Winter in Queenstown is such a beautiful time of the year to visit. Having lived in Queenstown during all seasons, I actually prefer winter. Despite the cold, I love the snowcapped mountains, the lack of people on hiking trails, and the winter prices! In fact, winter is one of the cheapest seasons to travel, with accommodation, car and motorhome rentals, and many tours at their lowest prices.
Of course, I also love skiing, and every chance I get you’ll find me up at The Remarkables enjoying New Zealand’s daily mild skiing temperatures (compared to where I’m from in Canada.)
But not every day during winter in Queenstown should be spent skiing.
You see, there are actually a ton of awesome things to do in winter in Queenstown. So regardless of whether you ski, snowboard, or are just here for the mulled wine and cheap things to do, there’s something for you this winter in Queenstown.
Here’s my guide to the 35 best things to do during winter in Queenstown and some other info you need to know before your winter travels! And I hope that after reading this blog, you’ll be convinced that winter is the best time of year to visit beautiful Queenstown.
Queenstown in Winter FAQs
Winter Weather in Queenstown
During winter, Queenstown’s weather can vary quite a lot. One day it’ll be sunny and you’ll be walking around in a light sweater, and then the next you’ll be bundled up in full winter gear and still be cold! It’s best to be prepared for anything (yes, it will even rain in the winter in Queenstown.)
It’s also important to remember that it is always considerably warmer in Queenstown than up on the mountains or ski fields. Don’t be fooled if your warm while walking to grab breakfast in Queenstown before a day up at the hill, it will be much colder when you get up there! It also doesn’t snow that much in Queenstown itself, and if you want to see snow during the winter months in Queenstown, you’ll likely have to drive up to a higher elevation (top of the Crown Range Road or at The Remarkables ski field are your best bets.)
Temperatures in Queenstown during the winter can get as low as -6 degrees Celcius (21.2 Fahrenheit) but average lows are 0 Celcius (32 Fahrenheit). On a sunny day, you can also get days as warm as 15 degrees Celcius (59 Fahrenheit), however, the average high in winter is 9 Celcius (48.2 Fahrenheit).
Expect temperatures on the mountains to be around 10 degrees cooler than in Queenstown itself. In fact, on average you can expect the ski fields to sit at around -4 degrees Celsius (25 Fahrenheit) during the winter, with the coldest temperatures of -10 (14 Fahrenheit) and highest of +2 C (36 F) during the day.
35 Things to do in Queenstown in Winter
1. Hit the slopes
The number one thing to do in Queenstown in winter is to hit the slopes. It’s the main reason most people come to Queenstown in the winter, and to be honest, I don’t blame them. Skiing and snowboarding is so much fun and if you’re coming from places like Australia, it’s likely the only place to go nearby with decent snow.
With that said, don’t expect North American or European ski hills, they’re much smaller in New Zealand!
There are three ski hills close to Queenstown called The Remarkables, Coronet Peak, and Cardrona. The two I personally love are The Remarkables and Cardrona – with Cardrona being my absolute top pick! Although Coronet Peak is a good ski field, the snow is often really hard due to its location.
The ski season in Queenstown typically runs from mid-June to early October. The expected opening dates for the ski fields near Queenstown are:
- Coronet Peak – June 19 – September 26, 2021
- The Remarkables – June 19 – October 10, 2021
- Cardrona – June 12 – October 17, 2021
Even if you’ve never skied or snowboarded before you can learn in Queenstown (that’s what I did!). Join a group lesson or two and you’ll be well on your way to hitting the green or blue runs before you know it!
Regardless of if you’re a pro or just learning, hit the slopes this winter in Queenstown and we may even bump into each other (hopefully not too hard!)
2. Cruise Lake Wakatipu
Going on a cruise is one of the best things to do in Queenstown at any time of the year. From Lake Wakatipu, you’ll get to enjoy magnificent views of the mountains around you and see it all from a whole new perspective. In the winter, the mountains are covered in snow which makes them even more beautiful if you ask me.
There are a few cruise companies in Queenstown to choose from but all of them more or less take the same route on the lake with the main difference being price and transport style. The Spirit of Queenstown is the cheapest option with a 1.5-hour cruise starting at only $39 NZD. On a modern catamaran, you’ll cruise the lake with commentary from your captain and food and drinks available for purchase onboard.
The second is the TSS Earnslaw. This 1930s steamship is powered by coal and onboard you can visit the engine room to see coal being shoveled into the boilers. It’s a larger vessel with more charm, but the cruise does costs significantly more starting at $70 NZD for a 1.5-hour cruise. The TSS Earnslaw also has other tour options that can include a Walter Peak Farm tour or even a gourmet lunch at the farm.
