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Queenstown, New Zealand’s adventure capital, offers numerous exciting day trips to keep your itinerary brimming. Hop on a boat to explore Milford Sound, famed for its rugged beauty and the sublime Mitre Peak.
Another magnificent site, Doubtful Sound, is a remote fjord characterized by serene waterways and lush rainforests. Opt for an adrenaline-infused adventure in Glenorchy, with activities ranging from jet-boating to horse trekking.
Alternatively, you can immerse yourself in culture and history with a visit to Arrowtown, a charming gold rush village, or sip exquisite Pinot Noir in Gibbston Valley, Queenstown’s premier wine region. Don’t miss out on the stunning landscapes around Lake Wanaka, where you can hike, bike, or even skydive for a thrilling experience. Day trips from Queenstown can seamlessly blend adventure, nature, and culture.
Best Day Trips from Queenstown
Kingston, a small town situated at the southernmost end of Lake Wakatipu, exudes a quiet charm that is pleasing to the soul. Primarily known as the starting point for the Kingston Flyer heritage steam train, it offers a taste of New Zealand’s pioneering history and the splendour of yesteryear railway journeys. The surrounding scenery is breathtaking – the rugged mountains, serene waters of Lake Wakatipu, and rolling farmlands create an evocative backdrop for your visit. Being conveniently located on the Southern Scenic Route, Kingston is a good stopover for those travelling between Queenstown and Invercargill or The Catlins. You can also enjoy leisure activities such as fishing, boating, biking or simply cherish a peaceful walk near the lake side while being in Kingston.
Driving Distance: 47.7 kilometers (29.6 miles).
Driving time: 40-50 minutes.
Arrowtown is a captivating settlement nestled among the beautiful landscapes of the South Island in New Zealand. Steeped in rich gold mining history, it offers visitors a glimpse into its fascinating past through the preserved Chinese settlement and well-curated Lakes District Museum. As you stroll along the picturesque tree-lined avenues, you’ll discover a delightful collection of 19th-century buildings now housing boutique shops, galleries, and top-notch restaurants. In addition to its historical allure, Arrowtown is renowned for its stunning autumn colors, making it a must-visit during the fall season. Adventure seekers will equally appreciate the area’s remarkable walking and cycling trails, including the popular Arrow River Trails. Less than a 30-minute drive from Queenstown, Arrowtown makes for an enchanting day trip brimming with culture, history, and natural beauty.
The driving distance from Queenstown to Arrowtown, New Zealand, is approximately 21 kilometers (13 miles). The driving time usually ranges from 20 to 30 minutes, depending on traffic and road conditions.
Gibbston, known as the ‘Valley of the Vines’, is a picturesque region nestled between rugged schist mountains and the rocky Kawarau River gorge within New Zealand. Located just halfway between Queenstown and Cromwell, it’s renowned for its unique climate that has earned it a reputation as a premier cool-climate wine region. Boasting numerous award-winning wineries, it’s an absolute paradise for wine enthusiasts, particularly known for its exceptional Pinot Noir. In addition to wine tasting, visitors can partake in relaxing picnic lunches, tour the stunning vineyards, or explore the region’s distinctive cheese and local produce. For adventure seekers, the region also offers the famous Gibbston River Trail ideal for walking or cycling, and the adrenaline-pumping Kawarau Bungy, the world’s first commercial bungy operation. Gibbston’s serene natural beauty and its exceptional culinary scene make it a must-visit destination for any traveler in Queenstown.
Glenorchy is a small yet vibrant settlement nestled on the northern tip of Lake Wakatipu in the South Island of New Zealand. Only a 45-minute scenic drive from Queenstown, Glenorchy glistens with unparalleled beauty, offering panoramic vistas of emerald green landscapes, snow-capped alpine mountains, and pristine blue waters. Known for its outdoor activities, the region has become a hotspot for hiking, boating, horse riding, and even internationally acclaimed movie locations, including scenes from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. Explore the famous Routeburn Track, experience vibrant wildlife in the beech forests, or bask in the tranquility of the Glenorchy Lagoon Boardwalk. With its natural wonders, diverse flora and fauna, and distinctive Kiwi charm, Glenorchy provides an unforgettable and stunning getaway for anyone who loves nature and adventure.
Moke Lake is a serene hidden gem located just a short drive from Queenstown in New Zealand. This secluded, placid body of water, flanked by rolling hills and alpine grasslands, provides an idyllic setting for various outdoor activities. Spectacular hiking trails, such as the Moke Lake Loop track, offer majestic views, while its calm, clear waters are ideal for boating or fishing. The lake is also a popular camping location, with a well-equipped campsite nestled on its shores. Whether engaging in daytime activities or staying overnight, visitors can expect an immersion in the tranquillity of the stunning landscapes and starry nighttime skies. Moke Lake’s beauty lies in its quiet isolation and picturesque setting, making it a must-visit for those seeking peace and communion with nature.
