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10 BEST Places to go Sightseeing in Queenstown + Top Tours

10 BEST Places to go Sightseeing in Queenstown + Top Tours

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Queenstown is an amazing city – in fact, it’s so amazing, I decided to make it my permanent home! In addition to the friendly locals and delicious food, the breathtaking views are unmatched and are the reason I decided to stay.

I love how much there is to do in Queenstown, and how many amazing places there are to go sightseeing. From the gorgeous mountains in Glenorchy to cruises on Lake Wakatipu and jet boating on the Shotover River, there are so many incredible places to see in and around Queenstown. It’s impossible to get bored while spending a few days here!

So if this is your first time in Queenstown, I’m going to give you a rundown of the top 10 places to go sightseeing, as well as a list of the best tours. The city center is amazing, but the real reason I moved here was for all of the incredible scenery and adventurous activities, so I’m going to share all of the best and most beautiful places to explore

So let’s get to it! Here are my favorite sightseeing spots around Queenstown. Enjoy!

Don’t have time to read the full article? Here are my favorite things to do while sightseeing in Queenstown:

  1. Cruise Lake Wakatipu – This lake is a highlight of visiting Queenstown, but the views are even better from the water! I love the TSS Earnslaw cruise where you get jaw-dropping views while cruising on a historic steamship.
  2. See Arrowtown – While I haven’t found my pot of gold yet, I’ll keep trying and you can too on this Queenstown highlights tour! Great for families or couples, you’ll have a chance to pan for gold, see some epic viewpoints, and get a scenic cruise.
  3. Visit Paradise: For travelers who like setting their own agenda and exploring hidden gems, this half-day private tour is a win. You’ll visit remote farmland to see sheep and black swans, on top of enjoying the quiet beauty of the High Country.
  4. Explore Glenorchy: If you’re a fantasy movie buff, I recommend this Lord of the Rings Tour. You’ll see where scenes were filmed and even get to dress up as characters!

Where are the best places to go sightseeing in Queenstown?

1. Arrowtown 

Bailey smiles at the camera in Arrowtown, New Zealand
Explore this cute gold mining town!
Buckingham Street in Arrowtown during summer in New Zealand
Buckingham Street in Arrowtown during summer in New Zealand

Arrowtown is a super charming gold mining town just 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) outside of Queenstown. Since it only takes about 20 minutes to get here, I come to visit whenever I get the chance! 

The town is known for its historic architecture and beautiful mountain scenery. There’s hardly any traffic here so it’s a nice escape from the city, and there’s so much to see and do in Arrowtown

A wander down Buckingham Street is a must while you’re here. It’s the town’s main street and you can see lots of its beautiful architecture. It’s also a great place to enjoy Arrowtown’s restaurants, souvenir stores, and boutiques. I love the atmosphere here and it’s such a nice place to grab a drink or a bite to eat on a sunny day. Or if you’re here in the evening, make sure to visit the hidden Blue Door Bar for cocktails!

There’s also the Arrowtown Chinese Settlement here from the town’s mining days, and you can visit for free. It’s a good place to learn more about the history of New Zealand. The Chinese settlers certainly didn’t have it easy compared to the rest of Arrowtown’s population. 

I recommend taking a drive to the Crown Range Scenic Lookout for epic views of the Wakatipu Basin, or hike Tobins Track to yet another epic viewpoint, which takes around an hour to complete. On a sunny day, I love taking a short stroll along the Arrow River. If you decide to do this, you can even rent gold pans for $5 NZD from the Lakes District Museum and Gallery and get back to Arrowtown’s roots by panning for gold! 

2. Glenorchy

The trees in a line at Glenorchy, New Zealand
The famous trees in a line!

You can’t miss the chance to visit Glenorchy while you’re in Queenstown. It’s a truly magical place with lots of breathtaking hikes, and the trails are much quieter here than they are in Queenstown. You can even hike sections of the famous Routeburn track during the summer, or do a short hike to Lake Reed and back in just over an hour. 

Glenorchy is really small – in fact, only 200 people live here permanently. Occasionally, I play with the idea of becoming one of them! It’s 46 kilometers (28.5 miles) from Queenstown, and the drive here is very scenic. 

Although Glenorchy may be small, it has featured in one of the most famous movie franchises of all time – that’s right, I’m talking about Lord of the Rings! There are even LOTR tours you can take in Glenorchy.

