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How to Tackle Queenstown as a First Timer

How to Tackle Queenstown as a First Timer

Landscapes go big in outdoorsy Queenstown, where travelers find year-round thrills in mountains, lakes, and activities of all kinds. Where do you start exploring the adventure capital of New Zealand? These are our top tips for first-time visitors.


Cruise Lake Wakatipu

Lapping the Queenstown shoreline with bright blue water, Lake Wakatipu is among southern New Zealand’s most scenic places. No matter if you explore via historic steamship, ferry, small boat, or leisurely cruise, the reward of getting out on the water is the amazing views of the surrounding peaks.

Taste Otago Valley Wine

One of New Zealand’s top wine-growing areas is a short distance away, so don’t miss out on Otago’s award-winning vintages. Visit one of Queenstown’s wine bars, or get it from the source on a guided wine tour of the Otago Valley.

Ride the Queenstown Skyline Gondola

Enjoy sweeping views of Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables mountain range from a gondola that rises high above downtown Queenstown. At the top, treat yourself to a special meal at the summit restaurant or head back down the mountain on a high-speed luge track.

Try an Extreme Sport

Jet boats, bungee jumps, skydiving—Queenstown is famous for high-adrenaline activities in picturesque natural settings. Dare to choose one of these adventurous favorites, and earn bragging rights with a selfie to prove it happened.

Visit Milford Sound

If you only add one day trip to your time in Queenstown, make it a trip to Milford Sound, part of Fiordland National Park. Options for experiencing Milford Sound include hiking tours, kayaking trips, and scenic cruises, with transport from Queenstown by bus, plane, or helicopter.

Visit Lord of the Rings Film Locations

From Skippers Canyon to Kawarau Gorge, some of Queenstown’s most beautiful places have appeared on screen in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. You can spot a few of them while hiking or driving in the surrounding countryside, but fans should book a themed tour to see the hidden spots.

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7 Tours and Activities

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Milford Sound Experience Full Day from Queenstown

Milford Sound Experience Full Day from Queenstown

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735
Arguably the most scenic destination in New Zealand, Milford Sound offers a sweeping landscape of jagged snow-capped mountains, shimmering fjords and lakes, towering waterfalls and emerald greenery. Travel with a small group by coach from Queenstown to Fiordland National Park to explore this lush wilderness, including a boat cruise on the Milford Sound. You also see The Remarkables mountain range, Lake Wakatipu—New Zealand's longest lake, and Lake Te Anau—the South Island’s the largest lake.
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  • 13 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$156.91
From
$156.91

Shotover River Extreme Jet Boat Ride

Shotover River Extreme Jet Boat Ride

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1435
Take a jet boat ride on the Shotover River during an extreme ride, and make use of transport from Queenstown. Experience adrenaline-fueled fun as the jet boat skims the water’s surface at high speed and fishtails into 360-degree spins. Hold on tight as the captain maneuvers the jet boat over rapids and through narrow canyons during one heart-pounding adventure you won’t soon forget.
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  • 25 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$98.05
From
$98.05

Milford Sound Coach Tour with Lunch from Queenstown

Milford Sound Coach Tour with Lunch from Queenstown

star-4.5
374
Upon reaching Milford Sound, board a luxurious catamaran. Peer through panoramic windows of a luxury coach while you travel through the UNESCO-listed Fiordland National Park with a guide, before a memorable sightseeing cruise by Mitre Peak and the magnificent cliff-side waterfalls of Milford Sound.
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  • 12 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$124.83
From
$124.83

Small-Group Zipline Adventure in Queenstown

Small-Group Zipline Adventure in Queenstown

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490
Soar through the Queenstown forest on the world’s steepest tree-to-tree zipline, plunging 30 stories down from the Skyline Gondola summit on this exciting tour. Test yourself on two ziplines that finish with a 21-meter drop. Tone down the adrenaline a notch on a longer course, perfect for families with kids aged six and up. Expert guides supervise your launch from each aerial platform, so all you have to do is take in the panoramic views of Lake Wakatipu and the snow-capped Remarkables mountain range.
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  • 2 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$70.81
From
$70.81

Dart River 'Funyak' Canoe plus Jet Boat Tour from Queenstown

Dart River 'Funyak' Canoe plus Jet Boat Tour from Queenstown

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205
This full-day adventure includes a 'funyak' (inflatable canoe) and jet boat ride on the Dart River, situated amid the untamed beauty of UNESCO-listed Mount Aspiring National Park. Travel by coach from Queenstown to Glenorchy, where you speed upriver on a thrilling jet boat before climbing aboard an easy-to-handle funyak. No previous experience is necessary and you paddle with several passengers in a flotilla behind your guide. Hotel pickup and drop-off plus picnic lunch and all equipment are included.
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  • 8 hours 15 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$227.23
From
$227.23

Central Otago Wine Tour from Queenstown - Includes 4 Vineyards, Lunch & Wine

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Central Otago Wine Tour from Queenstown - Includes 4 Vineyards, Lunch & Wine

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319
Pair the fine wines of Central Otago with a gourmet lunch platter on this small-group wine-tasting tour from Queenstown. Visit at boutique wineries during your tour and drive through verdant valleys and vine-clad foothills rich in gold mining history. Numbers are limited to 12 people to ensure an intimate experience with other wine lovers.
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  • 5 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$128.10
$142.34
$14.24 savings
From
$128.10
$142.34
$14.24 savings

Wine and Food Sampler Tour from Queenstown

Wine and Food Sampler Tour from Queenstown

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83
Sample the local produce for which New Zealand’s South Island is famous on this 4-hour wine and food tasting tour from Queenstown. Head into the rolling hills of Central Otago’s wine region with your guide. Enjoy a lunch of traditional New Zealand food and delicious wine in a local restaurant. Travel through the scenic Kawarau Gorge to Gibbston Valley Winery and explore the biggest underground wine cellars in New Zealand. Sample premium wines and cheeses, and gain insight into the different grape varietals which flourish in the region’s fertile soils.
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  • 4 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$138.78
From
$138.78