If you are planning your Queenstown itinerary, there are a lot of things to consider. How long should you spend in Queenstown? Where should you stay? Should you rent a car? What are the best things to do in Queenstown?
In this guide, we share with you the top experiences in Queenstown and then how to put them together to create your perfect Queenstown itinerary, whether you have 3 days, 5 days, or an entire week.
How to Use This Guide
Since there are so many ways to plan your Queenstown itinerary, we list several different ways to do it.
Let’s face it, some people are going to want to fill their time with bungy jumps, jet boat rides, and mountain biking, whereas others will choose to keep their feet firmly on the ground, and go hiking, shopping, and exploring Queenstown’s amazing food scene.
First, we start with an overview of Queenstown and essential things you need to know as you plan your trip.
Next, we list several options on how to spend 3 days in Queenstown, for different travel styles. Then, we build on these 3-day itineraries, for those who have more time in Queenstown.
These itineraries are written for spring through fall when the hiking trails are open. You can follow these itineraries in the winter with some modifications, substituting skiing for hiking.
Overview of Queenstown
Queenstown is located on the South Island of New Zealand. It sits on the shore of Lake Wakatipu, the third largest lake in New Zealand. Surrounding the lake, and Queenstown, are Queenstown Hill, The Remarkables, Ben Lomond, and numerous mountain peaks.
Queenstown is known as the Adventure Capital of the World. Bungy jumping and jet boating both got their start here but there are plenty of things to do in Queenstown that are less heart-pounding, such as relaxing in a natural hot pool or cruising on Lake Wakatipu.
With its handy airport, you can fly to Queenstown from other cities throughout New Zealand and Australia. It also makes a great stop on a road trip on the South Island.
Best Things to Do in Queenstown
Here is a list of the best things to do in Queenstown. For the full list, and for more information about each activity, take a look at our article Best Things to Do in Queenstown.
- Skyline Queenstown & riding The Luge
- Go bungy jumping
- Jet boat ride on the Shotover River
- Onsen Hot Pools
- Scenic drive to Glenorchy
- Day trip to Arrowtown
- Dinner in Queenstown
- Going for a stroll along the waterfront
- Hiking one of the nearby trails
- Skiing (in the winter)
The Shotover River
How Much Time Do You Need in Queenstown?
Ideally, plan on spending at least 3 days in Queenstown. There is a lot to do here, and Queenstown makes a great home base for day tripping to places such as the Milford Sound, Arrowtown, and Wanaka, so that even on the fastest of itineraries, 3 days is the minimum we would recommend.
Each additional day you add gives you more time to go hiking, thoroughly explore the town of Queenstown and its vibrant food scene, and day trip to nearby destinations.
Do You Need a Car in Queenstown?
If you have plans to fly to Queenstown, rather than visiting it on a South Island road trip, a car is not absolutely necessary. The city is easily walkable and you can use public transportation to get to and from the airport. If you want to visit the sites outside of Queenstown, you can join a tour or use the public bus.
However, a car does give you the option to go on scenic drives and day trip to places such as Arrowtown and Wanaka on your own schedule. There are public parking lots in the town center and many hotels offer parking.
Where to Stay in Queenstown
There are a lot of highly rated hotels, B&B’s, and hostels in Queenstown. We prefer to stay near the city center, which allows us to walk to most of the sites within the city, including the restaurants.
If you stay slightly outside of Queenstown, you can get a nicer place to stay at a cheaper cost, but you’ll have to drive or take a bus or Uber into town for dinner and activities, so keep that in mind as you choose a place to stay.
LUXURY: Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel. This hotel is located next to the Queenstown Recreational Reserve, about a 5-minute walk from the city center. Rooms range from double rooms to two-bedroom suites. This is where we stayed on our most recent visit to Queenstown and had a fantastic experience.
UPSCALE: Quest Queenstown Apartments Remarkables Park. This apartment complex is located near the airport, 2 miles from the Queenstown city center. Rooms range from studios to one and two-bedroom apartments. Rooms come with a washing machine, so this is a great pick for families and those traveling long term.