If you still can’t decide, then check out our guide to picking the best lake cruise in Queenstown!
3. Jet boating
Jet boating is likely one of the most popular adventure activities in Queenstown. Not only is it a ton of fun, but it is an affordable and exciting way to get out on the water to soak in unique vantage points.
From inside a speed boat, you’ll race around rivers and lakes stopping only inches from the shoreline or rocks. Your driver will execute 360-degree spins with speed. You’ll scream and laugh the entire time, I guarantee it.
You might think jet boating sounds, well, cold in the winter. I’m not going to lie to you, the water is cold. However, they do give you a full splash-proof suit which will keep the cold water off your skin and clothes. The only thing I’d suggest if you’re going jet boating in Queenstown in the winter is to bring gloves and a beanie. These items aren’t usually provided by the tour company and you’re going to need them to stay warm.
Hot tip – if you need to purchase some cold-weather gear in Queenstown, head to the Salvation Army either right in town or the one on Gorge Road. Here, you’ll be able to pick up everything you need for only a few dollars!
There are a couple different jet boat operators in Queenstown:
Go Orange Jet – This is the other company that operates from the Queenstown Wharf. They are the cheapest company in Queenstown and offer both a 25 minute and 1-hour ride. The shorter option is great for winter if you’re worries about getting too cold!
K-Jet – This is who I did my jet boating ride with. They leave from the wharf in Queenstown and the tour lasts for 1 hour. It was really fun and I can personally recommend this tour. It is good value for money and one of the cheapest options when it comes to jet boat tours in Queenstown.
Shotover Jet – These guys operate in the Shotover Canyon on the Shotover River and they are the most famous company in Queenstown. Many claim this tour to be more thrilling than those that depart on Lake Wakatipu. Plus, the Shotover River is stunning!
Skippers Canyon Jet – This is another company operating in the Shotover River, however, their tour is in Skipper Canyon. This canyon is said to be narrower so the ride is supposed to be really scary!
4. Go stargazing
If you’re looking for a free activity to do in Queenstown then you can’t go past stargazing. During winter, the Milky Way shines bright above Queenstown. However, if you really want to see the stars (like in the picture above) you’re going to need to take a short drive out of town.
My favorite places to go are Moke Lake and on the highway between Queenstown and Glenorchy. From both places the stars are unreal! Also, check the daily Southern Lights (aka Aurora Australis) radar to catch a glimpse of the most spectacular light show in the world.
If seeing the stars on your own isn’t enough, you can actually join stargazing tours in Queenstown where you’ll get to look through a high-powered telescope and spot planets, the international space station, and more.
Related read: If you really want to see the stars then you need to drive from Queenstown to Lake Tekapo. Lake Tekapo is located within a Dark Sky Reserve and stargazing from the local observatory is one of the best things to do there.
5. Take a day trip to Milford Sound
Milford Sound is best explored in the winter months. Don’t get me wrong, I love the warm sunsets in the summer on the Milford Sound foreshore, but seriously, the place is so overcrowded! During the winter, Milford is quiet and much more peaceful, cruises are cheaper, the famous Miter Peak is dipped in snow, and fewer boats sail the fiord making it my favorite time to visit!
From Queenstown, you can jump on a range of day tours to Milford but the cheapest are the coach, cruise, coach tours that include your cruise, transport, and a small packed lunch. On these tours, half of the adventure is getting to Milford Sound and your tour will stop at some amazing places enroute. These tours usually take 12.5 hours because Milford Sound is 4 hours from Queenstown by road!
Last, is the option to rent a car in Queenstown and drive yourself. This is my top choice and I highly recommend spending the night in Te Anau or in Milford Sound at the Milford Sound Lodge so you can properly explore the road to Milford Sound from Queenstown. It’s one of the best road trips in New Zealand that’s best done without a tour!
Related read: If you stay in Te Anau, be sure to explore all of the best attractions and things to do in Te Anau besides simply just Milford Sound!
6. Ride the gondola up to Bob’s Peak
Taking the gondola up to Bob’s Peak is one of the most iconic activities in Queenstown. Of course, it’s one you can do any time of the year, but in winter, those mountain views are just so much more spectacular!
The gondola up to Bob’s Peak costs $44 NZD for adults and $26 for kids. Although not cheap, it is the easiest way to get up the top to explore things like the Luge, go paragliding, or even enjoy a meal at the Stratosfare Restaurant (one of the top restaurants in the area.) If you do want to enjoy the view from Bob’s Peak on a budget you can always hike the Tiki Trail to the top. This short but grueling hike is one of the best in Queenstown.
