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A wine tour is one of the most popular activities in Queenstown. It sits on the doorstep of some of the best wineries in the Otago Wine Region and the famed Gibbston Valley Wine Region.
Some of the best wineries in Australasia are located in Central Otago and the Pinot Noir made here is world-famous. Adding to that – the views from most of the wineries are of course breathtaking! It seems the adventure capital of New Zealand is the perfect companion to the more relaxing activity of wine tasting.
There are lots of different wine tours to choose from in Queenstown from a guided E-bike wine tour to a fun hop-on-hop-off bus, and there’s even a super-luxurious helicopter wine tour. There’s definitely a wine tour for everyone and every budget in Queenstown. And in this blog, I’ll break down every wine tour in detail to help you choose the one that’s best for you.
About the Otago Wine Region
The Central Otago wine region is the world’s southernmost commercial wine growing area. The area is most famous for its Pinot Noir.
Wine grapes started to be grown here way back in the 1860s at the time of the gold rush – which brought lots of European settlers to the area. In fact, it was a French miner Jean Desire Feraud who planted the first vines and he even won awards in Australia for his wine at the time. It wasn’t until 1950 though, that the significant planting of vines in the area began.
The wine-growing region here is located at 300 meters above sea level and is protected by the surrounding mountains. As a result of its location, Central Otago has the only continental climate zone in New Zealand – precipitation levels are low and the Summers are typically hot and dry. All of this makes it the ideal growing ground for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc.
The only downside to the weather in Central Otago is that there can be significant frost and snow in the Winter – which can damage the vines. In fact, during times of cold temperatures when grapes are on the vines helicopters are used to blow the cool air away from the grapes.
Within the Central Otago Wine Region, the most famous sub-region is the Gibbston Valley. The Gibbston Valley is located around 30 minutes from Queenstown (on the road between Queenstown and Cromwell) and is home to some of the best wineries in the entire region. It’s a popular stop on a road trip from Queenstown to Mount Cook and even Queenstown to Milford Sound. For most visitors to Queenstown, this is the wine region you will explore!
Related Read: A wine tour is the perfect romantic activity for a couple on their honeymoon in Queenstown. Read my complete guide to planning the best honeymoon in Queenstown.
What to Expect from a Queenstown Wine Tour
There are 133 wineries in the Central Otago region. These wineries are spread across the regions of Gibbston Valley; Bannockburn/Cromwell, Bendigo, Alexandra, and Wanaka. In this blog, I focus on the more popular wine-producing regions and those that are closer to Queenstown. The Gibbston Valley is the closest and probably the most famous and as a result, all wine tours include it as a stop. Queenstown is just a 30-minute drive from the Gibbston Valley wine region and approximately 45 minutes to Bannockburn and Cromwell.
Thus, Queenstown’s close proximity to so many great vineyards means that a full-day or half-day wine tour is easily doable. Plus, all the tours listed below include complimentary pick-up from Queenstown so you don’t need to travel far to begin your tour.
Whether you self-drive this unique wine region or get a guided tour you are sure to be in awe of the beauty of the area as well as the delicious wine and food served up at the wineries. A wine tour in Queenstown is the perfect rainy-day activity and if I’m honest, no matter the weather it should be added to everyone’s Queenstown itinerary.
7 Different Types of Wine Tours to Choose from in Queenstown
Here, I list 7 of the best wine tours available in Queenstown. I wonder which one you will choose for your next trip here!
1. Full-day Guided Wine Tour with Lunch
The full-day tour option is one of the most popular wine tours in Queenstown. It is a guided tour that brings you to both the Gibbston Valley and the Bannockburn wine regions with stops in the historic towns of Cromwell and Arrowtown. Allow 6.5 hours in total for this tour.
Should you choose this option you will be lucky enough to visit up to four vineyards – each one unique and of course with fantastic wine and views on offer. On this tour you will also get to experience a very interesting lunch – your food is cooked in a wine barrel! The five small dishes will then be matched with complementary wines by your host. This tour also includes a tour through the largest underground wine cave in Australasia.
You will have the chance to spend some time in historic Old Cromwell as well as the very photogenic Arrowtown. On your way back to Queenstown you will stop off at the famous Kawarau Bungy Bridge – home of the first commercial bungy in the world and one of the best adventure activities in Queenstown.
