It’s known as the Adventure Capital of the World, and when you visit Queenstown in spring, you’ll be able to enjoy absolutely everything the city and surrounding region offers. From the glass-surfaced Lake Wakatipu to the snow-capped Remarkables, the landscape presents grandeur and beauty in equal measure.
Whether you’re ready to spike your adrenaline production by snowboarding or bungee jumping or calm your nervous system by hiking remote trails, it’s all much easier if you have a rental car to get from one spot to the next. Here are some of the best things to do in Queenstown during spring.
Lakeside Day Trip
If you followed the Glenorchy-Queenstown Road along the northern and eastern edges of Lake Wakatipu and didn’t take any breaks on your way, you’d be in Glenorchy in about 45 minutes. It’s easy to turn it into a full-day itinerary, though, if you stop to admire views and go on walks.
Your first stop should be Sunshine Bay, a stunning lake beach much loved by the locals. There’s a small pier and plenty of places to sit and enjoy the sun’s rays. Can you swim? Well, that depends on how tough you are. The water is safe but cold.
Those ready to pull on their hiking boots should hit the Seven Mile Track, an easy lakefront walk that offers up stony beaches, regenerating bushland, secluded swimming spots and views of the Remarkables. It’s about 6km return and should take 90 minutes if you don’t spend too much time on the beaches.
Other pretty spots include Moke Lake, the Twelve Mile Delta Reserve, which was the location of Ithilien Camp in Lord of the Rings, Bob’s Cove and the photogenic Little Paradise Wharf.
Once you’ve arrived in Glenorchy, there are a few places to explore. There’s not a lot of food on offer, but stop by Mrs Woolly’s General Store, which has good coffee and tasty pies. Take a stroll along the jetty and onto the Glenorchy Boardwalk, which leads to the Glenorchy Lagoon. On a clear, calm day, the lagoon serves as a mirror, reflecting the mountains that surround it.
Spring on the South Island Slopes
If you’re travelling to Queenstown at the beginning of spring, you’ll be able to catch the end of the ski season. By September, most of the skiing crowd has packed up and gone home, leaving the runs uncrowded. Plus, you might find yourself a bargain lift ticket. Just remember the warmer weather in the afternoon will start to melt the snow that will then freeze overnight, so take your time getting on the mountain to avoid the worst of the ice.
There are four easily accessed ski fields around Queenstown. Coronet Peak, established in 1947, was New Zealand’s first commercial ski area. It’s also the closest mountain to Queenstown and has a range of runs to suit any skier. Head up to the summit viewpoint for incredible vistas of Lake Wakatipu then take the intermediate-level M1 back down the mountain – unless, of course, you’re keen to try a black run. Open until 1 October each year, it also offers night skiing on flood-lit runs.
Treble Cone also stays open until 1 October and is the largest ski area on the South Island. During spring, take advantage of the uncrowded groomed runs, or if you’re an enthusiast, you might want to hit some off-piste terrain.
A 40-minute drive in the rental car will take you from Queenstown to the Remarkables Ski Area. It has a huge beginners’ area and seven different parks with terrain and runs to suit all skiers and snowboarders.
The last ski area to close in the region is Cardrona Alpine Resort, which stays open until 15 October. It gets an average of 2.9m of snow each season, but also has snowmaking machines for a few of its basins, meaning you should be able to get some good runs until mid-spring.
Other Queenstown Adventures
Still looking for things to do? Arrowtown, a preserved gold-rush town, is about 20 minutes away. Set on the banks of the Arrow River, the town’s heritage buildings have been transformed to create a precinct of shops, galleries, bars and restaurants, as well as a museum.
The Gibbston area of Queenstown is known as the Valley of the Vines and produces excellent pinot noir. Set your sights on Gibbston Valley Winery, about 25 minutes from Queenstown, for an afternoon out. It has a lovely bistro, tasting room (don’t forget to nominate a designated driver) and the country’s largest wine cave. You can also hire a bike here for easy access to some of the region’s best trails.
If you’ve been skiing or hiking during your visit to Queenstown, book some soaking time at Onsen Hot Pools, a scenic 10-minute drive from Queenstown. Set on a cliff overlooking the Shotover River, it has cedar hot pool tubs both inside and out, all with incredible views.
Before you explore Queenstown in spring, hire a rental car to make it easier to go further.