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Queenstown is a picturesque and highly popular tourist destination in the heart of New Zealand's South Island. This beautiful part of the world is bustling during the winter months, with people attracted to the natural delights and adventure activities of the local area. Located in Otago, the local population of 40,000 surges during the winter months as people from around the world visit this inspiring bucket list destination.
Queenstown has something for everyone, from romantic getaways and family holidays through to group adventures in the snow. With over 200 adventure activities, and countless natural and cultural attractions, this breathtaking destination continues to inspire and excite people from all corners of the globe. Queenstown attracts more than 3 million visitors a year, many of whom visit during the winter months to enjoy the following activities.
The Queenstown Winter Festival is loved by locals and visitors alike. Held near the start of winter from June 18-21 every year, this beloved event features weird and wonderful sporting events, live music and comedy, and lots of amazing food. Amidst a backdrop of snow-capped mountains and the beautiful Lake Whakatipu, the Winter Festival offers an experience like no other.
The Queenstown Winter Festival features a range of lighthearted adventure activities for everyone to enjoy. If you've ever fancied tumbling down a snowy mountain or stripping down to your undies in the cold, this is the place to come. More sophisticated festival activities are also on offer, including four days of live music and comedy from some of the best names in the business.
Queenstown is famous for its majestic mountain and lakeside scenery. Built around the inlet of Queenstown Bay on the beautiful Lake Whakatipu, this spectacular spot is nestled between inspiring mountain peaks. If you want to get out there and explore the region for yourself, there are lots of hikes and walking trails to enjoy. Regardless of your age or fitness levels, there is a way for everyone to participate.
Whether you're looking for an easy walk around the lake, a journey up Queenstown hill, or a hike on the Routeburn Track, you can select a hike based on length and experience. If you're feeling extra keen, a three-day hike on the Hollyford Track is an amazing way to spend some time. Most of the walks around Queenstown are even more beautiful during winter, as long as you remember to pack extra layers of clothing.
If you really like to get amongst it during winter, the skiing and snowboarding opportunities in Queenstown are second-to-none. Popular spots include Cardrona, the Remarkables, Coronet Peak, and Treble Cone, with each locality offering something truly unique. Coronet Peak is 20 minutes from Queenstown, although The Remarkables is more friendly for young children and learners and just 45 minutes away. While Treble Cone is not ideal for beginners, there is an accessible free beginner's area. If skiing is not your thing, you can enjoy snowboarding in numerous locations, and tubing and sledding at the Remarkables and Coronet.
If you want to make your skiing adventure in Queenstown even more spectacular, there is the option to do night skiing at Coronet Peak. Heli-skiing is also available through a few tour operators in the area, including Harris Mountain Heli-Ski, Alpine Heliski, and Southern Lakes Heliski. If you want to arrive at the ski fields like a rock star, Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters offers ski transfers to the slopes of Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Cardrona, or Treble Cone.
There are many ways to get up close and personal with the beautiful Otago landscape. Skiing and snowboarding are not the only winter activities, with snowshoeing and snowmobiles offering unique memories that will last a lifetime. Both of these activities are ideal for beginners and families. Snowmobile adventures are an exciting and highly novel way to explore the countryside, this time from the comfort of a motorised vehicle.
Snowshoeing involves a back-country adventure into the heart of Otago. With nothing but sturdy snowshoes underfoot and an experienced guide by your side, you can explore the peaks and valleys that define the local landscape. For people who want the best views possible, there is even an option to heli-snowshoe to some of Queenstown's most inspiring peaks.
It doesn't matter how old you are, there's nothing more fun than playing in snow. You don't have to ski or snowboard to have a good time, with organised snowplay sessions a great option for young families or anyone else who wants to get up close and personal with the local powder. Much more than a snow fight, Snowplay is a creative activity that allows people to fulfil their childhood dreams by building snow caves, igloos, carved tables, and snow animals.
Jet boating is a year-round activity loved by everyone who tries it, with the exciting jet boating experience often described as a "must do" Queenstown activity. Unlike skiing, hiking, and white-water rafting, the motorised boat does all the work, so you can sit back and enjoy the water spray while your heart races and heart fills with joy.
Everything is taken care of, with life jackets, warm raincoats, gloves, jackets, and hats all provided. For the ultimate in outdoor luxury, some jet boat companies even provide heated handlebars. Dart River Adventures and Shotover Jet are two of the biggest and most respected companies in operation, with Dart offering half and full-day adventures and Shotover a shorter, more extreme canyon adventure. While Dart River offers a journey of beauty and discovery, Shotover provides a hair-raising journey through breath-taking canyon scenery from start to finish.
The rivers surrounding Queenstown are known for their amazing gorges, flowing white water, and fun-filled adventures. Kayaking and white-water rafting are two of the most popular activities, with both adventures available throughout the year. Just like jet boating, the companies involved take full care of their guests and provide life jackets, warm raincoats, gloves, jackets, and hats. If you're looking for a full day of fun, the Funyak experience with Dart River Adventures includes kayaking and jet boating on the same day as well as a gourmet lunch in the wilderness.
The Queenstown Luge offers fast-paced freedom without getting wet. The gravity-fuelled Skyline Luge is a thrill ride for all ages, with kids and adults alike enjoying the feeling of hopping on a Luge cart and travelling down 800 metres of banked corners, tunnels, and dippers. Once you’ve experienced this amazing adventure, you'll want to go back for more. For a full day of fun, Skyline Queenstown also includes a gondola ride and some of the best views in town.
There's nothing more majestic than staring out into the great beyond. The untouched beauty of New Zealand's South Island makes for some of the best stargazing in the entire world, with Skyline also providing a guided stargazing experience. Looking out into the night sky is an ideal winter activity, with the lower temperatures and longer nights often leading to clearer skies. Skyline offers information and inspiration about the skies above, and they even provide you with warm clothing and hot chocolate at the end of the activity.
Queenstown is not all about adventure, with lots of sophisticated attractions also on offer. Winter is a great time to indulge in food, wine, and beer experiences, and Queenstown certainly does not disappoint. Gibbston Valley Winery offers tours and tastings of local wine and produce, including some of the area's most delectable drops. If you're more of a beer lover, Hop On Beer Tours offers an unforgettable half-day, fully guided craft beer tour around the Queenstown area.
Queenstown is a vibrant and bustling place at any time of the year. From the restaurants and cafes to the bars and pubs, there are always lots of people out and about enjoying themselves. Every traveller to Queenstown recommends Fergburger as a "must try" establishment, with other highly rated eateries including Vudu Cafe and Larder, Balls and Bangles, and Halo. The novelty Minus 5 Ice Bar is also well-loved by locals and visitors, and pub crawls are on offer for single travellers who want to meet new people.
Queenstown offers a range of fun games and other indoor activities, many of which are great for young families and perfect for cold or rainy days. From the luge and gondola rides of Skyline to Queenstown's own haunted house Fear Factory and the Odyssey Sensory Maze, there are lots of things to see and do at any time of the year.
If you're looking for an even more relaxing holiday option, once again, Queenstown does not disappoint. There are lots of spa's, pools, and massage professionals operating in and around the town centre, either privately, from hotels, or from day spas. One hidden gem loved by locals and visitors alike is Onsen Hot Pools Retreat & Day Spa. This beautiful establishment offers all the relaxation and bodywork you could ever desire, along with some of the most incredible views in town.