Taking the gondola is just your means of transport and the best part about Bob’s Peak is the views over Queenstown from the top. So no matter what your budget, make sure you go and enjoy those snow-dipped mountain peaks that you can only see in winter in Queenstown!
Related read: You can also easily hike Ben Lomond Track from Bob’s Peak. For more info, check out my guide to the hike.
7. Visit a local brewery
Winter in Queenstown isn’t all about the outdoors. As a local, I love heading inside to cozy up by the fire – and what better way to do it than with a cold craft beer from a brewery in Queenstown.
There is one brewery, in particular, that’s perfect for this and that’s Searchlight Brewery. It’s located a little out of town just off Gorge Road but the cute little brewery has a fireplace and some of the best craft beer in New Zealand.
There are a few other breweries in Queenstown including Altitude Brewery located along the edge of Lake Wakatipu in Frankton. They also have a fireplace perfect for cozy nights. The last brewery in town is Canyon Brewing. They’re the largest in town but they have the most beautiful location and the largest indoor dining area.
If you’re after a more in-depth insight into Queenstown’s craft breweries then simply touring around yourself just won’t do it. With a craft brewery tour, you’ll get a local guide with local knowledge and hit all of the best breweries while trying the best beers. Most tours visit around 4 breweries and include lunch. You can even join a beer and wine tour in Queenstown (I love this tour as it is the best of both worlds!)
8. Go on a winter hike
Hiking isn’t just for the summer in Queenstown. In fact, if you like to avoid the crowds, winter is the time to go! Of course, there are some hikes best left to the summer (especially for those that are inexperienced) but there are lots that anyone can do in winter too.
One of my favorite hikes in winter is Queenstown Hill. This short 5-kilometer return hike only takes a few hours to walk and starts from right near the town center on Belfast Terrace. The trail leads up to Queenstown Hill Summit and from the top, you can enjoy breathtaking views over Queenstown.
Another short hike in Queenstown is Bob’s Cove track. This hike only takes 30 minutes but the views from Picnic Point are spectacular.
If you’re up for a challenge, try Ben Lomond Track. I’ve done it before in early winter and it was manageable, although pretty icy. I recommend wearing crampons if you want to hike Ben Lomond in the winter.
There are many more easy hikes in Queenstown that can be done in the winter including Glenorchy Walkway, Sunshine Bay Track, and Mt Crichton Loop Track. I have guides on them all so check them out if you want to go hiking this winter in Queenstown!
9. Visit the Onsen Hot Pools
If you haven’t heard of the Onsen Hot Pools before then you’re going to want to act fast. This beautiful spa is home to New Zealand’s most famous private hot pools. A quick search on Instagram will return thousands of beautiful photos of people enjoying a private hot pool with magnificent views. Onsen is so famous that the pools book out months in advance, especially in winter.
For two adults, you can expect to pay $126 NZD for a one hour soak in either a semi indoor or outdoor pool. The tubs can fit up to four people though so even larger groups can enjoy the pools.
The Onsen Hot Pools aren’t located in Queenstown but instead a short 10-minute drive away near the Shotover Canyon. They overlook the valley and this is easily one of the most romantic activities to do in Queenstown.
10. Go on a wine tour
Wine tours aren’t just for the summer season. In fact, wine tours are just as good in winter because let’s face it, wine is good any time of the year! So, why not head out to New Zealand’s best wine region the Gibbston Valley.
Unlike other wine regions in New Zealand, the Gibbston Valley is home to extremely small boutique wineries. The experience of tasting the wine is very personal and some wineries make such small batches that taking home a bottle or three is a must.
The most prominent wine in the Gibbston Valley is Pinot Noir and many of the wineries have won huge awards even beating the French! Some of my favorite wineries around Queenstown include Gibbston Valley Winery, Kinross (a cellar door for some of the smallest wineries in the region), Mt Rosa, and Waitiri Creek Wines.
You can choose from lots of different wine tours in Queenstown including wine tours with lunch, beer and wine tours (perfect for those with beer lovers in the group), hop on hop off wine tours (for budget travelers), and even wine tours that include a helicopter ride over the Gibbston Valley.
11. Go on a scenic road trip
Winter road trips are the best! Not only are most attractions far less busy, but as I’ve said before, the views are just so much more beautiful. I have a few favorite road trips I love doing from Queenstown.
