28 epic things to do in Queenstown in winter, suggested by a local

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Queenstown is fabulous any time of the year but it’s particularly special in winter. The already breathtaking mountains surrounding Lake Wakatipu get covered in a layer of white snow and all the bars and restaurants welcome you with the fireplace turned on. On top of that, Queenstown is the Southern hemispheres mecca for winter-sports.

 

28 epic things to do in Queenstown in winter

While skiing and snowboarding are by far the main reason people visit Queenstown in winter, there are many other winter activities that make Queenstown beautiful and amazing, even if you don’t ski.

After spending three winters in Queenstown, this is my recommended list of things to do in Queenstown in winter:

 

1. Hit the slopes at Remarkables

Skiing and snowboarding is what makes Queenstown so popular in winter. There are two ski fields within easy reach from Queenstown, Coronet Peak and The Remarkables, my ski field of choice in New Zealand.

The Remarkables are easily reachable by ski bus but if you’d like more flexibility you should consider renting a car. When you’re at the top of the Calypso chairlift make sure to hike up to the edge, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view of Queenstown and Wakatipu lake and some off piste bliss on your way down. On the other side of the ski field you can indulge in some jumps at the freestyle park, or take it easy and stop for a drink at the Ice Bar.

 

2. Apres ski in town

Winter in Queenstown is wild. Every night, after the slopes close, the town comes alive with snow bums rushing to the pubs for a serious apres ski session. Rhino’s Ski Shack takes the crown and here you’ll find all the hard core skiers and snowboarders. If you’re still in your ski gear head over to 1876 for a cheap jug on the terrace. World bar is a fabulous pub with great food, tea pot style cocktails and the perfect ratio of posh and chill. Then dance your night away at Loco, Searle Lane or the Bungalow.

 

3. Warm up in a hot pool

This might just be my favorite winter activity in Queenstown, sitting in a hot tub and enjoying the view. You’ve probably seen photos of the Onsen pools all over Instagram. These private hot tubs offer gorgeous views over the Shotover Valley and are definitely a bucket list item in Queenstown so make sure to book them well in advance.

While absolutely fabulous and definitely a must try, the Onsen pools are quite pricey and often booked out, but worry not, Millbrook Resort might not be as popular on instagram, but the pools, set in a beautiful garden outside, are just as hot and wonderful. You don’t have to stay at the resort to visit the hot pools, although you will love it if you do, and can purchase a day ticket to the pools, sauna and fitness facilities.

 

4. Cruise on the TCC Earnslaw

Hop on this legendary steam boat and cruise Lake Wakatipu in style. Admire the snow covered mountains, enjoy the brisk winter breeze and the mist above the lake. The views from the boat are amazing and you can extend this trip with a visit to Walter Peak farm. If you do the tour towards the end of winter you might even get to see baby veals and lambs.

 

5. Do a day-trip to Milford Sound

Another one of those activities that are great year round, but made a little bit more special in winter. As you’ll drive through Fiordland National park you’ll be greeted with snow and Mitre Peak is even more stunning with a white crown. Not to mention that in winter you might just get this little piece of paradise all to yourself, at least for a moment. Wrap up and enjoy Milford Sound!

 

6. Queenstown Winter Festival

The Winter Festival in Queenstown has a long standing tradition and dates back to 1975. Today the Queenstown Winter Fest is a 10 day long event packed with competitions, championships, shows, concerts and all sorts of fun events. The festivities are deliberately fun and unusual, like the Dog Derby, Rope tug on skis and the winter plunge in the cold cold lake. Then, at night it turns into a party.

7. Scenic drive to Glenorchy

Ok, ok you’re right, you can drive to Glenorchy any time of the year. But this drive is even more beautiful in winter, when the mountains are covered in snow and theres a moody layer of mist above the lake. Trust me, you’ll find it hard to keep your eyes on the road!

Read Next: Your guide ot the scenic drive to Glenorcy

 

8. Pool at Harry’s pool bar

Harry’s is a bit of a legend around Queenstown and a great place to spend the evenings on a winter night. The fire place will keep you warm, the pizzas fed and the beer might just help your aim! This place is popular among locals and tourists alike. Put your coins on the table to signal you’re booking the table and keep them there so others know how many more games you’re playing.

 

9. Roast Marshmallows in the fireplace

Now this one goes against all health and safety regulations in New Zealand, and we all know how seriously kiwis take H&S (or at least the massive fines associated with it). But if you want to be a bit of a rebel and you don’t mind getting kicked out of a bar (or 5) this is a fun game I used to play with my friends. What can I say, Queenstown winter tends to get long when you live there …

 

10 Skyline gondola + Luging

Hop on the steepest cable car in the Southern Hemisphere to the top of Bob’s Peak, enjoy the views and then have some fun at the Skyline Luge. A race down the hill that’s sure great for kids and adults alike. In winte ryou can even opt for the night Luge when the course lights up in bright colours.