My pick is this Lord of the Rings full-day tour where you’ll go off-roading in a 4-wheel drive to discover as many remote filming locations as possible. You’ll be able to stand in the exact spots Frodo and Sam did! Even if you’re not a superfan, the tour is a great way to get some sightseeing in as you drive around the gorgeous landscape with a local guide.

I also highly recommend taking a walk along the 5 km (3 mi) Glenorchy Boardwalk, which overlooks the Glenorchy Lagoon. When the water is still, you can see the stunning Humboldt Mountains reflected on the lagoon’s surface.

And there are plenty of adventurous activities in Glenorchy too, such as jet boating along the Dart River which is a stunning glacier-fed river or taking one of the famous funyak tours which is basically an inflatable canoe!

Related Read: If you’re visiting on a budget, be sure to read my guide on the best free things to do in Glenorchy. There’s everything from road trips to stargazing to the best hiking trails.

3. Paradise 

The paradise sign in Paradise, New Zealand
Welcome to Paradise … literally!

If you thought Glenorchy sounded small, wait until you hear about Paradise! It’s a remote and beautiful area where hardly anybody lives, so I can’t even really call it a town. However, I can say that the name “Paradise” is very apt!

Paradise is a short drive from Glenorchy and the best way to explore it is by driving along the 13-km (8-mi) Glenorchy-Paradise road to enjoy the stunning scenery. You should definitely stop off at Diamond Lake along the way to admire the views, and there are lots of Lord of the Rings filming locations here, too. 

You can also stop off near where the gravel road meets the Dart River to explore the ancient forest. It’s so serene and quiet – you really will feel like you’re out on an adventure in Middle-earth! 

I recommend combining a visit to Paradise and Glenorchy, as the two areas are very close to one another. The road is pretty narrow and winding, so I say take it slow and enjoy the views!

4. Lake Hayes 

The sign at the start of the Lake Hayes Loop
The start of Lake Hayes Walkway.

Lake Hayes is a beautiful lake that’s just a 15-minute drive from Queenstown. It’s definitely worth making the trip here to check out the scenery and the amazing wineries nearby! 

Before you hit the vino, though, I recommend walking around the edge of the lake via the Lake Hayes Loop Track. It’s so peaceful and you can often see the snow-capped mountains reflecting on the water’s surface. Plus, it’s a flat 8-kilometer (5-mile) walk, so it’s nice and easy. It should take you around 1.5-2 hours with plenty of time to stop and snap some photos. I also love coming here at sunset to watch the sky change color while enjoying the whole place to myself! 

As for wineries, there are some great ones nearby. Nockie’s Palette has some excellent wines to try and they often host cool artistic events, like drawing and painting workshops. You can visit their tasting room and enjoy the classic tasting, which costs $18 NZD for 6 wines, or try 5 premium wines for $25 NZD. Or, if you’re feeling artsy, try a wine and painting class from $40 NZD per person. 

Amisfield Winery is also a good choice, and it offers beautiful mountain views to boot! And if you want to go wine tasting and not worry about having a designated driver, you can also catch a bus from Queenstown to Lake Hayes. They run every 30 minutes on weekdays and every 60 minutes on weekends, and you can catch one from several places around Queenstown. 

Alternatively, you could take this full-day VIP wine drop and hop tour which includes transport to eleven different wineries around Queenstown. The first stops are in Lake Hayes, and it’s definitely a fun outing for couples or would make for a great girls’ trip! Tickets are available online for only $89 NZD.

5. Gibbston Valley

Bailey walks the vines in the Gibbston Valley wine region
Just checking on the baby wine!
Bailey enjoys wine at Gibbston Valley Winery near Queenstown
The wine is so good!

Of course, if you’re really serious about going wine tasting, you’ve got to head to Gibbston Valley – aka Queenstown’s wine region. It’s one of the best wine regions in all of New Zealand!

Gibbston is a 30-minute drive from Queenstown and the area is home to many of the Otago region’s oldest wineries. While you’re here, expect scenic mountain views as you explore! I love coming out here to relax and sample yet more of New Zealand’s fantastic wine.

I recommend joining this wine tour from Queenstown if you don’t have a designated driver and want to see some of the best vineyards. You’ll get to visit three wineries with tastings at each and even get a tour of the largest underground wine cave in New Zealand which is pretty neat. There’s a cheeseboard (cheese is always good in my books!), some time for sightseeing as you drive through the countryside and of course plenty of time to drink wine! Tickets are $199 NZD and available online.