The first was mentioned above and that’s from Queenstown to Milford Sound. There so many amazing places to stop and this road trip is full of adventure. With that said it is long, and personally, I always stay in Te Anau the night before I get to Milford sound so I can take my time on the most beautiful part of the journey. Between Te Anau and Milford Sound, there are highlights such as the Key Summit, Lake Marian Track, and Mirror Lakes.
Another shorter road trip is from Queenstown to Glenorchy. This 46-kilometer journey is breathtaking, and along the way, you can explore so many amazing places and viewpoints. The best part is that once you arrive in the cute town of Glenorchy, you’ll get to explore all the best things to do in Glenorchy that includes hiking parts of the Routeburn Track (one of the best hikes in Glenorchy) and the Glenorchy Animal Experience (more on that below on item #25 on this list!)
Last, is the road trip from Queenstown to Wanaka. This is one road trip most visitors do because let’s face it, there are a ton of awesome things to do in Wanaka so you need to visit! On this road trip, you can stop along Crown Range Road admiring New Zealand’s highest main highway as well as stop at attractions such as Bradrona and the historic Cardrona Hotel.
Seriously, if you’re heading to Queenstown in winter check out all three of these road trips and drive at least one!
12. Enjoy a winter festival
Most guides to the best things to do in winter in Queenstown only include the famous Queenstown Winter Festival in their list. However, in order for your trip to line up with only one festival, you’d need to be very lucky. Instead, let me tell you about the three best festivals in Queenstown during winter:
Queenstown Winter Festival
Of course, the most famous and largest winter event is the Queenstown Winter Festival. Personally, I love the Winter Festival and look forward to it every year. It’s a huge event and during the festival you’ll be able to enjoy various events, mulled wine, and of course, fireworks! The Queenstown Winter Festival runs in the middle of June but you do need to check their website for up to date info as the dates change slightly every year.
LUMA Southern Light Project is a light festival held in the Queenstown Gardens on the Queen’s birthday weekend at the end of May/start of June every year. Luma is completely free and during the event, the Queenstown Gardens are decorated with lights to create a sensory experience. There are also food trucks and pop up bars in the gardens!
Winter Pride is Queenstown’s very own LGBTTQI+ festival. The event is huge and usually filled with free entertainment, however, in 2021 only patrons will be able to attend. The festival runs at the end of August, and in 2021 specifically, it is from the 27th of August to the 5th of September. It’s a shame the festival has no free events this year (because 2020 wasn’t exactly great for festivals and events) but you can get more info about tickets on their website.
13. Party the night away
One of the reasons I love Queenstown is that no matter what time of the year or what day of the week it is, there’s always something going on. From dancing the night away to cocktails on the rooftop, there’s plenty of places to party in Queenstown.
A few of my favorites include The World Bar – a trendy bar with amazing cocktails, The Sundeck – for the best rooftop views, and of course Cowboys – where every big night ends with a ride on the mechanical bull.
You can also join pub crawls in Queenstown that run every night from Tuesday to Saturday. There is even a pub crawl that includes a stop at an ice bar in Queenstown. The good thing about pub crawls is you’ll get to meet lots of other visitors and make friends. The events usually have a theme so people often get dressed up and it’s really fun!
14. Go tobogganing
Let’s be real, winter in Queenstown doesn’t mean snow everywhere. You’ll find snow up on the mountains and plenty at the ski feilds, but in town itself, you’ll only get snow a few days a year.
If you’re lucky enough to be in winter when it actually snows in town then head over to K-Mart in Frankton and buy yourself a cheap sled. Then, go out and try tobogganing! On the hills all around town locals will be loving the snow and tobogganing as well.
Otherwise, you can always head up to one of the ski feields, The Remarkables or Coronet Peak, and go tobogganing there!
Did you know – it is free to use the ski fields if you aren’t using the lifts. That’s right, you can walk up the bunny hill with your sled and ride down for free! If you’ve never been tobogganing before then this is a must-do winter activity in Queenstown!
15. Do something crazy
Most adventure activities in Queenstown run all year round. Despite the cold, you can still jump out of an airplane, off a ledge, and even a bridge. My personal recommendation is to go skydiving. Although I’ve never done skydiving in Queenstown, I have gone twice before (in Australia and Canada,) and let me tell you, the views you get during the jump are out of this world!
If you’re even crazier then why not go bungy jumping?! I’ve done it a few times and find it scarier than skydiving. The largest bungy in Queenstown is Nevis but there is also Kawarau Bridge and The Ledge as well as the Shotover Canyon Swing.