MID-RANGE: Blackrock Apartments. This small property is located just outside of the city center, but close enough that it is possible to walk to many of the sites near the waterfront. Take your pick from one, two, and three-bedroom apartments. These come with a washing machine and kitchenette.
MID-RANGE: Bowen 19 Lake Views Gas Fire BBQ. This beautiful two-bedroom apartment has a balcony with a view of Lake Wakatipu. It comes with a kitchen, two bathrooms, washing machine, and grill. There is only one unit and this apartment gets wonderful reviews, so make your reservation as soon as possible.
BUDGET: Absoloot Hostel Queenstown. This is where we stayed on our first visit to Queenstown and had a great experience. The location is unbeatable, right on the waterfront and just steps away from the gondola, Queenstown Mall, and Fergburger. Rooms range from dorm rooms to private double rooms and family rooms.
BUDGET: Adventure Q2 Hostel. This hostel is located in the city center and gets excellent reviews. You can book a bed in a dormitory room or book the double room that has a private bathroom. There is a shared kitchen and lounge.
Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel
3 Days in Queenstown Itinerary
First, we list three different ways to spend 3 days in Queenstown, based on your travel style. After this section, we list ways to extend your itinerary, if you have more than 3 days in Queenstown.
3 Days in Queenstown: Active & Adventurous
This 3-day Queenstown itinerary is perfect for those who want to engage in Queenstown’s adrenaline-packed activities.
Day 1: Bungy Jumping & Skyline Queenstown
Morning: Bungy Jump
Start your day with one of Queenstown’s top activities, bungy jumping. You have several options on where to go.
At the Kawarau Bridge, leap from the same bridge where bungy jumping got its start. This historic bridge sits 43 meters above the river and you have the option for a water touch.
At 134 meters, the Ben Nevis Bungy is the highest in New Zealand. Sign up for this bad boy and you’ll be free falling for 8.5 seconds! This experience takes about 4 hours since you can only get here on the AJ Hackett shuttle bus. Friends and family can join you on the bus for a fee.
Finally, you can jump at the Ledge Bungy, which is located at Skyline Queenstown. The Ledge Bungy is a 47-meter jump. It is a freestyle jump, which means you can do tricks, backflips, get a running start, whatever suits your mood at the moment.
Afternoon: Skyline Queenstown
In the afternoon, ride the gondola to Skyline Queenstown. This is well worth the visit just for the extraordinary view of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu, but once here, there are lots of activities to choose from.
Riding the Luge is the most popular, and you can purchase a ticket that allows you to go over and over again. From Skyline Queenstown, you can also spend the afternoon mountain biking, hiking, paragliding, and ziplining.
Have dinner at Skyline Queenstown (at Stratosfare or Market Kitchen) or have dinner in town. We highly recommend having dinner at Blue Kanu while in Queenstown.
The view from Skyline Queenstown | Queenstown Itinerary
Day 2: Go for a Hike
Start the day with a hike on one of the nearby trails.
Options include the Ben Lomond Track (11 km/7 miles, moderate to strenuous, 6 hours), the Queenstown Hill Time Walk (4.8 km/3 miles, strenuous, 2 to 3 hours), or the Moke Lake Loop (6 km/3.75 miles, easy, 2 to 3 hours).
Ben Lomond Track | Giantrabbit/shutterstock.com
In the afternoon, explore Queenstown, with a stroll along the waterfront, a cocktail at Perky’s Floating Bar or Eichardt’s Bar, and dinner (Fergburger is our recommendation for tonight…you earned that whopper of a cheeseburger on the hiking trail today).
Day 3: Jet Boat, Flightseeing & Paragliding
Morning: Jet Boat Ride
Like bungy jumping, jet boat riding got its start right here in Queenstown. It’s a thrilling experience for all ages, as you zip through a canyon, coming within inches of the canyon walls. Add in 360° turns and very fast speeds and you have an action-packed adventure in Queenstown.