You can also visit the Bike Centre and rent a bicycle or an e-bike and explore the valley on two wheels. The Gibbston River Trail is really scenic and you get awesome views of the Kawarau River below while you cycle through the gorgeous vineyards. Plus, the route even takes you past the award-winning Peregrine Winery where you can stop off for a tasting! 

The Bike Centre is actually located on the site of the Gibbston Valley Winery and Restaurant, which is a must-visit while you’re here. It’s really well known and has a ton of tasting options, and it’s also home to the largest wine cave in New Zealand that I mentioned earlier. So if you don’t see the wine cave on a tour, you can visit on your own!  

After cycling all day, you can always opt for a relaxing evening wine tour from Queenstown. You’ll sample local craft beer and wine from places like the historic Gibbston Tavern or Kinross Winery which has award-winning Pinot Noirs available to try! It’s a small group tour so you get to know your fellow travelers and the guides are really entertaining. The tours formally go from 3-7 pm, but we’ve heard from people who keep hanging out after because it’s so much fun! You can easily book online here.

6. Arthurs Point and Skippers Canyon

Arthurs Point, New Zealand
Arthurs Point, New Zealand

Arthurs Point is a scenic suburb of Queenstown. It’s quiet and serene here, so you feel far away from the city even though it’s just a 10-minute drive out of the center! 

Arthurs Point is well known for being the home of the gorgeous Skippers Canyon. You can drive along Skippers Road, which is one of the most famous scenic roads in New Zealand, although do take care as it’s a narrow, one-lane road. The sheer drops afford incredible views (you could even say they’re gorge-ous). But, this is one of the main roads in New Zealand where rental car insurance is not honored, so if you’re renting a car in New Zealand, you do need to be really careful! 

If you don’t want to tackle Skippers Road, then no worries, because you can always enjoy the famous Shotover River jet boating instead! It combines amazing views with a serious adrenaline rush as your boat goes over rapids, through canyons and does full 360-degree turns.

And if you love craft beer as much as I do, then you can’t miss the chance to visit Canyon Brewery. It’s perched right on the cliffs and offers incredible views of the canyon while you enjoy a cold one. In fact, it’s worth coming here even if you don’t like beer, because the views are just that good! Plus, they serve great sourdough pizzas. 

The Onsen Hot Pools are also located nearby, so head here if you’re looking for an upscale place to relax in Queenstown. The cedar-lined hot pools offer gorgeous views over the canyon and they also have lots of indulgent face and body treatments, so it’s an awesome way to treat yourself after a busy few days of sightseeing. In fact, I dare say that they are my favorite of all the hot pools near Queenstown!

7. Lake Wakatipu 

Southern Discoveries cruise on Lake Wakatipu during sunset in Queenstown
The sunsets in summer as the best!
bailey stands at the front of the TSS Earnslaw in Queenstown
During the day it’s just as beautiful!

Lake Wakatipu is the crown jewel of Queenstown, since the city sits on the lake’s edge. It’s the longest lake in New Zealand at 80 km (50 mi) long, and the third largest overall. I personally love visiting Bob’s Cove Track Viewpoint anytime I’m at Lake Wakatipu since it’s the best vantage point of the lake.

But, best of all, Lake Wakatipu is surrounded by stunning mountain scenery, so you can get some seriously epic views when you take a cruise on Lake Wakatipu. It’s easily one of the best ways to go sightseeing in Queenstown and I’ve done them more times than I can count, because it’s just so nice to be out on the lake. 

There are a few different options for a Lake Wakatipu cruise. You can take a 1.5-hour Spirit of Queenstown catamaran cruise, or do the lunchtime cruise and enjoy a tasty meal out on the lake. The boat is a comfy catamaran and I take this cruise whenever I just want to relax and enjoy the sights of the city and surrounding mountains. 

For a more historic experience, I recommend taking the TSS Earnslaw cruise. It’s a coal-fired steamship that’s over 100 years old, and you can explore the ship and visit the engine room on top of enjoying the incredible view. I even wrote a complete review on the TSS Earnslaw lunch and dinner cruises if you need more info!

You can even take a cruise on this boat across Lake Wakatipu and visit Walter Peak High Country Farm for an afternoon tea and farm tour complete with sheep shearing and sheepdog demonstrations! I think this is a fantastic tour for families as kids love seeing the animals here and the home-baked goodies on the boat ride over are a big hit.

