Known as the country’s adventure sports capital, Queenstown boasts the most spectacular location of any New Zealand city, set around crystal clear Lake Wakatipu, which strikingly reflects the dramatic mountain ranges that rise around it. While it’s a diminutive city with a population of just 30,000 people, Queenstown receives a whopping two million thrill-seekers a year. Fortunately due to its geography, adrenaline-junkie destinations are spread out around the surrounding region ensuring Queenstown retains its small town vibe.
In winter (June-August), the mountains are home to ski fields such as Cardrona, Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, and Treble Cone, with skiing and snowboarding, both on- and off-piste, the main activity. Given the local's love of adrenaline-pumping activities, snow sports and anything that flies (from small planes to helicopters), heli-skiing is understandably popular. The love of flying also extends to skydiving and if you needed further proof of how passionately New Zealander's are about defying gravity, Queenstown is home to the world’s first commercial bungy- (or bungee-) jumping site. Popular activities on the water include jet boating and river rafting, available all year round.
Gentler options abound here as well. There are excellent and extensive walking and hiking tracks that are popular in the warmer months, such as the trails in Mt Aspiring National Park. Short driving routes out of town will take you to the charming gold-mining town of Arrowtown and the Central Otago wine region, which is fast garnering a serious reputation on the world wine scene for its distinctive Pinot wines. Wine tourism is rapidly gaining popularity here, with many wines temptingly only available from cellar doors. The region is also known as the location of many scenes from the Lord of the Rings movies and locals love to point out where portions of 'Middle Earth' are. Back in town, while those fresh from the ski slopes line up for gourmet hamburgers and local beers, foodies sit for hours dining on regional fare with matching local wines.
While you can't leave town without trying the wines, you also shouldn't leave without visiting the local wonder of Milford Sound. Of course, while the boat ride through this amazing fiord is peaceful, this being New Zealand, your twin-engined light plane ride or helicopter ride there and back will have you hanging on to the edge of your seat as you make your way between massive mountains, hugging the hillside the whole way. But then it wouldn’t be a quintessentially New Zealand experience if it didn’t induce an adrenaline rush.