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If you love wine as much as I do, then you have to add the Gibbston Valley wine region to your Queenstown itinerary – and the best way to do that is with a tour! I’m always a big advocate for taking wine tours because you don’t need to handle any of the logistics or worry about finding a designated driver.
As a Queenstown resident, I’ve visited the Gibbston Valley countless times and have participated in my fair share of wine tours. Honestly, there’s just no way I’m going to drive and miss out on tasting all of the delicious wine! There are loads of options, but I especially love this region’s Pinot Noir. If you’re a fan of reds, you’re in for a real treat!
This is such a beautiful area in the heart of the Central Otago wine region, and it’s one of the best places in New Zealand to drink wine. There are so many unique and beautiful wineries here, and taking a guided tour will ensure you hit all of the best ones. So without further ado, here are the 8 best Gibbston Valley wine tours. Happy tasting!
Don’t have time to read the full article? I’ve listed some of my favorite Gibbston Valley wine tours below:
About the Gibbston Valley
The Gibbston Valley is a subregion of the larger Otago Wine Region. It’s located about a 30-minute drive from central Queenstown, making it an excellent choice for a day trip. Even if you’re only planning to spend 5 days in Queenstown, this area is worth spending time in!
Affectionately labeled as the “Valley of the Vines,” this high-altitude area experiences heavy temperature changes that lead to a longer growing season. This contributes to the overall ripeness of the grapes. While visiting this area in winter isn’t for everyone, the combination of cold winter months and hot summers produces perfectly balanced grapes ideal for winemaking.
There are a ton of award-winning Pinot Noirs in the Gibbston Valley, but if reds aren’t your thing, don’t worry! Local wineries specialize in all varieties of wine, from Chardonnays to Rieslings and everything in between. You’ll have plenty of choices!
Aside from having delicious wines, the Gibbston Valley is home to New Zealand’s largest wine cave (which is a must-visit if you’re staying in Queenstown!). This area also offers some amazing views of the Kawarau River and surrounding mountains. All this gorgeous scenery makes the Gibbston Valley one of the best places to go sightseeing near Queenstown.
Best Gibbston Valley Wine Tours
1. Central Otago Wine Tour from Queenstown
This boutique wine tour takes you from Queenstown to four different wineries in the Gibbston Valley. It offers the perfect variety of wines along with beautiful scenery and a super tasty lunch. You really get the full Gibbston Valley experience!
You’ll pass by Lake Wakatipu and Lake Hayes on your way to Gibbston. Keep your eye out for bungy jumpers on the Kawarau Suspension Bridge!
As soon as you reach Gibbston, you’ll dive straight into your first wine tasting. My group’s guide, Maryann, did a great job making us feel super comfortable and understand what each wine was all about. Afterwards, you’ll head to Bannockburn to enjoy a light lunch paired with a glass of wine (of course!).
I like that this tour gives you the chance to stretch your legs while you stroll around Old Cromwell before heading to your third tasting. Cromwell feels like a classic gold-mining town and has cute cafes, boutique shops, and art galleries to keep you entertained.
On the journey back, you’ll stop at another winery in Gibbston for your final wine tasting before returning to Queenstown. Four wineries felt like the perfect amount, and the whole day was paced well.
If you’re looking to meet some new people, this wine tour is perfect because it’s a nice, small group with a maximum of 12 guests. It’s a great opportunity to socialize. I personally love going on wine tours when solo traveling because it’s always easier to bond over a glass of vino or two.
This tour also makes a point to ensure you’re getting a good variety of wine. You don’t feel like you’re drinking the same thing every time. Plus, the tour guides are the best! They really strive to make it a personal experience, and I love that they took the time to learn everyone’s name and get the conversation flowing.
This experience costs $239 NZD per person, which includes hotel pickup and drop-off from Queenstown, lunch, and all wine tastings. The tour starts at 11 am and lasts for around 5.5 hours. But, if you’re up for it, you can take a 45-minute jet boat ride before the wine tour for an additional $121 NZD. This is a great option if you’re looking to tap into some adventure experiences in the Queenstown area.
Whatever option you choose, you can expect a great time on this wine tour, so book your tickets here.
