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How to Spend 3 Days in Queenstown: A Detailed Itinerary (by a local!)

How to Spend 3 Days in Queenstown: A Detailed Itinerary (by a local!)

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So, you’ve got 3 days to spend in Queenstown! Lucky you – this picturesque lakeside town, also known as the “adventure capital of the world”, is one of my favorite destinations on Earth. 

If you can’t spend a full week in Queenstown, three days will be the perfect little getaway! I’ve put together the ultimate 3-day itinerary for Queenstown based on my favorite things to do here. It ticks off all of this city’s top highlights – like riding the Skyline Gondola, taking a day trip to the 8th Wonder of the World (Milford Sound), and cruising along Lake Wakatipu on the historic TSS Earnslaw

And because you have limited time here, I’ve only included the VERY BEST Queenstown activities. I’m not just talking about the most popular things to do, either. I’ve also added some local favorites, like hiking Queenstown Hill, relaxing at the Onsen Hot Pools, and driving to Glenorchy!

Three days is the minimum amount of time I’d recommend spending in Queenstown, as there really is so much to do and see here. So, let’s dive in! Below, you’ll find the best 3-day Queenstown itinerary on the internet. Not to toot my own horn, but as a local, I know this town like the back of my hand!

Don’t have time to read the full article? Three days in Queenstown is just enough time to get a taste! Day one gets a little adventurous with a Queenstown Hill hike and ziplining at Bob’s Peak. On day two, take a tour to Milford Sound. You can choose your own adventure on your last day by visiting Glenorchy or taking a Gibbston Valley Wine Tour.

Day 1 – Get Acquainted with Queenstown

You should spend day 1 in Queenstown familiarizing yourself with this scenic lakeside town. Its magic will surely enamor you within the first hour.

For your first day, I’ve combined several activities that will give you sweeping views of the area. Along the way, you’ll taste delicious local cuisine, get some exercise, and even relax in a hot pool. Trust me, your memorable first day will set the standard for the rest of your 3-day Queenstown itinerary! 

Morning – Iconic Queenstown breakfast and sightseeing in town

The famous Fergbaker in Queenstown
The Fergbaker Cafe in Queenstown is a must!

I always recommend setting aside your first morning in a new city to wander and get your bearings.

This morning, I suggest a casual breakfast at the iconic Fergbaker (sister to the uber-famous Fergburger next door). As I said, this is a relaxed spot and one of the best breakfast spots in Queenstown. However, it has no seating, so opt for a takeaway breakfast and a stroll through town.

I recommend their jalapeno bagel with cream cheese, or if you have a sweet tooth, their Pan au Chocolat is to die for. Oh, and don’t forget coffee. Their coffee is so good and super strong – it’s sure to wake you up! 

Fergbaker opens at 6 am so if you wake up bright and early, it’s a reliable spot to start your day.If you don’t fancy walking and eating, there are a few benches outside Fergbaker, or head straight for the lakefront and enjoy your breakfast with a view.

The main shopping street in Queenstown is the pedestrianized Queenstown Mall. I often walk up and down here after breakfast and pop into some of the stylish clothing stores and souvenir shops. Queenstown Mall is close to Steamer Wharf, which is lined with waterfront restaurants. It’s also where the TSS Earnslaw departs from (more on that later).

Next, I recommend walking towards Queenstown Beach to snap some pretty pictures. The beach is backdropped by the Cecil Peak and Walter Peak mountains, and you’ll also be able to see the mighty Remarkables in the distance.

If you have time, head to the Queenstown Gardens at the other end of the beach. However, you probably won’t be able to walk the whole trail that runs through the gardens, as it will take around 30-45 minutes. But if you’re a super early riser and have a lot of endurance, go for it! Just make sure to save enough energy for the hike that’s coming up next.

Late morning – Hike Queenstown Hill

Basket of Dreams at the top of Queenstown Hill, New Zealand
Basket of Dreams at the top of Queenstown Hill!