Don’t let winter stop you from doing something crazy in Queenstown!
16. Go for a drink at an ice bar
Queenstown is home to not one, but two ice bars. For a place so small I find that kind of weird, but hey, a little competition is great for visitors.
On a winter’s day, you may already feel like you’re in an ice bar, but you won’t get the experience of sitting at a bar and drinking out of a cup both completely made of ice. It’s something you have to do at least once in your lifetime and one of the best indoor activities in Queenstown.
The two bars are very similar and choosing between the two isn’t important. Below Zero Ice Bar and Minus 5 Ice Bar are the two bars and they’re both located in the heart of Queenstown. Prices for two cocktails and entrance are $40 at both bars and they have cheaper prices for kids and mocktails too.
17. Eat Fergburger
Last but certainly not least of the best things to do in winter in Queenstown is to eat Fergburger. I know this makes just about every blog I write about Queenstown, but seriously, it’s that good! Plus, why come all the way to Queenstown and not get to rate the burger yourself!?
Fergburger has lots of burgers to choose from, however, their famous burger is anything with the beef patty which is what put this place on the map (or maybe it was actually Ed Sheeran.) With that said, their venison, chicken, pork, and vegetarian options are really good too. A burger only costs around $13 NZD so this is a cheap activity in Queenstown and a burger you just have to eat at least once (but will likely eat more!)
You may have to wait a while in order to get your burger, especially around 5 pm when everyone heads back from the ski hills. To avoid waiting over an hour eat outside of this time – like at 2 am after a night out like I do!
18. Ride in a Hydro Attack Shark
Have you heard of the Hydro Attack Shark in Queenstown? Not likely, but it’s actually one outdoor activity in Queenstown that is unaffected by the weater! The Hydro Shark is like a jet ski but it also goes underwater like a shark – you’ll be completely protected from Lake Wakatipu’s cold water.
You’ll sit in a seat behind the driver (you aren’t allowed to drive yourself), and then like a fighter jet they close the windscreen over you. You’ll fly across the water before the shark makes fast dives below the water and then pops up out of the water getting huge air!
The Hydro Shark isn’t a cheap activity and for a 15-minute ride it’ll cost you upwards of $150 NZD. With that said, it’s unique to Queenstown.
Note: The Hydro Shark is often fully booked during weekends or peak seasons, be sure to book your experience in advance to avoid missing out!
19. Try Indoor Skydiving
Too cold or windy or snowy to go skydiving? Instead, head over to iFLY Queenstown to check out their state-of-the-art indoor skydiving tunnel.
Indoor skydiving is new to Queenstown and in 2018, construction on the state of the art indoor wind tunnel was completed. iFLY Queenstown who owns and operates the tunnel is a leading indoor skydiving company with wind tunnels all over the world.
Indoor skydiving in Queenstown gives visitors the thrill of skydiving without actually jumping out of a plane – great if you’re afraid of heights or the weather isn’t cooperatin gfor the real thing.
If you’ve never been indoor skydiving before then it may take a little getting used to, however, every session includes a personal instructor to help you out and show you the basics. The price for two 1 minute flights starts at $79 NZD and although expensive, it’s a unique experience!
20. Play frisbee (disc) golf
In the Queenstown Gardens, you’ll find a disc (frisbee) golf course. I personally love playing frisbee golf and the great thing about it is anyone who can throw a frisbee can play. Although I’m not very good, it’s still so much fun! If you don’t know what frisbee golf is, check out this guide. In all honesty, it’s easy to play.
In the winter, it is a little colder to be outside playing but if you’re dressed properly then you should be just fine. Grab a coffee of hot chocolate from town before you start, it’ll help keep you warm.
Using the course is free, but you will need to rent a frisbee if you don;t have your own. You can actually rent them from the Queenstown Ice Arena in the gardens for only $5.
21. Swim at Alpine Aqua Land
Entrance to the pools is only $8.50 NZD for adults and $4 for children. Within Alpine Aqua Land you’ll find a lap pool, a large kid’s pool with slides and games, and for the adults, there’s a hot tub and sauna. This hot pool in Queenstown even has views of the mountains!
Alpine Aqua Land is a good alternative for a hot soak if Onsen Hot Pools are already fully booked (which is often the case.) If your muscles are sore from the slopes or hiking, then stopping here for an hour or two honestly isn’t a bad idea.
Alpine Aqua Land is completely indoors so it’s perfect on a cold winter’s day!
22. Enjoy snowy mountain peaks on a scenic flight
A once-in-a-lifetime experience that can be done all year round is a scenic flight! A scenic flight is easily one of the best things to do in New Zealand, and the best part is that you have plenty to choose from in Queenstown.
