Queenstown is such an amazing place in the summer. It’s vibrant, busy, and full of life. So much so that I actually first came for the winter ski season, got a taste for the summer, and then decided to call Queenstown home. I really fell in love that fast!
Although in the summer you’ll have to say goodbye to the snowcapped mountains, you’ll be able to welcome the warm weather that will have you relaxing at the beach and sipping cocktails in the sun. Queenstown is as much of a summer paradise as a winter one. But that’s not all. Many of my favorite activities in Queenstown can only be done in the summer.
So, get your bucket list ready, here are the 25 best things to do in Queenstown in summer!
Summer in Queenstown FAQs
Things to do in Queenstown in Summer
1. Wine tour through the Gibbston Valley
You can do wine tours any time of the year in Queenstown, however, there’s no better time than in the summer!
On your own adventure or on a guided wine tour you can explore the beautiful Gibbston Valley and try lots of different wines under the New Zealand sun. The best part is, almost all of the wineries have beautiful outdoor gardens to enjoy the views of the vines with a mountain backdrop. That’s why I love the Gibbston Valley as a summer activity.
There are lots of different ways to explore the Gibbston Valley with the first and easiest on a guided wine tour. These tours usually cost around $200 NZD per person and include lunch, all your tasting fees, and transport. You can choose from a beer and wine tour (great if you have beer loves in your group) or a standard wine tour with snacks.
The next way is on a hop-on-hop-off wine tour. These are really cheap and only include your transport so you can head off and travel at your own pace. The tour includes a map to help you plan your journey and they can recommend a heap of great wineries to visit.
If you want to get out and enjoy the fresh air then why not explore the Gibbston Valley on a bike and wine tour. For those wanting to go for a bike ride in Queenstown and do a wine tour, this kills two birds with one stone! And don’t worry about peddling too much, the above-linked tour includes e-bikes!
The last way is on your own. It’s actually really easy to do, and you’ll just need to plan your route out before you go. Some wineries that I personally recommend visiting are Kinross, Gibbston Valley Winery, Akarua Wines, and Waitiri Creek Wines (which is also Cargo Brewery!) In one day you could visit all four and visit some of the best wineries in the region.
2. Ride the gondola to Bob’s Peak
Taking the gondola up to Bob’s Peak has to be the most iconic activity to do in Queenstown. In the summertime, the gondola saves you a pretty hard (and hot) hike up the Tiki Trail. Once at the top, you can explore all of the best things to do including riding the Luge Track, having a drink or meal at Stratosfare, and even walking the easy Skyline Loop Track.
Just so you know: The building at the top of Bob’s Peak is called ‘Skyline’, in case you hear that name while in Queenstown, that’s what they’re talking about.
The gondola up to Skyline costs $44 NZD for adults and $26 for children. Each ticket includes a return trip and you can also book one-way tickets but only for the ride down (annoying I know!)
In the summer, dinner at Stratosfare Restaurant is amazing. Not only is the food good, but with the longer days, you can head up for dinner and watch the sunset right from your table.
One of the best ways to save money at Skyline is to book your gondola tickets and any activities you want to do together. They offer dinner, luge, and stargazing packages!
3. Jet boating
Jet boating is a great winter activity in Queenstown, however, in the summer it’s even more fun because you’re going to get wet! In Queenstown, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to companies to go jetboating with. However, each company has its own pros and cons.
For the most exciting ride, Shotover Jet is the best. If you want convenience, then either K-jet or Orange Jet is the way to go as they’re located right in town. But if you want an epic adventure, then go with Dart River Adventures. Their tour takes you from Queenstown to Glenorchy and includes a nature walk in a place called ‘Paradise’. Exploring that area is one of the best things to do in Glenorchy as many scenes from the Lord of the Rings were actually filmed here!
Regardless of which company or tour you choose, you’ll have a great time on a jet boat in the summer in Queenstown!
Related read: Jet boating is one of the top Queenstown adventure activities – read about what the others are!
4. Eat Fergburger by the lake
Fergburger is the most famous burger joint in New Zealand. Even as a local I always go to Fergburger because the burgers really are that good. What I love about Fergburger (and what some people hate) is there’s never anywhere to sit at the restaurant. This means I almost always take my burger to the lake to enjoy it. It’s so much better!
So this summer when you’re exploring Queenstown, go grab yourself that famous Fergburger and head down to the edge of Lake Wakatipu to enjoy it. I promise you’ll love the burger even more and if you want you can even get a beer (at the liquor store between Ferg and the lake) on the way. It’s completely legal to drink at the beach and grassed area on the wharf.