There are a lot of options to choose from. Shotover Jet is the most popular and who we used on our visit to Queenstown (it’s awesome!) but you can also go jet boating with Skippers Canyon Jet, KJet, or Dart River Adventures.
The Shotover Jet on the Shotover River
Afternoon: Aerial Views of Queenstown
In the afternoon, take your pick from paragliding, a flightseeing tour, or skydiving. We went paragliding with Coronet Peak Tandem Paragliding and had a great experience, but we also recommend GForce Paragliding.
From Queenstown, you can take a 20-minute helicopter flight over Lake Wakatipu, fly from Queenstown to the Milford Sound and cruise on Milford Sound, or, for the ultimate adventure, fly to Aoraki / Mount Cook and go heli-hiking.
Taking the flightseeing experience one thrilling notch higher, you also have the option to go skydiving in Queenstown.
Paragliding in Queenstown | Queenstown Itinerary
3 Days in Queenstown: Light & Relaxing
For those who want to experience the more chill side of Queenstown, here is a 3-day Queenstown itinerary that looks much different than the one above.
Day 1: Explore Queenstown & Optional Trip to Arrowtown
On your first day, spend some time exploring the Queenstown waterfront and taking a cruise on Lake Wakatipu.
Take a stroll along the waterfront and the Queenstown Botanical Gardens. Go shopping at the Queenstown Mall and have lunch in the city center. We recommend the Botswana Butchery and Public Kitchen and Bar.
Afternoon: Scenic Cruise or Arrowtown
In the afternoon, take your pick between a scenic cruise on Lake Wakatipu (which starts right in Queenstown) or spend the afternoon and evening at Arrowtown.
One of the most popular cruise options is to take a 1.5-hour cruise on Lake Wakatipu on the TSS Earnslaw, which is a historic steamship.
You can also take a lunch or dinner cruise of Lake Wakatipu.
Arrowtown sits 20 minutes from Queenstown by car. It is famous for its gold mining history and historic Chinese settlement. This historic town looks like it has been plucked out of the American west and set down amongst rolling hills, vineyards, and sheep farms. It’s a wonderful place to spend the afternoon, visiting its historic sites, shops, and restaurants.
In town, you can go wine tasting in the Winery, have a cocktail at Hyde Liquor and Social, and have dinner. We had an amazing dinner at Aosta but La Rumbla, The Fork and Tap, and Postmasters all get good reviews. Make a reservation in advance.
Day 2: Day Trip to Glenorchy
Have breakfast in Queenstown and the spend the day in nearby Glenorchy.
Glenorchy is a tiny town that is located north of Queenstown, on the north end of Lake Wakatipu. To get here, it is a gorgeous drive along Lake Wakatipu. On this 45-minute drive, you can stop at several scenic overlooks and walk up to Bennetts Bluff for panoramic views of the lake.
Scenery on the drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy
Once in Glenorchy, you can take a jet boat ride on the Dart River, take a stroll along the waterfront, or have a bite to eat at one of the restaurants in town. Mrs. Glen’s Café gets great reviews.
In the afternoon, return to Queenstown. We recommend Blue Kanu or Nest Kitchen and Bar for dinner.
Cocktails at Nest Kitchen and Bar
Day 3: Hot Pools and Skyline Queenstown
Morning: Onsen Hot Pools
Today starts off with a leisurely visit to Onsen Hot Pools, the most luxurious natural hot pool experience in Queenstown. In 2021, Onsen was a winner at the World Luxury Spa Awards.
As you relax in your private hot tub, enjoy the amazing views over the Shotover River. Since you have all morning for this experience, you can also add on a visit their spa, for more pampering.
Onsen Hot Pools
Afternoon & Evening: Skyline Queenstown
Have lunch in Queenstown.
Then make your way to Kiwi Park, the best place in Queenstown to see kiwi birds.
You can also see 20 native species of wildlife, including the South Island Kākā, Kea, Buff Weka, Karearea/New Zealand Falcon, and Tuatara, just to name a few. These animals are recovering from injury and being rehabilitated, to be released back to the wild.