 

11. Buffet dinner with a view at Bazaar

You’ve probably heard of the buffet dinner up the Skyline, and yes the views are amazing, the food is alright but the atmosphere… not very authentic. Plus it costs an eye and an arm. Now, if you do have the time and budgets, sure go ahead and splurge, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. But I very much prefer the Bazaar, and not just because the tour starts with desert. The menu here changes often to introduce new cuisines and dishes from around the world, the food is fresh and delicious and the views over the lake with the Remarkables in the back are breath taking. Check out First table, you might be able to get this gourmet indulgence for a fraction of the price.

 

12. Night ski at Coronet Peak

There’s just something special about night skiing, something you don’t get to experience when hitting the slopes in broad daylight. On Wednesday, Friday and Saturday Coronet Peak lights up, the massive flood lights illuminating the slopes. Head up a little bit early to enjoy the sunset and make sure to stay late to grab a few drinks and enjoy the beats at the Elevate party.

 

13. Wine tasting

Queenstown is located in Otago, a region known for the best Pinot Noir and all around town you’ll find fabulous wine estates producing some of the best wines in New Zealand. Each winery unique and every wine delicious. In summer I’d suggest you op on a bike and hit the wine trail, but in winter you’re better off joining a wine tasting tour, the kind that comes with a sober driver and a heated van.

 

14. Heli skiing

Don’t feel like sharing the slopes and waiting in line for the chair lift? Then heli skiing is for you! Hop on a helicopter, land on a mountain peak and carve your own lines down the powdery slopes for the ultimate New Zealand winter experience! This fun adventure is no joke though, you’ll need to be a pretty good skier or snowboarder and be in decent shape.

 

15. Go snow kiting

What do you do when you have countless kilometres of snowy clearings and an abundance of wind? You go snow kiting, obviously! There are countless locations around Queenstown where you can take your kite up, but if you’re a beginner or just wanting to learn we recommend Snow Farm.

 

16. Drive the Crown Range to Wanaka

Grab your rental vehicle, add some snow snow chains to the mix and hit the road. This steep and windy road will take you over the beautiful Crown Range, past Cardrona and Snow Farm, all the way to Wanaka. There will be no shortage of beautiful vistas and photo spots. The road is well maintained and plowed regularly but ccheck the forecast and road conditions before heading off. If the conditions change while you’re in Wanaka you can always return via Cromwell.

 

17. Cross country skiing & Snowshoing at snow farm

Snow farm is located in the Pisa Conservation Area just off of the Crown Range road. Here you’ll find kilometres upon kilometres of Cross country tracks, a small network of backcountry huts and the Snow Fun zone for sledding and tubing. Exploring this winter wonderland in the Pisa Range

 

18. Hit the slopes at Cardrona

Cardrona is located about half way between Queenstown and Wanaka and offers modern facilities, wide ski fields and it might just be the best ski resort in the area. The drive is a little bit longer than getting to the Remarkables or Coronet Peak but totally worth it. And the best part?The legendary apres ski at the Cardrona hotel! Make sure to stop for a drink and a bite on your way back.

 

19. Watch an ice hockey game

Ice Hockey is big in Queenstown and watching the Southern Stampede (the Queenston team) win at the local ice area is quite an experience. Put on something yellow and something blue and get ready to cheer.

 

20. Explore middle earth

Lord of the Rings was filmed entirely in New Zealand and you can find a lot of the LOTR filming locations around Queenstown. Just outside town you’ll find Amon Hen, Ithilien Camp, Isengard, Lothlórien, the lands of Rohan and more iconic locations of the Middle Earths. If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan we recommend you book guided a LOTR tour and a guide will take you to the best viewpoints and provide plenty of context and backstage stories for the ultimate experience.

 

21. Steak & beers at Atlas

This might just be the thing I miss most about living in Queenstown. Friday after work, meet Lexa and Kurt at Atlas, order a medium rare steak, extra gravy and truly enjoy that pint of Altitude’s Mischievous Kea, or some other amazing IPA on the guest tap. It was my end of week ritual, but you can do it any (every?) day of the week. With 22 taps and a trippy toilet behind the fridge door, this tiny bar is bound to become your favourite too.

22. Fear factory

Just opposite Earnslaw park, Fear Factory takes haunted house to the next level. Wait till it’s dark outside then grab your buddies and put your big boy (or girl) pants on and get ready to scream. The awesome actors at the Fear Factory will disguise as mummies, zombies, creepy clowns and all sorts of zombies and tug at you, appear and disappear and have you walking on your toes as you make your way though the dark and creepy corridors.

 

23. Sky dive

Sky diving in Queenstown is breathtaking any time of the year, but it’s hard to beat the views you get from the sky in winter. You’ll get snow covered mountains all around and the glimmering blue lake below them as you free fall from the sky. Wrap up well and scream out loud, enjoy!

 

24. Dorothy Browns Cinema in Arrowtown

Here’s the thing about winter, the days are short, the temperatures are low and you just wanna spend more time inside than you would in Spring or summer. So why not escape to the movies? In Arrowtown you’ll find the cutest and quirkiest boutique cinema with miss-matched armchairs and pink chiffon curtains screening both contemporary and arthouse films and serving amazing cheese boards and wine at your seat.

