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Queenstown is a world renowned resort town in the South Island of New Zealand. The town sits on the edge of Lake Wakatipu and is surrounded by the Southern Alps.
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Points of Interest in Queenstown
The spectacular mountain scenery and Lake Wakatipu dominate the view from most parts of town. Most attractions in Queenstown make the most of the view and it's enough reason to spend time in Queenstown even if you choose not to do anything else.
After that though, there are not a lot of things to 'See'. Its in the 'Do' category below where Queenstown really excels. Nevertheless, there are a few sights around the town to check out:
- Skyline Gondola. One of the best views is from the top of Bob's Peak reached by the Skyline Gondola. Breathtaking views of Coronet Peak, The Remarkables mountain range and across Lake Wakatipu to Cecil and Walter Peaks. It's truly magnificent and awe-inspiring!
- Queenstown Gardens (adjacent to centre of town). jutting out into lake Wakatipu, these botanical garden contain a variety of exotic and native trees and plants as well as a large pond and a range of facilities.
- Kiwi Birdlife Park, Upper Brecon St. Wildlife attraction featuring native New Zealand birds
Queenstown and the surrounding area was originally settled by Europeans and a substantial Chinese population for gold mining and farming in the 1860s. After the decline of gold mining, Queenstown became a sleepy rural town, popular as a summer getaway.
In 1947 New Zealand's first commercial ski field, Coronet Peak, opened. The skiing industry slowly expanded in the town driving its early growth as a tourist resort. Leveraging Queenstown's popularity as a ski destination, various other tourist industries grew up including the world's first permanent commercial bungee site, the Kawarau Bridge Bungy. Other attractions followed, along with a huge number of hotels to cater for the visitors. The last 10 years have seen the addition of international 5 star hotel chains such as the Hilton and Sofitel. Queenstown is still growing at a fantastic rate, with some of New Zealand's most expensive property prices (the median house price in December 2013 was $646,000, second only to Auckland) and new hotels still open regularly, although this has slowed somewhat recently. Time will tell if it can hold on to its character and protect its natural beauty from the effects of its own popularity.
Getting out there and 'doing' is really what Queenstown is all about. Skiing was the first drawcard, but now it shares the limelight with a multitude of ways to test your bravery. If you can think of a way to get adrenaline pumping, Queenstown's budding entrepreneurs have probably tried at some stage to make a tourist attraction out of it. Queenstown also has a full range of more gentle attractions, including relaxing tours, and luxury spas.
Skiing & snowboarding - There are four large commercial ski fields, and two specialist fields easily accessible from Queenstown. There are also a number of heli-skiing providers.
- Coronet Peak - The closest to Queenstown, about 15 min from the Centre of town, features a full range of slopes.
- Remarkables - Nestled in the Remarkable Mountain range which towers above the airport. Slightly smaller than Coronet, but still easily accessible from town.
- Cardrona - In the crown range, approximately 60 min (58 km) from Queenstown along the windy Crown Range Road. It features mostly mid-level terrain and a large terrain park.
- Snow Park - In the crown range across the other side of the valley from Cardrona, the Snow Park is a Snowboard orientated world class Terrain park.
- Snow Farm - Next to Snow Park, this is a specialist cross country ski area.
- Treble Cone - The furthest field from Queenstown, about an hour and a half away. Usually visited by people based in Wanaka, Treble Cone is seen as more of a skiers field and generally features more advanced terrain.
There are dozens of attractions and providers. The information centre in town acts as a booking centre and is a great place to start inquiries. Otherwise most businesses will have a store in the CBD where they can arrange things for you. Hostels and hotels also generally have a stack of pamphlets showing what is on offer, and staff are generally happy to help with recommendations and bookings. All providers generally provide transfers if needed.
- AJ Hackett Bungy. the worlds first commercial bungee jump was established by these guys on the Kawarau Bridge. AJ Hackett also operates the Ledge bungee from the top of the skyline gondola, and the Nevis Highwire Platform out of town in the Gibston valley, the third highest bungee jumping platform in the world at a height of 134 metres.
- Jet boats. Exciting jetboat rides have been operating near Queenstown for 50 years. The jet boats carry passengers at high speeds over shallow waters performing stunts like 360 degree pirouettes in the water.