Scenic flights in Queenstown all range in price are all dependent on if they land in the mountains and how long you fly for. This specific helicopter flight has you flying around Queenstown for 35 minutes and includes a mountain top landing.
In Queenstown, you can also use a scenic flight as a mode of transport. It is common for people to take a small fixed-wing plane to get to Milford Sound. In fact, this tour is the perfect option if you ask me since it includes driving to Milford Sound from Queenstown, then a boat cruise in Milford, and then a scenic flight back to Queenstown. You’ll get to enjoy incredible views of Fiordland National Park and Queenstown from above all while cutting down the driving time on this epic day trip – a win-win if you ask me!
20. Tour Kiwi Birdlife Park
New Zealand is world-famous for having incredible birdlife. In fact, this island nation was once a sanctuary for many birds and free of predators. Thanks to us humans though, introduced species like stouts, possums, and cats now pose a threat to many unique birds and populations are dwindling as we speak.
Luckily in Queenstown, we have the Kiwi Birdlife Park which is a wildlife refuge for native bird and animal species! And that’s right, it’s open in the winter too.
Visitors can explore the park to see some of these birds for themselves including the New Zealand Kiwi bird. There are daily shows where you can watch birds get fed and learn about the park’s conservation efforts. It costs $60 NZD for an adult to visit including watching any shows, and child and family rates are also available.
Keep in mind that while there are captive animals, it is a conservation program. The park helps heal injured birds from the area as well as manages breeding programs for endangered species working closely with the DOC. So, your entrance fee helps support the program!
You can find the Kiwi Birdlife Park in Queenstown near the gondola station on Brecon Street. The park is open all year round (except for Christmas Day) from 9 am to 5 pm.
You can easily book your tickets to enjoy the Kiwi Birdlife Park in advance online!
23. Enjoy delicious coffee
Grabbing a coffee from one of Queenstown’s locally-owned cafes is a great way to start off a winter’s day. There are lots of amazing cafes in Queenstown to choose from and to be honest, it can be a little overwhelming. Luckily, there are a few that stand out. The first is Vudu Café and it’s my favorite. As a local, it’s my go-to for a morning coffee in Queenstown.
With that said, as a visitor you may want something with a better view. That’s why The Bathhouse is perfect. This slightly touristic café is located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu near Queenstown Beach.
Grab a coffee to-go and then go for a wander around Queenstown’s vibrant town center and lakefront.
24. Try Paragliding
Yes, you can go paragliding in the winter in Queenstown! Like many of the other scenic things to do, the views will be even better in the winter thanks to the snow-dusted mountains.
Paragliding is an adrenaline rush as you go running off the edge of a mountain. However, once you’ve been in the air for a few minutes it becomes a lot more relaxing and you can really just enjoy the view.
Expect to pay around $200 NZD for a flight. You must book your winter paragliding experience in Queenstown in advance to secure your spot.
25. Explore Glenorchy
After enjoying that scenic drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy, you’ll arrive in one of the smallest, but most beautiful, towns in New Zealand – Glenorchy! From Queenstown, Glenorchy makes for a perfect day trip since it is only about 45 minutes away. There are a ton of things to do in Glenorchy including skydiving, jetboating, horse riding, and even a farm experience.
Those activities all cost money, but luckily, I have a guide to the 10 best free things to do in Glenorchy that includes the best hikes in Glenorchy like Glenorchy Walkway and day hikes on the Routeburn Track as well as activities such as visiting the Glenorchy Jetty. That’s one thing I also love about Glenorchy, I almost never spend a dime – except at Mrs Wooleys General Store on those delicious pies!
Another really cool activity in Glenorchy is the Glenorchy Animal Experience. The self-guided tour is located on a real New Zealand farm! On the tour, you’ll get to walk around and feed lots of animals including lambs, sheep, ducks, chickens, pigs, llamas, and horses. They also do sheep shearing demonstrations and you can play with the farm dogs.
The tour costs only $20 for adults and $10 for children. Although not technically in Queenstown, it’s one of the cheapest tours you can do and it’s perfect for families.
Getting to Glenorchy: You can either rent a car in Queenstown and drive yourself to Glenorchy, or, jump on a guided tour. This full-day tour includes stops along the road to Glenorchy as well as lots of time to explore Glenorchy itself. Glenorchy Lord of the Rings tours are also very popular with visitors to Queenstown.
