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For those looking for a beautiful short walk in Queenstown, Sunshine Bay Track is a top choice. The trail follows the edge of Lake Wakatipu to the beautiful Sunshine Bay. Here, you can relax, enjoy some sun, and maybe even go swimming (that is, if you can brave the cold water!)
As a local, the trail is the perfect place to head to when I want to escape the crowds of Queenstown Beach. Along the way, you can even visit an 8-meter-tall waterfall! Overall, it’s one of my favorite hikes in Queenstown!
In this blog, I’ll share everything you need to know about Sunshine Bay Track before you go!
Overview of Sunshine Bay Track
Distance: 4 kilometers return (2.5 miles)
Elevation gain: 50 meters
Time Needed: 1 to 3 hours
Type of trail: Out and back
Sunshine Bay Track is an easy 4-kilometer return hike that starts just outside of Queenstown town center on the road between Queenstown and Glenorchy. The trail follows the edge of Lake Wakatipu up onto the cliffs high above the lake. From the cliffs, you get breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and Queenstown.
The trail is rated as easy and without stopping you can walk there and back in just under an hour. With that said, I recommend allowing a few hours so you can spend some time enjoying all that Sunshine Bay has to offer.
Although the trail isn’t flat, there is only a very mild elevation gain making it great for most fitness levels – it’s even a fun activity for families in Queenstown! Hiking Sunshine Bay Track is easily one of the best things to do in Queenstown – but still remains a hidden gem or an off-the-beaten-path activity.
Sunshine Bay Track FAQs
What to Pack
Water – There is nowhere to fill your bottle on the trail so bring at least 1 liter of water per person.
Runners –You can easily hike Sunshine Bay Track in runners, but if it’s been raining, hiking boots would be better.
Sun protection – The New Zealand sun is so harsh. Sunscreen and a hat are a must and a long sleeve shirt is also wise.
Snacks – A picnic lunch is a perfect thing to bring. Once you arrive in Sunshine Bay you’ll want to stay awhile!
Parking and the Sunshine Bay Trailhead
There are two ways to access the Sunshine Bay Track. The first is to drive from Queenstown to either the One Mile Car Park and walk from there. You can also just park on the side of the road at the trailhead but just do so with caution, accidents do happen here. With that said, parking at One Mile Creek is minimal and often completely full during the day.
The other way is to walk from town center (which is what I personally do.) From town, you can take a stroll along Lake Wakatipu through St Omar Park until you reach One Mile Creek. From here, continue on along the side of the road and lake until you reach the sign for Sunshine Bay Track. You do have to walk on the side of the road until you reach the trailhead, so be careful!
Walk Along the Cliffs to Sunshine Bay
The trail begins flat along Lake Wakatipu but quickly heads up onto the cliffs. From here on out, the trail is up and down until you reach Sunshine Bay.
At the trailhead, you would’ve noticed the sign says there’s a waterfall around 10 minutes into the hike. This waterfall is called Two Mile Creek Falls and is a nice short stop along the trail (however the waterfall isn’t that impressive in my opinion.) You do need to venture off the main trail to view the waterfall and most people miss it – so be sure to keep an eye out!
Continue on for another 10 minutes and you’ll reach a viewpoint called Gilly’s Point. From here, you’ll have amazing views of the surrounding area and there’s even a bench to take a rest at to enjoy the view. This is my favorite stop on the hike and I always keep an eye out for the TSS Earnslaw Queenstown cruise sailing past!
Be sure to keep turning around as you make your way to Sunshine Bay as this is where you’ll get the best views of Queenstown. After around 30 minutes in total, you’ll arrive at Sunshine Bay.
Related read: Want to join a scenic cruise in Queenstown? Check out my guide that compares each Queenstown cruise!
To me, the highlight of Sunshine Bay Track is the trail itself but a close second is Sunshine Bay. The beach can be accessed by car so it can get busy in the summer, but when compared to Queenstown Beach, it’s nowhere near as busy. To be honest that’s why I love Sunshine Bay so much. It’s quiet, relaxing, and gets a lot of sunshine! Hanging out at Sunshine Bay Beach is easily one of the best things to do in Queenstown in the summer.
Once you reach the beach get but your towel, picnic lunch, and sit back and relax. Although you still have to walk back, be sure to stay awhile and if you can brave the cold, jump in the lake! A very popular activity here is stand-up paddleboarding which I love because it’s a great workout and you don’t have to get in the freezing water!
Once finished at Sunshine Bay simply walk back via the same trail.
Related read: Hanging at the beach is one of the more relaxing things you co do in Queenstown. Read about some other activities you can do to unwind!
Essential Info You Need to Know
- The DOC have traps in the area to catch and kill pests like stoats and possums. For this reason, be sure to keep your dog on a leash and close by at all times.
- The cliffs give you beautiful views, but stay on the trail as it’s dangerous.
- If you walk from town allow around 1 hour and 45 minutes hours to walk the trail without stopping
Thanks for reading!
Sunshine Bay Track is an easy, straightforward trail in Queenstown that leads to a secluded beach. When it comes to short hikes, it’s easily one of the best. In fact, I’d compare it to the famous Bob’s Cove Track!
Thanks so much for reading. I hope this blog has helped you plan your upcoming walk to Sunshine Bay. If you did find it helpful then be sure to check out more of my blog, I have lots of guides about Queenstown and the surrounding area!