Top things to do in Queenstown in summer

Queenstown's long summer days put outdoor adventure at the top of everyone's list of things to do.

There's huge scope for raising your heart rate and testing your comfort zone. And there's just as much opportunity for easier adventures that involve bike trails, lakeside walks, picnics, golf and vineyard tours. From what travellers tell us, here are some of the best things to do in Queenstown in summer.

Hire a bike and explore Queenstown's cycling trails

Who needs a car when you can ride? In Queenstown, two wheels are better than four if you want to immerse yourself in the landscape. Queenstown has more than 130km of off-road biking trails. Highlights include suspension bridges, historic sites, braided rivers, picturesque lakes, serene valleys and craggy mountains.

Along the way you'll find taverns, cafés, restaurants and wineries for refreshment. Often, one of these places can be your goal for the day. For example, biking from Arrowtown to the Gibbston Tavern is an excellent adventure that incorporates delicious fuel (wood-fired pizza) for the ride home. Another magic ride is the circuit around Lake Hayes, which can easily include a stop at Amisfield or Akarua for wine tasting and delicious food.

Enjoy the alpine scenery on a hike

Queenstown is handy to three of New Zealand's Great Walks. There's the Routeburn, which links Mt Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks; the Kepler Track, for amazing views and side trips to caves; and the world-famous Milford Track, which is deservedly one of New Zealand's most epic walks. You can hike any of these tracks over a series of days or do just a section as a one-day walk.

Around Queenstown there are also plenty of day walks, like the Lower Wye Creek Track, Moonlight Track, Ben Lomond Track and Devil's Creek Track. Summer makes it safer to hike at high altitudes to discover river gorges, alpine meadows, gold mining relics and mountain peaks. Guides are available if you'd like to learn more about the region while you hike.

Have a daring Queenstown adventure

Queenstown is often called 'the adventure capital of the world', because there are so many ways to face a challenge and come out smiling. Here are some of the best adrenalin-inducing activities:

Feel the wind in your hair on a jet boat ride

New Zealand is the spiritual home of the jet boat; it was invented by Bill Hamilton on his South Island high country farm. In Queenstown you can appreciate Bill's invention with exhilarating rides on the Shotover and Kawarau Rivers, and Lake Whakatipu.

Experience the thrill of bungy jumping

Never done a bungy jump? Maybe it's time to get that ambition ticked off. In Queenstown there's more than one way to make the leap. You can choose the original Kawarau Bridge Bungy, leap off the Ledge at the top of the Skyline Gondola, or opt for the highest jump of all – the Nevis.

Go white water rafting or canyoning     

White water rafting and canyoning are river adventures that mix wild times with beautiful calm moments. Sometimes you're battling through rapids or rappelling down waterfalls; at other times you're floating gently downstream, collecting your thoughts. All equipment is provided and excitement is guaranteed.

Bring your clubs for a few rounds of scenic golf

With three championship courses and four club courses, Queenstown makes it essential to pack your golf clubs. All courses come with scenery that's so outstanding, it's likely to put you off your swing.

Championship courses include Jack's Point, The Hills and Millbrook Resort. While each is unique, they all share the highest level of course design. Other options include the Queenstown Golf Club at Kelvin Heights, Arrowtown Golf Club, Kingston Golf Club and the Frankton Golf Centre. For something completely off-the-scale, there's a hole-in-one challenge on Cecil Peak that's accessible only by helicopter.

Shred some trails at Queenstown's mountain bike parks 

With no shortage of hills and peaks, Queenstown is a mountain biking nirvana. What's really special is how the ski lifts are repurposed for mountain bikers during summer, making it easy to get up so you can shred your way down. Once the snow has melted, Coronet Peak mountain biking runs from December until the end of March, while Cardrona is open from December until the end of April. There's also the Queenstown Bike Park at the foot of Bob's Peak right in town; from September to May, this park is lift-accessible using the Skyline gondola. Other mountain bike challenges nearby include the 7 Mile Scenic Reserve Bike Park and the Gorge Road Jump Park. How to fly with your bike.

Pack a delicious picnic and find a beach or park

There are some wonderful places in Queenstown for gathering delicious picnic items. Find a café with outstanding counter food, then head for one of the area's top picnic spots.  Earnslaw Park is in the heart of town, or venture a bit further to Queenstown Gardens for gorgeous lake views and easy strolls. Another panoramic option is Kelvin Heights Peninsula, which includes an easy 90-minute walkway. And you can't beat Lake Hayes, with its numerous picnic spots and perimeter walking trail. For a beachy picnic, Sunshine Bay Beach on the way to Glenorchy is a beautiful destination – nice spot for a swim too.

Take a scenic flight to Fiordland, then cruise Milford Sound

Queenstown is only a very-scenic flight away from Fiordland, where Milford Sound beckons with peaks, waterfalls, forests and deep chasms of water that are beyond beautiful. From flight-only experiences to tours that offer hiking or cruising add-ons, there's a wide range of ways to get your fill of Fiordland.

Make a four-legged friend on a horse trek

Summer's the time to saddle up for a horse trek along the valleys, through the foothills, beside riverbanks and around lakes. For example, Ben Lomond Horse Trekking offer the awesome three-hour Moke Lake Trek; Moonlight Stables can show you grazing elk and rare white fallow deer while you explore tussock-covered hills; and from Glenorchy you can ride along the Rees River Trail or Dart Valley, surrounded by epic mountain scenery. You can also go riding at Walter Peak Station, a high country farm that can be easily reached on the TSS Earnslaw steamship.

Discover the local craft market and CBD shopping      

Every Saturday the lake front at Earnslaw Park in Queenstown hosts the Creative Queenstown Arts'n Crafts Market. It's a market where you can buy original works made by artists from all over the South Island. Live music and street food adds to the fun. From October until Easter, the Remarkables Market in Frankton has crafts, fresh produce, ready-to-eat food and lots of room for kids to play. Arrowtown has a Sunday farmers' market on Library Green from late October until Easter.

The Queenstown town centre is another place for holiday shopping. It has an exciting collection of big brand and designer retailers, as well as plenty of outdoorsy shops for active wear. 

Follow the wine trail to find bliss on a plate

Wine has secured a forever place in the Central Otago region. You can look forward to earthy-but-refined pinot noir, crisp pinot gris and fruit-driven chardonnay, as well as characterful dry riesling. Link up with a local wine tour operator if you'd like to visit a few cellar doors without the bother of driving. There's a selection of winery restaurants in the region too, so that you can make a meal of it. Standouts include , Gibbston Valley, Amisfield and Akarua.

Wander the streets of historic Arrowtown

Arrowtown is one of the most charming historic towns in New Zealand. Once a gold rush settlement, today it's a well-preserved piece of the past. Explore the Chinese miners' settlement by the Arrow River, visit the Lakes District Museum, then find a convivial café to explore the local food, wine and craft beer scene. Hiking tracks and 4WD safaris to Macetown will appeal to the adventurous, browsing the shops will suit those who just want to take it easy.  

Frequently asked questions about Queenstown's summer

Explore the best things to do in Queenstown in summer with Air NZ

The best time to organize your Queenstown summer holiday is now. Start by booking flights, then build a plan based on your passions and interests.