Queenstown Motorhome Holiday Guide

Queenstown Motorhome Holiday Guide

Driftaway Queenstown motorhome parked by the lake

Natural beauty and topography coexist with adrenaline junky heaven in the heart of Central Otago — Queenstown.


Earning its title as the adventure capital of the world long before its world-first innovations in jet boating and bungy jumping, Queenstown still attracts thrillseekers and entrepreneurs.


It’s a popular spot for many outdoor activities including running, skiing, kayaking, fishing and mountain biking — while its unique terroir makes it one of New Zealand’s premier wine destinations.


In this holiday guide, we look at visiting Queenstown in a motorhome, what to see and do in the adventure town, plus what to eat and where to stay.


We also chat with Wilderness Motorhomes’ Lead Content Creator, Craig McClelland — who’s travelled to more than 50 countries and visited Queenstown more times than he can count.







The adventure capital of the world


Opportunists and adventurers first began migrating to the shores of Lake Wakatipu when gold was discovered on the Shotover River in November 1862.


Once a sheep homestead owned by early explorer William Rees, a town was soon created by the large migration of people seeking their fortune. The gold rush era of the mid to late 1800s saw the town explode in population — before the rush subsided and tourism began to develop.


Queenstown’s famous Skyline Gondola was built by 1910 — giving anyone access to the stunning panoramic views from atop Bob’s Peak.

Two kids looking over Queenstown view from Queenstown Skyline

Over the 20th century, various other tourist attractions came to fruition slowly giving Queenstown its reputation. Rafting and jet boating became popular in the area — then, significantly, bungy jumping in 1988.

Besides all the tourism and development leading to more adrenaline activities, fine dining and superb wineries, Rees’ old homestead still takes pride of place in the centre of the town.




Getting around Queenstown


With its spectacular mountainscapes and lake, Queenstown is the ideal base for exploring Fiordland. It provides close access to iconic attractions like Arrowtown, the Shotover Jet, Glenorchy and Coronet Peak.


Lake Wakatipu is central to the resort town — which boasts incredible views of The Remarkables mountain range from every angle.


However, with only one main road leading in and out of Queenstown, it’s important to plan when to drive your motorhome rental into the centre. Try to avoid busier road times like the work rush and school pick up. Also, research your route as some roads aren’t suitable for larger vehicles.


The weather may also play a factor in your motorhome journey planning — if skiing or snowboarding are on your itinerary. Always check the latest road conditions and consider hiring snow chains if you intend to travel on alpine roads.


Find out how to fit snow chains on your motorhome. However, if you don’t feel confident driving your motorhome hire on steep mountain roads to ski fields, there are plenty of shuttle services available from Queenstown.


Essential Scenery


The panoramic views from the top of Coronet Peak are hard to beat. The winter snow and cold make it feel like a magical location — especially with the frosted tips of The Remarkables piercing the distant sky.


Summer up the mountain offers mountain biking and high altitude disc golf, along with contrastingly snowless views.




Things to see and do in Queenstown


The hardest part of your Queenstown visit will be deciding which of the myriad things to do.



Wander the waterfront


Once you’re in the town centre, take a walk around the waterfront of Lake Wakatipu — New Zealand’s longest lake.


With gardens, bars, restaurants, buskers and market sellers, the waterfront is a wonderful way to get a sense of this unique and popular town. Don’t miss taking a peek at the TSS Earnslaw. It’s known as the lady of the lake and has been gracing the shores of Lake Wakatipu for over a century.



Ride a gondola


With dramatic views of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding areas, taking the Skyline Gondola is a fun way to see greater Queenstown.



Descend on the Skyline Luge

Queenstown luge and lake

Why not come back down the only way they know how in the adventure capital — with adrenaline pumping. The Skyline Luge offers an alternative way down, on four wheels.


Described as part go-kart, part toboggan, the luge is a gravity-powered ride that takes you downhill from Bob’s Peak back into Queenstown. The two tracks to choose from are the:


  • Arrow track — a leisurely ride with easy bends, tunnels and dips on a gentle gradient
  • Dart track — offering a steeper gradient with banked corners, tunnels, dippers and cuttings.


