Location: In the Central Otago region of New Zealand’s South Island, on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. (Approx. six hours drive from Christchurch.)
Sitting on the beautiful shores of Lake Wakatipu and with the stunning Southern Alps as its backdrop, Queenstown is one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist towns year-round. It’s close to some of the country’s best ski fields, is renowned for adventure sports such as bungee jumping and jet boating, is a great base for exploring the world-famous vineyards of the Central Otago region and nearby historic mining areas and is home to several film locations from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It’s no wonder Queenstown is high on the ‘must-see’ list for visitors to New Zealand.
Hit the slopes
Queenstown is New Zealand’s winter playground. It has four ski areas, the closest of which is just 20 minutes from the town centre. (And in a Wilderness campervan you can drive on ski access roads, so getting up to the snow is even easier. We even have snow chains for hire.)
The ski season in Queenstown is one of the longest in the Southern Hemisphere, running from June to October. The four ski fields include The Remarkables, Coronet Peak, Cardrona, and Treble Cone. You can try one or all four with the wide variety of ski area and season passes available. Each one has varied terrain and offers lessons (for adults and kids) and ski gear hire.
Feel the adrenalin
Queenstown is known as “The Adventure Capital of the World” and adventure junkies will certainly feel right at home with opportunities to jump, swing and fly around every corner.
Bungy jumping is synonymous with Queenstown as the AJ Hackett jump site at nearby Kawarau Gorge was the world’s first commercial bungy jump operation and still attracts thousands of jumpers every year.
Fun for the family
There are heaps of indoor and outdoor activities for the family to enjoy together in Queenstown, no matter what time of year you visit.
Lugeing (light tobogganing) is fun for all ages and comes with amazing views. Ride the Skyline gondola to the top of Bob’s Peak for panoramic views of Queenstown and the surrounding mountain ranges, then head down on the luge track. You can choose how slow or fast you want to go – so it suits beginners and speed demons! Even small children can ride tandem with an adult.
A zipline (or ‘flying fox’ as Kiwis call it) trip combines adventure with great scenery. Ziptrek Ecotours caters for those aged six and up with a range of tours through the forest canopy high above Queenstown.
Kids always love a chance to see animals up close, and Real Journeys offers a farm tour that combines a scenic cruise on the historic TSS Earnslaw with a tour of a working high country farm, complete with shearing demonstration. It’s a neat way to spend the day and a great insight into the Kiwi farming life.
If you need to fill a rainy day then the Odyssey Sensory Maze (recommended for 8+) is a unique adventure, or head to Thrill Zone (suitable for 4+) where you’ll find a range of activities like drift karting, laser tag and 360 VR gaming.
And no trip to New Zealand is complete without seeing a real Kiwi, and Kiwi Birdlife Park offers the chance to do just that, along with 20 other species of birds and reptiles.
Food and wine heaven
Queenstown sits in the Central Otago region of New Zealand, which is renowned globally for its wines, especially Pinot Noir. There is a huge range of wineries to visit – from small boutique producers to larger wineries where you can enjoy a glass of Central Otago wine over a meal of New Zealand’s best produce at a restaurant with sweeping vineyard views.
For more unforgettable places to eat, check out our 20 best food experiences in New Zealand.
Walking and hiking
Queenstown and the surrounding area is home to some spectacular landscapes (including Lord of the Rings film locations) and there are plenty of walking and hiking trails to suits all ages and abilities, whether it’s an easy 15 minute stroll around Lake Wakatipu or a full day walk following goldfield trails for the more adventurous. The Department of Conservation website is an excellent starting point for planning your walk or ask at the Queenstown iSite visitor information centre in the main town.
Read up on New Zealand's hiking etiquette to get the best out of your hiking experience.
Queenstown is home to three of New Zealand’s top golf courses, including the home of the NZ Golf Open. So stash your golf clubs in the garage of your Wilderness campervan and get ready to experience stunning views as you play a round.
Jack’s Point is set against the Remarkables mountain range with panoramic lake views. Located 20 minutes from central Queenstown, it’s an 18-hole par 72 championship course that weaves through dramatic landscapes to the edge of Lake Wakatipu. While it is a private course, Jack’s Point is open to visitors.
Millbrook is an award-winning 27-hole championship golf course in Arrowtown and features a backdrop of the Remarkables mountain range.
The Hills is home to the NZ Open and is also in Arrowtown. It’s set over 500 acres across a glacial valley with rocky schist outcrops that are a feature of the area. The Hills is a private members club but does offer opportunities for visitors to experience the course. Alternatively, Peak Golf Queenstown offers a green fees booking service.
Note: some courses close over winter so always check individual websites for the latest information.
For more inspiration, watch golfers enjoying a New Zealand motorhome golfing holiday.
Which season to visit Queenstown?
Winter (June-August) – a hugely popular time with thousands flocking to the slopes and the Queenstown Winter Festival, which runs in June each year. There are also school holidays in New Zealand during July, so activities are busier. If you can plan ahead, love the snow and are happy to be amongst the crowds then this is a great time to visit.
Spring (September-November) – a much quieter time and offering beautiful scenery as the region’s vineyards come into bud and the fruit trees blossom. Central Otago (especially Cromwell, 50 minutes from Queenstown) is famous for its stonefruit, so cherry, peach and plum trees are a gorgeous sight at this time of year. The ski season runs through to October too, so you could still get some fun in the snow without battling the crowds.
Summer (December-February) – this is the best weather (expect long hot days and balmy nights). It’s busy, as Kiwis are on their main holiday break over the December/January period and the vineyards, walking trails, adventure activities and water sports draw locals and tourists.
Autumn (March-May) – a more relaxed pace, when the Central Otago landscape is painted in red and gold. The historic goldmining settlement of Arrowtown, just 20 minutes from Queenstown, is famed for its autumnal displays and is a must-see for its heritage buildings, boutique shopping, cafés and restaurants.
Where to park up
Queenstown is such a popular destination it has stricter rules than most areas in New Zealand about where you can and can’t stay. (The Queenstown Lakes District Council has some useful info on its website about this.)
There is a selection of campsites and holiday parks in and around the town offering powered sites and facilities, but if you’d like to freedom camp you’ll need to head further out as it’s prohibited within the main township and residential areas.
There are some fantastic overnight spots within 15-30 minutes’ drive of central Queenstown. The Twelve Mile Delta campsite is 12km west on the edge of Lake Wakatipu and was a location in The Lord of the Rings trilogy; or you can stay next to the famous Kawarau Bridge (yes, the one that everyone bungee jumps from!) in the Historic Reserve, which allows overnight freedom camping for self-contained vehicles only.
It can get very busy in Queenstown over peak times and parking a campervan on the street can be tricky. There are 33 dedicated campervan parks at the Boundary Street Carpark a short walk from the town centre, or you could park just out of town and use public transport to travel in.