Queenstown is a hiker’s paradise with many of the best hikes on the South Island. On every mountainside or along every lake, there are hiking trails that wind their way through pristine wilderness and natural attractions. It’s one of the reasons I fell in love with this mountain town and packed my bags to make the move to Queenstown permanently.
I’ll admit, I’m a bit of an outdoor junkie and I’ve made it my mission to explore as many of the hikes in Queenstown as possible. No matter the reviews, I’ve tried to hike every trail I could find. This led me to the question… what are the absolute best hikes in Queenstown?
Well, after hiking as many hiking trails as I could at least once (some much more,) I’ve come up with the 15 best day hikes in Queenstown. It’s the ultimate guide to picking the best hikes to do during your visit to Queenstown.
1. Queenstown Hill
Distance: 5 kilometers (2.1 miles) return
Time needed: 2 to 3 hours
Queenstown Hill is easily Queenstown’s most popular easy hike. Starting in Queenstown, the trail winds its way up Queenstown Hill until you reach the Basket of Dreams, a steel sculpture said to help inspire dreaming. From here, you can sit back and enjoy breathtaking views over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.
Although technically the end of the official trail, you can continue up further to the real summit of Queenstown Hill. This only takes another 10 minutes and from the top, you’ll have panoramic views of Queenstown and the Remarkables Mountain Range.
Queenstown Hill is a 5-kilometer (2.1 miles) return hike that climbs around 600 meters (1,969 feet) in elevation from Queenstown downtown. The trail is well maintained and it takes around 90 minutes to walk up at a slow pace. If you only have time for one short walk in Queenstown, make it the hike up Queenstown Hill!
Related Read: Watching the sunrise or sunset from the top of Queenstown Hill is one of Queenstown’s most romantic activities couples can do on their holiday!
2. Ben Lomond
Distance: 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) return
Time needed: 6 to 8 hours
Ben Lomond Track is a hiker’s dream. This epic trail was the first hike I did in Queenstown many years ago and since then, I’ve done it multiple times. It’s also one of the most popular hikes in all of NZ.
The trail starts from a few different places around Queenstown with the most popular and recommended being at the end of Brecon Street at the Queenstown gondola. From here, you can either take the gondola up to Bob’s Peak and hike from there, or start on the Tiki Trail before transferring to Ben Lomond Track.
If you hike the entire way up and back you’re going to need somewhere between 6 to 8 hours depending on how fit you are. The reason? The trail climbs a whopping 1,483 meters (4,865 feet) over 7 kilometers (4.3 miles). It’s a pretty big gain in elevation that always has me struggling!
From the summit, the views are worth the challenge. With 360-degree views of the Southern Alps, you can sit back and enjoy my favorite view of Queenstown!
3. Secret Moke Lake Viewpoint
Distance: Under 1 kilometer (0.6 miles)
Time needed: 2 hours
Difficulty: Moderate with challenging terrain
Being a local means I know all of the best spots, even hikes that aren’t on any official trail map. One of those is the Moke Lake Viewpoint, one of the best hidden gems in Queenstown. Although many people simply head to Moke Lake to hike the Moke Lake Loop (still a great trail mentioned below), my favorite hike in the area is the Moke Lake Viewpoint.
This short but steep unofficial trail begins with a walk from the Moke Lake campground and climbs up a nearby hill. From the top, the views are epic, and for anyone willing to tackle the trail, they’ll be pleasantly rewarded!
This is more of a scramble than a hike. Because of this, it’s not recommended for children or those without some scrambling experience.
If you want to know exactly where the trail starts and more info, check out this guide to the Moke Lake Viewpoint!
4. Tiki Trail
Distance: 4.2 kilometers (2.6 miles) return
Time needed: 3 hours
The Tiki Trail leads to the most famous view of Queenstown – the view from Bob’s Peak near the Skyline Queenstown building. That’s right, the Tiki Trail ends at the same place as the Queenstown gondola offering the same famous view.
This epic trail is the start of the Ben Lomond Track and from the top, you can stare down at Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu, and the Remarkables. It’s easily one of the most beautiful places to take photos around Queenstown.
Reaching the top via the Tiki Trail isn’t a walk in the park. Although a short trail of only 2.1 kilometers (1.3 miles) each way, you need to climb 450 meters (1,476 feet) in elevation over that distance. The start is really steep, and in some parts, you need to be careful.
The trail starts at the end of Brecon Street at the Queenstown gondola and takes around 1 hour to hike up. Once up the top, be sure to have a look around and see all of the different activities available at Bob’s Peak. My favorite thing to do is ride the Queenstown Luge – a gravity-fed go-kart track. But there’s lots more to do and you can find suggestions in my Tiki Trail hiking guide.