As I said, I recommend skipping the Queenstown Gardens walk and saving your energy for a more scenic (but more challenging) hike up Queenstown Hill. Now that you’re fed and have coffee in your system, you’ll be ready to tackle one of the most popular hikes in Queenstown – and, as I mentioned, a local favorite!

The 2.5-kilometer (1.6-mile) trail takes you high above Queenstown and boasts some of the best views of the town and Lake Wakatipu. You’ll also find the beautiful Basket of Dreams sculpture at the summit, which is believed to inspire dreaming. Allow around 3 hours to complete the Queenstown Hill Track, which should give you enough time to snap photos along the way. 

It can be a challenging trail, as it’s quite steep. You’ll be gaining about 600 meters (1,969 feet) in elevation from the trailhead. Although you’ll get that heart pumping, I still consider it one of the easier hiking trails in Queenstown, mainly because it’s well-maintained and easy to follow. 

To access the Queenstown Hill hike, you’ll need to get yourself to Belfast Terrace, which is a 20-minute walk from the center of town. Here, you’ll find a small parking lot and signs marking the Queenstown Hill trailhead. From there, just follow the trail and enjoy the views!

Afternoon – Visit Bob’s Peak

Views from Skyline in Queenstown on a winter day with views of the Remarkables Mountain Range and Lake Wakatipu
The view from the top of the Skyline Gondola is iconic!

This morning, you’ve ticked off Queenstown CBD and hiked one of the best trails in the region. So this afternoon, it’s time to complete a tourist staple in Queenstown – riding the Skyline Gondola. This gondola takes you to Bob’s Peak, which is 450 meters (1,476 feet) above Queenstown.

As you can guess, this peak boasts some seriously showstopping views. But the phenomenal view isn’t the only thing it’s got going for it. On top of Bob’s Peak, you can also ride a luge, go ziplining, and if you’re feeling really brave, try paragliding.  

As I said, the most popular way to get to Bob’s Peak is by riding the famed Skyline Gondola. You can also hike the Tiki Trail to Bob’s Peak, but I’m guessing you’ve done enough hiking already this morning!

The gondola station is located not too far from the Queenstown Hill trailhead. It should take you roughly 20 minutes to walk here or 5 minutes to drive. The gondola ride itself is around 5 minutes long, includes stunning views, and costs $52 NZD per adult.

Ride the Luge

Once safely at the top, you must ride the Luge, especially if you’re visiting Queenstown with kids! If you don’t know what “luging” entails, it’s like go-karting, except the luges don’t have motors and are gravity-powered instead. They go a lot faster than you’d think, and because the track is mostly downhill, you’ll likely be using the brakes A LOT! Believe me, it’s an incredible adventure activity in Queenstown.

Luge tickets come with the gondola ride included, so it’s best to buy them together. Prices start from $73 NZD for three luge rides per adult. You can purchase luge and gondola tickets in advance here.

Other things to do at Bob’s Peak

You could easily spend a full day up at Bob’s Peak. But since you have limited time, you’ll have to pick and choose your top activities. I’ve listed some of my favorites below. You won’t be able to do everything, so you’ll just have to return to Queenstown in the future to tick them all off! 

  • Ziplining – Bob’s Peak is one of the best places to go ziplining in New Zealand. It’s actually one of the steepest ziplines in the world, with a whopping 21-meter (69-foot) drop at the end. This unique ziplining experience costs $119 NZD for the Kereru 2-Line Tour but doesn’t include gondola tickets. This option is one hour long, and most of the circuits go through the trees, but your final zipline takes you to the mountain’s base! 
  • Paragliding – This activity is best suited to all you daredevils, as you will literally be running off the side of Bob’s Peak! This private tandem paragliding experience costs $320 NZD and is offered at 11:50 am on most summer days. Not only is it a bucket-list-worthy thing to do, but the views as you soar down to Queenstown are unreal!
  • Hiking – If you can’t get enough of hiking, then you should try to squeeze in the easy-peasy 1.5-kilometer (0.9-mile) Skyline Loop while you’re up here. It’s one of the easiest hikes in Queenstown!
  • Have some lunch – If you’re feeling a little peckish after your eventful morning, then you’re in luck. The Market Kitchen Cafe offers a huge variety of dishes with a side of views. I loved their pizza selection!