This tour costs approximately $240 NZD per person, which is reasonable considering you visit four wineries, have an excellent lunch as well as visit both Old Cromwell town and Arrowtown. It’s a great option for those who want to see more than just vineyards.
You can book this full day wine tour in advance here.
2. Half-day Guided Wine Tour
The next wine tour in Queenstown is a 4.5 hour afternoon tour to the Gibbston Valley Wine Region. Your tour includes a visit to three wineries and even a tour through an underground wine cave. How cool!
At just a 30 minute drive from Queenstown, choosing this tour means you won’t spend too much time traveling to and from the wineries. You will have some free time at Gibbston Valley Winery to enjoy some lunch if you wish – which I highly recommend doing. However, on this tour, you’ll need to pay for lunch yourself.
If you or someone you’re traveling with isn’t a wine fan you can opt to substitute the wine tasting for beer tasting. And there’s a lot of great beer brewed in these parts so it’s a win-win.
This is a great introductory wine tour and starts from a reasonable $164 per person. It’s a great option if you don’t have much time in Queenstown and want to spend your morning doing other relaxing activities in Queenstown.
You can book this half day Queenstown wine tour here.
3. Hop-on-hop-off Wine Tour
You’ve likely come across the hop-on-hop-off bus experiences on your travels, but this is one with a difference because it includes wine! The Wine Hopper bus in Queenstown runs an hourly circuit 6 times a day and stops at several stops (wineries and other attractions) in the Gibbston Valley. The bus returns to Queenstown at several times throughout the day – arriving into town at 1 pm, 3 pm, 5 pm, or 6 pm.
Depending on how much time you have you can easily visit all the stops in one day or just choose a select few and spend longer at those stops. The stops include Gibbston Valley Winery, Kinross, Mt Rosa Winery, Brennan Winery, Cargo Brewery, Waitiri, Bald Hills, Gibbston Tavern, Akarua, Cox’s Vineyard, Peregrine, Wet Jacket, Amisfield, Rockburn, and Rockies Palette at Stoneridge. Basically, all the best wineries in Queenstown!
This option gives you the freedom to do it yourself whilst providing transport to/ from so you don’t have to have a designated driver in your group. This is one of the cheapest wine tours in Queenstown starting at just $80 NZD per person. It’s an ideal option for more independent travelers who love the freedom of planning their own day but can still rely on reliable transport to each stop.
You can book your hop-on hop-off tour in advance here.
4. Bike and Wine Guided Tour
This half-day option makes you work for your wine, although not too hard, it is an E-bike after all. You’ll be picked up in Queenstown and transferred the short drive to Arrowtown. It is from this historic gold mining town that your guide will take you for a tour of the stunning Wakatipu Basin on one of the best bike trails in the Queenstown area. You will even cycle over the famous Kawarau Bungy Bridge. The bike ride is 16km one-way.
Your winery stop is at Kinross where you can relax and savor the Gibbston Valley wines. Kinross winery is housed within the old Kinross Station which dates back to the 1860’s – so it’s quirky and full of character. You will be given the opportunity to taste some of the best wines in the region here.
The E-bikes themselves are very comfortable and are very easy to operate. You won’t be as tired as you would with a regular bike. The price of this tour starts from $223 NZD per person and is a fantastic choice for those who want to get some exercise in and get up close to the stunning scenery of the region. Your knowledgeable guide is on hand at all times with lots of information about the area and to assist you if you need any help.
And of course, after working up a sweat the wine will taste even better. At the end of the day you will be picked up from a winery of your choice and with your bike, be transferred back to Queenstown.
You can book this bike and guided tour in advance here.
5. Self-guided Bike and Wine Tour
Allow between 4 – 8 hours for this. It all depends on how fast you can cycle and how many wineries you want to see.
You will be picked up from Queenstown at the start of the day and transferred to Arrowtown where you will pick up your bikes. An expert will tell you all about bike safety and size you up for the most comfortable bike for you.
The cycle route will take you along the Gibbston River Trail – you will be given a detailed winery map to help you find your way. The trail from Arrowtown to Gibbston Valley is 16km. The map lists over 8 wineries and they are all easily reachable from the trail. Have lunch at one of the wineries or pack your own and stop at one of the many scenic viewpoints along the way to enjoy it.
If you’re limited on time or aren’t too confident on a bike you can choose the half-day option which drops you off at the Kawarau Bungy Bridge. From there it’s an easy 10 to 15-minute cycle to the first winery. At the end of the day, you will be picked up from the winery of your choice and dropped off back in Queenstown.