 

25. Irish night in Arrowtown

Every Wednesday night from 6.30pm onwards, Fork & Tap Arrowtown puts on quite the event. Somewhere between a concert and a jam session, these Wednesday nights are a lot of fun. If you’re a musician you can join the local crew for a few songs, otherwise slowly work your way through the countless craft beers on tap, grab a bite and just have fun.

 

26. Get your heart pumping

Queenstown is considered to be the adventure capital of New Zealand. The crazy bungy jumps, canyon swings, zip lines, jet boats and God knows what else bring in more than three million visitors a year. While getting splashed by cold water on a jet boat ride might not be as enjoyable on a frosty winter morning as it is on a hot summer afternoon, all these blood pumping activities run year round. Fear not, you won’t be missing out on any of these by visiting in winter, you’ll just be able to add a ton of winter activities on top of the usual stuff!

 

27. Do a winter hike

There is no shortage of hikes, walks and trails around Queenstown and most of them are fabulous also in winter. For a short walk and a snowball fight go up to Queenstown hill. This hike is short and easy and offers breathtaking views over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu. If you want something more, head up Ben Lomond for a full day hike. The views are even better, the snow much deeper and the hike is worth every drop of your sweat.

 

28. Frisbee golf

If you walked through the Queenstown gardens you might have noticed these funny looking cage like bins on a pole. That’s your target when playing frisbee golf (disc golf). The rules are similar to golf but instead of a ball and a club, you play it by throwing a frisbee. The course is fr
ee to use and you can rent the frisbee at most hostels and sports stores around town and head off to the gardens for an afternoon on fun.

 

Where to stay in Queenstown in winter

In Queenstown you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to accommodation but keep in mind that this town gets very busy in winter so you need to book well in advance. We also recommend you get a place with a hot pool or a sauna, it just makes the whole winter holiday so much better!

The Black Sheep Backpackers - ON A BUDGET, WITH A VIEW & A HOT TUBIf you’re on a budget this centrally located hostel is the perfect pick for you. It gives you easy access to the bars and restaurants in town, offers ski storage and a hot tub with a view. You can pick between dorms or private rooms.
  The Black Sheep Backpackers   ON A BUDGET, WITH A VIEW & A HOT TUB If you’re on a budget this centrally located hostel is the perfect pick for you. It gives you easy access to the bars and restaurants in town, offers ski storage and a hot tub with a view. You can pick between dorms or private rooms. CHECK PRICES
Kamana Lakehouse - MODERN, BEAUTIFUL & FANTASTIC VIEWSWith breathtaking views, floor to ceiling windows and its contemporary decor, this modern lake house might just be our favourite place to stay in Queenstown, not to mention the delicious buffet breakfast!
  Kamana Lakehouse   MODERN, BEAUTIFUL & FANTASTIC VIEWS With breathtaking views, floor to ceiling windows and its contemporary decor, this modern lake house might just be our favourite place to stay in Queenstown, not to mention the delicious buffet breakfast! CHECK PRICES
Shotover Penthouse & Spa - CENTRAL, OPULENT AND PERFECTThis Penthouse is something else. Located smack in the middle of town and boosting some incredible views and a massive terrace with a hot tub, this apartment can sleep 6 and is perfect for groups.
  Shotover Penthouse & Spa   CENTRAL, OPULENT AND PERFECT This Penthouse is something else. Located smack in the middle of town and boosting some incredible views and a massive terrace with a hot tub, this apartment can sleep 6 and is perfect for groups. CHECK PRICES

 

Queenstown winter FAQ

When is winter in Queenstown?

Winter in New Zealand starts at the end of June and lasts till the end of September, making July, August and September the official winter months.

Is Queenstown better in summer or winter?

Queenstown is great year round. In summer you get to enjoy the lake and beautiful weather while in winter you can do winter sports. Most of the summer activities are possible year round, also in winter.

How cold does Queenstown get in winter?

The winter temperatures in Queenstown are generally between 0 and 8 degrees Celsius. At night it can go just slightly below freezing level and on a sunny and wind-still day it can be very pleasant.

Does Queenstown get snow?

Queenstown rarely gets snow in town and when it does, the sow doesn’t last long.

Why visit Queenstown in winter?

For the snow sports, the amazing apres ski, the beautiful sunny days in the valley and all the fun and beauty that Queenstown offers.


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Zi @Craving Adventure

3 Comments

  1. Fabulous list. You remind me just how much I miss the South Island, and it actually hasn’t been that long since I was there. Some new ideas too, like a steak at Atlas, that will go on our list for next time.

  2. Great post! Sadly, New Zealand is such a long trip from Europe, I wonder if I will ever make it there, getting only 2 weeks of leave in one go. Love the photographs and the activities

  3. Wow it looks like there are a lot of fantastic things to do here during the wintertime! I don’t know much about the area so this was really interesting to read!

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