5. Drink New Zealand craft beer
Speaking of drinking, did you know that Queenstown is home to three craft breweries that each have their own on-site bar!? Yep, that’s right, in such a small town there’s no shortage of beer!
My personal favorite of the three is Searchlight Brewery. I love their outdoor bar and Lewis (the owner) is a really friendly and humble guy. The brewery is located a little out of town in an industrial area, so if you’re after a more beautiful location, consider Altitude Brewery or Canyon Brewing.
Altitude is also located out of town but along the edge of Lake Wakatipu in Frankton. You can actually ride or walk there along the edge of the lake following the Queenstown Trail. Canyon Brewing is the furthest from Queenstown but it’s actually located above Shotover Canyon right where the Shotover Jet leaves from. The location is beautiful and you can have a beer outside and walk over the edge of the canyon for a look!
To be honest, all of the breweries make amazing craft beer in Queenstown, so it’s almost impossible to pick a favorite in that aspect. Just pick the one you like the sound of or just visit them all on a craft beer tour in Queenstown!
6. Go canyoning
My favorite summer activity in Queenstown is canyoning. There are many different canyoning experiences you can choose from in Queenstown including half-day and full-day options. Personally, I think the half-day experience is enough though and the one I did was a ton of fun. The half-day canyon is located in the Gibbston Valley and the full-day one is in Mt Aspiring National Park.
Either way, both are amazing and you’ll have so much fun zip lining, repelling, swimming, jumping, and navigating a canyon to the endpoint.
The water in the canyons is cold, but you are given a wetsuit, helmet, and life jacket for the tour. You’ll also get a harness for repelling down into the canyon. The tour companies do recommend that you have a certain amount of comfort in the water, but seriously it’s so much fun!
7. Relax at the beach
It is summer, so why not take a trip down to one of the beaches around Queenstown to soak up some sun and relax!? There are a few different beach areas you can visit on Lake Wakatipu, but I’ll tell you about my three favorite spots.
The first is Queenstown Beach. This small stretch of beach located in the heart of Queenstown is very popular among visitors and locals alike. It’s a fun place to hang out, and in the middle of summer, the beach becomes packed. It’s a cool vibe especially if that’s what you’re after! You can also legally drink alcohol here before 10 pm, so be sure to BYO booze.
With that said, not everyone loves a large crowd when at the beach. If that’s you, head to a local spot called Sunshine Bay. Located around 5 minutes (by car) from Queenstown, this small bay is absolutely stunning. The best part though? The bay gets lots of sun! You can access the bay by walking from town via the Sunshine Bay Track or drive your car to the parking lot.
Last is Bob’s Cove which is around a 15-minute drive from Queenstown along Glenorchy-Queenstown Road. I love Bob’s Cove and often hike the Bob’s Cove Track up to Picnic Point for the epic views – it’s definitely one of the best easy hikes around Queenstown.
If you’ve taken the trip up to Bob’s Peak then there’s one activity you can actually do from the top and that’s the Zip Trek ziplining tour. From the top of Bob’s Peak, you can choose a range of tours that include as little as 2 ziplines and as many as 6:
- 3 hour zipline experience – Includes 6 different ziplines, costs $195 NZD, includes the world’s steepest tree-to-tree zipline (21-meter drop!)
- 2 hour zipline experience – Includes 4 different ziplines, costs $145 NZD, meant to gradually build your confidence (great for those who are nervous or families)
- 1 hour zipline experience – Includes 2 different ziplines, costs $99 NZD, includes the world’s steepest tree-to-tree zipline (21-meter drop!)
From the ziplines, you’ll zoom along the mountainside with breathtaking views of Lake Wakatipu. If you choose the Kea Tour you also get to do the world’s steepest zipline which descends 30 stories at 70 kilometers (44 miles) an hour!
The tours are guided and you’ll take your time learning about the area along the way. In fact, the 6 zip line tour is almost 3 hours long!
9. Go on a hike
Going on a hike in Queenstown during summer is a must-do activity. The best part there is a hike for everyone! Seriously, there are trails that take only 30 minutes (like Bob’s Cove Track mentioned above) and others that take 8+ hours! Below are a few of the top hikes with all different difficulties in Queenstown.
Mt Crichton Loop Track – If you’re visiting Queenstown with kids and are looking for an interesting trail with a history lesson, then Mt Crichton Loop is perfect. Along the way, you’ll be able to explore an old gold mining tunnel and even check out the Sam Summers historical hut.
Lake Hayes Loop – It’s hard to top a trip to Lake Hayes on a beautiful summer’s day. The Lake HayesLoop is a 5-kilometer-long (3 miles) trail that circles the lake giving you breathtaking views from every angle. Although a nice walk, it is also one of the best bike trails in Queenstown.