You can ride the gondola to reach the top of the luge or hike up the Tiki Trail. It begins at the end of Brecon Street near the bottom of the gondola.





If you’re motorhoming with younger kids who don’t meet the minimum age or height requirements, you can actually ride the luge with them — creating some epic family memories.

Craig McClelland — Wilderness Lead Content Creator & keen traveller



Jump off a bridge


Taking a leap into the air with a bungy cord wrapped around your ankles is a bucket list experience for many people worldwide.


Queenstown is home to the world’s first commercial bungy — off the Kawarau Bridge. If you want to test your nerve and see what it feels like to fly, the world’s adventure capital is the place to do it.


Drive your campervan hire about half an hour out of town where you’ll have a choice of three jumps, namely the:


  • Kawarau Bridge Bungy — the original bungy from this historic bridge is 43 metres high and getting wet at the bottom is optional

  • Nevis Bungy — the highest bungy jump in New Zealand offers a 8.5 seconds freefall experience from the dizzying heights of 134m

  • Ledge Bungy — this 47m freestyle bungy was temporarily closed at the time of writing so check the website if it’s back up and running again.

If you’re having plenty of fun, consider the other A J Hackett Bungy options on offer, like the Kawarau Zipride, the Nevis Catapult and the Nevis Swing.



Fly without jumping off a bridge

IFly Indoor Skydiving Queenstown

It’s clear that bungy jumping isn’t for everyone but there are other adrenaline activities in Queenstown where you can fly without launching yourself off a bridge.


Call into iFLY to experience the thrill of flying without the fear of falling. It’s safe and fun for the whole family.



Relax at a winery


If you intend on visiting a few wineries near Queenstown, having wheels will make this activity a lot easier.


Central Otago is home to some of the world’s finest pinot noir wine. An incredible 175 wineries are all within 40 minutes of Queenstown — so your hardest choice will be which one to visit.


A few popular options include:


  • Gibbston Valley — home to New Zealand’s largest wine cave and the region’s oldest vineyard, take a tour and a tasting and see the pinot noir winemakers in action.

  • Amisfield — awarded three hats, run by Michelin star chef Vaughan Mabee and located right by Lake Hayes, this winery where the seasons dictate the experience is simply spectacular.

  • Chard Farm — this scenic, family-owned winery has beaut views of the historic Kawarau Bridge but a tight access road so is best visited on a bike.

  • Peregrine Wines — the vineyard management of these organically certified wines involves livestock and crop farming and the conservation of New Zealand native birds like the saddleback, mohua and kārearea.


Check out our Napier motorhome holiday guide for reviews of some excellent North Island wineries.

Moke Lake Trail (credit QueenstownNZ.co.nz)


On your bike

By basing yourself in or near Queenstown, you’ll have the opportunity to visit wineries on two wheels. A number of wineries are within an easy biking distance and you can enjoy the great trail network in this part of the world.

Either hire a bike rack and travel with your own cycles or check out bike hire options in town.

See our South Island bike trails road trip itinerary for some classic rides across the island.



Walk the trails


In a setting like Queenstown, there’s no shortage of beautiful walks for all ages and abilities, such as the:


  • Queenstown Gardens Trail — wheelchair-accessible and flat, this walk includes views of the rose garden, Lake Wakatipu and Cecil Peak.

  • Sunshine Bay Track — this easy trail follows the edge of Lake Wakatipu, winding through native bush to the jetty at Sunshine Bay Beach

  • Ben Lomond Track — this day hike begins near Bob’s Peak, passes through alpine tussock and shrubs to the Ben Lomond saddle, before climbing steeply uphill to a 1,748m summit.


Read about New Zealand’s best hikes and walks.



Ski or snowboard

Skiing Coronet Peak

Winter in Queenstown is a snow bunny’s paradise. There’s no better way to scratch your skiing or snowboarding itch than atop one of the four major ski resorts within reach of the town.