8. Wanaka

A couple sit on the Wanaka Jetty on a summers day
Relaxing on the Wanaka jetty!

Wanaka is another place that I sometimes fantasize about moving to! It’s a small town about an hour’s drive from Queenstown, and it’s an absolute paradise for adventure lovers and hikers. Only around 10,000 people actually live here, but many more visit in order to take advantage of all of the fun activities on offer in Wanaka

For example, you can visit the Lavender Farm during the summertime to snap some seriously enviable, Insta-worthy photos. There’s also a petting zoo on site and you can try some delicious lavender ice-cream. 

The town is also home to a really famous tree – yes, you read that right! The Wanaka Tree is half submerged in water, and it has attracted so much attention online that it even has its very own hashtag – #thatwanakatree. You can also get great views of the tree by enjoying a relaxing happy hour cruise out on the lake. 

And for the adrenaline lovers reading, you’ll be happy to know that Wanaka is one of the best places to go skydiving in New Zealand! You can choose between jumps from 9,000-15,000 feet (2,750-4,600 meters) when you book online with Skydive Wanaka

And of course, I’ve got to mention a few of Wanaka’s fantastic hikes. The most famous is Roy’s Peak Track, which takes you to a stunning viewpoint where you can enjoy panoramic views of the Southern Alps. It’s an uphill 16-kilometer (10 mile) trek that takes around 7 hours in total, but I promise that the views are worth it! 

Or, for something a little less intense, you can hike the Rocky Mountain Track, which is a 7-kilometer (4.3 mile) loop. You can follow the track to Rocky Peak Summit and get amazing views of Mount Aspiring, Roy’s Peak, and the Treble Cone Ski field. It takes around 3 hours to complete, so it’s not as much of a commitment as hiking Roy’s Peak Track, but it is steep in places and I recommend hiking boots because the trail can be slippery. 

Related Read: I have a list of the best restaurants in Wanaka that you are just going to love! And, if you’re staying the night, be sure to read my guide on the best areas and places to stay in Wanaka.

9. Moke Lake

Views of Moke Lake along the Moke Lake Loop
Views of Moke Lake along the Moke Lake Loop

If you’re looking for peace and tranquility, with a small side of adventure, then head to Moke Lake for some sightseeing. It’s a 20-minute drive from Queenstown and it’s a wonderful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. I love coming here to watch the sunset and stargaze. There’s even a DOC campsite here if you want to stay the night! 

I recommend hiking the Moke Lake Loop Track, which is a 6-kilometer (3.7 mile) walk around the water’s edge. It’s not my favorite hike ever, but it’s a nice, easy walk and since Lake Moke is surrounded by mountains and it’s protected from wind, the surface is often still and you can see the peaks reflected in the water. This route is also one of the most popular mountain biking trails in Queenstown

You can also go fishing at Moke Lake if you’re a keen angler, although you’ll need to get a fishing license. Or, for something a little more adventurous, you can also take this kayaking tour on Lake Moke from Queenstown. It’s ideal if you don’t have a rental car because it includes transport from Queenstown! It’s also nice if you enjoy taking a tour at your own pace as you’ll get all the necessary equipment and instructions, but then you’re free to paddle on your own time.

10. Cardrona Valley

Cardrona Mountain Carting track
Did I mention the views are amazing!

The Cardrona Valley is a 50-minute drive from Queenstown, and it’s perhaps most famous for its excellent skiing and snowboarding during the winter. The Cardrona Alpine Resort attracts skiers in droves every winter, as it’s one of the top ski fields in Queenstown

However, there’s more to the Cardrona Valley than just skiing. Once the snow melts, it’s also the only place in New Zealand where you can go mountain carting! Zooming down the side of Cardrona Mountain is so much fun – I had a blast when I went. If you’re interested, you can sign up to go mountain carting here! You get to go down the mountain multiple times over 2 hours and you can even race your family or friends if you’re competitive like me!

During the summer, you can also get a lift pass and go mountain biking at the Alpine Resort, or even enjoy a slower pace by horseback riding through the scenic hillside. Or, if it’s thrills you’re after, you can also rip through the valley on a quad bike tour from Wanaka where you’ll get some epic 360-degree views of the rural parts of the South Island.  

