Queenstown, New Zealand
An Antipodean travel company serving World Travellers since 1983
Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown is a resort town on the South Island of New Zealand. Built on the lakeshore of Lake Wakatipu, the town provides amazing views having the Remarkables Mountain Range as its background. With a population of around 16 000, it is the 27th largest urban area in the country, and the second most populous in Otago after Dunedin. Queenstown is often called the adventure capital of the world, and the party capital of New Zealand. The nearby Kawarau Gorge is the birthplace of bungee jumping, and the list of adventures is expanding ever since. If you’re fortunate, Queenstown is also a great spot to spot the Aurora Australis.
While Queenstown itself is home to many great activities and hikes, the surrounding area is also worth exploring once you have done your tour of Queenstown. For example, Arrowtown, a historic gold-mining town with well-preserved buildings is about a 25-minute drive away. Glenorchy is on the northern shore of Wakatipu Lake and near Dart River, making it a perfect choice for outdoor activities such as going on a jet boat ride and horse trekking. You can enjoy an adrenaline rush by taking on the rapids of Shotover River. You can go on a wine tour to Gibbston Valley in the nearby Central Otago wine region. Or you can enjoy a day trip to Milford Sound through Fiordland National Park. That is why Odyssey Traveller included a free day in Queenstown during our New Zealand Tour. This tour is offered to senior and mature travellers who are keen to learn in small groups about history and culture from a knowledgeable Odyssey leader and local experts, and travel with 6-12 like-minded people.
Join 22,383 travellers receiving our weekly newsletter.
History of Queenstown
There is evidence that the area was settled by the Maori, most likely by the Ngāi Tahu iwi who were en route to find and collect Pounamu. There was a settlement called Te Kirikiri Pa where Queenstown Gardens are today, but by the time European settlers arrived in the 1860s, it was abandoned. There was a public meeting in 1863 to name the town, and Irish miners suggested Queenstown in reference to an Irish town of the same name, which got accepted and been in use since. The Maori name of the town is Tāhuna, meaning “shallow bay”.
The town became a very popular tourist destination all year around thanks to the many outdoor activities that can be carried out in the area, such as kayaking, canyoning, hiking, cruises, and skiing in the winter. It also enjoys the proximity of two National Parks and the Southern Alps: the Mt Aspiring National Park and Fiordland National Park. In fact, the Routeburn track connects the two in a spectacular, scenic multi-day hike.
Queenstown is also one of the most popular choice as a base for visiting Milford Sound (the other being Te Anau). The Queenstown to Milford drive is 291 kilometres (181 mi), about 4 hours long, but it is worth every minute as the Milford road to Fiordland is just as spectacular as the fiord itself. You also have the option to take a 35-minute long scenic flight to Milford while flying over highlights such as Skippers Canyon, Donne glacier, Sutherland Falls and more before enjoying the stunning Milford Sound Cruise.
It’s one of the best ways to enjoy Queenstown and the surrounding landscape: take on a 1.5-hour scenic cruise aboard the TSS Earnslaw, a century old coal fired steamship, the only one still operated on the Southern Hemisphere.
Take the gondola up to Bob’s Peak to enjoy the breath-taking panoramic views of the Remarkables, Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and more. There are several activities you can enjoy in the Skyline complex, and it is a starting point for many hiking trails to the surronding peaks. From easy 30-minute walks to the 8 hour climb of Ben Lommond, it all starts here.
Queenstown Cycle Trail
130 kilometres of off-road trails that take you from Queenstown to Gibbston via Arrowtown. You can immerse yourself in fully experiencing the Queenstown Lake District in 4 days, or you can do (or just walk) smaller sections as a day tour and stop wherever you feel like: you can explore the largest wine cave of New Zealand in the Valley of Wines as part of the Gibbston River Trail, visit the iconic Kawarau Bridge over the Kawarau River, and more.