Related Read: If you’re trying to decide when to schedule your trip, check out my guide on the best time to visit Queenstown!
2. Queenstown Classic Wine Tour
This half-day wine tour is only a few hours long but still gives you a really well-rounded experience. As well as visiting three wineries, you’ll also get to do some sightseeing in central Otago and enjoy an afternoon tea.
Back to the wine for a moment, though – you’ll have a really knowledgeable guide with you who will teach you about the history of the Gibbston Valley wine region. You’ll also get to take a tour of New Zealand’s largest wine cave at one of the wineries you visit. Trust me, on a hot summer’s day in Queenstown, stepping into these cool wine caves feels super refreshing!
One of my favorite wineries is Mt Rosa, and this tour usually includes a stop here. The staff here are so welcoming, and their 2014 Pinot Noir just might be the best I’ve ever tried!
There’s a tasting at all three vineyards, so you should be quite merry by the end of the tour! You’ll also receive a cheeseboard at one of the wineries, which pairs well with the wines they serve. It’s always nice to have a little food to line your stomach when the wine is flowing.
This tour includes stops at scenic sights along the way, such as the Kawarau Suspension Bridge. This was the world’s first-ever commercial bungy jumping site. It’s still in operation today, so you can watch others take the plunge while remaining content in the knowledge that you’re about to spend the afternoon drinking wine instead. Plus, it’s also one of several sites in the area that was used during filming of The Lord of the Rings movies.
Be sure to select the Classic Wine Tour, which costs $199 NZD per person, including roundtrip transport from hotels, afternoon tea, and all tastings. It lasts from 1:30 pm until 5 pm, and it’s available daily. This is a great option for those who are limited on time because it leaves your morning and evening free to do plenty of other fun Queenstown activities.
However, this wine tour does book up fast, so make sure to reserve your spot ahead of time.
3. Gourmet Food and Wine Tour
This small-group wine tour takes you to three different subregions around Gibbston Valley, so you can sample some of the best wine Queenstown has to offer. There’s also a stop at the Gibbston Valley Winery, where you’ll get to explore the wine cave, which is a must-see for any wine-lover traveling in this area of the world.
One of my favorite parts of this tour (other than the wine) is lunch at The Stoaker Room. All of the food is cooked in Stoakers, which are French Oak Pinot Noir barrel cookers, and it really adds to the unique setting and overall atmosphere. And since this is a wine tour, lunch will be paired with local wines from a Cromwell winery as well.
After a full stomach, it’s on to the last leg of the tour with a visit to historic Arrowtown. You can visit the old Chinese settlement, take a walk down the popular main street, or, my personal favorite, find candy from all over the globe at the Remarkable Sweet Shop. And if you want a coffee, check out my list of the best cafes in Arrowtown.
I love how this tour combines food, wine, and sightseeing, along with a visit to a cute local town. It’s great for friends but would also be ideal for a romantic honeymoon in Queenstown.
The tour begins at 9:30 am, lasts approximately 6.5 hours, and costs $289 NZD per person. I recommend reserving your ticket in advance as this tour is quite popular and tends to fill up quickly. The price includes round-trip transport from most Queenstown hotels, all wine tastings, and lunch (with vegetarian options available by request).
Be sure to get your tickets ahead of time so you can enjoy this wine tasting and sightseeing tour around the Central Otago Wine Region.
Related Read: Another unique experience is seeing Queenstown on a scenic flight! Trust me, there’s nothing quite like witnessing the Remarkables from above!
4. Hop-On Hop-Off Wine Tour
This Hop-on, Hop-off Wine Tour is perfect for those who need a little more flexibility. I personally love hop-on, hop-off tours because you can cater them to fit your schedule. This option offers a full or a half-day experience, so you can choose based on how much time and/or energy you have. And while there are plenty of stops at wineries, there are also opportunities for non-drinking activities and sightseeing.
This bus route includes stops at 23 places! You get to sightsee AND taste incredible wine, which is why I even included this tour on my 3-day Queenstown itinerary. What’s even better is you can choose which wineries you want to visit, and I’ll tell you some of my personal favorites below.