5. Mt Crichton Loop Track
Distance: 8 kilometers (5 miles) loop
Time needed: 2 hours
Mt Crichton Loop is a historical trail that has you stepping back in time to Queenstown’s early days back when it was called “The Camp”. The trailhead starts about a 10-minute drive from Queenstown on the Queenstown to Glenorchy Highway and leads you through some old gold mining territory.
The track is a loop, and by heading clockwise you’ll first come to an old gold mining tunnel. This open-air tunnel is completely safe to explore and is 1 meter wide (3.3′), 24 meters long (78′), and 10 meters (33′) high. Walking through it is pretty cool and kids love it.
After that, you’ll come to the Sam Summers Hut. This old hut was built in the 1930s by Mr. Summers and was his home while mining for gold in the area. The hut remains pretty much the same as it once was and just past the hut, there’s also a pretty spectacular waterfall.
The entire loop takes around 2 hours to complete. It involves a little uphill hiking but is great for families or those with dogs.
6. Glenorchy Walkway
Distance: 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) loop
Time needed: 1.5 hours
I love finding epic reflections of the mountains. I stumbled upon one particular hiking trail in Glenorchy that offered just that – the Glenorchy Walkway!
This short and easy walking track leads you from the Glenorchy Jetty to the Glenorchy Lagoon to enjoy a beautiful nature walk and see epic reflections of the Humboldt Mountains. The lagoon was actually a film location in the Lord of the Rings trilogy where Gollum leads Frodo and Sam across the Dead Marshes.
Another thing I love about this trail is the fact it’s flat! Yep, that’s right, no uphill hiking this time! It only takes just over an hour to walk the track without stopping, however, it’s a great place to stop and do some bird watching.
Related Read: The Glenorchy Walkway is one of my favorite things to do in Glenorchy – find out what the rest are!
7. Routeburn Track
Distance: Depends on how far you hike
Time needed: Half day at least
Difficulty: Easy to hard
The Routeburn Track is one of New Zealand’s 10 Great Walks. It passes through epic alpine terrain, waterfalls, and valleys. Although the full trail is 32 kilometers (20 miles) long, you can hike a section of the trail on a day hike from Queenstown. This is a great option for those who aren’t up for the full 2 to 3-day hike or simply don’t have the time.
When hiking the Routeburn Track on a day hike, you can choose the distance you walk. Depending on how much time you have and your fitness level, you can hike a larger portion of the trail.
For those who consider themselves hikers, I recommend hiking to Routeburn Falls Hut. This day hike is just under 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) return but takes you to many of the highlights on the trail. If you’re not up for that, then you could hike only as far as Bridal Veil Falls. This trail is under 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) and is mostly flat.
There are more options though and you can read about them all in my 7 day hikes on the Routeburn Track blog. It includes every variation with lengths, elevation gain, and the time needed.
8. Roy’s Peak
Distance: 16 kilometers (10 miles) return
Time needed: 5 to 7 hours
One of the most talked-about trails in New Zealand is the hike to the top of Roy’s Peak. This epic trail is far from easy but the views are so rewarding it should be on everyone’s New Zealand to-do list. Although the trail starts just outside of Wanaka, it’s common to hike the trail from Queenstown.
This begins with a stunning drive from Queenstown to Wanaka via Crown Range Road – New Zealand’s highest main road. After reaching the trailhead, it’s a hard 8-kilometer (5 miles) and 1,258-meter (4,127 feet) slog to the top that’ll have you gasping for air!
But once you do reach the top, you’ll quickly forget about the climb and be blown away by the epic views.
Roy’s Peak is my favorite hike in New Zealand. This is actually a controversial thing to say because Roy’s Peaks gets a lot of bad press because of how popular it is with Instagrammers. I don’t really care, the hike is breathtaking and it’s as popular as it is for a reason!
Related Read: Hiking Roy’s Peak is one of the best free things to do in Wanaka – find out what the rest are!
9. Bob’s Cove
Distance: 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) loop
Time needed: 30 minutes
On the road between Queenstown and Glenorchy, there are a few pretty spectacular hiking trails visitors to Queenstown should consider. One of the best is Bob’s Cove Track.
This very short but beautiful trail leads to a stunning viewpoint high above Bob’s Cove with views of The Remarkables, Lake Wakatipu, Bob’s Cove, and the surrounding peninsula.
The photo above proves what I mean when I say it’s stunning! The best part is that hiking to the viewpoint from the trailhead only takes 30 minutes at a relaxed pace. That’s one short hike for those epic views!
10. Big Hill
Distance: 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) return
Time needed: 4 hours
If you do like to avoid the crowds then the best hike with epic views is Big Hill near Arrowtown. Arrowtown is a small historic town located only a 15-minute drive from Queenstown. Known for its quaint atmosphere and boutique shops, Arrowtown still offers mountain views and hiking trails worth visiting from Queenstown.