Related Read: If you love craft beer (like me!), check out the best places to drink craft beer in Queenstown!

Dinner – Head back down to Queenstown

Bailey with a cocktail at Blue Kanu in Queenstown
Blue Kanu has always been my favorite restaurant in Queenstown!
A meal at Blue Kanu in Queenstown, New Zealand
The food in Blue Kanu is full of flavor!

I recommend heading back into vibrant Queenstown for an early dinner instead of staying up at Bob’s Peak. If you’re spending a full week in Queenstown, I’d send you to the renowned Stratosfare Restaurant & Bar, which offers an incredible dining experience with a sunset view. But because you have limited time here, I suggest hitting up one of Queenstown’s best restaurants for dinner!

One of my personal favorites is Blue Kanu, which serves up a fusion of Pacific Island and Asian food. Their dishes are certainly unique, to say the least, and I especially love their Slow Braised Beef Cheek and Duck Nachos! This restaurant is open from 5 pm – 11 pm daily and also offers lunch on Fridays and Saturdays.

If you’re in the mood for a more casual eatery on your first night, then head to Public Kitchen and Bar. This popular spot is open daily till about 10 pm and is located on Steamer Wharf, which provides an awesome view of Lake Wakatipu. They specialize in using local produce, so you can rest assured everything is fresh and flavorful. If you’re visiting Queenstown in the summer, try to nab one of their patio tables!

I also love Botswana Butchery, an up-scale eatery located next door to the historic Eichardt’s hotel. They have incredible steaks and seafood options. They have log fires both inside and out, making it a great choice if you’re visiting Queenstown in the winter. Plus, they’re open every day from 12 pm – 12 am, so it’s easy to fit into your schedule.

Money-saving tip: If you plan your Queenstown itinerary in advance, you may be able to snag a table on the website First Table. This website allows you to get 50% off your food at most restaurants in Queenstown. 

Late evening – Onsen Hot Pools

the view at ONSEN Hot Pools in Queenstown, New Zealand
What a view! Photo credit: Onsen Hot Pools
beautiful views at ONSEN Hot Pools in Queenstown, New Zealand
Just WOW! Photo credit: Onsen Hot Pools

Luckily, your first day in Queenstown isn’t quite over yet! After an early dinner, I suggest heading to the Instagram-famous Onsen Hot Pools. Although it feels super remote, it’s just a short drive from town. 

Like most of the other hot pools in Queenstown, you can book a private hot pool at Onsen. This way, you can relax and take in the mountain views with a loved one or group of friends, as each pool fits up to 4 people. As I said, this is a super popular experience, so it’s essential you book it in advance. They’re open from 9 am to 11 pm daily, making it a perfect post-dinner treat.

One hour in a private outdoor bath costs between $98-$240 NZD depending on your group size. Indoor onsens cost slightly more, and you can choose to add relaxing treatments to your spa evening. They offer everything from massages and facials to a 2-hour “Head to Toe” experience.

If you rent a car in Queenstown, it’ll only take 10 minutes to drive here. However, if you had some wine with dinner, you can also take the complimentary shuttle from Marmolada Cafe. It leaves at half past the hour, so your reservation must be on the hour to use this service. You’ll also need to request the shuttle at the time of booking and make sure to give them your phone number.

Hot tip: If you can, try to book your hot pool experience for sunset! As for the best time to visit the Onsen Hot Pools, that has to be winter when the surrounding mountains are covered in snow. In fact, this is one of the best Queenstown winter activities!

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Day 2 – Day Trip to Milford Sound

A boat travels right up to Stirling Falls in Milford Sound
Mitre Falls is spectacular!
Scenic flight into Milford Sound, New Zealand
Milford from up high!