26. Visit Game Over Queenstown
Game Over Queenstown is the perfect activity to do when it’s raining especially for those who love to challenge their friends. Game Over has three activities you can do including indoor go-karting, laser tag, and an arcade.
My personal favorite is go-karting. Game Over Queenstown has an indoor track that, although small, has really tight corners which makes racing fun and challenging! The go-karts are electric and they do limit the speeds on the karts for safety reasons. I personally find it lots of fun, but people who are used to racing fast go-karts might not.
Game Over Queenstown also has the largest selection of arcade games in Queenstown. You can play most games for only $1 each so it’s pretty cheap and there are lots of prizes to win. Personally, this isn’t my thing but some people love it.
The last thing to do at Game Over is Jurassic Battle Laser Tag. I’ve never played laser tag in Queenstown, but I have done it elsewhere. I’m not sure if I love it or not as my partner is a little too competitive!
27. Taste fudge at The Remarkable Sweet Shop
The Remarkable Sweet Shop is the place to be if you have a sweet tooth. Floor to ceiling shelves of candy line the walls and they have tasters of their famous fudge available completely free. Seriously, they’ll let you try every flavor if you want.
Everything in the store is tasty, but my recommendation is to stick to homemade candies and fudge, so delicious!
You’ll find the Remarkable Sweet Shop located on 39 Beach Street right in town center. It is open daily from 9 am to 9 pm. There are also two other locations nearby, one in Arrowtonw and one in the Queenstown Airport.
28. Shop ’til you drop
For a small town, there’s certainly a lot of shopping you can do in Queenstown. From luxury international brands to souvenir stores, there’s plenty to check out. And in winter, shopping provides a way to escape the cold weather.
Although Queenstown isn’t home to lots of huge name-brand stores, there are still a few including Just Jeans, Louis Vuitton, Sunglass Hut, UGG, Ice Breaker, and Katmandu.
What I love most though are the cute boutique stores such as SLOW, STORM Women’s clothing, and Wild South Adventure Clothing. All of these stores can be found around Queenstown town center but there’s lots more to see. My recommendation is to take a wander around.
You’ll also find plenty of souvenir stores scattered around Queenstown, so you can grab something to always remember your trip with!
29. Relax with a mulled wine
Another romantic winter activity in Queenstown is drinking mulled wine. For those who don’t know, mulled wine is essentially hot wine that’s mixed with spices like cinnamon to create a delicious hot beverage perfect for a winter’s night.
In winter, you can find mulled wine throughout Queenstown, however, some of my favorite places include Perky’s Floating Bar, The Bathhouse (my favorite), Attiqa, or at one of the yearly festivals such as LUMA or the Queenstown Winter Festival. Mulled wine is super common in New Zealand in the winter, so you’re sure to see it offered on most drink menus.
30. Attend the Queenstown Arts and Craft Market
Every Saturday many local artists set up small stalls on the waterfront in town (Earnslaw Park) to sell their handmade goods. Here is where you’ll find that special gift for a loved one back home or a souvenir to remember your trip. Not only will you find unique gifts and items here, but you’ll support local vendors and have fun at the same time interacting with everyone, sampling tasty treats, and listening to talented buskers.
This Arts and Craft market is open all winter long from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm. It’s free to visit, but do bring some cash as I highly doubt you’ll be able to leave empty-handed!
31. Go ziplining
Less extreme than bungy jumping or skydiving, ziplining in New Zealand offers panoramic views from high up in the air as you speed through the treetops. Plus, it’s completely doable in the winter months.
There are a few different zipline experiences available in Queenstown. Depending on how many lines you want to do, how much time you have, and you’re budget you can choose from the following zip lining experiences in Queenstown:
- 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!)
It’s important to know that all of the ziplining tours mentioned above starts at Bob’s Peak, so you’re either going to have to hike the Tiki Trail to get there or take the Skyline gondola. If you choose the gondola, this price is additional ($44 NZD) and you’ll need to coordinate your zipline tour start time with the gondola operating times. You should allow an hour to 1.5 hours to get up to Bob’s Peak if you’re taking the gondola.
32. Visit Arrowtown
Arrowtown is a small gold mining town located only 20 minutes from Queenstown. Although gold mining has finished up in the area, the town has kept the old architecture and today it’s as cute as ever.
There are a few cool things to do in Arrowtown including wandering the main street, checking out the many boutique shops, visiting cute cafes, and heading to Slow Cuts to try some local craft beer! Be sure to head down to the river that runs through the town and take a stroll, it’s wonderful, and check out the Chinese Settlement.