- Luge. Is fun filled gravity ride for all ages and abilities. You control your own gravity propelled vehicle down the track. Choose from two tracks, one scenic and gentle, the other advanced and adventurous.
- Mountain Biking package tours are available which include transport to specific locations. Or you can just hire a bike, grab a map and some tips and explore yourself. There is also a downhill service based on the Gondola, where you can buy a day pass and use it as a lift for repeated runs, and Rabbit Ridge, a trail centre located in Gibston Valley, with over 40km of tracks and shuttles.
- Parasailing available on lake Wakatipu
- Parapenting/Paragliding - launching yourself off a hill with a parachute to ride the "thermals"
- Quad-bike Tours - are available, some of which are specifically designed to take in Lord of the Rings film locations.
- Riverboarding - Swimming through rapids on a bodyboard.
- NZONE Skydive, 35 Shotover St, ☎ 0800 DROPZONE, e-mail: email@example.com. First commercial tandem skydive company in New Zealand, operating since 1990.
- White water rafting - Single and multi-day options, including a chance to go 'black water rafting' through an underground tunnel.
- Ziptrek Ecotours - New Zealand's #1 Original Zipline Tour. Amazing zipline tours through the forest high up on on Bobs Peak and accessed by the Skyline Gondola. A fully guided tour with cool tree house architecture interconnected by fun ziplines, stunning views and a little bit of education on the environment, Queenstown history and local flora & fauna.
- Cruising - lake cruises on Lake Wakatipu offer great views of the town, surrounding mountains, etc. The TSS Earnslaw is a popular historic steam ship which offers daily tours. There are also private charter providers.
- Cycling - hire a bike for the day and use your legs. There is a cycle path which runs around the edge of the lake from the centre of town to the golf course opposite.
- Horseback riding - there are some great tours that pick up in Queenstown and take you into the valleys, through rivers, etc. Pamphlets can be collected at any hotel or hostel to explore the dozens of horseback tours
- Fishing and Flyfishing - Lake Wakatipu is known for Trout. You cannot buy fish from lakes in New Zealand, you have to fish for them yourself. Flyfishing is also available locally.
- Garden Tours - Queenstown has a number of superb private gardens as well as the centrally located public Queenstown Gardens jutting out into Lake Wakatipu. The walking track on the lake edge offers excellent views of Queenstown and surrounding mountains.
- Golf - there are six golf clubs in town, with facilities (and green fees) ranging from everyday to five star.
- Hiking - Queenstown Hill behind the town can be climbed in about 3/4 hours for a fantastic view (and unlike most things in Queenstown it's free). There is also a nice track around the lake.
- Scenic flights - the helicopter and light aircraft flights around Queenstown and to Milford Sound and Fiordland are rated amongst the best in the world. It is easily possible to fly from Queenstown in the morning, cruise Milford Sound over lunch, before returning to Queenstown in the afternoon, replacing what could otherwise be two days on the road.
- Touring - the scenery surrounding Queenstown makes for excellent touring, with lakes, mountains and bush around vineyards and farmland. There are also a number of specific 'Lord of the Rings' themed tours which take in local film sites for the movie series.
- Wine tasting. The southernmost vineyards in the world are close by.
There are a huge variety of numerous eating establishments to be found in Queenstown, from all-hours takeaways to fine dining. Reservations for dinner are important at the best places most times of the year, and most nights of the week.
Due to the large number of restaurants, Queenstown is a culinary hub for New Zealand, and you will find regional produce such as pinot noir wine and Canterbury lamb on display in many of the restaurants. Fine restaurants also serve world-class seafood (local mussels, oysters and deep sea fish such as blue cod), game and red meat (farmed venison and beef).
There are also a number of wineries in the Gibbston Valley (20 minutes drive) with restaurants attached, most of which are open for lunch.
Budget food is a little harder to come by in Queenstown. There are a few small fish and chip shops, kebab joints, and the usual KFC and McDonald's. Your best bet if your looking to save a few dollars is to hit the supermarket. The other option is to wander around and check out daily specials on the sandwich boards of restaurants.
- Fergburger Takeaways, 42 Shotover St, Queenstown Central, ☎ +64 3 441-1232. Legendary, large burgers, insanely busy most of the day.
