to choose from in Queenstown; the Shotover Canyon Fox, and the Ziptrek Ecotour. The first is a 250 metre flying fox that extends across the Shotover Canyon, 180 metres off the ground. If that’s not enough to make your stomach drop, they’ve installed a ramp so you can get a running start to launch off. The Ziptrek Ecotour is a 2-3 hour adventure through the forest canopy at the top of the Skyline Gondola hill. The guided tour lets you climb, explore and zip through the incredible mountain scenery.
Once you’ve done the flying fox over the canyon, keep the adrenaline pumping with a jet boat ride through the Shotover Canyon River. The notorious Shotover Jet was one of the first adventure activities in Queenstown when it began in 1965 and has since thrilled over 3 million people! It’s the only operator permitted in the canyon so they’ve taken great pride and care of the untouched area. This high-speed, gravity-defying stunt ride is one of the most exciting water activities in the city – so be sure to wear something you don’t mind getting wet.
If you’re still undecided about which adventure activities are for you, be sure to head down to Shotover street or Camp street when you arrive in Queenstown. Most of the information centres for the attractions are located here, staffed with plenty of experienced people to answer any questions and help put your mind at ease. Just be sure to book in advance, as many of the activities have limited daily capacity.