If you’re carrying snow chains, you may be able to drive your motorhome rental up to the car park of:


  • The Remarkables — celebrated for its diverse trails and stunning alpine setting
  • Coronet Peak — so close to Queenstown with options like night skiing featuring live DJs
  • Cardrona — renowned for its family-friendly atmosphere and terrain parks
  • Treble Cone — with super challenging slopes and amazing views of Wānaka.


Alternatively, we highly recommend using one of Queenstown’s many daily shuttles during winter to these snow playgrounds.



Play golf

Golfing at Millbrook

Queenstown has developed into a mecca for golfing enthusiasts with some money to spend. If you’re travelling with your clubs, or you play off a decent handicap, book a tee time at one of the top courses in the region — The Hills, Millbrook or Jack’s Point.


Essential activity — Shotover Jet

The Shotover Jet is the original Queenstown adventure activity that’s been around since 1965.

You’ll enjoy an exclusive peek into the pristine natural landscape of the Shotover River canyons. Gain up to 85km/h of speed in very shallow water — then get shaken up with 360 degree spins and breathtaking twists and turns.




What to eat in Queenstown


A vast array of award-winning restaurants and wineries are scattered across Queenstown. It’s a place that’s become well known for its vibrant world class food scene.



The Lodge Bar


Settle into your personal leather armchair and prepare to relax with some of the country’s finest samples at The Lodge Bar. Enjoy food from internationally-renowned executive chef Matt Lambert — and indulge in the wine pairings chosen by top New Zealand sommelier Cameron Douglas.



The Cow


Something of an institution around these parts, The Cow has been offering a cosy, rustic dining experience since 1977. This makes it the town’s oldest continuously operating restaurant — partly hidden down Cow Lane.


Come here for homely pizza and pasta before wandering the lake front to end a great night out.





Open Wednesday to Sunday in Millbrook golf and lifestyle resort, the Millhouse is housed on the slate of the original flour mill. Take in the views over the tranquil millpond and the 18th hole of one of Millbrook’s two golf courses.


Here you can expect only the best locally sourced produce from local farmers and Millbrook's own kitchen garden.

Fergburger Queenstown




Fergburger gets all the accolades, plaudits and customers — and rightly so, as they still sell mouthwatering burgers. However, there are other burger options in town if that’s the food you’re looking for.


Try Devil Burger or Black Burger or Love Chicken.


Craig McClelland






Wanting a place to dine that comes with unmatched panoramic views of Lake Wakatipu? Look no further than the Stratosfare Restaurant & Bar at the top of the Skyline Gondola.


It’s a buffet dining experience with the lights of Queenstown shining bright below and the glow of snow-capped peaks, like The Remarkables, in the distance.



Blue Kanu


The vibe at Blue Kanu is what the owners call Polynasia — mixing together the cooking styles and cultures of both Pacifica and Asia. Catering to the concept of social dining with shared dishes, it’s a superb night out if celebrating a big occasion with friends or family.


If you’re lucky, you might even be treated to the staff singing and playing guitar for you.


Bespoke Kitchen


For incredibly fresh food that looks and tastes great, visit the Bespoke Kitchen for breakfast or lunch. The team here has a focus on health and wellbeing so you won’t find any processed foods on their menu.


Queenstown's culinary scene is as diverse as the surrounding landscapes, so be sure to research what else is out there and book in advance to avoid disappointment.


Remarkables Market



Essential eatery — Remarkables Market


Every Saturday morning and early afternoon from late September to mid-April, the Remarkables Market attracts a crowd. Close to the airport in Frankton, you can find artisanal food and drink — and there’s a large car parking area suitable for campervans.


You might also run into one of their winter markets. Five or six take place during the colder months.


Check out the best farmers’ markets to visit on your campervan road trip.





Where to stay in Queenstown


Queenstown sees a huge number of tourists passing through on any given day — which has led to freedom camping becoming a significant talking point.


