The fact that Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand might have those of you not so into jumping off perfectly good bridges and planes wondering if stopping there is worth your time. Well, that’s what I was wondering, at least! And I’m here to report back that, yes, Queenstown is still worth visiting, even if you have zero plans to bungee jump, skydive, or jet across a river. Keep reading for the top non-adrenaline things to do in Queenstown, New Zealand.
RIDE THE GONDOLA (OR HIKE) UP TO SKYLINE QUEENSTOWN
Want to enjoy that classic Queenstown viewpoint? Well, you’ll find it at Skyline Queenstown. Get here by taking the gondola up from the Queenstown town center (map below for where). It is NZ$44 (US$27) for an adult round trip ticket, but you can see the full price list on the official site. Alternatively, you can hike up for free by taking the Tiki Trail. It starts at the bottom base of the gondola and takes one hour to get to Skyline Queenstown.
Once at Skyline Queenstown, you can take in The Remarkables mountain range, Lake Wakatipu, and Queenstown from above. You can also grab something to eat from the Market Kitchen Café, or enjoy a full meal at the Stratosfare Restaurant.
DO A LAP (OR TWO) AROUND THE LUGE
While you’re up at Skyline Queenstown, it’d be a shame not to ride the famous Queenstown Luge! It’s basically a ride around a track in a little sled. I was hesitant it was worth the hype, but I must admit, it was pretty fun. You can purchase tickets at the same time you purchase tickets for the gondola, starting at NZ$61 for round trip gondola and two luge rides.
Can you purchase luge tickets without a gondola ride? Well, I couldn’t find the price of luge rides without the gondola ride anywhere on the website, nor at the gondola base. So I assumed you could only purchase tickets as a combo with the gondola. But once at the luge, I saw a sign with the below prices. (These prices are as of fall 2020. Please comment below with any price updates you experience, so I can help keep this page accurate!)
|Single – 1 Ride
|Single – 2 Rides
|Single – 3 Rides
|Single – 5 Rides
|Family – 5 Rides
|Family – 10 Rides
HIKE TO BEN LOMOND SADDLE OR PEAK
What’s any New Zealand “things to do” list without a hike? The Queenstown area is known for many pretty hikes, but not all of them are accessible right from town. Luckily for those using the bus to travel New Zealand like I did, Ben Lomond is one you can do right from town. It starts from Skyline Queenstown (map below), so you can either hike the steep Tiki Trail or ride the gondola to get to the trailhead.
The Ben Lomond hike was definitely one of my favorites in New Zealand. The views were even more spectacular than those from Skyline Queenstown, the trail wasn’t crowded, and you meet a lot of mountain goats along the way. You can hike up to the summit or to the saddle. Still healing from blisters after hiking Roy’s Peak in Wanaka, I stopped at the saddle.
- Elevation Gain: 1440 m to summit
- Distance*: 6.75 mi (11 km) return to summit
- Duration*: 4 – 6 hrs return to summit / 2 – 4 hrs return to saddle
*Hiking the Tiki Trail first rather than taking the gondola will add another 2 hours and 2 mi (3 km) round trip.
DAY TRIP TO MILFORD SOUND
They call it the eighth wonder of the world, and it’s just a day trip away from Queenstown. I originally planned to visit the legendary Milford Sounds from Te Anau, but instead squeezed it into a long day trip from Queenstown in an attempt to wrap up my travels before getting stuck abroad during a lockdown (spoiler alert: I failed. But that’s another story!).
I opted for a sunrise cruise, which meant departing Queenstown at 6:00am. We stopped in Te Anau a couple hours later for a coffee break before driving through some ridiculous scenery on the Milford road. We got to Milford something like 11:00am, which was definitely worth the early wake up call. The still-rising sun’s rays coming through the mountains were unbelievably beautiful. The tranquility came to a halt once we disembarked to find hoards of people now on the shores. I knew then that I 100% I made the right decision by waking up at 5:00am that morning!
ENJOY A BURGER
Being in Queenstown felt like being back in America for a bit with all the burgers everywhere! Fergburger is the most iconic one in town, but I’ve heard Devil Burger is good too. I was way too hungry both times I went to Fergburger to get a picture, but I can report back that it was good. (Wasn’t super impressed by the Oreo shake at the Mrs. Ferg Gelateria two doors down, though.)
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Do you think Queenstown is worth a visit? Are there other non-adrenaline activities you think I should have added? Let me know in the comments below. I might have to go back someday since my trip was cut short!