Nine awesome things to do in Queenstown in winter

Date: 26 March 2019

While winter in some parts of the world means staying indoors and waiting for spring to come, it’s quite the opposite here in Queenstown.

Thrill seekers and nature lovers thrive in this beautiful winter wonderland with tons of fun activities for people of all ages, both indoors and outdoors. Here are nine of our favorite things to do in Queenstown in winter – including some great free activities.

1. Cruise the lake on an authentic steamship, the TSS Earnslaw

Did you know that the TSS Earnslaw is over a hundred years old? Launched the same year as the Titanic in 1912, this authentic, vintage, coal-powered steamship has had many famous passengers, including Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip and President Bill Clinton.

Enjoy a leisurely cruise across Lake Wakatipu and enjoy a snack or drink at its onboard café, or visit Walter Peak Farm for a gourmet BBQ lunch or gourmet dinner. While a boat of this stature does need to be taken off the water to undergo regular maintenance (typically early June to early July), you can still partake in this iconic excursion during the other winter months.

TSS Earnslaw with snowy remarkables

TSS Earnslaw with snowy Remarkables. Photo credit: Destination Queenstown

2. Go skiing or snowboarding 

Queenstown is famous for being one of the best places to ski and snowboard for people of all skill levels. Our location in the southern hemisphere means that we have one of the longest ski seasons in the world, from June to early October, making it especially enticing for tourists from the northern hemisphere seeking snow throughout the year.

Situated in the heart of the Southern Alps, Queenstown has four ski fields nearby that provide a great range of slopes for beginners and experts alike. Cardrona is New Zealand’s most popular ski area and is less than an hour’s drive from Queenstown. Beyond skiing and snowboarding, you can even go night skiing, heliskiing, sledding, tobogganing and so much more. It’s snow heaven!

Child learners to ski with instructor at Cardrona Alpine Resort

Skiing on Cardrona

3. Explore Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound

Often referred to as the 8th wonder of the world, Milford Sound is always at the top of New Zealand must-do lists. Don’t let seasonality stop you – both Milford Sound and its lesser-known sister Doubtful Sound are stunning year-round.

On a lucky bluebird day, you’ll get the same gorgeous views of these majestic fjords as you would in summer, with the added bonus of snow-capped peaks and fewer crowds. Take a Milford Sound cruise or Doubtful Sound cruise, or splurge on an experience of a lifetime by flying to Milford Sound for unbeatable aerial views of New Zealand’s dramatic alpine scenery.

Boat, water and mountains in spectacular Milford Sound

Milford Sound in the winter

4. Experience the Queenstown Winter Festival

One of the best free activities in Queenstown is the annual Queenstown Winter Festival. Join us this year from June 20 to 23, 2019 for four amazing days of live music and entertainment, exciting events and delicious food.

Last year more than 45,000 people came out to enjoy the festivities, including the legendary dog derby, the Jucy Undy 500 obstacle course and so much more. Don’t miss out on this iconic event – tickets are on sale April 16.

Aerial shot of Queenstown in the winter

Winter views of Queenstown. Photo credit: Destination Queenstown

5. Hike for amazing views

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy one of the many gorgeous hikes Queenstown has to offer. Queenstown Hill, Ben Lomond and Bob’s Cove are some of our favourite day hikes in the area.

On a clear day, the views from the top of each of these walks are unbeatable. Feeling more adventurous? One of New Zealand’s Great Walks, the Routeburn Track, is located just about an hour’s drive away. Like in summer, you’ll want to make sure that you pack appropriate clothing and gear for your excursion – you might get to experience all four seasons in a day.

6. Shoot down the river in a jet boat or whitewater rafting

Race down the Kawarau and Shotover rivers in a thrilling jet boat, hitting speeds of up to 90 km/hr! The jet boat spins 360 degrees, offering a unique and exciting way to experience Queenstown’s nearby rivers. Want to do something more interactive?

Go whitewater rafting through Skippers Canyon, navigating grade 3-5 rapids for the adventure of a lifetime.

Three boats rafting down the Shotover River, Queenstown

White water rafting in Queenstown

7. Play frisbee golf in the gardens

Queenstown Gardens is undoubtedly beautiful during the spring and summer when the flowers are blooming, but you can still take advantage of this wonderful place in the winter by playing frisbee golf. With a full 18 basket course, disc golf is one of the best affordable activities in Queenstown, even in winter.

8. Cross an adrenaline sport off your bucket list

Given we are the adventure capital of the world, it’s basically a requirement for you to do some kind of adrenaline sport while you’re here. Whether you choose shoot across a canyon or paraglide, there’s no shortage of action sports to take part in during your winter Queenstown holiday.

9. Relax and treat yourself  

While most people have a jam-packed itinerary filled with outdoor adventures and activities, it’s important to remember to relax and enjoy your holiday as well. Treat yourself to a spa day and book a massage, or try out the Onsen hot pools for a luxurious experience.

Or, go wine tasting and try some of New Zealand’s best wines in Central Otago. 

Winter in New Zealand can be one of the best times to visit, especially if you’re interested in snow sports. Winter in Queenstown offers no shortage of fun activities for everyone, from adrenaline junkies to families. Plan your trip today. 

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