Queenstown Hill – No hike is as popular in Queenstown as Queenstown Hill. This 5-kilometer (3 miles) round trip hike takes you high above Queenstown to enjoy magnificent views. Don’t be fooled by the length of the trail though, it’s still quite the challenge.
Ben Lomond Track –Ben Lomond Track is one of the hardest hikes in Queenstown. The trail begins on the Tiki Trail (trail to the top of the gondola) before you make a left turn and head for Ben Lomond Summit. It’s a 7 to 8-hour hike that’s hard but absolutely spectacular!
10. Explore Arrowtown
Queenstown has unfortunately lost much of its “small-town feel”. With 100,000+ tourists in Queenstown on any given day in summer, things can get crowded. Luckily you only have to drive 15 minutes out of Queenstown to explore the cute town of Arrowtown.
Head there in the morning for an even quieter experience and wander the main street enjoying the old gold mining architecture. You can even pan for gold, shop at boutique stores, and enjoy a meal and some craft beer at Slow Cuts. Be sure to visit the old post office and take a walk along the river too – there’s plenty to do in Arrowtown!
11. Enjoy some drinks in town
If you love having a drink on a warm summer’s day then this is one summer activity in Queenstown you probably already had planned to do. Luckily though, I’m not going to tell you to do something super obvious without some local recommendations.
My first recommendation is The Sundeck for the best rooftop bar in Queenstown. Head here for some cocktails or beers with a view and a slightly fancier setting. The second is for the louder crowd – 1876 is a really cool bar that’s quite the party in summer. They have a large outdoor area and some of the cheapest drinks in town (starting at only $4!)
Another cool spot is Little Black Wood. Although not the cheapest place to drink, their bar is located on the Steamer Wharf so the views are hard to beat and they serve amazing cocktails!
If you just picked up your Fergburger and want to have a drink then head to Perky’s Floating Bar. They only serve drinks and encourage visitors to bring a takeaway meal to enjoy right on the water.
Related read: For more info, read my blog about the best places to party in Queenstown!
12. Day trip to Milford Sound
Milford Sound is another attraction you can visit during any season in Queenstown, and to be honest, winter is my favorite time to go. However, if you’re visiting in the summer then don’t miss a trip to Milford Sound. This giant glacier-carved valley is known (in New Zealand) as the unofficial 8th Natural Wonder of the World, and after visiting you’ll be able to see why.
From Queenstown, there are lots of day trips to Milford Sound that leave every single day of the year. These tours range from coach tours to even scenic flight tours, but one thing they all have in common is a cruise through Milford Sound. A boat cruise is the best way to explore the fiord and a bucket list experience in New Zealand!
Related read: Planning on driving yourself to Milford? Check out my blog about the 21 best stops on the drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound!
13. Soar in the sky on a scenic flight
Queenstown is beautiful from every angle but one many don’t get to see is from the sky. With a vantage point a few thousand feet above town, you’ll be able to take in more scenery than you can imagine, and do it at a much faster pace.
I’ve personally done a scenic flight in Mount Cook National Park in a helicopter and loved it.
When it comes to scenic flights in Queenstown you can choose between either a helicopter or a small fixed-wing plane. Personally, I love helicopter rides, and trust me, from the sky Queenstown is stunning! This helicopter tour is also a great deal and well worth considering for such a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
If you want to both visit Milford Sound and go on a scenic flight in Queenstown then you should definitely combine the two on this epic tour. It’ll save you money and you’ll get to fly to Milford Sound over a remote part of the Southern Alps!
Related read: Check out this epic guide to driving from Queenstown to Mount Cook!
14. Play disc(frisbee) golf in the Queenstown Gardens
If you’re looking for a cheap activity in Queenstown to do this summer then head to the Queenstown Gardens for a game of frisbee golf. This course is under the huge pine trees in the gardens and is completely free to use. You can rent a frisbee from the Queenstown Ice Arena for only $5 NZD, but if you have your own frisbee, then it is one of the few free things to do in Queenstown.
If you’ve never played frisbee golf before then don’t worry. Although hard to get good scores, it’s an easy game to play for fun. And if you’re wondering how it’s played then just imagine golf but with a frisbee and you’ve pretty much got it!
15. Go on a lake cruise
For some fresh air and a cool adventure on Lake Wakatipu, head out on a cruise in Queenstown. I’ve lost count of how many cruises I’ve done but seriously, it’s such a bucket list experience in Queenstown that I take everyone who visits me on one.
