top of page

Top 10 things to do and see in Queenstown, New Zealand (including the best time of day)

Updated: Jan 30, 2020

Before I get right into it, I would like to dedicate this blog to Missy and her flatties - Meg and Hayley (I have decided dedicating a blog is definitely a thing). Thanks so much for hosting me, James and Vinnie in Queenstown – letting us do laundry galore, driving James to the Emergency Department when he cut his leg open, sharing the WiFi password and really, just being so blimmin’ welcoming and generous. In all honesty, staying with these legends would have been our number one recommendation for Queenstown…but that probably doesn’t really help you guys much! Unless you know Missy, Meg or Hayley… anyway, here we go!

1. Ben Lomond Hike (sunrise)

Hands down the best walk we did in Queenstown. So good, we came back for seconds. Just like you do with any free sample at the supermarket. It took us just under two hours to reach the saddle, and from there, it was probably another hour to reach the top (the summit). The summit provides beautiful 360 degree panoramic views over all of Queenstown and surrounding areas – (even allowing you to see out to Moke Lake) but we actually preferred the scenery back at the saddle.

Ben Lomond Hike Queenstown NZ

(view from the Summit)

So when we did Ben Lomond a second time (for sunrise), we decided to only go as far as the saddle and were blown away. Sometimes you make a decision and it’s just right. Most of the time this doesn’t actually happen for us, but when it does IT BLOODY DOES! The photo options at the saddle were endless - the path looked similar to the ever popular ‘Roy’s Peak’ shot in Wanaka, there were rocky outcrops overhanging the path which you could stand on (safely), and of course, you could snap a pic of the actual summit itself. Basically the options were as endless as Rapunzel’s hair.

All in all, if you’re in Queenstown and you only have time for one walk we would highly highly recommend doing the Ben Lomond hike! Our tips/how we would do it:

  • Aim to get to the saddle for sunrise and pack brekkie;

  • Stop and have brekkie at the saddle, watching the sun slowly light up the summit;

  • Continue up to the summit when you’re ready (note – you will want good sturdy shoes for this part as it’s a bit rocky);

  • Pack a windbreaker/windproof jacket; and

  • MOST IMPORTANTLY - make sure your food is packaged well. The keas here are the absolute definition of RUTHLESS. I’m almost positive they are the same ones that stole my Dove Deodorant 11 years ago on my high school skiing trip. RIP $7.50 Dove Deodorant.

PS make sure you stop along the path and admire the super cute bearded billy goats (we saw about 20). I don’t know why I find their beards so funny. Maybe because it’s like they can’t decide if they want to look cute or wise? So they just went for both.

2. Glenorchy Pier and Shed (sunrise)

Little ol’ Glenorchy. in my opinion it’s a place that doesn’t have a lot, but somehow has it all. A settlement with a little ol’ beach, a little ol’ shed and a little ol’ jetty. We drove here from Queenstown one afternoon, and sat by the old shed reading our books (Missy has given me the Bronze Horseman which I CANNOT put down), eating our dinner and watching the sun set and rise. While there were about five or so other people around, it didn’t feel crowded or touristy in any way. I think Glenorchy is the perfect place to just sit, read and be.

Note – the two gorgeous lights on the jetty stay on all night (they seem to turn on at sunset and off just after sunrise).

3. Bob’s Cove – Lookout and Jetty (Daytime)

Only about 15km out of Queenstown, this was one of our favourite short walks in the area! We found the signage a little confusing here, so hopefully my explanation will be more helpful than a sandfly bite. We took the Bob's cove walk to the jetty which took us about 10 or so minutes and then from there, we continued up the path which very gradually took us over the hill and provided remarkable views over the glistening Lake Wakatipu. The isthmus (neck) is just beautiful on a clear sunny day and the turquoise water colour will leave you mesmerised. All up, it probably took us 25 minutes to reach the isthmus and we would recommend going during the day (ideally late morning/early afternoon so the sun isn’t too bright/harsh!). This is a good stop on your way to/from Glenorchy too!

4. Queenstown Hill/Te Tapu-nui Bench (sunrise)

A relatively easy walk – the Queenstown Hill takes about an hour to reach the top and provides stunning views over all of Queenstown. Too much effort? Not enough time? Slept in? Maybe all of the above? Well you’re about to feel as lucky as you do when you wake up in the middle of the night and are absolutely certain your watch is going to tell you that you have about 3 minutes until your alarm clock will go off, but you actually have FIVE GLORIOUS HOURS AND IT’S STILL DARK. The best feeling.

Queenstown Hill Sunrise Bench

Anyway, about 10 minutes into the track is this perfectly situated bench just waiting for you to sit down, take a (not really needed but you will anyway) break and watch the sky light up in front of you. We thought the bench was best at sunrise, but a reverse sunset (with clouds) could also work well here! Make sure you put your camera down low so you can capture both the sky and the bench!