Big Hill is not a popular trail but sure is breathtaking. Because of that, you can avoid the crowds but still hike a fantastic trail. Big Hill Trail starts at the end of Bush Creek Road in Arrowtown and follows the famous Te Araroa Trail until you reach Eichardt’s Flats. Here, you continue on to the Big Hill Saddle.
After reaching the saddle, you can either hike back down or take the trail to Sawpit Gully. Personally, hiking up to the saddle and back down the way you came is a great hike with stunning views.
There are options to hike a full loop that walks the ridgeline towards Coronet Peak or over to Macetown. I’ve never done these trails and instead I opt to hike up and back down the way I came.
Related Read: For more ideas of activities while your in Arrowtown, check out my blog about the best things to do in Arrowtown!
11. Lake Hayes Walkway
Distance: 8 kilometers (5 miles) loop
Time needed: 2 hours
The Lake Hayes Walkway is a popular trail to visit at sunset. This flat, well-maintained trail follows the edge of Lake Hayes until it loops back to where you started.
Along the trail, you can enjoy epic views of the mountains, stunning reflections, and even some local wildlife including Australasian crested grebe. Even if it gets dark, this trail is completely safe with a flashlight.
At a steady pace, the trail only takes two hours to walk and it’s even a trail you can tackle with a stroller.
The Lake Hayes Walkway starts from multiple locations, however, the easiest to get to is the Lake Hayes picnic area on State Highway 6. From here walk down to the edge of the lake and turn in either direction to complete the loop. Lake Hayes is located only a short 10-minute drive from Queenstown making it a perfect close hiking spot!
12. Lake Alta
Distance: 3.5 kilometers (2.2 miles) return
Time needed: 2 hours
Lake Alta is the highest elevation destination you’ll reach if you hike every trail mentioned in this blog. However, you only need to hike 1.75 kilometers (1 mile) one way to get there! But how?
Well, the Lake Alta trail starts from The Remarkables Ski Field high above Queenstown. In fact, The Remarkables Skifield sits 1,200 meters (3,937 feet) above Queenstown and is accessed by a very windy and steep road. In the summer months, it costs $10 NZD per vehicle to drive this road. Although the only hike on this list that isn’t free, Lake Alta is worth the money and it’s actually one of the best cheap activities in Queenstown!
From the parking lot of the ski field, you’ll then hike even higher along the trail until you scramble up the hillside to Lake Alta. After, you can relax by the lake or continue hiking up to the saddle for an epic birds-eye view.
This trail is short but steep and for some strange reason, not many people hike it. This surprises me not only because it’s such a cool hike but because it’s another Lord of the Rings film location. The scene where the fellowship enters the Mines of Moria was filmed here!
So, if you’re a lover of alpine lakes or LOTR then the Lake Alta trail is one hike in Queenstown you need to check out!
13. Sunshine Bay Track
Distance: 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) return
Time needed: 1 to 2 hours
The Sunshine Bay Track is an easy hike in Queenstown located right in town. In fact, you can start this hike from Queenstown town center. With that said, the official trail starts just outside of Queenstown.
If you want to hike from town simply walk along the edge of the lake towards Glenorchy. Once you reach the roundabout (traffic circle) continue hiking on the side of the road until you reach the Sunshine Bay trailhead (it’s on Google Maps.)
Once on the trail, you’ll begin walking through the forest and ascend up above Lake Wakatipu. The trail continues until you descend again into Sunshine Bay.
At Sunshine Bay, you can relax and enjoy the peace and quiet. If it’s warm, you’ll likely find locals relaxing on the beach as this is where they come to avoid the crowds of Queenstown each summer. The best time to visit Queenstown if you want to enjoy some beach time is in the summer. I personally love coming here on warm days to cool off – it’s called Sunshine Bay for a reason!
14. Moke Lake Loop
Distance: 6.5 kilometers (4 miles) long
Time needed: 2 hours
Above I mentioned the Secret Moke Lake Viewpoint, however, the problem with that hike is it’s not official and for some, might seem a little daunting. Luckily though, Moke Lake Loop also starts from Moke Lake (that’s obvious) and you can hike it in around 2 hours.
Moke Lake Loop is almost completely flat so it’s not overly challenging. Along the way, you’ll get to see Moke Lake from every angle as you walk the perimeter of the lake.
Although not my favorite hiking trail in Queenstown, it’s still really popular especially if you go on a nice calm day. The day I did the trail it actually rained so I wasn’t overly impressed – I might have to get back out there and give it another go!
Hiking Moke Lake loop is just one of the many things you can do at Moke Lake.
15. Wye Creek Track
Distance: 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) return
Time needed: 3 to 4 hours
One of the coolest hikes I’ve done in Queenstown is the Wye Creek Track. This epic trail is located around 20 minutes from Queenstown along State Highway 6 heading south. What makes this trail so cool to hike is the boardwalks and viewing deck at the top. Oh, and did I mention the views of Lake Wakatipu!