There are two main cruises you can do and both are great for their own reasons. The TSS Earnslaw is an old coal-powered steamship that’s almost 100 years old. Although the cruise is the most expensive at $70 NZD, it’s a unique experience. You can actually observe workers shoveling coal into the burner as you cruise along the lake. You can combine this scenic cruise with a gourmet BBQ lunch that is super tasty and one of the best meals you can have in Queenstown – trust me on this!
The other cruise is aboard the Spirit of Queenstown. This is the cheapest cruise and starts at only $39 NZD. It’s onboard a modern catamaran with a rooftop viewing deck and inside seating below. I’ve done this cruise the most just because of the price, so for budget travelers, it’s the best option.
Both cruises do the same route on the lake, but there is more to know about them. So if you can’t decide, check out our guide to choosing a cruise in Queenstown.
16. Road trip to Glenorchy
There are lots of road trips you can do from Queenstown but few compare to the road trip from Queenstown to Glenorchy. This short 46-kilometer-long drive (one way, 46 miles) is an epic adventure that can take you an entire day if you plan to enjoy some of the best things to do in Glenorchy.
Along the way, you can stop at viewpoints, hike some amazing trails, and just get lost in the views and windy road. It’s truly one of the best things to do in the summer in Queenstown.
Before you set off be sure to check out my guide, It includes the best places to stop in order from Queenstown to Glenorchy so you don’t miss a thing!
17. Visit Moke Lake
Queenstown is located in the Lakes District so it should come as no surprise that there are lots of other lakes to discover around Queenstown. One of the closest and most beautiful is Moke Lake. Located around 20 minutes from Queenstown just off Glenorchy-Queenstown Road, Moke Lake is the place I come to escape the hustle and bustle of Queenstown.
Moke Lake is actually a DOC run campground with 50 non-powered sites that you can stay in for $15 NZD per person per night. But even if you’re not spending the night, there’s so much to do at Moke Lake you just have to visit!
One of the most popular activities is hiking the Moke Lake Loop. This easy walking trail takes around 2 hours to complete and follows the edge of the lake. If you’re after more of a challenge, consider hiking to the Moke Lake Viewpoint. This unofficial trail is really steep and only suited to those comfortable with heights and the risks involved. However, once at the top, the views of Moke Lake are breathtaking.
18. Via Ferrata rock climbing
I’m not an experienced rock climber, in fact, I’ve never done it before. However, during the summer in Queenstown, everyone seems to go rock-climbing so I decided to give it a go. Of course, with no experience, I didn’t want to just hit a rock wall so instead, I joined a Via Ferrata tour.
Via Ferrata is an Italian word that translates to the “iron road”. Basically, it’s like rock climbing but with an iron route of pegs and ladder rungs. The great thing about Via Ferrata is that anyone can do it and it’s really safe! On the tour in Queenstown, I climbed a wall on Gorge Road must have climbed a thousand feet at least! It was crazy, but super fun too.
I’d recommend it to anyone wanting to challenge themselves and experience the feeling of rock-climbing!
19. Eat an ice cream from Patagonia Chocolates
Did you know more ice cream is consumed in winter in Canada than in summer!? It’s safe to say my fellow countrymen have it backward because nothing beats ice cream on a hot summer’s day!
Without a doubt, my favorite place to get ice cream in Queenstown is Patagonia Chocolates. As one of the best cafes in Queenstown, this place not only serves delicious coffee but ice cream too! Their ice cream delicious and they drizzle your cone in their freshly-made chocolate!
The best part is that they’re located along the foreshore, so I often grab my ice-cream and take a stroll enjoying the sunshine!
20. Go bungy Jumping
Commercial bungy jumping was born in Queenstown. Seriously, AJ Hackett was the first commercial bungy jumping company and it all started at the Kawarau Bridge just outside of Queenstown. They even spell ‘bungy’ differently (typically ‘bungee’), but considering they were the first, I’d say everyone else has it wrong!
AJ Hackett has three bungy jump locations in Queenstown to choose from. The first is the Kawarau Bridge Bungy. On this bungy, you’ll jump over the beautiful Kawarau River from 43 meters above. It’s also the only bungy jump in Queenstown that you can go tandem!
The second is the Ledge Bungy right in Queenstown on Bob’s Peak. This bungy has you jumping over Queenstown and the views are spectacular. Of course, you’ll need to take the gondola up to do this one!
The last is Nevis Bungy – the highest bungy in New Zealand at 134 meters! Seriously, it’s huge! On this bungy, you’ll take a cart to a platform in the middle of a canyon before taking the huge leap of faith…if you’ve got what it takes give it a go!