I know what you’re thinking … I only have 3 days in Queenstown, and you’re recommending I take a day trip from Queenstown on my second day? Well, hear me out! Milford Sound is most definitely worth it. Often referred to as the “8th Wonder of the World,” it’s one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand if not the whole Southern Hemisphere. 

Interestingly, Milford Sound is one of the wettest places in the world. In fact, this region looks its most beautiful in the rain! While in Milford, you’ll witness steep cliffs covered in lush green vegetation, rocky valleys, and gushing waterfalls, where you can get a “glacial facial” (more on that below)! 

Situated within Fiordland National Park, Milford Sound isn’t actually a sound but a fiord. And it’s the only fiord in the country accessible by road, hence its popularity.

There are several ways to get to Milford Sound. It’s a 3.5-hour drive from Queenstown, but I recommend taking a tour to Milford Sound instead of driving there yourself. The road can be nerve-wracking, especially between Te Anau and Milford Sound. It will also be super-tiring. As I said, the drive is 3.5 hours each way, so that’s a minimum of 7 hours of driving, which is a lot for one day! 

Tours to Milford Sound

As you can imagine, Milford is a tourist hotspot (it attracts over 1 million visitors a year), so there are heaps of tour options from Queenstown. You can make a whole day of it with a bus-cruise-bus tour or indulge yourself with a scenic flight to Milford Sound. It really depends on your budget and what type of experience you’d like.

My advice is to jump on one of the bus tours from Queenstown to Milford. It will be a long day (allow about 12 hours), but because someone is driving you, you can sit back in your comfortable seat and admire the stunning scenery. On the drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound, the top sights to look out for include Eglinton Valley, Gertrude Valley, and the Homer Tunnel.

My top choice is this small-group full-day tour to Milford Sound because it offers a more personalized experience. It has a maximum of 16 people, so you’ll get more attention from the guides. Plus, you’ll make scenic stops to snap those Insta-worthy photos!

The cruise section of the tour is one of the best cruises in Milford, as you’ll be boarding the smallest boat in the sound. Its compact size enables you to get up super close to the mighty Mitre Falls to experience the “glacial facial” I mentioned earlier. Yup, you’ll get so close that the ice-cold spray of the water from the waterfall will splash on your face. When I went, it felt super energizing!

It’s also pretty reasonably priced at $299 NZD, including roundtrip transport from your hotel in Queenstown, a 2-hour cruise, tea and coffee on board the boat, and a knowledgeable local guide. There are also options to add a packed lunch or upgrade to a glass-roof bus for even better views. You can book this small group day tour in advance here!

If you want to save time, consider a splurge-worthy flight to Milford Sound from Queenstown. This greatly cuts your travel time, leaving time for other activities. You could go on a Lord of the Rings Tour or complete another hike. I really enjoyed the Mt Crichton Loop Track.

Taking a helicopter tour to Milford Sound was, hands down, an amazing experience. However, I also love this Fly-Cruise-Fly Milford Sound tour, which is cheaper because it’s in a fixed-wing plane. This option is ideal because it lasts for just 5 hours and also includes the nature cruise. The views from the air are astounding and worth the $645 NZD price alone. 

Alternatively, you could opt for this bus-cruise-scenic flight tour, which offers the best of all worlds. You get a bus journey there to see all the sights along the way. Then, you’ll enjoy a 2-hour nature cruise on the fiord and a scenic flight back. Because you’re avoiding the lengthy bus journey back, it’s a shorter tour at 8.5 hours. This popular tour starts at $731 NZD per person and can be booked online here

Of course, if you have more time, I highly recommend staying a couple of nights in Te Anau (the closest town to Milford). Or, stay in Milford Sound to give yourself loads of time to explore the area.

Related Read: If you’ve driven yourself here and have extra time, check out one of the many scenic hikes in Milford Sound!

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!