This tour stops at Nockie’s Palette, which is a newer establishment that really fuses art and winemaking together. It’s a beautiful space, and their wine is lovely! From here, you can also visit Lake Hayes. The Loop Track that wraps around the lake is especially lovely at sunset, and it’ll definitely give you a feel for how beautiful the area is.
Another favorite of mine is Kinross. This is technically a cellar door, and they offer wines from different local vineyards, so it’s a great stop if you want to try lots of different varieties.
There are a couple of different tasting experiences at Kinross, including their 40-minute Classic Experience for $25 NZD per person. However, you’ll need to book this online in advance. Alternatively, you can always turn up on the day and enjoy the Flight of Fancy experience (you take a quick quiz and then get a personalized tasting based on your answers!).
While this tour definitely caters to those who want to visit wineries and breweries, it’s also a fun option if you want to sightsee. Plus, it offers other non-drinking activities. For example, if you’re looking for a place to go bungy jumping, you can stop at the Kawarau Bungy Bridge to take the plunge! I highly recommend you do this before day drinking, though.
If you want to see some incredible views of the Shotover Canyon, there’s a stop at Canyon Brewing, a craft micro-brewery and restaurant. If you’re looking for other fun outings, get off at Oxbow Adventure Co, an adventure park where you can go off-roading or even clay bird shooting.
A full-day ticket costs $89.50 NZD, and you’ll have the option to leave anytime from 10:30 am onwards. Buses depart from The Station and leave every 45 minutes. In order to make the most of your time, I recommend getting on that first 10:30 am bus. If you don’t have the whole day available, you can book a half-day ticket for $65.50 NZD, which begins at 12:10 pm.
I want to clarify that this tour doesn’t include tasting or activity fees, just transport. You get to decide which stops to get off on to fill your day. However, when you purchase a ticket, there are some local discounts you’ll get, so that’s a plus.
Tickets come with a timetable map so you’ll know the arrival times for the buses. There’s more flexibility with the full-day experience. But if you’re starting in the afternoon, I suggest choosing which stops you want to visit ahead of time.
For a flexible wine or beer-tasting adventure, you can book your Hop-on Hop-off ticket here!
5. Queenstown Wine Sampler Tour
I love this wine sampler tour because it stops at some of the best Gibbston Valley wineries. Of course, it includes a stop at the famous wine cave at Gibbston Valley Winery, as well as visits to Kinross and Mt Rosa (which I mentioned earlier). However, you’ll also visit the Church Cellar Door and Cafe, which used to be an actual church.
I really enjoyed the Church Cellar Door and Cafe because they serve Mt. Edward wines. This family-run vineyard makes an excellent Chardonnay. You can enjoy all their tasty wines inside the refurbished church and then explore the picturesque grounds. When visiting in the summertime, there’s just something so comforting about enjoying a glass of wine outside.
This tour lets you try a ton of different wines and even includes samples of mulled wines – yum! If you’re hungry, I recommend getting a pizza at Kinross. Food isn’t included, but I always get hungry after a few wine tastings!
The guides are so fun, and they really know their stuff. There are only 14 travelers at a time, and the guides help everyone bond – you’ll already have one shared interest, after all. There are over 20 samples throughout the course of the day, and they definitely don’t skimp on the pours.
The tour costs $219 NZD, which includes hotel pickup and drop-off, on top of all of your tastings. It starts at 10 am and lasts about 6 hours. I personally think it’s the perfect schedule because you can enjoy a relaxing morning and have the whole evening to do as you please.
This is one of my favorite wine tours in Gibbston, and you can try it out by clicking here!
6. Bike the Wineries Full-Day Ride Queenstown
A shuttle will pick you up at 9:50 am from central Queenstown and then drive you to Arrowtown, where you can select a mountain bike or an e-bike. The choice depends on how much effort you’d like to put in!
You’ll get a map of the area’s best trails, like the Gibbston River Trail and the Arrow River Trail, along with a list of the top wineries in each area. I love this option because you can go at your own pace and stop at the wineries as you please. If it’s not obvious, I’m a fan of flexible options!
I know I’ve mentioned how scenic the Gibbston Valley is, but there’s really something magical about exploring this area on the ground. It’s a beautiful place, and I personally love biking or hiking around here whenever I get the chance. For active, outdoorsy couples, it makes for quite a romantic getaway in New Zealand.
