Set amid the towering Southern Alps, Queenstown is New Zealand’s adventure capital—some locals claim it’s the adventure capital of the world. Travelers come here to sky dive, ski, bungee jump, and cruise the Shotover and Dart rivers on high-speed jet boats. It’s not all high adrenaline, though: The nearby Otago Valley is a favorite for wine tasting, and Queenstown is a jumping-off point for boat and helicopter trips to Milford Sound and Fiordlands National Park. Guided tours help travelers fit in all their bucket-list adventures, and cut down time by coordinating transport and activities, which often take place in far-flung locations.
The steepest gondola in the Southern Hemisphere climbs to sweeping views of the mountains and Lake Wakatipu. It’s a great way for travelers to get their bearings in the dramatic landscape. Booking the Skyline Gondola with other Queenstown activities is a cost-effective option, and some popular experiences—such as stargazing—must be secured 24 hours in advance.
This combo pairs a trip on the Skyline Gondola with sought-after reservations for lunch or dinner at the Stratosfare Restaurant and Bar, where floor-to-ceiling windows offer beautiful views.
Powerful telescopes and a “star guide” give a fascinating glimpse of the night sky above Queenstown; jackets are provided so travelers can bundle up and keep warm.
For an exciting descent from the Queenstown Skyline Gondola, travelers can choose between two luge courses: a beginner-friendly one and a more challenging option.
Read more about Skyline Gondola tour options here.
The twists and turns of the Shotover River frame water in startling colors, from deep blue to frothing white. It’s a scene that’s well worth a trip, but the river’s most famous offerings are high-speed jet-boat cruises that spin over the water. For more traditional thrills, opt for a whitewater rafting trip that lets travelers paddle along.
Multiple daily departures and a relatively short jet-boat ride makes it easy to add this tour to an already busy schedule.
This option combines the Shotover and Kawarau Rivers, offering clients more time on the water than many alternatives. The Kawarau’s known for tight curves, while the Shotover has more dramatic colors.
An paddling trip is an active way to explore the beautiful river, and a post-paddle sauna is a welcome chance to soothe tired muscles.
Read more about Shotover River tour options here.
An alpine playground that’s a quick trip from Queenstown, The Remarkables are famed for drawing skiers and snowboarders during the Southern Hemisphere winter. They also offer year-round sightseeing that’s most accessible on guided tours. During visits to farms tucked into foothills of the mountain range, travelers can meet some of New Zealand’s merino sheep, and while on a boat cruise of Lake Wakatipu, enjoy weeping views of the peaks from the water.
This short helicopter flight features a landing high in the mountain peaks, a remote destination that would otherwise require an arduous overland trip.
A family-friendly way to get views of the Remarkables, this 4WD tour also includes a Lake Wakatipu catamaran cruise, a sheep farm visit, and morning or afternoon tea.
Checking out the Remarkables from the water means unobstructed views. Clients who take this catamaran cruise will get plenty of opportunities for great photos.
This snowshoe tour offers a beginner-friendly way to get out in the snow, and the small-group format means that even first-time snowshoers will get plenty of help from the guide.
Read more about The Remarkables tour options here.
Fiordland and Milford Sound
Deep fjords stretch from the mountains to the Tasman Sea in one of the South Island’s most rugged and beautiful landscapes. Tours departing from Queenstown are available by coach and plane: Overland tours offer up-close views of the mountains and lakes, while flights can take travelers into unspoiled wilderness that’s not visible from the road. At Milford Sound, watch for fur seals and penguins on a scenic cruise to the end of the fjord.
Full-Day Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park Tour Including Milford Sound Cruise and BBQ Lunch from Queenstown
A popular option that includes round-trip coach transportation from Queenstown, this tour coordinates overland travel and a cruise to fit the entire trip into a long day of exploring.
Combine the advantages of tours by air and land with this option that starts with a coach trip, cruises Milford Sound, and returns in a fixed-wing plane.
Clients short on time may want to consider this sightseeing flight that covers remote territory, including mountain lakes and waterfalls, in just half a day.
Hiking the entire Milford Sound Track must be arranged months in advance, but this tour gets travelers on the gorgeous trail with time left over for a sightseeing cruise.
Read more about Fiordland and Milford Sound tour options here.
Things to Know
When to Visit
The Southern Hemisphere summer—roughly December through February—is ideal for warm-weather exploring, but June, July, and August blanket the Remarkables range in snow.
While many travelers rent cars to visit New Zealand, the wide availability of ground transfers means it’s easy to reach the city without your own vehicle.
Tipping is not an obligation in New Zealand, but many locals will acknowledge excellent service or friendly restaurant staff with a 10% gratuity.
Things to Bring
Between the ocean, mountains, and lake, Queenstown weather can be changeable even in the finest months, so bring layers—including a waterproof jacket at any time of year.
What the Locals Know
Check out the freshest produce from area farms by heading to the Saturday farmers market. The locally made crafts make unique souvenirs that you won’t find in stores.