Day 3 – Relax and Enjoy the Scenery

Bailey at the famous trees in a line on Lake Wakatipu, Glenorchy
The Glenorchy Walkway in Lake Wakatipu!

For your final day in Queenstown, I’m going to give you two options for the morning. If you’re a nature lover and adore hiking and photography, then option 1 – driving or booking a guided tour to Glenorchy will be right up your alley. This scenic town has a lovely boardwalk trail, an Insta-famous site, and some seriously good meat pies. Your second option is a wine tour to Gibbston Valley, which is a must for wine lovers or anyone looking for a more relaxing Day 3! 

With both options, you can either take a guided tour from Queenstown or book a rental car online. Each has pros and cons, which I’ll dive into below! But first, it’s time for breakfast.

Breakfast

Food and coffee from Odelay Cafe in Queenstown
You can’t beat the food at Odelay!

Grab a quick bite to eat at your hotel or one of the many cafes in Queenstown. I love Vudu which has amazing coffee, cakes, and breakfast dishes.

If you’re picking up your rental car in Frankton, then check out Odelay Café. This cafe is in Remarkable Park (right next to the airport) and doesn’t disappoint. I love their Eggs Benedict, or if you have a sweet tooth, try their buttermilk pancakes.

Morning and afternoon (option 1) – Glenorchy

View of the mountains and lake from Bennetts Bluff Lookout
View of the mountains and lake from Bennetts Bluff Lookout on the drive to Glenorchy!

For this day trip, you’re going to need some wheels! There are no public buses from Queenstown to Glenorchy, so your only options are to drive yourself or book a guided tour like this half-day tour. Your day will include stops at iconic Lord of the Rings filming spots, visits to both Glenorchy and the aptly named Paradise (north of Glenorchy) as well as a lakeside picnic!

This tour costs $179 NZD per person, including roundtrip transport from Marmolada Cafe and your knowledgeable guide. Tours run 4-5 hours and leave at 9 am and 2 pm, but you’ll want to choose the morning option if you’re following this itinerary! This is a very popular day tour out of Queenstown, so be sure to book it in advance before it fills up!

However, if you want more control over your day, I recommend renting a car for the day. Queenstown car rentals can be very cheap and will cost you less than a guided tour would. Plus, you’ll be able to stop wherever you please!

The drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy may just turn out to be the best part of your morning. It’s a 45-minute drive between the two towns, and the route starts just past Fernhill – the road is conveniently called the Glenorchy-Queenstown Road, so you can’t go wrong! 

There are several picturesque stops along this short drive, but below, I’ve listed the best ones. 

  • Wilson Bay – Located 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) from Queenstown, the stunning Wilson Bay is the perfect place for a swim. If you’re not up for a cold dip (the water here averages 14°C/57°F), simply stroll along the shore and snap some photos of the deep blue Lake Wakatipu and Cecil Peak in the background!
  • Bob’s Cove – Just 5 kilometers (3 miles) from Wilson Bay is Bob’s Cove, one of the most stunning beaches in the Queenstown area. And the best part is it’s usually crowd-free. If you leave Queenstown early, you’ll have time to walk Bob’s Cove Track up to Picnic Point, which will take around 30 minutes. If you didn’t swim in Wilson Bay and regret it, you can dive off the scenic jetty here! 
  • Bennett’s Bluff Lookout – This is the best viewpoint between Queenstown and Glenorchy, and because it’s just that – a viewpoint, it will be a quick stop. Park at the small parking lot on the left side of the road and walk the short trail to the viewpoint. Be sure to take plenty of photos! 

Have a pie (and a coffee) from Mrs Woolly’s General Store

The front of Mrs. Woolly General Store and Cafe
Mrs Woolly’s General Store and Cafe!

I mentioned the awesome meat pies in Glenorchy earlier. Well, you can try them right here at Mrs Woolly’s General Store. Some popular flavors include the steak and mushroom pie and the salmon pie! Besides delicious pies, they also serve excellent coffee and other baked goods.

