48 perfect hours in Queenstown

The quintessential Queenstown experiences for travellers visiting New Zealand’s adventure capital - from helicopter rides to disc golf and trying local lamb.

  • Bronwen Gora
  • November 2018

It’s known as the adventure capital of New Zealand, but there’s something for everyone in Queenstown, no matter what your fitness level, age or interests. Whether it’s laid-back adventures or soaking up the natural beauty, here are all the other fun things you can get up to, beyond bungee jumping.

Fly over Earnslaw Burn glacier

The remote valley of the Earnslaw Burn glacier near Queenstown was made famous in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and the best way to see it is by helicopter. Local tour operator Alpine Adventures runs flights through Heliworks, who has exclusive rights to land near the waterfalls tumbling into the glacier. “The place moves people to tears,” says Heliworks pilot Scott Dwyer. At about $860, it includes a gourmet alfresco lunch, but as departures depend on weather.

This glacier tour is an awe-inspiring experience.

Funyaking in the Dart River

There’s no dearth of high-octane adventures in Queenstown with all the famous bungee jumping and jetboating, but in comparison funyaks provide a relaxing yet no less enjoyable option. Dart River Adventures provide a jetboat ride from Glenorchy (coach transfers from Queenstown are included) to you to the departure point, from where you climb into a funyak, paddling into streams and marvelling at rock patterns in the surrounding canyons. Allow the gentle beauty of the Dart River to move your inflatable canoe to a picnic lunch spot on the riverbank. Finish the day with return funyaking and a bus ride back to Queenstown.

Try Funyaking in the crystal clear Dart River.

Meat fest at Pedro’s House Of Lamb

For the best of the best lamb in the world, leave high-end restaurants behind for Pedro’s House Of Lamb. The takeaway outlet on Queenstown’s outskirts – founded by Pedro Carazo after he lost his popular Spanish restaurant in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake – has a one-item menu: 4.5-hour slow-roasted garlic and rosemary-infused lamb shoulder with luscious scalloped potatoes. At about $46 (and about $10 more for fresh bread and salad), this excellent version of the quintessentially Kiwi meal can feed four people easily. Pre-ordering is advised, as the lamb can sell out.

NZ's famous lamb from paddock to plate.

Try disc golf

Make like the locals and join in a Frisbee golf game. Queenstown hiking guide and former slopestyle athlete Adie Lawrence recommends The Queenstown Gardens Disc Golf Course. “It’s so beautiful in summer when you are looking out across the lake,” she says. Try this fun activity with friends or even go alone and make buddies for the day learning the strange art of Disc Golf.

Drive around Lake Wakatipu

Pretty lakeside settlement Glenorchy is a popular daytrip from Queenstown, with the 45-minute journey hugging Lake Wakatipu ranking among the world’s most beautiful drives. Drive slowly (or better still, let someone else) to experience the full splendour of lake and alpine scenery, which grows increasingly dramatic around each bend. Stopping for lunch at Queenie’s Dumplings, the region’s first dedicated dumpling outlet, will keep everyone happy.

Lake Wakatipu is a natural masterpiece.

Sundowners at Red’s Bar

Seeing The Remarkables mountain range turn pink at sunset over Lake Wakatipu is a must and the place to do so is QT Queenstown hotel’s Reds Bar – the chic sixth-floor bar captures the view through its wall of windows. Stocking the largest range of spirits and liqueurs in town, the mixologists also create cocktails with unique ingredients like pine needle syrup.

You can find stunning views at Red's Bar.