Along your way, I recommend stopping into one of Arrowtown’s quaint cafes for a coffee or maybe even a chocolate truffle. The path will also take you over the Kawarau Suspension Bridge where you could see bungy jumpers taking the dive.
Another perk of this tour is that the tour operator will pick up any bottles (or cases) of wine you decide to purchase at the local wineries. How awesome is that?!
This tour costs $105 NZD (or $155 NZD for the e-bike) and typically lasts around 7.5 hours, depending on how many stops you make. You’ll be dropped back off at the meeting point when you’re done. Not only will you get in some wine and exercise, but you’ll also get to see parts of the Gibbston Valley that many others miss.
For the best way to see the Gibbston Valley on two wheels, check out this full-day biking tour.
7. Queenstown Wine Tour with Wine Dog
I think the coolest thing about this wine tour is that one of your guides is a dog! Ruby the wine dog will accompany your human tour guide as you explore four different wineries. When I went, Ruby enjoyed plenty of affection from all of the guests. So if you’re an animal lover, then this tour is a real standout experience!
You’ll taste around 15 different types of wine on this tour, so you get to discover the grapes and flavor profiles that the Gibbston Wine Valley is known for. Plus, the tour includes a wine cave tour and a food platter at Mora Wines & Kitchen (formerly Akarua Wines & Kitchen restaurant). This spot is incredibly well-reviewed, so it promises to be a delicious experience.
Another thing that I like about this wine tour is that it’s a small group with a maximum of 10 travelers. It’s a nice, close-knit experience, and it’s a great way to meet new people. You also often get to meet the owners and head winemakers at the wineries you visit, which is really cool. I felt it added a personal touch to each location.
This tour costs $215 NZD per person and meets at The Station. They can also accommodate hotel pickup and drop-off in central Queenstown, Fernhill, or Frankton. It lasts for 5 hours, starting at 10 am and ending at 3 pm, which I think is the perfect duration for a day of wine tasting.
If you’re a fan of dogs and a wine-lover, this tour can be booked in advance here.
Why I Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! I almost always book tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
Check out the Viator website here!
8. Queenstown Twilight Wine and Craft Beer Tour
I love wine tasting during the day. However, if you don’t have long in Queenstown, you can opt for this late-afternoon wine tour. It’s a great way to fit wine tasting into a busy sightseeing schedule. Plus, you get to sample craft beer too!
If someone in your group is not a huge wine drinker, then this tour is perfect because you get to choose between wine and craft beer at the spots you visit. The Gibbston Valley is so beautiful, and tasting tours are such an iconic thing to do, so you don’t have to miss out just because you’re more of a beer fan!
You’ll begin around 3 pm and spend the late afternoon exploring the Gibbston Valley. There are three stops on this tour, including the GT Tasting Room, which has excellent service and even better rosé.
Then there’s Canyon Brewery in Arthurs Point, which has one of the best views of any brewery or vineyard I’ve ever been to. You’ll get a shared antipasto platter here to coat your stomach. Since you’ll be in a small group with a super friendly guide, this tour just feels like hanging out with friends!
Overall, this wine tour is super relaxed, and I love the itinerary because you get to visit some true Gibbston Valley gems. To top it off, you’ll be back around 7 pm, so you can still enjoy dinner in Queenstown.
The tour costs $209 NZD per person with transportation from the Marmolada Cafe and includes all tastings and food. If you’re looking for a laidback tour that doesn’t take itself too seriously, this is the ideal experience!
Whether you like beer or wine, this tour is a great time, and you can get your tickets right here.
Must-Do Activities While in Queenstown
Once you’re back in Queenstown after exploring the Gibbston Valley, there are plenty of other activities that will keep you busy. Honestly, there are so many things to do in Queenstown that it’ll be hard to choose which ones to do! Below are some of my favorites:
- Take a cruise – Aboard the TSS Earnslaw Steamship Cruise, you’re in for a scenic and relaxing cruise in Queenstown that’s great for any afternoon. This is one of the last coal-fired steamships in the world and you get to watch the crew add coal to the flames to power the vessel as you take in mountain ranges and lush green valleys. You can also upgrade this tour here to include dinner at Walter Peak High Country Farm.