It’s important to find out where you’re allowed to park during the day and freedom camp overnight. The Queenstown Lakes District Council has a responsible camping map to help highlight areas where camping is prohibited.



Queenstown Top 10 Holiday Park


Nearby Arthurs Point is home to the Queenstown Top 10 Holiday Park on the road out of town towards Coronet Peak. An alpine setting campground, it’s ideal if you’re travelling with your young family.


You’ll even be able to walk to the famous Shotover Jet and Canyon Swing located a few hundred metres up the road. Free shuttles into town are also provided — so you won’t have to worry about parking your campervan or motorhome in town.



Creeksyde Queenstown Holiday Park


If you fancy staying in the heart of Queenstown, Creeksyde is your place. This peaceful campsite is nestled in picturesque, landscaped gardens, with exotic and native trees that are home to many native birds.


Only a few minutes walking will get you to the centre of town.




You don’t need to be based in Queenstown to enjoy it. One place that’s still a little underrated is Glenorchy — and the scenic drive there is quite thrilling.


Only 45 minutes away, the fun Mrs Woolly’s Campground is open from mid-Spring to mid-Autumn.


Craig McClelland




Mrs Woollys Campground



Moke Lake Campsite


Peaceful Moke Lake Campsite has 50 non-powered sites and is the perfect spot for fishing, canoeing and swimming. Plenty of walks and mountain biking trails are close by. You’ll feel like you’re miles from Queenstown — when in fact, you’re only 15km away up the valley.



Twelve Mile Delta Campsite


On the road out of town to Glenorchy is Twelve Mile Delta — a camp surrounded by regenerating forest. This popular spot may look familiar as it was the location for Ithilien Camp in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.


Find out more in our South Island Lord of the Rings campervan itinerary.



Freedom camping locations


Self-contained vehicles have some superb options in this visually stunning area if you really want to get away from it all, including:


  • Kawarau Bridge Historic Reserve — set yourself up to wake up to bungy jumping at this fun place, only 25 minutes drive from Queenstown

  • Kingston Campsite — roughly a half hour drive around the lake, this relaxing camping space has plenty of room and is located at an idyllic lakeside location

  • Crown Range Road Summit Car Park — wake up to an epic view overlooking valleys and lakes at the southern end of the Cardrona Valley on Crown Range Road.


Most freedom camping sites will let you stay for a maximum of four nights in a row. Take a look at our blog featuring the best campsites in and around Queenstown.



The problem with parking in Queenstown


Large campervans and motorhomes are restricted to where they can park in town. The Boundary Street Car Park is one of the few places that has parking spaces specifically for RVs.





Events and festivals to go to in Queenstown


No matter the time of year, there’s always something happening in Queenstown. Plan your trip south to this town that loves to party when one of these big events is on.




Luma Festival

The LUMA Southern Light Project is an arts, performance and sensory event designed to connect people. Celebrating local, national and international artists in early winter, it’s a superb family event which lights up the Queenstown Gardens.



Snow Machine


A ski trip and music festival all in one, Snow Machine features four days of music, snow and partying on the slopes of The Remarkables and Coronet Peak in September. You can ski or snowboard by day — then join the party at the main arena in the evening.



Winter Pride


Late August sees Queenstown celebrate Winter Pride on and off the mountains. The town celebrates love, community, diversity, visibility, safety and inclusion with 11 days of activities.



NZ Mountain Film & Book Festival


Over its 22 year history, the NZ Mountain Film & Book Festival has built a reputation for showcasing world-class films. Open to writers and filmmakers, the festival often launches new careers.


The theme for this year’s festival is adventurous sports and lifestyles and it will be taking place in late June.



Arrowtown Autumn Festival

Arrowtown Autumn Festival

Now in its 39th year, head a little further afield to Arrowtown to enjoy the street parades, market day, great food, sporting events and local quiz. The Arrowtown Autumn Festival usually takes place in late April.


Discover our top reasons for exploring New Zealand by motorhome in Autumn.


where to go & what to do