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Sometimes when you’re traveling, you just want to relax — and relax in style. If you’d like to sprinkle some R&R into your New Zealand travel itinerary, there’s no better place to rejuvenate than Queenstown. As the country’s crown jewel of luxury and all things travel, there are plenty of enjoyable and relaxing things to do in Queenstown!
Renowned for its vast, sweeping landscapes, Queenstown is an oasis of natural beauty. Seriously, where else can you take in views of sky-piercing mountains while you soak in a natural hot spring? Or sip on something tasty as you cruise down a pristine waterway?
Those are some pretty tempting options – and we’re just getting started! Offering all this and more, Queenstown easily stakes its claim as the South Island’s benchmark for relaxation.
Relax and melt away with my curated list of the most stress-relieving ways to enjoy your time in Queenstown – New Zealand’s relaxation capital! Without further ado, here’s my top 10 guide for the most relaxing things to do and see in Queenstown!
Relaxing Things to do in Queenstown
1. Cruise on Lake Wakatipu
Does cruising along the deep blue waters of Lake Wakatipu sound like it’s just your speed? If so, there is no shortage of cruise companies to choose from in Queenstown where you can enjoy the stunning views from one of New Zealand’s most beautiful lakes.
From historic steamships to more modern luxury digs, there are a number of ways to enjoy a leisurely cruise down Lake Wakatipu. Whichever one you choose, you simply can’t beat the view of Queenstown’s famous sweeping vistas by boat. And I have to admit, there’s just something so relaxing about seeing the calm blue water underfoot as you peer up at snow-capped mountains.
For a historic twist, take a ride in the mighty TSS Earnslaw, an iconic century-old coal-fired steamship. You can tour the engine room and explore historic displays of the ship’s former life on this 90-minute cruise. Add on a gourmet lunch buffet at the scenic Walter Peak Farm for the ultimate afternoon relaxing tour.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a cheaper activity in Queenstown, consider the Spirit of Queenstown scenic cruise. This cruise is on board a catamaran and also lasts for 90 minutes – but it starts at only $49 NZD per person for adults and $10 NZD for children! It’s just quick activity that you can easily make time for in your Queenstown itinerary.
But I must say, if you’re looking for something really special, then you must opt for this sunset dinner cruise – it is easily one of the most romantic things to do in Queenstown and super relaxing at the same time!
2. Soak in the Onsen Hot Pools
What better way to relax and unwind than by having a steamy soak? Onsen is Queenstown’s best hot pool and most famous and upscale spa destination. In a cedar-lined hot tub overlooking the scenic Shotover River Canyon, there is no better place to enjoy some R&R!
It goes without saying that privacy is golden — especially when it comes to relaxation. At Onsen, you can enjoy a soak in total privacy. Their tubs are all booked individually and cater to individuals up to groups of four. This is one of the best things to do for anybody visiting Queenstown on a honeymoon.
And rest even more assured: every single Onsen pool has its own unique panoramic view, so you can be sure there isn’t a bad spot in the house. No matter where you are, your view over the canyon will be simply breathtaking.
At Onsen, you’ll get more than just a spa soak. The team creates an experience that is indulgent from start to finish. The name of the game here is pampering. But this luxurious experience doesn’t come cheap starting at $165 NZD for two people for an hour-long soak. Massages, food, drinks, or any other extras cost, well, extra.
Be sure to book your visit well in advance. As one of the most popular things to do in Queenstown in the winter, tubs are often booked up months in advance. For a memorable twist, book your soak in the evening so you can enjoy some stargazing with your spa experience.
3. Go on a wine tour
Did you know there are 75 wineries and vineyards in Queenstown and the surrounding area? That’s a lot of ground to cover!
Instantly turn any rainy day in Queenstown into a fun afternoon sightseeing and drinking as much wine as you want on a guided wine tour! Whether you’re alone or with friends, a wine tour in Queenstown is the perfect relaxing activity. Simply get picked up at your hotel before touring around some of the most scenic vineyards in the world while your guide pours you tasting after tasting.
