A Quick Guide to Queenstown

The plane drops not once, but twice.

Passengers gasp, yelp and laugh, but I clutch the arm rest as my stomach flips like it does on a roller coaster. Never have I been on a plane this jumpy before, and the weather was just fine.

The pilot’s voice crackles into the cabin. Apparently the wind will get stronger as we approach the Queenstown airport. A little late for that announcement, eh?

I stare out the window as the plane dips lower into a narrow valley. It looks as if the wings could skim the hillside at any moment. Maybe the pilot shouldn’t have said anything at all. Que the turbulence again.

After 24 hours, three transfers, and the final flight from Auckland to Queenstown, we finally made it to the starting point of our great New Zealand adventure. Only, I didn’t know it was going to be a great adventure until three weeks later when the trip was over. Go figure.

But what matters is that we made it–to theadventure hub of Queenstown.

 

Queenstown 1

 

First impressions?

For the Canadians, it’s like taking the mountain town of Banff and moving it next to one of Okanagan’s lakes. The main difference is that Queenstown sits next to the mighty Lake Wakatipu (on the South Island) with the Southern Alps in the backdrop.

With decent food and lively nightlife, Queenstown is a bustling touristy town full of expats, travellers, and plenty of Asians on tours. Adventure tour companies and sporting stores line the main street and there’s no shortage of outdoor activities to do in town, or nearby.

From jet-boating, bungy jumping, paragliding, the skyline luge etc. you could easily spend a week here. The only downside though is that everything costs money.

A crap-ton of money.

Since the town capitalizes on tourism, everything else is expensive especially food and accommodation. To save some cash, I suggest spending time outside of Queenstown as there are towns and hiking trails you can explore for free.

The best option is to do this via car. In fact, I highly recommend a New Zealand roadtrip either by camper van or car as you’ll have the freedom to explore the corners of the country that just aren’t possible without your own transport.

 

Queenstown View

 

For accommodation, the best money-saving options are hostels or Airbnbs. Since I was travelling with my PIC (partner-in-crime), we opted for an Airbnb in a local’s home just outside of town.

Our host was one of many Kiwis who showed us the utmost of kindness. To this day I have never felt more welcomed than I did while travelling and staying with the locals here. Cheers to everyone we came across!

Anywho, since Queenstown is located in the Central Otago region, there are also pinot noir or chardonnay vineyards, mountain biking trails, and skiing in the winter. So if you’re really looking for adventure, Queenstown is a great place to start.

The town is small enough that you’ll easily find your way around after a couple of days. If you haven’t driven much on the left-hand side of the road, you’ll also feel more comfortable learning and practicing here instead of say Auckland where you have to deal with 10 times the amount of traffic.

So because QT is exactly that, a cute/QT town (get it?), you don’t really need a guide because sometimes it’s better to wing it and go explore.

BUT here’s a quick guide to Queenstown anyways because I want to tell you my version of why this place is so awesome.

So without further ado, here are some highlights you don’t want to miss starting with the food and then spots you’ll very likely come across on your own.

 



6 Places to Eat:

 

Queenstown - Ferburger

 

1. Fergburger

Almost a tradition, a lot of people come here after their first bungy jump. Screw it though, it was mid-afternoon and I hadn’t eaten a real meal in 24 hours. This joint was my first real bite in NZ, and it seriously did not disappoint! The burger bun itself is one to rave about with the perfect of amount crispiness, and the patty and veggies were pretty fresh too according to my jetlagged standards.

The onion rings were more on the meh side, but you need to try one of the gourmet burgers. Watch out for the massive lineup at the lunch or dinner rush though (I can vouch for a shorter line at around 3 pm).

Don’t miss the adjoining Fergbakery either! The bagels are yummy and while I didn’t try a meat pie, they looked tasty too!

 

Queenstown - Queenie's Dumplings

 

2. Queenie’s Dumplings

Now this was the place I went to after bungy jumping for the first time! The noodle soup is clear and on the healthier side with a heap of spinach and the dumplings were decent too. I’m sure I was still dazed from the jump because I forgot to order pan-fried dumplings, but they were pretty tasty as is (steamed).

 

img_4322-edit-web

 

3. Cookie Muncher Cookie Time

If you’re lucky, you’ll get a taste of these cookies on your in-flight snack on Air New Zealand. If not, no worries there’s a store here in QT. Happily wandering in search of somewhere to grab dinner, instead I came across this spot during its “happy hour” from 6 to 7 pm where you get two hot cookies, fresh out of the oven, for $3.

Since I couldn’t resist the smell wafting from this place, of course dinner had to wait. The good news is that you can pretty much buy these cookies in any convenience or grocery store all over the country, but you can’t beat the fresh ones!

4. Patagonia

There are a few of these chocolate shops and cafes in Queenstown, including the airport. Stop by for ice cream, energy-boosting smoothies, chocolates, plus other cakes and desserts.