You can also go and enjoy dinner at the famous Cardrona Hotel, which is one of the oldest hotels in the country. It’s actually one of just two remaining buildings in Cardrona from the Gold Rush period, so it’s a true slice of Kiwi history. If that’s not a good excuse to treat yourself to a delicious meal, then what is?

The Cardrona Distillery is also very much worth a visit. It’s a family-owned distillery and you can stop here for one of their craft cocktails, or take a tour and sample their award-winning range of spirits, which includes Cardrona Single Malt Whisky and a range of yummy flavored liqueurs. 

The distillery is also close to one of the quirkiest attractions around Queenstown – Bradrona aka the Cardrona Bra Fence! No one is exactly sure how this strange attraction came about, but over Christmas 1998 four bras mysteriously appeared on a rural fence, and the trend quickly caught on. Now, there are hundreds of bras attached to this random rural fence – it’s quite a sight to see. There are also donation boxes here to collect money for breast cancer research.

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What are the best sightseeing tours in Queenstown?

1. Arrowtown and Wanaka Platinum Tour from Queenstown

Bailey poses for a photo with the Wanaka Tree
The Wanaka Tree is iconic!

If you’re short on time, this small group tour allows you to see the best of both Arrowtown and Wanaka in just one day, without feeling rushed. 

You’ll be picked up from a meeting point in central Queenstown around 9 am and drive through the Gibbston Valley for some beautiful views. Then, you get a sightseeing tour of Wanaka before having an hour of free time to spend in the town. If you need a little pick-me-up, I recommend grabbing a coffee from The Coffee Shack on Brownston Street while you’re here – the staff is so friendly and the coffee is amazing! 

You’ll also be taken to see #ThatWanakaTree, so that you can add your photo to the thousands of others already proudly displaying that hashtag on Instagram, and then head to the historic Cardrona Hotel for a complimentary drink. You also get to learn a lot about the area’s gold mining history, which is perfect because the next stop is Arrowtown. 

Before you get to Arrowtown, though, you’ll take a drive along the Crown Range Road, which is one of the best South Island road trips. The views here are epic and don’t worry, there will be plenty of photo opportunities! 

In Arrowtown, you’ll visit the Chinese Settlement and then have some free time to explore the shops and restaurants on the main street. I recommend grabbing a late lunch here if you can. I like Provisions of Arrowtown or Slow Cuts, where you can also find some fantastic craft beer. 

This tour costs $259 NZD per person and lasts for 7.5 hours. It’s available on select days each week and there doesn’t seem to be much of a pattern, so I recommend booking in advance so that you don’t miss out

2. High Country Discovery Tour from Queenstown

Paradise Valley near Glenorchy, New Zealand
Paradise Valley near Glenorchy, New Zealand

If you want to get out of the city and experience an authentic slice of countryside life in New Zealand, look no further than this private High Country discovery tour

You’ll climb into a 4WD and get off the tourist route with a visit to Mt Earnslaw Station. It’s a stunning farm in Glenorchy, and it’s private land so you can rest assured that there won’t be millions of tourists milling around. You’ll discover the difficulty of farming this land, despite its beauty, and since it’s a small group tour of up to four people, you can customize the itinerary to your liking!

For example, you can check out Glenorchy and Paradise (which is something I definitely recommend), visit Lake Reid to spot black swans, or visit a working woolshed to watch sheep shearing.

Your drive will also take you to plenty of hidden lookout points so that you get amazing views of the area, and you can even ask to visit Lord of the Rings filming locations.

I think that this tour is perfect if you’re keen to see the countryside from Queenstown, but don’t have your own rental car. There’s a minimum of 2 people required to book this tour, and it costs $220 NZD per person which includes light refreshments, hotel pickup and drop-off, and national park fees. It’s available every day except Saturday and lasts for 4.5 hours.

You can go in the morning or the afternoon, and then use the rest of your day to enjoy even more sightseeing! So if you’ve got the itch to see the countryside, you can check out this farmland tour here.

3. Glenorchy and Paradise Half-Day Explorer

Bailey walks the jetty in Glenorchy
The Glenorchy jetty!

I make no secret of how much I love Glenorchy and Paradise, and I think that this half-day scenic tour is a great way to see them both! Glenorchy is pretty remote and the road to Paradise can be difficult (which sounds like a motivational quote, but it’s true!) so it’s nice to have a driver take take the wheel while you sit back and enjoy the view. 