Stretching from the Gibbston Valley through into Queenstown, this alpine-meets-desert region is most famous for its Pinot Noir. Or if a crisp white wine or creamy rosé is more your speed, you’ll have no shortage of those either. You’ll be met with a wide selection and flavor profiles to fill up your glass.
Also, buying a bottle or two to bring home as a souvenir isn’t a bad idea (many of the wineries here are so small they don’t sell anywhere but their own cellar doors!)
There are a variety of different companies and wine tours you can choose from in Queenstown. If you’re on a budget, consider a self-guided bike tour or a hop-on hop-off bus tour. Otherwise, I’ve personally done this full-day wine tour with lunch and loved every minute of it. Half-day tours are also available.
4. Ride the gondola up to Skyline
Do you feel most relaxed when you’re up high, surveying a beautiful landscape from above? Well then, I have some great news – Queenstown is the perfect place to indulge!
Jump inside the Skyline Gondola for a ride that’ll take you 450 meters (1,476 feet) up to Bob’s Peak (the Southern Hemisphere’s steepest cable car!) From inside the fully transparent glass enclosure, you’ll take in views over Lake Wakatipu, the Remarkables mountain range, and of course, Queenstown!
Once you get to the top of the gondola at Bob’s Peak your day isn’t over yet – there is lots more to do! Try out the Queenstown Luge for a fun adventure activity. Let gravity do the work as you speed down the hill on a curvy, winding track, that’s sure to blow your hair back (not necessarily a “relaxing” activity, but I personally rate it as one of the best things to do in Queenstown!)
You can also grab a bite to eat or drink up at Bob’s Peak. Choose from a laid-back cafe or splurge on a romantic meal at Stratosfare Restaurant & Bar (my personal favorite) as you overlook some of the finest views in the Southern Hemisphere. Even if you aren’t hungry, having a glass of wine here while watching the sunset is absolute perfection. There’s even a combo ticket for both the gondola and lunch or dinner.
Related Read: Calling all outdoorsy types! Ben Lomond Track, one of the best hikes on the South Island, begins just a short walk past the top end of the gondola. Alternatively, skip riding the gondola altogether and hike the Tiki Trail instead. Both Ben Lomond Track and the Tiki Trail are some of the best hikes in and around Queenstown.
5. Take a day trip to Arrowtown
Back in the day, Arrowtown was New Zealand’s most coveted gold mining area. Today though, it’s a cute little town that boasts a rich history.
Arrowtown has managed to preserve much of its historic charm and is nothing short of picture-perfect. And in autumn, it’s one of the South Island’s major foliage highlights – definitely not to be missed! With some of the brightest fall colors around, it’s a major autumn destination.
That’s not to say that Arrowtown isn’t awesome at every other time of year, too. Whether it’s shopping you’re after, a taste of history, a dive into the local food at some of Arrowtown’s best cafes, or some world-class hiking, there are lots of different things to do in Arrowtown. And the best part is that it’s located only a short 15-minute drive from Queenstown.
Personally, I love Arrowtown’s intricate network of hiking trails, some of which stretch all the way from Queenstown! If you’re the outdoorsy type, you know how great it is to lay some tracks on a beautiful trail through the woods and enjoy a bite to eat with breathtaking views once you get to the top.
Hike along the Arrow River, up to Mt. German, and try out the Sawpit Gully Track. For an added challenge, take a hike on the Big Hill Loop Track, where you’ll cross the Arrow River on foot (safety first – only attempt this if you are an experienced hiker!), climb a mud wall, and traverse some 19th-century historic gold mining routes.
Insider’s Tip: There’s even a Lord of the Rings filming location tucked away in Arrowtown, along the Big Hill Loop Track! “Frodo, is that you?”
If you’re feeling like sticking to town, you won’t be disappointed either. Explore a wide array of souvenir shops and restaurants, beautiful cafes, and don’t miss a stop into one of the local gold stores. Slow Cuts is my go-to lunch spot for a delicious burger and local Otago craft beer.
For a bit of history, check out the historic Chinese Settlement right near Arrowtown’s shopping district. You can see the original gold mining huts of Chinese settlers from back in the 1800s and read stories of their quest for gold. Talk about a nice chunk of local history!