If you haven’t picked up a Queenstown souvenir yet, this is a great place to do it. They sell lots of quirky locally made souvenirs in their store! It’s open daily from 8:30 am – 5:30 pm, and stays open till 6 on Fridays and Saturdays.

Spend some time in Glenorchy

The Glenorchy Railway Shed in Glenorchy at the trailhead of the Glenorchy Walkway
The famous Glenorchy Railway Shed!

You should first make a beeline for the bright red Glenorchy Boatshed, which serves as the entry point to Glenorchy Jetty and is backdropped by snowcapped mountains. I’m sure you’ve seen a photo of this super-photogenic spot on your social media feed!  

From there, head towards the start of the Glenorchy Walkway (aka one of the best hikes in Glenorchy), which leads to the Glenorchy Lagoon. It’s such a lovely, easy walk, and at just 5 kilometers (3 miles) long, it will take you just under an hour to complete. The crown jewel of this trail is the Glenorchy Lagoon, referred to as Mirror Lakes by locals because the water’s calm surface reflects the surrounding mountains. 

If you have time, check out the Glenorchy Animal Experience

A lady feeds llamas at the Glenorchy Animal Experience
Feeding the animals is so much fun!

Next up on this itinerary is a quintessential Kiwi experience – a visit to a local farm where you can feed the animals and even watch a sheep shearing demonstration (this happens at 2:30 pm every day!). It’s only a 5-minute drive from Glenorchy to the Glenorchy Animal Experience. A self-guided tour here costs only just $25 NZD per adult. 

If you don’t have a rental car, another great tour option is this tour from Queenstown to Glenorchy. It includes a stop at the Glenorchy Animal Experience and all the other classic Glenorchy sights like the boatshed and Paradise. Since you’re already taking a day trip to Glenorchy, this one is icing on the cake because you’ll visit the petting zoo too! You can reserve this tour for $194 NZD online here!

Stop by Moke Lake on your return to Queenstown

Views of Moke Lake along the Moke Lake Loop
Moke Lake is picture-perfect!

After a natural beauty-filled morning, it’s time to return to Queenstown for your evening activity. And if you’ve driven yourself, be sure to allow some time to stop off at Moke Lake.

This picture-perfect lake is about 38 kilometers (23.6 miles) from Glenorchy. Keep in mind the final section of the road is a gravel road, so you will need to drive slowly. You should also keep an eye out for sheep and lambs, who may wander onto the road!

Moke Lake is an iconic destination in Queenstown. There are lots of different things to do at Moke Lake, but you likely won’t have time for too much today. If you can fit it in, you could walk some of the Moke Lake Loop track or hike up to the “secret” viewpoint

Morning and afternoon (option 2) – Wine tour in the Gibbston Valley

Bailey walks the vines in the Gibbston Valley wine region
I’m just checking on the baby wine!
Bailey enjoys a glass of wine at Gibbston Valley Winery, New Zealand
Cheers!

Wine lovers, this next tour suggestion is for you. If you want to drink some delicious wine and relax in stunning surroundings, skip Glenorchy and book a memorable Gibbston Valley wine tour instead. 

Gibbston Valley is under a 30-minute drive from the center of Queenstown, and this region boasts some of the top wineries on the South Island. Due to its high altitude and sunny location, it produces some of the best Pinot Noir in the world.

It’s also referred to as the “Valley of the Vines” because it’s arguably one of the prettiest wine-growing areas in the Southern Hemisphere. Here you’ll find well-known Queenstown wineries like Kinross, Chard Farm, and Peregrine sandwiched between jagged mountains and the Kawarau River.

If you want to sample all the delicious wine, you won’t be able to drive, so you’ll need to book a wine tour from Queenstown. Most tours include return transport from your hotel in Queenstown, a knowledgeable local guide, and a couple of wine tastings.