- Watch a sunset – As the day draws to a close in Queenstown, make sure to head to the shores of Lake Wakatipu to watch a sunset. It’s one of the best viewpoints to watch the sun sink behind the Southern Alps. I like watching from Queenstown Beach or Perky’s Floating Bar, where you get a view of the lake and delicious food and drinks too!
- Go canyoning – Climb and jump off waterfalls, rappel, swim, and trek as part of this Queenstown Canyoning Adventure with a qualified guide. This thrilling full-day activity is perfect for those who love adventure and exploration! As long as you aren’t afraid of heights and have a basic swimming ability, you won’t need any other skills.
- See Milford Sound – This day trip to Milford South with a picnic lunch will give you the ultimate ability to explore the beauty of Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park. Not only will your guide stop at several impressive viewpoints on the way from Queenstown but there is also a cruise in Milford Sound included.
- Extreme Jet Boating – Looking for a thrill? This jet boating tour delivers! You’ll zoom up the Shotover River through narrow canyons at high speeds and make 360-degree spins. Trust me, it’s epic!
Where to Stay in Queenstown
Finding the right place to stay in Queenstown can be hard. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of awesome choices, but things book up fast! For that reason, I highly suggest booking your accommodation well in advance.
Honestly, during peak times, any of the best hotels in Queenstown will be fully booked several weeks in advance…you have been warned! To help you plan ahead, here are a few places I personally love and that would make an awesome place to stay in Queenstown.
Kamana Lakehouse – $$$
For a luxurious stay, I highly recommend Kamana Lakehouse. This hotel is located just on the outskirts of town. Although it’s super peaceful, it’s just a 5-minute drive into the center of town. The place overlooks both the lake and the mountains, and the onsite restaurant uses local, seasonal ingredients to create the freshest meals. To top it off, many of the rooms boast lake views, and some even have outdoor baths!
The trick will be snagging this for your dates (it’s a popular place!). Rooms start around the $400 NZD mark, and you can check availability and book online here.
La Quinta Queenstown – $$
If you’re looking for a mid-range hotel, then you should seriously consider La Quinta Queenstown. This beautiful hotel is right by the airport but still very quiet. Plus, the views are amazing (although you won’t find me recommending a place without great views!). The rooms are all studio or one-bedroom apartments, which is really handy if you want to cook or even just have breakfast in your room.
Prices start at $200 NZD and you can book online here.
Absoloot Hostel Queenstown – $
My top choice for budget travelers is the Absoloot Hostel Queenstown. This small hostel has dorm rooms and budget private rooms, and it’s really clean and comfortable. The location is in the heart of Queenstown – the window from the kitchen looks out over Lake Wakatipu!
Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand
Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!
You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:
- Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
- Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It’s what most budget travelers use for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.
- Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. My top choice for a motorhome company is Star RV because they have beautiful motorhomes at affordable prices. You can check prices and availability for Star RV motorhomes online here. Alternatively, you can use Motorhome Republic to search all motorhomes in NZ. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!
EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your JUCY or Star RV campervan or motorhome before the end of June 2024! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy! One thing to note is that this code is only valid for travel before Dec 21, 2024.
Travel Insurance Has Your Back!
Life can be unpredictable and when you’re traveling abroad, the last thing you want to worry about is getting sick or injured and having to pay out of pocket for treatment.
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Since using SafetyWing we’ve been reimbursed thousands of dollars when we’ve gotten sick. During the pandemic, they’ve even gone as far as to pay for our last-minute flights back to Canada before the border closed!
Thanks for reading!
Taking a wine tour in the Gibbston Valley is a great way to spend your time on the South Island. There are so many options, from full-day wine tours to biking around town, and honestly, as long as you enjoy yourself, that’s all that matters. The beautiful scenery and tasty wines keep me coming back to the Gibbston Valley, and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do!
If you’re planning a trip to New Zealand, I hope you’ll check out some of my other blogs. I love living here, and I love sharing what I’ve learned with others. I just know you’ll look back fondly on all the memories you make here. To help you out, I’ve linked to a few articles below!