Prices for this start at approximately $70 NZD per person. Worth noting is that price doesn’t include the cost of lunch or drinks at the wineries. However, a lot of the wineries do offer limited complimentary tastings.
You can book this self-guided bike tour in advance here!
Related read: While in Arrowtown, check out the 5 best cafes to grab a coffee and relax before your tour!
6. Wine and Beer Guided Tour
This is a 3.5-hour tour ideal if you’re traveling with a beer fan. This is a very social tour with fun and plenty of laughs that departs Queenstown in the late afternoon so you can still get other activities done and maybe even a hike in the morning in Queenstown.
Three stops are included on this tour – two beautiful wineries and a brewery with lots of local craft beer on tap. Enjoy shared antipasto platters with your group whilst your guide tells you all about the region and the wineries here. You will even be treated to a tour of the brewery!
Prices for this tour start at a reasonable $160 NZD per person. The price includes the shared antipasto platter as mentioned above.
You can book this beer and wine guided tour in advance here!
7. Private Wine Tour by Helicopter
This is the ultimate luxury experience in Queenstown – combining fantastic wine and stunning scenery from a helicopter. A bucket-list experience for sure.
You will be picked up from your accommodation in a private luxury car and brought the short 20-minute distance to Gibbston Valley for your first private wine tasting. This is a wine tasting with a difference as it includes some light snacks and a private wine cave tour – the only of its kind on the continent.
From here the real excitement begins as your helicopter picks you up and takes you over the Cromwell Basin and then lands on a mountain top (there may even be snow, especially in the colder months). The lesser-known and hard-to-reach Scott Base Winery is your next stop where you will enjoy the spectacular scenery with your wine.
An open-top Jeep will pick you up from Scott Base to take you to the other wineries including Carrick (it is here you will have a fantastic 2-course lunch), Cloudy Bay, and Mishas Vineyard. Then your second helicopter trip of the day will pick you up and take you over the Kawarau Gorge to Gibbston Valley and Mt Rosa Wines. Your luxury vehicle will pick you up from Gibbston Valley and transfer you back to your Queenstown accommodation.
What a memorable day – this is an envy-inducing romantic experience in Queenstown and whilst certainly a splurge it is worth it for all that is included. It’s certainly something not many tourists to Queenstown can say they’ve done. In my opinion, it’s ideal for honeymooners or for an anniversary celebration.
Where to Stay in Queenstown’s Wine Regions
If you truly love wine then why not stay amongst the vines? Seriously, who wouldn’t want to be stumbling distance from their favorite winery?!
Within the Gibbston Valley there are a ton of beautiful places to stay only minutes and sometimes seconds from cellar doors.
Gibbston Valley Lodge and Spa – This beautiful lodge is located at the Gibbston Valley Winery. The property is gorgeous and located near bike trails and other wineries.
The Vines – Gibbston Valley Holiday Home – Looking for a holiday home for a larger group? This place is perfect and located in the heart of the Gibbston Valley. Enjoy magnificent views in a luxury home!
Kinross Cottages Boutique Vineyard Hotel – This is my top choice in the Gibbston Valley. Located at Kinross cellar door you’ll have access to 5 different wineries from one place. The cottages are stunning and the location couldn’t be better!
Overlooking the beautiful Lake Hayes you can stay in some pretty spectacular places only a stone’s throw from some wineries on this list and others in the area.
Stoneridge Estate – This stunning hotel is actually located at the Stoneridge Estate Winery. Not only are you close to other wineries on this list but you’ll also be staying at one! This hotel is pure luxury and they even have a pool overlooking Lake Hayes!
The Shan’s Lodge – If you’re on a budget or just want more money to spend on wine then The Shan’s Lodge is a perfect choice. Surrounded by wineries in Lake Hayes this lodge is a beautiful family-run establishment with amazing reviews.
Thanks for reading!
Wow, and there you go, a detailed breakdown of all the wine tours on offer in Queenstown. I hope this blog will help you in choosing the best wine tour in Queenstown for you and your budget. There certainly are plenty of awesome ways to exploring the wineries around Queenstown and this tour lists the 7 different styles of wine tours on offer with the best companies in Queenstown.
Thanks so much for reading! I hope you have a wine tour in mind and maybe even have one booked already! Be sure to enjoy Queenstown and remember, there’s plenty more to read on my blog! Hope to see you around town!