The trail starts with a short walk along a gravel access road before actually starting the official trail. Once you reach the dam, follow the water pipe up the path and continue on till you reach the top. This trail is a little scary in some sections, so if you’re afraid of heights, you may want to skip it.
The Wye Creek Trail also goes all the way up the Lake Alta on The Remarkables, however, I have heard this is 6 to 8 hours each way!
Related Read: If you’re new to hiking you should read my blog about useful hiking tips for beginners – it has some super important pointers you should know!
Must-Do Activities While in Queenstown
While in Queenstown there are plenty of other activities that will keep you busy… Honestly, there are so many it’ll be hard to choose which ones to do! Below are some of my favorites.
- Central Otago Wine Tour and Tasting – This is our personal favorite wine tour in Queenstown! It is one of the best values for money, for $204 NZD your tour bus will stop at 4 different boutique wineries in the Otago region that include a wide range of wine samples and a provided gourmet lunch platter. As you hop between wineries you’ll gaze out the window at spectacular views.
- TSS Earnslaw Steamship Cruise – This scenic and relaxing cruise in Queenstown is an activity great for any afternoon. The ship you will be cruising on is the Historic TSS Earnslaw and you will get to watch crew members add coal to the flames that power the vessel. Take in the mountain ranges and lush green valleys of Otago. You can also upgrade this tour here to include dinner at Walter Peak High Country Farm.
- Queenstown Canyoning Adventure – Climb and jump off waterfalls, rappel, swim, and trek your way down a part of a Queenstown canyon 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.
- Day Trip to Milford Sound With Picnic Lunch – This tour 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 Milford Sound cruise included. This small-group tour goes for $249 NZD a person and I think it’s a really great value for a more personalized experience.
- Extreme Jet Boating – Looking for a thrill? Jet Boating is one of New Zealand’s most unique activities. On the tour out of Queenstown, you’ll be able to 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. It’s not that you won’t find something later on, but that all the really good places go first!
To get you started, here are a few places I personally love and that would make an awesome place to stay in Queenstown.
The first is for budget travelers and that’s Absoloot Hostel Queenstown. This small hostel has dorm rooms and budget privates 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! It is easily one of the top cheap hostels in Queenstown.
If you have a little more money to spend then you should seriously consider Chalet Queenstown. I’m a supporter of smaller hotels because I feel you get better service. Based on recommendations, I stayed at Chalet Queenstown when I first arrived. It’s a beautiful hotel in a quiet but close location and the views are amazing (although you won’t find me recommending a place without great views!)
If you’re one of the lucky ones, you know the luxury travelers, then you’re going to be spoiled for choice in Queenstown. I’ve personally stayed at the Hilton Resort and Spa on my anniversary and loved it. If you want an even more luxurious stay, look at Kamana Lakehouse. This hotel has the most beautiful spa overlooking the lake and is definitely one of the best hotels in Queenstown.
There are also lots of amazing Airbnbs in Queenstown as well as bach/holiday homes to rent! You can choose between modern homes, central apartments, cozy cabins, and so much more when staying in an Airbnb.
Related Read: Heading to the North Island? Check out my blog about the best hikes on the North Island.
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 is what most budget backpackers get 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! You can easily compare campervans, prices, and book on the website Motorhome Republic. We also have a 5% discount code (DTRAVEL5) with Mad Campers, which you can use at checkout.
- 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. Motorhome Republic is my suggested website for booking a motorhome in New Zealand simply because they are a reliable company and the website is super easy to use! We are also partnered with Kiwi Motorhomes, which is well known as the top motorhome rental company in New Zealand. You can get 5% off using the code Queen5. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!
Thanks for reading!
I might be a little biased, but I think Queenstown is home to one of the best selections of hikes in the world. And well, each of the hikes I mentioned in this blog is incredible in its own way, and hiking is definitely one of the best things to do while you’re visiting Queenstown. If you love to hike, be sure to make the drive from Queenstown to Mount Cook and explore some more of the best hikes in the South Island – hikes in Mount Cook National Park!
Thanks so much for reading My Queenstown Diary! If you found this guide helpful stay for a while and browse around, I have so many blogs on Queenstown and the surrounding area. If not, then enjoy your trip – I might see you on a hiking trail around Queenstown! You can also read some of my more popular guides below:
Best places to visit on the South Island
Things to do in Mt Aspiring National Park
Saturday 21st of January 2023
Thanks for all the information that you put in this website. We travelled to Queenstown and the South Island and found the hiking information really informative with great recommendations and suggestions. It helped make our holiday a time and a great break from Sydney
Sunday 22nd of January 2023
That's so great to hear!