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Winter is here. That means one thing for thousands of people who visit Whakatipu Waimāori Queenstown over the season: skiing and riding the Southern Alps. But if you don’t ski in winter, Queenstown still offers heaps of things to do.
For many non-skiers, winter is the only time to soak up the scenes of New Zealand’s adventure capital. The mountains are snow-capped, mulled wine is pouring from every restaurant, and fresh adventures are waiting in our backyard that are wintertime must-dos. Even for those with ski passes, rest days need to be filled with good times, and the fun doesn’t have to stop when you’re off the slopes.
Read our list of the top 5 things to do in Queenstown when you don’t ski or ride in winter.
Winter in Queenstown is beautiful but cold, so we’d recommend heading to the warmest place with the best views in town: the vintage steamship, the TSS Earnslaw. Lovingly named “Lady of the Lake”, this vessel isn’t just a Queenstown icon that cruises across Lake Whakatipu every day but is a conserved piece of treasured history.
Cruise across Lake Whakatipu with epic snow-capped vistas, perfect views of Queenstown, and a mulled wine in hand
With her fully operational engine room, you can rely on her keeping a toasty temperature year-round. Pair this with epic snow-capped vistas, perfect views of Queenstown, and a mulled wine in hand from the onboard bar, and you’ll be satisfied you’ve ticked off a Queenstown winter classic. Check the TSS Earnslaw’s cruising times.
Eating hot, delicious comfort food is one of the best things to do in Queenstown when you’re not skiing. One of the best places in Queenstown to indulge in gourmet food, sit by a fire, and cosy up is the Homestead Restaurant at Walter Peak High Country Farm. The restaurant offers a range of gourmet BBQ meats, a selection of perfectly cooked veggies, plus salads, sides, cheeses, desserts and more. Offering everything you could want on a cold winter’s day, or hungry after a day on the slopes.
Cosy Walter Peak offers all the comfort food you could want on a cold winter’s day, or hungry after a day on the slopes.
The TSS Earnslaw cruises across multiple times a day, and guests have the option of disembarking at the farm for a gourmet BBQ lunch or dinner. With some of the best views across the lake, this place could be the best après spot in Queenstown. Check Walter Peak’s lunch and dinner service times.
Bluebird days aren’t just great for skiing, and plenty of visitors want to know what to do in Queenstown when it’s blue skies and cold temps. We reckon one of the best ways to spend the afternoon is by hopping on the Queenstown Jet.
Shooting 95km/hour down the Kawarau River underneath the snow-capped Remarkables Mountain range against a bright blue sky is a must-do. It’s also a great opportunity to capture that iconic Queenstown-in-winter photo of the family. You can opt for a 25-minute or 60-minute jet, so if you’ve got little ones with you, you don’t need to spend a full hour soaking up the views and vitamin D
This is also a great activity for families looking to fill the remainder of the day with an adrenaline-pumping activity after a half-day on the slopes. Check the Queenstown Jet’s 25-minute and 60-minute departure times.
If you’re resting from your ski days or wanting a winter adventure in your Queenstown getaway, take advantage of the town’s transport connections and use the alpine resort as a gateway to go on an adventure further afield. Queenstown is a great launchpad to Fiordland and going on an adventure into the national park really shows off how spectacular winter is in the South Island.
Frosty peaks and calm waters, Doubtful Sound makes you feel like you’ve travelled to the end of the earth on a simple day trip.
Nothing gets you deep into Fiordland like a Pātea Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise. Doubtful Sound is known for its boundless native rainforest, immersive fiord, and amazing year-round endemic wildlife. Winter is the perfect time to pay a visit there. With frosty peaks and calm waters, you can feel like you’ve travelled to the end of the earth on an easy day trip. Read more about Doubtful Sound here.
Also on the Fiordland must-visit in winter list: Piopiotahi Milford Sound. Known for hosting hundreds of waterfalls on rainy days and snow-capped mountains, winter is the best time of year to visit to be immersed in the spectacle.
Sit back, relax, and let a professional driver take you into one of winter’s best scenes.
Travelling to Milford Sound is easy. As the most popular Fiordland destination, there are heaps of transport options to take you from Queenstown to the fiord, and any visitor will tell you that the epic journey there is one of the experience’s biggest drawcards. Sit back, relax, and let a professional driver take you into one of winter’s best scenes. When you arrive, you’ll get onboard a cruise through the fiord. RealNZ’s vessels are equipped to host café-style with indoor and outdoor areas, so you can hold onto a delicious hot beverage while mountains, waterfalls, and wildlife pass you by. Explore transport packages to Milford Sound.