You’ll have some free time to explore Glenorchy by yourself, so you can take a walk along the lakefront or head to Mrs Wolly’s General Store, which is a super cute, old-school grocery store that sells amazing coffee and pies. 

There will also be stops at gorgeous viewpoints and when you head to Paradise, you’ll make several stops at LOTR filming locations on the way there. These can be quite hard to spot on your own since the movies used so many special effects, so it’s handy to have a guide with you!

The tour also includes a Kiwi morning or afternoon tea with chocolate, cheese rolls, and ginger cake, which you’ll get to enjoy in Paradise – yum!

This small group tour costs $179 NZD per person including transfers from central Queenstown and your picnic tea. It’s available daily and lasts for 4-5 hours, so you can go at 9 am or 2 pm, which I think is ideal if you’re short on time. I mean, you can’t pass up the chance to go to Paradise!

For a fun half-day road trip to Paradise and lovey Glenorchy, be sure to book your tickets here.

4. Best of Queenstown Sightseeing Tour

Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge bungy in Queenstown
The first-ever commercial bungy in the world!

This half-day tour is a fantastic way to tick off four of the places I’ve mentioned in this blog! You’ll be picked up from Marmolada Cafe in central Queenstown and then head towards Arrowtown, over the Shotover River for some fantastic panoramic photo opportunities (if you can hold your phone steady, that is!).

In Arrowtown, you’ll visit the Chinese Settlement, and then you can either choose to explore on your own or grab a pan and try gold panning in the river with your guide. After that, it’s onto the beautiful Gibbston Valley where you’ll visit a winery to indulge in some delicious local wines and cheeses. The Church Cellar Door and Cafe that you visit is housed in a beautiful old Presbyterian church, which I think is pretty cool.

You’ll also pass by the world’s first-ever commercial bungy jumping site and you might even be able to watch some brave souls take the plunge. It’s one of the best places to bungy jump in NZ if you’re brave enough to come back and try it!

The tour finishes with a cruise across Lake Wakatipu as you head back to Queenstown, so I can safely say that this is a fully loaded sightseeing experience!

The tour costs $199 NZD per person and starts at 8:30 am. It lasts for 4 hours, and the price includes transport, as well as your cheese and wine, although non-alcoholic options are available for kids and non-drinkers. If you’re up for this epic Queenstown sightseeing adventure, I recommend booking your spot in advance here.

5. Paradise Valley Full-Day Tour

Views of beautiful farm land in Paradise near Glenorchy, New Zealand
Views of beautiful farmland in Paradise near Glenorchy, New Zealand

If you’re looking for a more in-depth exploration of the Paradise Valley, then this full-day guided tour is an excellent choice. You can even customize the itinerary to your liking, so you’ve got a lot of choices! 

One thing that I really like about this tour is that you have a few different hikes around Queenstown to choose from, but if you’re not a hiker then you can just cut that out altogether.

You’ll also have a driver to take you around Paradise, where many scenes from LOTR were filmed, so if you’re a big fan of the movies you can spend extra time on this. I mean, this is Lord of the Rings country, after all! 

This tour also includes visits to beautiful viewpoints where you can admire the Dart River and Mount Aspiring National Park, and you’ll visit a working sheep-shearing farm. After all, New Zealand is famous for its sheep – maybe even more so than for Lord of the Rings, but it’s a close call. 

I absolutely love visiting Paradise, so I think that this tour is a fantastic way to explore the area in more depth. Plus, the area can be a little tricky to navigate, so it’s great to go with a guide who can show you around with no stress involved. 

The tour costs $425 NZD per person and lasts around 8 hours. It includes afternoon tea with yummy snacks, and there will be a stop at a local bakery to buy lunch around midday, so rest assured you won’t go hungry. It’s only available on weekdays and requires at least 2 people to book, so bear that in mind!

To check out some of Queenstown’s most unforgettable scenery, you can get your tickets with Viator right 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!

6. Queenstown Sights and Surrounds (Private Tour) 

View of the mountains and lake from Bennetts Bluff Lookout
View of the mountains and lake from Bennetts Bluff Lookout

This private tour is all about getting off the beaten tourist track and seeing the best of Queenstown’s stunning countryside, so it’s exactly my kind of thing! While it’s easy to tick off one or two places on your own if you’re short on time and want a comprehensive overview, it’s nice to leave all the planning to a local guide.