Paragliding is another activity that has you soaring through the air taking in amazing views. The best part is it’s super relaxing and almost dead calm once you’re in the air. In Queenstown, paragliding tours leave from the top of Bob’s Peak so this is one activity you should consider doing on a visit up there.
Strapped into a harness and connected to your guide, you’ll literally run off the edge of the mountain before gliding high above Queenstown. Although a little scary at first, once in the air, the experience is actually relaxing.
All up, you’ll spend around 15 minutes in the air before you come down to land on an oval below. To be honest, the landing is the scariest part!
22. White water rafting
White water rafting is easily one of the best summer activities in Queenstown. In fact, if you’ve got some bad weather coming up, book a rafting trip because it’s a great activity while it’s raining as you’re going to get wet anyway!
There are actually lots of different tours to choose from depending on the experience you want to have. Basically, there are 3 different levels of rapids ranging from 1-3 all the way up to class 5 beasts that’ll have you holding on for dear life.
I’m not going to lie, I have lots of rafting experience and actually tackled one of the top three rafting rivers in Patagonia one year. For that reason, I love the Shotover River rafting tour. It goes on class 4-5 rapids with names such as Aftershock, Squeeze, Toilet, and Pinball. It’s a fun tour for those wanting to challenge themselves.
For those a little less experienced, there is this rafting/jet boating tour that includes a jet boat ride and a paddle down class 2-3 rapids.
Last is the family rafting experience and on that, you’ll only tackle class 1-2 rapids. It’s basically a sightseeing tour and water confidence is not required.
23. Kayak or paddleboard on the lake
If you’re hanging down at Queenstown Beach why not head out and explore the lake on a SUP or kayak? You can rent them from the waterfront and a paddleboard for 45 minutes only costs $25! It’s a great way to get some sun, exercise, and have fun.
If you want to explore further then you’ll need to rent a kayak instead. On a kayak, you’ll be able to paddle faster and a two-person rental is only $50. No experience is required and they will let anyone with none practice on the lake before heading off.
If you just want to have a little fun on the lake you can also rent an Aqua Bike. To be honest, I’ve never been on one but I see them all the time down at Queenstown Beach. Kids love them but don’t plan on going far, they never seem to move very fast!
24. Go for a bike ride
In the winter, Queenstown is a ski destination, but in the summer, it’s all about downhill riding. In fact, like the ski season, people buy yearly lift passes that take their mountain bikes to the top of Bob’s Peak and other mountain bike parks nearby like Cardrona.
If you just want to give it a go, you can get a day or weekly passes and can rent a mountain bike in town at any one of the rental shops. No experience is required as there are easy and hard downhill runs.
If you don’t want to try downhill riding, then just rent a bike and go for a ride. There are so many amazing trails around Queenstown to choose from and the views along the way are breathtaking. One of my favorite trails is the Frankton Track around to Kelvin Peninsula. The 16.2-kilometer track (10 miles) will take around 2 to 3 hours to complete. You’ll finish in Jardine Park on Kelvin Peninsula, and after, you can ride back to Queenstown or catch the bus using the bike racks available on every bus.
There are so many more trails to ride in Queenstown and explaining them would take a while, so if you plan on going for a ride, check out our guide to the best bike riding trails in Queenstown!
25. Road trip to Wanaka
Last, but certainly not least, is actually one of my favorite road trips in New Zealand. The scenic drive from Queenstown to Wanaka is truly breathtaking and one every visitor should do even just for the amazing things to do in Wanaka like hiking Roy’s Peak!
There are actually two routes you can take to get to Wanaka and both are beautiful. In my road trip guide from Queenstown to Wanaka, I explain both and list the highlights on each route so you can easily decide. With that said, the most popular route is via Crown Range Road.
Crown Range Road is New Zealand’s highest main highway and along the way, you’ll get to enjoy magnificent viewpoints, unique attractions, and even stop past the historical Cardrona Hotel. The entire journey can take less than an hour but with stops, I’d allow 2 or 3.
Once in Wanaka, don’t let the adventure end. I love Wanaka and actually have lots of guides to the area including a blog on the best free and cheap things to do in Wanaka!
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.
Before you go…
Queenstown is without a doubt an awesome summer destination. Warm temperatures, cool lakes, and views that will take your breath away are just some of the highlights. For those who have yet to arrive, I hope you’re excited – you’re in for one hell of an adventure!
Thanks so much for reading! I really hope you loved this blog post and stay a while and browse around. Seriously, all I do is write so there’s lots more blogs to help you plan your upcoming trip! Maybe a little too much!? I really need to get out more…