Add an extra dimension to your experience with a stop at the Lakes District Museum, where you’ll find even more relics of the days of old and stories about Arrowtown’s history.
If you don’t have a car or would rather not go alone then I would recommend booking this group tour to Arrowtown from Queenstown! It also hits a few other small towns and scenic spots on the way to Arrowtown and you will have a guide giving you information and answering any of your questions. You will also get to explore the lake and downtown of Arrowtown on your own during the hour of free time at the end of the tour.
6. Explore the Queenstown Gardens
There’s nothing more relaxing than a stroll through nature. Connecting with the flowers, trees, and buzzing insects is a great way to decompress from your travels. And with its very own public botanical gardens, Queenstown is the perfect place for a morning run or an afternoon wander.
At the Queenstown Gardens, you can find lots of local varieties of native plant life, rare trees, exotic flora, huge Sequoias, and lots of species of native bush. Covering over 36 acres of lakefront hillside, it’s easy to wander for hours on its many garden-lined walkways and nature paths.
And you’re never far off from the town center, where you can grab an ice cream at Mrs. Ferg’s or Patagonia Chocolates before starting your walk! Many parts of the gardens overlook Lake Wakatipu directly, so there’s no shortage of gorgeous views to accompany your time strolling through nature.
Featured at the Queenstown Gardens is a large pond as well as a range of facilities including a children’s playground, tennis courts, lawn bowls, skateboarding, BMX biking, skating, disc golf, and ice skating.
The Queenstown Gardens is open to the public all year round for free — so you can enjoy it in any season, even if you’re visiting Queenstown in the winter!
If you want to take your exploration of the gardens down a notch more on the relaxing scale you can go on a Segway Tour where you won’t even need to lift a foot, just follow your guide’s lead along the shores of Lake Wakatipu before riding through the gardens. You can pick either a 1 or 2-hour tour.
7. Have a BBQ at St Omer Park
If picturesque landscapes sound like your thing, you won’t want to miss beautiful St Omer Park. Running parallel to Lake Wakatipu, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a sunny barbecue with gorgeous views over the water and the Remarkables Mountain Range as your backdrop.
Offering a dreamy landscape by day or night, it’s no wonder the park is a popular spot for walks and picnics.
Named after an early Queenstown settler and mayor, Francois St Omer, the park includes a playground area for kids, BBQ cooking facilities, and plenty of space to enjoy the views. It’s laid out in a spacious way so you can find your own little nook within the park. For families, this is one of the best things to do in Queenstown.
On warmer nights, the park is popular with groups and families enjoying the free BBQ cooking stations, away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Queenstown. Be sure to get there early, though — getting a BBQ can be difficult with high demand during the summer months in Queenstown!
8. Wine & dine in Queenstown
No trip to Queenstown would be complete without trying some of its finest cuisine and cocktails. The downtown area boasts an incredible selection of restaurants and bistros to try out.
Hungry for a simple, juicy burger? Get your napkins ready for a feast and head to Fergburger! I couldn’t possibly mention the best places to eat in Queenstown without mentioning New Zealand’s most famous burger joint. Offering a casual atmosphere, you’ll find a full menu of quirkily-named burgers, sides, drinks, and even a range of vegan and vegetarian options. You can also enjoy alcoholic beverages on-premises.
And if you’d like to take your Ferg experience a little deeper, you don’t have to go far. Visit Mrs. Ferg gelateria, Fergbaker, and Ferg’s Bar, which are all conveniently located a short walk apart on the very same block.
For some food with a flare, check out the highly rated Bunker Restaurant & Cocktail Bar, which features a curated fireside dining menu and an impressive wine list. This well-hidden luxury gem features a cozy, romantic atmosphere with artfully crafted food and tasty cocktails.
Feeling a bit more exotic? Head to Blue Kanu right in the heart of town for a fresh menu of locally inspired Asian-meets-Pacific handcrafted dishes and a vibrantly authentic ambiance. You’ll feel instantly swept away to the islands of the Pacific as soon as you step inside.