This tour has a base itinerary and you can customize the rest to your liking to make sure you don’t miss any of your must-see places! And if you can’t choose, your guide is more than happy to suggest places to visit for you. 

The base itinerary includes a visit to the Bennetts Bluff Viewpoint for sweeping views of Otago, a tour of Arrowtown, wine tasting in Gibbston Valley, and a visit to the Shotover River, where you can even go jet boating if you like! And you’ll be passing by a famous bungy jumping site, so if you’re feeling extra brave, you can do that too. 

The price of this tour depends on your group size; it’s $675 NZD per person for 2-3 people, $438 NZD each for 4-6, or $300 NZD each for a group of 8 or more. So if you are traveling in a big group, this is a really good option! Lunch and additional activities like jet boating or bungy jumping will cost extra, but they’re totally optional. 

For a truly personalized experience, you can book this private tour around Queenstown here – after all, it’s your vacation, live it up!

7. Skippers Canyon 4WD Tour (Half-Day)

view at Skippers Canyon Queenstown, New Zealand
Skippers Canyon

I mentioned earlier in this blog how difficult navigating Skippers Canyon can be, so if you’d be more comfortable being driven by a professional guide who knows the road, this half-day tour is a great way to go sightseeing. 

I love the route to Skippers Canyon because you get such beautiful views of the Wakatipu Basin and Shotover River Valley, and when someone else is driving you can just sit back and enjoy the views. You’ll also cross the historic Skippers Bridge and see Skippers Township, where you’ll visit a small museum to learn about what life was like for the gold panners and miners here. The tour even includes a stop at Deep Creek so that you can have a go at gold panning yourself!

This is a small group tour with a maximum of 6 people, so it feels more personal and in-depth. You can ask lots of questions and your guide will take you to several beautiful viewpoints to ensure that you leave with lots of amazing photos. 

The tour costs $270 NZD per person, and includes pickup and drop-off from Queenstown, as well as light refreshments. It lasts for around 4 hours and is available daily at either 8:15 am or 1:30 pm. However, since it’s a small group tour there aren’t many slots available, so it can book up fast! 

If you’re ready to try your luck at panning for gold, you can book this small group tour here.

8. Lord of the Rings Scenic Half-Day Tour

bailey dresses up on a Lord of the Rings Tour from Queenstown to Glenorchy
I loved the tour even though I’m not the biggest LOTR fan!

If you love the Lord of the Rings movies then this half-day sightseeing tour is a must. I loved it even though, to be honest, I’m not even a huge LOTR fan! 

But whether you’re obsessed with the films or have only seen them once, it’s so cool to visit beautiful spots like Arcadia Station, which Ian McKellen – aka Gandalf – called his favorite ever filming location, which is really saying something given his illustrious career. 

As well as Arcadia Station, which is in the beautiful Paradise Valley, you’ll also visit Mt. Aspiring National Park and Glenorchy to check out iconic places from the franchise. For example, you get to visit the Isengard Lookout in Glenorchy, and lots of the White and Misty Mountain scenes were shot in Mt. Aspiring. 

What makes this tour super fun is that you not only get to see these places, but you can actually don a costume and sword to take fun photos of your own and recreate the famous scenes that were filmed there. I had such a great time! 

This tour costs $189 NZD per person and lasts around 4 hours. The price includes hotel pickup and drop-off in Queenstown, as well as a tea break with hot drinks, biscuits, and cake. It runs in all weather, and the company provides you with umbrellas if it rains. Plus, this half-day tour has options to go in the morning or the afternoon which is great if you’re trying to plan your vacation.

Get ready to step into Middle-earth while you get behind-the-scenes info on this epic Lord of the Rings tour – there’s a reason it has so many rave reviews!

9. TSS Earnslaw Steamship Cruise from Queenstown

Bailey enjos the view from the top fo the TSS Earnslaw in Queenstown, New Zealand
Ahh Lake Wakatipu!
Bailey sticks her head over the side of the TSS Earnslaw and enjoys the view as she travels to Walter Peak Station for dinner
It’s a beautiful cruise!

There are a few different sightseeing cruises you can do on Lake Wakatipu, but my favorite is always the TSS Earnslaw cruise. As well as enjoying beautiful views of the mountains and Queenstown itself, it’s also so much fun to explore this historic steamship. In fact, it’s actually the only coal-fired steamship in the whole southern hemisphere that accepts passengers! 