 

Queenstown - Pog's Mahone

 

5. Pog’s Mahone

A traditional Irish pub perfect for a pint or meal. If you’re hungry, definitely go for one of the hot stone grills where you cook the rest of the meat on a sizzling slab of stone. Not gonna lie, this was my first stone grill in NZ but definitely not the last.

6. Bob’s Weich Cafe

A nice, casual place for breakfast or a grab-and-go muffin and flat white. Let me tell you… the muffins in NZ are something else. So crispy on the outside, but fluffy and warm on the inside.

 


 

4 Things You Need to Do:

So there’s not really that much to do in Queenstown itself, but there’s plenty to do in the area. Easily explored in a day or two, here are the four main hotspots in town.

 

Queenstown - Waterfront

 

1. Waterfront

This area is basically the downtown with all the restaurants, shops, info centres and everything you need. In the summer, you can also find an outdoor arts and crafts market on the weekend.

 

Queenstown - Gardens

 

2. Queenstown Gardens

A relaxing area on the other end of town, Queenstown Gardens is essentially a botanical garden featuring both exotic and native flora and fauna. Check out the rose garden and walk along the shore for views of the lake. You’ll also find a disc golf course, lawn bowling facilities, tennis courts, free parking (shhh) according to the locals, and plenty of lovely greenspaces.

 

Queenstown - Luge

 

3. Queenstown Gondola and Luge

Now this is something you gotta do if you aren’t into any of the extreme adventure sports. The luge is super fun, easy, great for all ages, and you can go multiple times (I went five times). You’ll have to take the gondola up first, but the views of the town and lake below are pretty iconic.

There’s also a fancy restaurant at the top with a buffet that’s recommended but you need to book a spot in advance.

 

Queenstown - Bungy Jump

 

4. Adventure Time!

Take your pick and book at least one adventure/thrill sport here. Be brave. You can do it! We signed our fears away for bungy jumping at Kawarau Bridge. A half hour away, this bridge is the site of the first bungy jump in the world.

It’s a classic bridge jump and great for first-time jumpers because it’s not as high as the others in the area. Plus, there’s a river flowing beneath you in case you need a “safety net.” I’ll be sure to write a more detailed post about this later!

 


What have you done in Queenstown, or what would you like to do? Let me know!

 

Migrant Muse

quick-guide-to-queenstown

pinit

  • Chen Wang

    Great post. I always wanted to go there.

  • Joseph Humphreys

    It’s the place where bungy jumping comes from? Didn’t know that! It looks like a very beautiful place as well, to boot 🙂

    • Hi Joseph! I didn’t know Queenstown is where bungy jumping started either haha. Maybe they just say that to get more people to do it 😉 It really is a beautiful place to relax and take in the scenery though. I miss NZ all the time!

  • Christine Krzyszton

    Haven’t been to Queenstown but it sure looks like a great place to visit. Nice that you gave some dining suggestions and examples of activities. All look spectacular. You mentioned that things were expensive but didn’t mention any prices. This is easy enough to find out should I end up going there, however 🙂 Nice comprehensive post.

    • Hi Christine! Thanks so much for your comment and the constructive feedback 🙂 I’ll have to go back to this post and add more details about prices, etc. as I know that would be helpful too!

  • Cat Lin

    a great round-up of things to do in Queenstown! I’m an adventurer and have been thinking of going there for quite some time!!

    • Thanks Cat! Hope you get to go there one day as I’m sure you’ll have so much fun 🙂

  • This is such a great round up about Queens town. I totally agree and think although it’s tourist central in NZ, Queenstown needs to be experienced. There are so many fun things to do here!

    • Hi Cristal! Yep, I suppose there’s a reason why it’s so touristy and people want to flock there 🙂 At least it’s not a massive tourist town yet!

  • Priyanka Banerjee

    Wow! I have not been to New Zealand yet, but this post makes me want to go. Such a beautiful city and so much to do in the heart of nature!! I love the way you have rounded-up everything to do there! Lovely

    • Thanks for your lovely comment Priyanka! There is indeed a lot of nature stuff to do there 🙂 Hope you get to visit one day soon!

  • Lovely views and great roundup of things to do! You are so brave for doing the jump.. but if there’s a delish noodle soup reward after, I might do it too! 🙂

    • Hi Melai! I was so not brave leading up to the jump haha. But it was worth it though! The trick is not to wait or hesitate, and yes that noodle soup was definitely satisfying after 🙂

  • I absolutely love Banff so your comparison definitely strikes a cord with me! Congrats on bungee jumping too! I think I’d have to do it there since it was the site of the first ever jump, but someone would probably have to push me! lol.

    • Yes! QT felt so much like home for me 🙂 Haha, and the guys and gals who rope you up are pretty good at convincing people to jump. Plus, there’s no refund after you pay, which I think forces a lot of people to go through with it too 🙂

  • Gabby Beckford

    I would be all over that luge!! What a cool little town, seems like they have everything. Actually reminds me of Sweden a bit!