- Fergbaker, Shotover St, next to Fergberger, serving pies, coffee and other bakery goods
- At Thai, Church Street, +64 3 442-3683 (Thai cuisine)
- Hamills Restaurant (casual dining) Remarkables Park, Frankton
- The Cow Pizza & Spaghetti House, Cow Lane +64 3 442-8588 (pizza)
- Fishbone Bar & Grill, 7 Beach St, ☎ +64 3 442-6768. From 17:00. Queenstown's seafood restauarant, serving South Island fish & shellfish.
- The Lone Star (tex-mex, casual dining)
- Minami Jujitsu (Japanese)
- Memories of Hong Kong, inside the mall near the casino (chinese)
- Skyline Queenstown Restaurant. Taste of New Zealand buffet offers delectable fresh seafood, salads, roast meats and delicious desserts.
- Winnies Gourmet Pizza bar, Upstairs, 7-9 The Mall (next to the cinema), ☎ +64 3 442-8635. Competitor for the best pizzas in town, caters for everyone and family friendly (before the drinkers start to come in the evening)
- Botswana Butchery, 17 Marine Parade (On the waters edge), ☎ +64 3 442-6994. A great restaurant with ambience, sensational service. The menu is extensive and specialises in meat. The whole leg of lamb for 2 could feed 3! The wine list is very good. Prices are at the higher end but sensational for a special occasion. They have smaller private room dinning opportunities as well as a great bar room for pre-dinner drinks.
- The Bathhouse Fine Restaurant, Esplanade +64 3 442-5625 (fine dining)
- The Bunker, Cow Lane +64 3 441-8030 (fine dining)
- Public Kitchen & Bar Steamer Wharf +64 3 442-5969 (previously Wai Waterfront Seafood Restaurant).
Nightlife in Queenstown is largely about drinking and there are over a hundred licensed premises, with most in the downtown area. It's hard to walk down one of the central streets without tripping over a bar or three. Most bars stay open till around 04:00 and it is lively most nights.
There are cheap bars popular with backpackers and young locals, and sophisticated and expensive wine, cocktail and imported beer bars. Many bars and pubs have sunny outdoor courtyards in the summer months, and roaring open fires in the winter. Major sports events are normally to be found on screen somewhere in Queenstown.
There are two small casinos for adult entertainment.
A selection of some of the most well known places follows:
- Altitude, Shotover St, attached to the base backpackers. Big backpacker bar popular with tour bus groups. Drink specials and theme parties nightly. Not the place for a quiet drink
- Bar Up, Upstairs, Cnr Searle Lane & Eureka Arcade. A boutique nightlife bar, the upstairs bar has a lounge feel about it, warmed by a open fire with a private deck. It has an extensive cocktail list.
- The Buffalo Club, 8 Brecon Street, ☎ +64 3 442-4144. 16:00 until late. Home of the infamous Buff Ugly dancers, Ginger Wednesdays, Queenstown's only late night bikini competition on Topless Tuesdays and a roaring hot fire to keep you warm in winter.
- Bunker Bar, Cow Lane. Hard to find boutique bar on Cow Lane, upstairs with open fires and a private deck. It has an extensive cocktail list.
- Guilty Bar, Ballarat Street, ☎ +64 3 409-2178. Heineken Bar
- Red Rocks, 48 Camp St (just off Shotover). Smaller backpacker bar with a ski lodge feel and a deck outside
- Tardis, Cow Lane. Late night drum and base/dance venue
- Winnies, The Mall, 7 Ballarat St, ☎ +64 3 442-8635. 12:00 till late. Later in the evenings this pizza bar turns into a popular drinking spot. Dining, drinking and partying under the sun and stars with an opening roof.
- The World, Shotover St. Another popular backpacker bar, their speciality is cocktail-like drinks served in teapots (currently closed following a fire)
The town centre contains many tourist and souvenir stores but bargains can be hard to come by.
Top quality knitwear, Sheepskin and Possum Fur products, Greenstone (Jade) and bone carvings, and fine New Zealand wine is available for a price.
Outdoor suppliers are plentiful, with equipment for trampers (hikers), mountain bikers, skiers and snowboarders, and many others who use Queenstown as the launching-pad for expeditions into the nearby National Parks.
There are a handful of convenience food stores in the town centre, most open until midnight and beyond. Two large supermarkets are on the outskirts of town.
Most of the stores in Queenstown are open daily until 20:00 or 21:00.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Queenstown (New Zealand) on Wikivoyage.