The boat itself is over a century old, and it was painstakingly restored by the owners of the local tour company RealNZ. There are so many cool features to check out across the different levels, and you can even visit the engine room to watch workers shoveling coal, just like they did in the old days. 

A ride on the TSS Earnslaw isn’t just a sightseeing cruise, it’s a whole experience in itself and I think it’s great for history buffs and families because kids love exploring the boat. 

The cruise costs $99 NZD per person and lasts for 1.5 hours with multiple time slots each day, so it’s easy to fit into your sightseeing plans in Queenstown. A Lake Wakatipu cruise is one of the best things to do in Queenstown, and when you choose the TSS Earnslaw, you also get a historical experience to boot! If you want to feel the power of this coal-powered steamship, you can book your experience right now.

Related Read: If you’re traveling with little ones, check out my list of cheap and free kid-friendly things to do in Queenstown. There are plenty of activities to keep them from getting bored like frisbee golf and paddleboarding on the lake.

10. Arrowtown and Around Half-Day Small-Group Tour

Buckingham Street in Arrowtown, New Zealand
Shop till you drop!

This small-group tour takes you to historic Arrowtown as well as to see several LOTR filming locations and includes a visit to a local honey farm – sounds like a pretty good day out to me! 

This is a half-day tour that begins at 12:40 pm, and then takes you on a whistlestop tour to some of the most historic and beautiful locations around Queenstown. You’ll visit the famous bungy bridge along the Kawarau River, which also happens to be the site in the LOTR movies where the Fellowship canoes up to the Pillars of the Kings on the River Anduin. 

The guides on this tour are super informative and really know their stuff, so you can visit lesser-known spots. Plus, there’s a maximum of 11 people in a group, so it’s a personal experience and doesn’t feel generic or overcrowded. I dare say it’s the best Arrowtown tour from Queenstown I’ve tried!

I also love the fact that you get to visit a honey farm where you can sample not only manuka honey but also some local mead! Of course, the hobbits are often shown drinking mead in the LOTR movies so this is another great way to get into the spirit. 

You’ll get the chance to visit the Arrowtown Chinese Settlement and then have an hour of free time to explore by yourself. If you’ve got a sweet tooth like me, then I recommend making a beeline for the famous Remarkable Sweet Shop, where you can browse their amazing selection of old-school candies from all over the world. 

This tour costs $139 NZD per person and lasts for around 4 hours. Round-trip transportation to The Station is included and it’s only available in the afternoon.

I don’t know about you, but I definitely think that mead, honey, historic architecture, and beautiful views would make for a great afternoon of sightseeing! Get ready to take epic photos and try sweet treats on this half-day tour around Arrowtown.

Where to Stay in Queenstown

Hot Tub over looking the river and mountains at Kamana Soak in Queenstown, New Zealand
Photo credit: Kamana Lakehouse

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!

Dorms are around $55 NZD, and private rooms begin around $210 NZD. The Absoloot Hostel is easily one of the top cheap hostels in Queenstown and can be booked on Hostelworld.com or Booking.com.

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

Bailey stands in front of a right green JUCY campervan
JUCY is one of my favorite campervan rental companies (read below for a discount code!)
Bailey stands behind her Mad Campers campervan cooking in the kitchen at Piha Beach
I also really like Mad Campers!

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.

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.

If this concerns you, SafetyWing can help! SafetyWing specializes in very affordable and comprehensive medical and travel insurance that is aimed at digital nomads, remote workers, and long-term travelers. It costs just $45 USD per 4 weeks!

To start coverage, you must purchase it after leaving your home country, so we usually buy it as soon as we land at the airport.

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!

Bailey sits on the shore of Lake Alta, New Zealand
Thanks for reading!

Queenstown is and will forever be one of my favorite places in the world. There’s really something for everyone here, with so many unique and beautiful sightseeing destinations close by. I hope this guide has piqued your interest in checking out one (or more!) of the sights Queenstown has to offer.

If this guide was helpful, I hope you’ll read some of my other blogs about New Zealand. Since it’s my home, I have tons of tips from the best road trips to the best places to stay. I’ve also put a few blogs that I think you might like below.

The Absolute BEST Doubtful Sound Tour from Queenstown

5 Best CHEAP Hostels in Queenstown that are Fun and Comfortable

10 BEST Walks and Hikes in Mount Cook National Park