As tours go (and there are plenty), this 5.5-hour Central Otago Wine Tour from Queenstown is one of my top choices. It includes stops at 4 wineries, a light lunch, all your wine tastings, and transport for $239 NZD.

If you want to keep costs down, this budget-friendly Hop-on Hop-off bus doubles as a self-guided wine tour. It’s similar to the hop-on-hop-off buses you see in most major cities worldwide, except, in this case, you’re hopping off at wineries instead of historic sights. It’s a very popular option as it gives you the freedom to explore the region at your own pace. Buses depart from The Station every 45 minutes, and you can choose from a half-day (4 hours for $66 NZD) or a full-day ticket (8 hours for $90 NZD). 

If you’re an active traveler or hoping to burn off all the wine you’ll consume, consider this bike and wine tour. It costs $85-$90 NZD, including roundtrip transport from Queenstown to the starting point of the 9-kilometer (5.5-mile) trail, your bike and helmet, and a detailed map so you can pick which wineries to stop off at. You can also pay extra for an e-bike if you don’t want to do all the work! However, it’s worth noting that wine tastings aren’t included and typically cost $10-$15 NZD. 

Related Read: If you’re heading to Auckland next, check out my guide on spending three days in Auckland!

Evening – TSS Earnslaw Dinner Cruise

The TSS Earnslaw docks at Walter Peak Station
The TSS Earnslaw docks at Walter Peak Station!
Local meats at the Walter Peak Station dinner cruise with the TSS Earnslaw
Local meats at the Walter Peak Station dinner cruise!

End your 3-day Queenstown itinerary on a high with a sunset cruise on the historic TSS Earnslaw Steamship (aka the last remaining vessel from the Gold Rush). You’ll get to witness the sunset while cruising along Lake Wakatipu in a coal-powered ship which is such a unique experience. Plus, you’ll also be treated to an AMAZING buffet dinner at Walter Peak High Country Farm!

As you can imagine, this sunset cruise with a buffet dinner is one of the most popular tours in Queenstown! The buffet dinner was the highlight for me. There was a variety of roasted meats, a huge selection of seafood, sides like roasted potatoes, and all sorts of vegetables, as well as heavenly homemade desserts. This spread is served up at the Colonel’s Homestead at Walter Peak farm, and the views of the lake as you eat are postcard-worthy! 

While over at Walter Peak Farm, you’ll also get to watch some demonstrations. My group witnessed a sheep shearing demo and saw how the sheepdogs round up the sheep. It’s another true Kiwi experience that everyone in the family will love! 

Oh, and I forgot to mention that on board the TSS Earnslaw, you can watch the workers shoveling coal into the burner as you chug along the lake. There’s also a bar on board! 

The Walter Peak Sunset Cruise will set you back $189 NZD, and it leaves from Steamer Wharf in central Queenstown. I can’t think of a better way to end your time in Queenstown. However, this popular cruise sells out fast, so book this tour in advance here!

As you cruise back into Queenstown at the end of the tour, take a few moments to reminisce on the epic 3 days you’ve enjoyed in the “adventure capital of the world.” In such a short space of time, you’ve really seen the best of Queenstown. After getting a taste of this awesome destination, I just know you’ll be itching to return again soon, but next time for longer! 

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 onboard the TSS Earnslaw on her way to Walter Peak Station for dinner
Thanks for reading!

And that’s a wrap on the best 3-day Queenstown itinerary. As a local, I know this area well and am confident this guide covers only the best destinations and experiences. I hope you enjoyed reading my suggestions and have an amazing time in this glorious lakeside town!

Before you visit, be sure to check out my blog all about New Zealand. I’ve written tons of detailed articles about Queenstown and other amazing places to visit in the South Island that I’m sure you’ll want to read! Here are some of my most popular guides: 

10 BEST Helicopter Tours in Queenstown

ULTIMATE Guide to Visiting Queenstown in December (A Local Guide!)

The BEST time to visit Queenstown – Comparing the Four Seasons

The BEST 5 Days in Queenstown Itinerary – From a Local!