You can reach Arrowtown with the public bus if you don’t have a car. To do so, simply head to the Stanley Street Bus Hub B and catch bus 2 towards Arrowtown. The bus takes around 30 minutes to reach Arrowtown from Queenstown and after you can catch the same bus back.
33. Get scared at Fear Factory
Fear Factory in Queenstown claims to be New Zealand’s scariest haunted house – and based on my experience, that’s probably true.
As you walk through the haunted house you’ll encounter various actors that make the haunted house next-level scary. Don’t worry though, if at any point the house becomes too scary you can yell “I chicken out” to be brought directly to the exit. You’ll join over 23,000 other people who also were not able to complete the experience – a testament to how scary Fear Factory in Queenstown really is!
Prices change seasonally, but you can often snag a deal for about $40 NZD per adult. Fear Factory is centrally located on Shotover Street and you can book your visit online in advance. It is an indoor experience, so perfect for a really cold winter day!
34. Join a Lord of the Rings Tour
Around Queenstown, many of the scenes of the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed. If you don’t know where they are for yourself then joining a Lord of the Rings tour is the best way to visit them.
This particular tour is the one I did and loved! The guide was super knowledgeable and besides telling us about LOTR, he also explained about Queenstown in general. LOTR tours are also scenic experiences because all of the movie film locations around Queenstown are absolutely breathtaking – Lord of the Rings fan or not, you won’t be able to deny this after visiting!
LOTR tours operate all year round, although, I do recommend trying to pick a warmer day since all of the film locations are outside. Or, just dress for the occasion!
35. Go ice-skating
The truth is, it doesn’t get cold enough to have an outdoor skating rink in Queenstown. But that’s okay because Queenstown has its very own indoor ice skating rink that is open to the public!
Public ice skating sessions are only $15 NZD per person and include the use of a helmet and skates all day.
Queenstown Ice Arena also has a fully stocked bar which might make the bruises from falling down a little less painful – or at least help with your bruised ego. You’ll find the arena right in central Queenstown next to the Queenstown Gardens.
Essential Tips for Visiting Queenstown in Winter
- Wear layers and have warm clothing. Gloves and a beanie are essential, especially on colder days or in the evenings. Boots will also be handy.
- If you need, you can buy winter clothing for cheap once you get to Queenstown. Head to the Salvation Army (second-hand store) or K-Mart to stock up.
- If you’re planning to drive in the winter in Queenstown, be sure you have snow chains. On some roads, including the ones up to the ski fields, snow chains can be required. You should also know how to use them. Ask your car rental company for a demonstration, or just refer to trusty YouTube.
- If you want to avoid the busiest time during the winter in Queenstown, be sure to not visit during New Zealand or Australia school holidays. These couple of weeks (from mid-July to the end of July) are by far the busiest.
- Be sure to book in advance (especially if you’re visiting during the school holidays.) This includes your hotel, tours, and rental car.
Where to Stay in Queenstown in Winter
When it comes to where to stay in Queenstown in winter this all depends on what you’re here for the most. If it’s skiing at Coronet Peak or The Remarkables then there are hotels for each ski field, if it’s for the vibrant town then there also a hotel for you. Below are the best hotels in Queenstown for different reasons and trips!
Hilton Resort and Spa – The Hilton is easily the best hotel if you’re skiing at The Remarkables due to its close location to the ski field access road.
Swiss-Belresort Coronet Peak – If you plan on skiing at Coronet Peak why not stay at the bottom of the access road. Swiss-Belresort is the best for this but there are also a few other hotels nearby you can check by clicking the map on the link above.
Nomads Queenstown Backpackers – For budget travels Nomads Queenstown is one of the best places to stay in Queenstown. Its location is perfect, and they have dorms and budget private rooms. Nomads is one of the best cheap hostels in Queenstown.
Crown Plaza Queenstown – if you want to stay close to town but in a nice hotel, Crown Plaza Queenstown is my choice. It’s in the heart of town along St Omar Park and they even have lake views!
There are also plenty of holiday home rentals you can choose from in Queenstown.
For more info on the best places to stay, check out my complete guide on where to stay in Queenstown! It includes all the best accommodation in various different areas of Queenstown!
Thanks for reading!
There’s really no shortage of amazing things to do in Queenstown in winter. But to be honest, winter is not just about that. It’s about the snow, views, atmosphere, and of course, the mulled wine! It kind of reminds me of home…just without the minus 30 temperatures!
Thanks so much for reading! If you found this blog helpful, then be sure to stay awhile and browse around. This blog is all about Queenstown and the surrounding area!