A visit here lasts 1 to 2 hours. It is best to take a look at the official website, to see when the Kiwi encounters are offered, and plan your visit around these times.
Right next to Kiwi Park is the bottom station for Skyline Queenstown. Ride the gondola to Bob’s Peak and enjoy the awesome view of Queenstown. While here, you can ride the Luge, go shopping, hiking, or even bungy jumping.
Tonight, we recommend dinner at Stratosfare, located at Skyline Queenstown, ending your visit with one of the best dining experiences in town.
Skyline Queenstown | Queenstown Itinerary
3 Days in Queenstown: With Kids
If you are traveling with kids, there is a lot for them to do here. This itinerary is geared towards slightly older kids. When we first visited Queenstown, Tyler and Kara were 12 and 10 and they were able to do quite a bit. Queenstown was the highlight for them, out of the almost 4 weeks we spent in New Zealand.
Day 1: Kiwi Park & Skyline Queenstown
Start your day at Kiwi Park. Take a tour to see the kiwi birds and walk through the property to see 20 native species of wildlife, including the South Island Kākā, Kea, Buff Weka, Karearea/New Zealand Falcon. A visit here lasts 1 to 2 hours. It is best to take a look at the official website, to see when the Kiwi encounters are offered, and plan your visit around these times.
Then, ride the gondola to Skyline Queenstown (the bottom station is located next to Kiwi Park) and spend the afternoon here. Depending on the ages of your kids, there is a long list of activities to choose from.
Plan on riding the Luge a few times, but you and your kids can also go mountain biking, ziplining, hiking, bungy jumping, and paragliding. Tyler and Kara both did the Ledge Bungy and Swing and loved it!
Have dinner at Skyline Queenstown or in town.
The Luge at Skyline Queenstown | Queenstown Itinerary
The Ledge Bungy
Day 2: Jet Boat Ride & Queenstown
In the morning, go for a jet boat ride. We did this with Shotover Jet and had a very fun, memorable experience (again, Tyler and Kara LOVED this!) but KJet and Skippers Canyon Jet are two more companies to consider.
Spend the remainder of the day in Queenstown. Kids will love the short, entertaining, educational movie about the history of Queenstown at Time Tripper. Go for a stroll along the waterfront and the Queenstown Botanical Gardens, go for a cruise on Lake Wakatipu, and get a sweet treat at Patagonia, Balls and Bangles, or Cookie Time.
Have dinner in Queenstown. We recommend Fergburger tonight.
Day 3: Day Trip from Queenstown
Morning: Go-Karting at Highlands
In the morning, take a day trip out to Cromwell to drive go-karts (kids as young as 6 years old can be a passenger in the go-karts) or go for a ride on the racetrack. Highlands has a go-kart track, racetrack, museum, and loo with a view.
We did this several times on our last visit and loved it. It’s best to book your time slot in advance because this is a popular spot to visit.
Afternoon: Arrowtown or Paragliding
In the afternoon, you can visit Arrowtown, a historic town located 20 minutes away from Queenstown. This historic town looks like it has been plucked out of the American west and set down amongst rolling hills, vineyards, and sheep farms.
While in Arrowtown, visit X Marks the Spot, a sign marking the spot where Jack Tewa found gold in 1862. Next to this spot is the historic Chinese settlement. Have dinner in Arrowtown or in Queenstown.
Another option is to go paragliding, if you have older kids. We did this with Tyler and Kara and it is fun to do, especially if this is your first time. We went paragliding with Coronet Peak Tandem Paragliding and had a great experience, but we also recommend GForce Paragliding.
Queenstown Itinerary: With More Time
If you have more than 3 days in Queenstown, you can follow the itinerary above that best fits your travel style, and then add on a day from one of the other itineraries.
For example, if you plan to follow the Active and Adventurous Itinerary, you could add in the day trip to Glenorchy from the Light and Relaxing Itinerary.
To make things even easier, here are a few multi-day itineraries, from 4 days to one week. These combine the more thrilling experiences with day trip options and chill time in Queenstown. Each itinerary builds on the one before it.
