What to do with three days in Queenstown?
By popular demand, here is my Queenstown itinerary for a short visit outside of ski season. This would fit in a weekend or three days and I’ve included some extra options you can sub in or out if you have more time or something you really want to see. This presumes you’ll have a hire car.
Get yourself familiar with Queenstown’s town centre. Go for a stroll through the Botanic Gardens, grab a coffee at Vudu café then take the Skyline Gondola up to enjoy the views and have a go on the luge. This might seem a bit touristy but the view is incredible and its great fun. You can access the gondola right from the centre of town. Alternatively, you can hike up Ben Lomond, this will take a bit longer but it is free.
This is also a good day to organise any “thrill-seeker” activities you’d like to do during your trip and make a booking for Botswana Butchery for dinner tomorrow.
Work up an appetite then grab a mid-afternoon burger from the famous Fergburger – I recommend the classic with cheese. By eating outside of regular lunch and dinner times you’ll hopefully avoid any long waits. If it’s not too cold, take your burger and eat it by the waterfront. Follow up with a fresh baked cookie from the Cookie Time store and then check out some of the bars in Queenstown like Bardeaux, 1876 or Little Blackwood.
Have breakfast at the Boatshed café, which has a great view of the Remarkables and is a little removed from the rest of town. Then head towards pretty Lake Hayes for a walk around or just to admire the view, which can be a perfect reflection when the weather is still. You can pop into Amisfield for lunch or a wine tasting.
Then head towards Arrowtown, a quaint little town which retains a historical charm with more modern amenities. You can go for another walk around here, behind Arrowtown up Sawpit Gully. On your way back to Queenstown go for a ride on the Shotover Jet (this is best to book in advance). Alternatively, you could visit the relaxing Onsen private pools for a spa with a view of the Shotover River below. This tends to book out, so try book in advance,
Back in Queenstown head to Botswana Butchery for dinner – book in advance and order the Merino lamb shoulder to share. You can get a private dining room for no extra charge but if you can’t get the private room, downstairs in the main dining room is still nice.
Depending on your interests, you could use this day to bungy jump, go kayaking, play golf, go hiking, go fishing, do a Lord of the Rings tour, go wine tasting or do some more sightseeing. There is also an old steamship, the TSS Earnslaw which you can take over to a nearby working farm.
Around one hours drive each way are both Glenorchy and Wanaka . You can go horse-riding in Glenorchy and visit the adjoining town of “Paradise” for a photo with the famous sign.
Wanaka is more developed than Glenorchy but less than Queenstown. If you drive to Wanaka from Queenstown and don’t mind windy roads then make sure you take the Crown Range Rd, stop in Cardrona on your way through and have a bite at the pub, sitting in the garden if the weather is nice. Wanaka has a beautiful lake with a famous tree. Visit Rippon Vineyard for an incredible view of the lake and surrounds.
Near Wanaka, I also really like the nearby Lake Hawea, just for a photo stop to admire the view.
If you don’t have a flight to catch until the following day you could do a Milford Sound day tour but be warned: this a very long day, with at least 8 hours in a bus. If you have more time, it is best to couple this with a night or two in Te Anau.