Cardrona is a picturesque alpine village nestled in the heart of the Southern Alps on New Zealand’s South Island, offering an extraordinary blend of natural beauty, outdoor activities, and historical charm. Situated between Queenstown and Wanaka, Cardrona is home to one of the country’s most popular ski resorts: Cardrona Alpine Resort. This world-class destination boasts excellent ski slopes and snowboarding parks suitable for skiers and snowboarders of all ages and abilities, attracting visitors far and wide during the winter months. Cardrona’s allure extends year-round, as the captivating landscape transforms into a paradise for mountain biking, hiking, horse trekking, or simply unwinding amid the stunning mountain vistas. The village’s distinctive landmark, the iconic Cardrona Hotel, dates back to 1863 and imbues the area with a historical charm while providing a comfortable base for exploring the breathtaking surroundings. With its diverse offerings and enchanting atmosphere, Cardrona is truly an exceptional destination for adventure-seekers and nature-lovers alike.
Wanaka is a charming, lively town nestled on the southern banks of Lake Wanaka in New Zealand’s South Island. Known for its stunning natural beauty, Wanaka offers an array of outdoor adventures year-round, attracting nature and adventure enthusiasts worldwide. Whether it’s boating or swimming in the lake during summers or hitting the snow-clad slopes of nearby ski resorts like Cardrona and Treble Cone in winters, there’s something for everyone. The town also serves as the starting point for the spectacular Mount Aspiring National Park, boasting numerous hiking trails that provide breath-taking views. In town, you’ll discover a plethora of quaint cafes, bustling restaurants, and a vibrant arts scene that includes galleries and the famous biennial event, the Festival of Colour. Wanaka strikes a beautiful blend of serene landscapes and energetic activity, making it a must-visit destination in New Zealand.
Doubtful Sound is an awe-inspiring, remote fjord located in Fiordland National Park at the southwest of New Zealand’s South Island. Often described as the ‘Sound of Silence,’ the fjord is characterized by its profound tranquility, broken only by the distant call of birds or the gentle splash of waterfalls cascading down steep, lush cliffs. It covers an expansive area that’s over ten times larger than the more renowned Milford Sound. This natural wonder is teeming with biodiversity, where you may be able to spot bottlenose dolphins, fur seals, and rare Fiordland crested penguins. The fjord can only be accessed either by sea, providing a spellbinding cruise experience, or by air, offering sweeping, panoramic views. Doubtful Sound’s alluring combination of solitude, unspoiled landscapes, and rich wildlife offers visitors an unforgettable journey into New Zealand’s pristine wilderness.
Invercargill is the southernmost city in New Zealand, located in Southland Region on the South Island. Known for its sprawling parks and grand Edwardian and Victorian architecture, the city radiates a unique old-world charm intertwined with the comforts of modern urban living. Invercargill is home to a vast array of attractions including the Southland Museum, Queens Park, and the incredible E. Hayes Motorworks Collection, housing the legendary Burt Munro’s World’s Fastest Indian motorcycle. The city also serves as the gateway to some of New Zealand’s most beautiful natural destinations, such as the Catlins Coast, Stewart Island, and Fiordland National Park. Additionally, Invercargill boasts a robust food and drink scene, with a renowned variety of cafes, breweries, and its famous Bluff oysters. With its rich history, welcoming atmosphere, and proximity to New Zealand’s stunning landscapes, Invercargill offers a uniquely diverse and enjoyable experience for visitors.
Routeburn Track is one of New Zealand’s most celebrated hikes, renowned for its breathtaking scenery that spans both Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks. This 33-kilometre alpine route traverses through a captivating variety of landscapes, from lush beech forests and pristine streams to vast alpine meadows and panoramic mountain vistas. The trail encompasses notable highlights like the Routeburn Falls, the stunning Lake Mackenzie, and the Harris Saddle, all of which provide hikers with phenomenal photographic opportunities. Despite its challenging and steep terrain, the well-formed track is accessible for most fitness levels. Spread over 2-4 days, it features well-equipped hut and camping facilities that enable hikers to soak in the awe-inspiring beauty at a leisurely pace. The Routeburn Track not only promises an unforgettable outdoor adventure but also an immersive journey into the heart of New Zealand’s pristine wilderness and spectacular alpine wonders.