4 Days in Queenstown Itinerary
Day 1: In the morning, go bungy jumping and in the afternoon, visit Kiwi Park and Skyline Queenstown. Have dinner at Skyline Queenstown or in the town center.
Day 2: In the morning, go for a hike (Queenstown Hill Time Walk, Ben Lomond Track, or Moke Lake Loop) and in the afternoon, relax in the Onsen Hot Pools. Have dinner in Queenstown.
Day 3: In the morning, day trip to Glenorchy. In the afternoon, stroll along the Queenstown waterfront and Queenstown Mall. Have dinner in Queenstown.
Day 4: In the morning, go for a jet boat ride. In the afternoon, visit Arrowtown or go paragliding or take a flightseeing tour.
5 Days in Queenstown Itinerary
Follow days 1 through 4 in the 4-day Queenstown itinerary.
Day 5: In the morning, ride the go-karts at Highlands in Cromwell. Spend the afternoon wine tasting at the nearby cellar doors. We recommend Cloudy Bay Shed, Te Kano Estate, Domaine-Thomson Wines Cellar Door, Felton Road Wines, and Mt. Difficulty Wines.
Te Kano Estate
6 Days in Queenstown Itinerary
Follow days 1 through 5 in the 5-day Queenstown itinerary.
Day 6: Do another hike in Queenstown with the option for a flighseeing tour in the afternoon. If you don’t have plans to stay in Te Anau, this day can also be used to day trip to the Milford Sound, either by bus or flightseeing tour.
The Milford Sound, one of the best day trips from Queenstown
7 Days in Queenstown Itinerary
Follow days 1 through 6 in the 6-day Queenstown itinerary.
Day 7: Having 7 days gives you lots of contingency time, should you get some rainy weather while in Queenstown, which is very likely. This also gives you more time to do another hike, another bungy jump, a tour to the nearby wine region, or a day trip to Wanaka.
Wanaka, New Zealand
Frequently Asked Questions
Is 3 days enough time in Queenstown?
With 3 days in Queenstown, you have just enough time indulge in all of the adrenaline packed activities that Queenstown has to offer, with the option to day trip to the Milford Sound, Arrowtown, Glenorchy, or Wanaka.
What are best things to do in Queenstown on a quick visit?
On a quick visit to Queenstown, must-have experiences include a jet boat ride, riding the Luge at Skyline Queenstown, bungy jumping, and getting a burger at Fergburger.
When does it snow in Queenstown?
Queenstown gets snow from June through October, although light snow can fall a month or two before and after this time frame. July and August are the best months to go skiing in Queenstown.
If you have any questions about this Queenstown itinerary or how to modify it, let us know in the comment section below.
More Information for Your Trip to New Zealand
SOUTH ISLAND: On the South Island of New Zealand, visit Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, spend a few days in Wanaka, hike the Routeburn Track, drive the Southern Scenic Route, visit the Marlborough Wine Region, and visit Franz Josef and Glacier Country. For the full list, read our article Best Things to Do on the South Island.
SOUTH ISLAND ITINERARY: If you have only a week, here are four different ways to spend one week on the South Island.
NORTH ISLAND: Top experiences on the North Island include the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (one of the best day hikes in the world), spending a day or two in Auckland, visiting Waiheke Island on a day trip from Auckland, touring Hobbiton, a visit to Taupō, and seeing the glowworms and blackwater rafting in the Waitomo Caves. For the full list, read our article about the Best Things to Do on the North Island.
HIKES IN NEW ZEALAND: The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is often labeled as the best day hike in the world. The Hooker Valley Track offers awesome views of Mt. Cook, Roy’s Peak and the Rocky Mountain Track are two gorgeous hikes in Wanaka, and Abel Tasman National Park also makes a great spot to go hiking. The Routeburn Track is another fantastic hike and can be done as a big day hike or multi-day trek.
We have TONS more information about New Zealand in our New Zealand Travel Guide, including Auckland, Queenstown, Wanaka, Aoraki/Mount Cook, Franz Josef, Christchurch, Wellington, Taupō, and the Milford Sound.
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