Tour Recommendation: For real foodies, you should join this dinner tour in Queenstown. You’ll visit three amazing restaurants in and around Queenstown, try their iconic dishes, and drink paired wine too!
9. Enjoy the scenic drive to Glenorchy
When I tell you that the drive to Glenorchy from Queenstown is one of the most beautiful drives in the world, I really mean it! This 46-kilometer (29 miles) stretch of road is considered by many as one of the most scenic drives on the planet.
We’ve all imagined it: the New Zealand we picture from watching the Lord of The Rings and Hobbit films. And it’s real! You can find it right here, on this beautiful drive to Glenorchy. With the picturesque views, it is easily one of the most relaxing ways to spend a few hours in Queenstown.
Every year, film enthusiasts from around the world make the trip to ‘Paradise’, a slice of heaven situated just north of Glenorchy and featured in numerous LOTR film scenes. Along the way be sure to take in spectacular views of the nearby Humboldt and Richardson Mountain Ranges.
There are lots of amazing places to stop along this scenic drive including my favorite, Moke Lake! Be sure to also walk the short Bob’s Cove Lookout Track and maybe even Mt Crichton Loop Track as well. Both of these trails are known as some of the best easy hikes around Queenstown!
Then, once you’ve arrived in Glenorchy, check out all of the different things to do. Relax with a coffee at the Glenorchy Jetty, or wander the Glenorchy Lagoon on the Glenorchy Boardwalk.
If you would rather book a tour to Glenorchy from Queenstown instead of driving yourself I would recommend checking out the Kiwi Special Tour. You’ll get a chance to sit back and look at the views while learning from your guide about the Greater Queenstown area on the way to Glenorchy. I love the freedom this tour gives, you’ll have 2 hours to explore on your own once you arrive in town. At just $89 NZD per person, it is one of the cheapest 4-hour tours you will find in New Zealand.
10. Take a walk around Lake Hayes
Suitable for any skill or fitness level, this short day 8-kilometer loop (5 miles) is just a stone’s throw from Queenstown. Lake Hayes is the perfect place to spend a few relaxing hours in Queenstown. On Lake Hayes Track you can go for a stroll, walk, run, or cycle on this easy, dog-friendly trail.
And I’ve got a little secret – if you visit on a calm day, you may be able to see the entire lake turn to reflective glass!
As if the view isn’t stunning enough already, now you can double up on snow-capped mountains. There’s nothing like the unique sensation of not being able to tell where the sky ends and the ground begins to help you relax!
Related Read: Lake Hayes Track is also one of the best bike trails in Queenstown! Find out where else you can go cycling around town.
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 get you started, here are a few places I personally love and that would make an awesome place to stay in Queenstown.
Absoloot Hostel Queenstown – $
The first is for budget travelers and that’s 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! Dorms are around $65 NZD, and private rooms begin around $230 NZD. It is easily one of the top cheap hostels in Queenstown and can be booked on Hostelworld.com or Booking.com.
La Quinta Queenstown – $$
If you have a little more money to spend, then you should seriously consider La Quinta Queenstown. It’s a beautiful hotel in a quiet but close location and the views are amazing (although you won’t find me recommending a place without great views!). The rooms are all studio or one-bedroom apartments, which is really handy if you want to cook or even just have breakfast in your room. Prices start at $200 NZD and you can book online here.
Kamana Lakehouse – $$$
For a luxurious stay, you can’t pass on Kamana Lakehouse. This hotel is located just on the outskirts of town, far enough that it’s peaceful but close enough to walk to take a short drive into the center of town. 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.
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!
- JUCY – JUCY is one of our favorite rental companies in New Zealand! They have a huge inventory and offer regular cars, small campervans, larger campervans, and even motorhomes! The prices are also super competitive and their multiple offices around NZ make pick-up and drop-off a breeze. You can check availability, prices, and book with JUCY online here.
Thanks for reading!
I hope this list of relaxing things to do in Queenstown helps you make the most of your time in New Zealand’s top tourist destination. Be sure to browse around my blog for more about visiting New Zealand, Queenstown, and the surrounding areas. I have tons of info I’m excited to share so I’ve left a few posts to get you started below! Happy Queenstown travels!