    • Hi Gabby! Loved that luge 🙂 I haven’t been to Sweden yet but if it’s anything like QT or NZ, I’m sure I’d love it there too!

  • Natalie Tanner

    Happy hour at a cookie place. What a great idea! We have not made it to Queenstown yet, but really want to. It looks like an interesting spot.I could never in a million years bungee jump (nor would I allow the kids!!! They will have to wait till they are adults to do something like that!!) but it would be awesome to watch.

    • Hi Natalie! When you do get a chance to visit, I’m sure you’ll have a ton of fun even if you don’t go bungy jumping. It’s definitely fun watching people do it too! The Kawarau bridge location has viewing area and a souvenir shop with a cafe. There’s also a hiking trail you can do at the other end of the bridge.

  • Nicki McLaren

    I haven’t been here but I love your photos. You are right .. it does slightly resemble Banff.

  • Clare Colley

    I loved Queenstown, it’s such a beautiful place. I had a ferg burger and also did the gondola and luge, the views from the top are amazing 🙂

    • Hi Clare! Did you happen to see the sheep while taking the gondola up? I saw a couple and wondered why they liked hanging out right under the gondola haha.

  • This place looks SO beautiful!! I would love to visit. And the food looks amazing – if theres one thing that can touch my heart aside from a gorgeous view… is FOOD!! xx

    • Hi Glenny! Completely agree with you!! Any place is awesome as long as there’s good food nearby 🙂

  • Theresa Hornhofer

    Oh my god – Queenstown looks so nice! I definitely need to go there, after my 2 Months in Australia where I plan on spending at least 2 weeks in New Zealand! Thank you for this very helpful post – especially the food tips 🙂

    All the Best,
    Theresa from http://www.travellerista.com

    • Hi Theresa! That’s so exciting, you’ll have a blast!! If I can make one suggestion, I’d pick either the North or South island to explore since you only have two weeks. There is SO much to see and do in NZ that you definitely want to take your time instead of rushing around. Happy travels!

  • Happily Tanned

    I loved the food options you have mentioned in the blog. I travel to eat the local delicacies. I am a big fan of soups and Queenie’s Dumplings clear soup does look delicious.

    New Zealand has been on the top of my bucket list since years. Your post will force me to book my tickets.

    • Yes! I love soups too. Keep an eye on the flight prices to NZ and book that ticket when you see a good price! You’ll have such an amazing time, I know it 🙂

  • Wow, this is fabulous a thorough. Looks like I’ve got a bit more traveling to do!

    • Haha don’t we all! Take your time whenever you get the chance to check out NZ though 🙂

  • Chen Wang

    Just put in on my bucket list 🙂

  • Lara Dunning

    Love all the tips! New Zealand is on my bucket list. Not sure I’d be brave enough to bungy jump.

    • Hi Lara! Not gonna lie, I was scared just thinking about it. But I’m sure everyone who takes that leap of faith is so glad they did. The experience is over in a couple seconds and you feel like a million bucks after because of the adrenaline 🙂

  • Lottie Mosley

    I love Queenstown! I did the Nevis Swing, but I need to go back for a real bungy jump 🙈

    • Ah! The Nevis Swing looked fun too. If I go back, I’d attempt to do the Nevis bungy into the canyon… maybe lol.

  • Elaine J Masters

    Loved visiting Queenstown and we were lucky to have a car for driving from one end of the island to the other. Queenstown was pretty spendy but most of the rest of the country not so. Loved our visit. Great tips on eating too.

    • Hi Elaine! That’s great you also had a car and got to see both islands 🙂 And I agree, after QT it was a bit more reasonable everywhere else in terms of cost!

  • Roxanne Bamboat

    New Zealand is a dream for me and a wee bit far ( I”m in India ) but I hope to make it one day

    • Hi Roxanne! NZ is far from me too (Canada) but don’t let the distance stop you from going there 🙂 It’s sooo worth it.

  • Marinel de Jesus

    I have been to Queenstown and love how it’s a hiker’s entry point to NZ’s wonderful tramps. I wish I had more time in the city…thanks for the tips..I”ll keep them in mind for next time.

    • Thanks for stopping by Marinel! I also wish I had more time there as I’d definitely try and do more hiking in the area. Guess there’s always next time 🙂

  • kandja sylla

    Definitely bookmarking this trip! The photos are all so incredible. I love your tip about Airbnb. If a place is a tourist spot, it can be pricey. Thanks for the share xx
    http://www.prettyweirdbombshell.com/get-the-best-sleep/

    • Thanks so much for stopping by! The activities are all on the pricey side as are some of the restaurants. The Airbnb I stayed at was around $50 a night, which I thought was totally reasonable. Getting to know the locals after staying in mostly just Airbnbs was also a big highlight of my NZ trip, so I definitely recommend staying at Airbnbs if you can! 🙂

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