36 Hours in Queenstown, New Zealand

This is an article in the 36 Hours In… series. To find more in the series, head here.

Queenstown. The adventure capital of New Zealand, set amongst craggy mountains and alongside a deep blue lake. Whether you visit in summer or winter, there is always plenty to see and do. In winter it’s a ski town surrounded by New Zealand’s best ski fields, and in summer there is plenty of hiking and other outdoor activities to keep you entertained. We’ve compiled this 36 hour itinerary to take advantage of the wide range of things to do in the town and the surrounding area, no matter the season. Enjoy!

36 hours in queenstown

Friday evening

Queenstown has some amazing food offerings, and what better way to start your weekend in this fun town than with a fantastic meal. We love Flame Bar & Grill, a South African-style restaurant that specialises in meat. Meat, meat, meat. This restaurant is not recommended for vegetarians! We especially love their juicy ribs and they also serve amazing local wines – yum!

Saturday a.m.

Head out of Queenstown to Arrowtown (only 20 minutes drive away) and grab breakfast at Provisions Cafe. Their sticky buns (brioche with cinnamon, currants, sliced almonds, and gooey caramel) are insanely delicious! This old gold mining town has many gorgeous buildings and a historic walk along the Arrow River where you can see cottages from the Chinese miners who lived in the town back in the 19th century.

Saturday p.m.

For lunch, we recommend trying the ‘trust the chef’ menu at Amisfield Winery, halfway between Arrowtown and Queenstown (you can also do a wine tasting there). This menu has a number of courses that are designed to share and it’s always a nice surprise to see what local, seasonal ingredients are being cooked with that day. We love the architecture of the restaurant building too – those rustic beams and schist fireplaces…

If you feel like more wine tasting – one of the best things to do around Queenstown – head to the Gibbston Valley wine region and visit Chard Farm Winery. The crazy narrow gravel driveway that winds alongside the Kawarau Gorge to access the winery is totally worth braving – their wine is amazing and the people at the cellar door are so friendly. It’s our favourite winery out of the many around Queenstown!

Saturday evening

Fergburger, on Queenstown’s main street, is world famous in New Zealand for producing massive tasty burgers. The lines are huge and it might take you an hour to get your burger, but it’s worth it! Go and sit on the lakefront with your massive burger and marvel at the view. Could it get much better?

Queenstown has a number of bars, ranging from grungy backpacker haunts to upmarket cocktail lounges, take your pick! Because of the large population of international travellers in Queenstown, it seems like every day is a Saturday. So even if you’re not there during the weekend, chances are you’ll still be able to find a bar to head to.

If you’re not in the mood for partying, consider heading to Onsen Hot Pools in Arthur’s Point, only 5 minutes drive from Queenstown. The private spa pools, rented by the hour, have a stunning view over the Shotover River and are the perfect place to wind down from a busy day. The best (and most popular) time of day to visit the hot pools is during sunset – and we could understand why, it was just beautiful.

onsen hot pools

36 hours in queenstown

Sunday a.m.

After breakfast at one of the many cafes in Queenstown (we recommend Joe’s Garage) drive up the lake for 45 minutes to Glenorchy, a picturesque town set amongst mountains. There isn’t much to do there but the scenery is amazing! On the way back, stop in at Moke Lake, a hidden gem about 6 km off the main road. There’s a big camping ground there and is well worth a stop with a picnic lunch, and maybe a swim if you’re visiting in summer.

36 hours in queenstown

Moke Lake, near Queenstown

Sunday p.m.

You can’t leave Queenstown without getting your adrenaline pumped up – after all, this is the adventure capital of New Zealand. There’s a huge variety of things to do – jet boating, bungy jumping, paragliding, skydiving, and the list goes on! We’ve been jet boating (Shotover Jet) and bungy jumping (AJ Hackett at Kawarau Gorge) and fully recommend both.

Finally, as you fly out of this beautiful part of New Zealand, survey the scene below you – pretty spectacular, huh?

36 hours in queenstown

View over the Southern Alps near Queenstown

Do you have any suggestions of things to do in Queenstown? We’re hoping to get there sometime this year so would love some recommendations!

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Thanks to Onsen Hot Pools for supporting our visit. As always, you’ll receive our honest opinion regardless of who is footing the bill!

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  1. Really liked Queenstown and surroundings. Oh, the burger at Fergburger was pretty darn good!

    Perhaps next time I should do bungee jumping…or not 🙂

    • Petra

      Bungee jumping is exhilarating Rachel! Absolutely terrifying before you step off, but the adrenaline rush is amazing. Queenstown is certainly beautiful!

  2. The last picture is breathtaking! Loved the itinerary you’ve made for Queenstown. About bungee jumping I’ve always wanted to do it but on the other hand, thinking about it makes me so nervous!

    • Petra

      Thanks Marta, you’ll have to try bungee jumping some day – it’s terrifying but the most amazing feeling once you’ve done it! 🙂

  3. Have you tried skiing or snowboarding in the nearby ski fields? As it’s almost ski season in NZ I highly recommend it! My favorite is Cardrona but there are other choices too. 🙂

  4. Noelle Mathies

    There is stuff to do in Glenorchy! I went on my honeymoon there in May 2014 and we took the Lord of the Rings horseback riding tour with Dart Stables. It was wonderful! Did an easy ride in the morning, had a delicious lunch in town (I can’t remember the name but there aren’t many restaurants there anyway), and then went back for a more difficult ride in the afternoon. Highly recommend it!

    • Petra

      Glenorchy is lovely! The horse riding tour sounds awesome. Definitely putting it on the list for next time we are visiting!

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  7. Hi!

    What will the temperatures be like in end May? Will be heading to NZ then and wondering if I can still do water rafting and all the other water activities during that period.

    Appreciate your reply! 🙂

    • Petra

      Hi Isabel! It’ll be getting cold then, but I think the rafting and boating companies operate year round. They should provide you with wetsuits! Have fun in Queenstown!

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  9. Great article, thanks for sharing! My company is based in Nelson, NZ, so hoping to get to Queenstown in a few weeks. You’re lucky to live in such a beautiful country! I always love to visit! Cheers!

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