Wedged between the Southern Alps and the pristine waters of Lake Wakatipu lies Queenstown. It’s a 12,500-person oasis of thriving, bustling modernity surrounded by a raw landscape. Colloquially, it’s known as the “adventure capital of the world”.
New Zealand is already one of the most isolated countries in the world; Queenstown, even more so. Half the adventure is just getting to the city, and once there the energy to explore is only spurred on. In winter, the surrounding mountains lend themselves to the best skiing in the region, and in summer Lake Wakatipu opens up to a host of water sports and winding bike trails snake through the city and its fringes. Whether you’re discovering Queensland’s backcountry, exploring the expanse of Lake Wakatipu or taking in the awe-inspiring view in a moment of rest, the energy here is palpable.
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Being surrounded by the Southern Alps, you can stand in any spot in Queenstown and enjoy an inspiring view. Whether you choose to book something on AirBnB or stay at the far ritzier Eichardt’s Hotel, you’re guaranteed eye candy. Eichardt’s is steeped in history as a hub for adventurers dating back to the gold rush in 1862, and the posh hotel was the epicenter of Queenstown’s growth. The views from Hotel St Moritz entice as well. In the summer, the crystal-clear waters of Lake Wakatipu beg to be explored, while in winter, the not-so-distant Southern Alps demand to be scaled. If you’re backpacking your way through the area and want to stay among like-minded individuals, Adventure Queenstown Hostel is owned and operated by intrepid travelers.
With Eichardt’s Hotel sitting as the benchmark for accommodations in Queenstown, it makes sense that Eichardt’s Bar also sets a pretty high standard with their breakfast, lunch and tapas menus. With comfy couches, a warm fireplace and even warmer service, come for the charcuterie and stay for a cocktail. For something more off the beaten path, The Bunker is hidden behind an old wooden door down a back alley in the city center. Inside, an old-world bar serves up craft cocktails, fine wine and New Zealand delicacies and game. Head to True South for award-winning authentic New Zealand fare paired with fine wine from New Zealand vineyards. And then there’s Josh Emmett. After working alongside Gordon Ramsay in London and New York (and helping the celebrity chef’s establishments earn their Michelin stars), the chef is paying homage to his Kiwi roots at his restaurant Rata, where the Otago-inspired food bursts with flavor and culinary innovation. The food is simple yet stunning; it’s subtle, yet it speaks volumes of his skill and character. To balance out the fine(r) dining experience, Emmett serves more accessible, everyday fare at Madam Woo. (Try the Hawker Rolls.)
Queenstown earned the title “adventure capital of the world” for good reason: there’s a whole slew of activities at your fingertips. Bungee jumping (or bungy jumping, down in NZ) is a must-do; Queenstown helped launch bungee jumping’s popularity, so to skip on it would be like going to Scotland and not getting haggis. The Nevis, with over eight seconds of free-fall time and a drop of 440 feet, is a hard proposition to pass up. If you prefer to stay on the ground ,the Queenstown Trail makes for great mountain biking and scenery to match; with trails ranging from easy to advanced, it’s the perfect way to either wind down or keep the adrenaline going. But for ultimate peace and relaxation, Queenstown’s fly fishing scene is second to none.
What Queenstown lacks in neighbors, it makes up for with opportunities for adventure. Just below Queenstown, along the southern half of Lake Wakatipu, are The Remarkables, a mountain range that more than lives up to the name and provides fantastic skiing. Heading north of Queenstown is no less scenic: charter a helicopter tour and get the best possible view of the southern lakes and the ancient glaciers that helped carve New Zealand’s beautiful back country.