5. Secret Waterfall – Lake Face Creek Falls (daytime)

On the drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy (or vice versa) you might notice a little DOC sign on the side of the road saying Lake Face Creek (the left hand side if you’re coming from Queenstown and the right hand side if you’re coming from Glenorchy). If you jump out of your car and park in the carpark, look to the other side of the road and you will see the top of a beautiful cascading waterfall.

We had heard there used to be a track out to the bottom of the waterfall, but it’s now quite overgrown and hard to come across. After enquiring with the local visitor centres (we wanted to make sure we had the land owners permission as we thought the track would likely venture onto private property), we actually discovered the section of land leading to the falls was publicly owned. So we parked up in the pouring rain and decided to set off on an adventure. Although it was a relatively short track (15 minutes) it was as ROUGH as 60 grit sandpaper. Side note - has James dragged me to Bunnings too many times? After what felt like a lifetime of bush bashing in the rain and our legs getting severely bruised, battered and cut up (we really regretted wearing shorts and jandals) we arrived. And all of the bruises, the cuts and the pouring rain just disappeared. We had found a little slice of paradise.

Secret Waterfall Lake Face Creek Falls Queenstown

Note – if you plan on doing this walk, we really really recommend you check with the visitor centre first and please don’t enter the neighbouring private property. We believe the waterfall you can see from the road is on private land, but the little oasis we found (further downstream) is still within the public land boundary.

6. The drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy (daytime)

One of the most beautiful drives in Aotearoa. Do it, and do it slowly. It takes a normal car about 45 minutes (no stopping), but we would allow at least double that so you can soak up all the scenery. The most popular pull off to stop at is Bennett’s Bluff, but honestly, everywhere along this stretch of road is incredible. If you can nab a day with no clouds and minimal wind you’ll be laughing. And if you get a windy day like us, you can still laugh, you’ll just be laughing with hair in your mouth.

Can you spot Vinnie?

We also stopped at Meiklehjons Jetty on the way. A beautiful little pull off that leads you to remnants of an old wooden jetty. We thought it was pretty spectacular, especially with the mountains acting as the backdrop.

Tip – pack your insect repellent if you’re stopping at Meiklejohns!

7. Camping at Moke Lake (daytime)

Easily one of our favourite campsites to date! Run by the Department of Conservation (DOC), this wee gem is $13 per person (per night). The campground itself is huge so you really feel like you can ‘escape the crowds’ and find your own secluded spot right along the lake. We walked up the ‘secret’ track for sunset and were blown away with the view. (It was also super windy so I feel like my choice of words here is rather apt). We don’t think the track is so ‘secret’ anymore, but let me know if you have no idea what I’m talking about and we can put up a quick post with instructions on how to find it :)

Sunset Moke Lake Secret Viewpoint Couple

TIP – the campground gets quite busy over the weekend (remember locals need a break too!) so we would recommend staying here during the week if you can.

8. Sam Summers Waterfall – Mount Crichton Loop Track (daytime)

I don’t actually know the proper name of this waterfall but it’s on the Mount Crichton Loop Track and right by the Sam Summers Hut. The track (as the name implies) is a loop, and took us about 45 minutes to reach the waterfall (we did the loop in an anti-clockwise direction). While the waterfall may not be the biggest or the best waterfall we’ve ever seen, there was something really inviting about it. Maybe it was the no people, maybe it was the dainty little bridge right across from the fall, maybe it was the dappled sunlight poking through the trees. Maybe it was all of the above. But it was lovely. Definitely worth doing, especially if you have a patch of grey/cloudy/rainy weather in Queenstown. This is also a good one to do on your drive out to Glenorchy.

Sam Summers Waterfall Mount Crichton Loop Queenstown

9. Wilsons Bay (daytime)

What do you get if you cross a mountain with a beach? Surely you’re saying Wilsons Bay and not Mounteach (like James did haha)? Beautiful pebbles, crystal clear lake water and the Remarkables as the backdrop. And even better – the bay is big enough that by just walking 2-3 minutes away, you will find a great little secluded spot to have all to yourself. Again, another good one to visit on your drive out to Glenorchy.

Wilsons Bay Beach Queenstown New Zealand

10. Wakatipu Heights (any time of the day)

A morning where we rolled out of bed, saw the sky start to light up and quickly jumped in Vinnie and drove - frantically hoping we would find a spot to watch the sunrise. Feeling as lucky as we did when Pak'NSave included toffee pops in their beloved $2 week, we stumbled upon an empty lookout/pull off on the corner of Wakatipu Heights and Hensman Road. It was just magic and we highly highly recommend coming here for a sunrise, sunset or even just during the day. The view from here was one of our favourites.

Sunrise spot Queenstown

11. Ferg Burger - (anytime.. I had to put this in or James would probably divorce me).

Even though we’re married, I’m pretty sure Ferg is the real reason James wakes up with a smile every day. His go-to order is the Sweet Julie, but close runners up would have to be the Cookadoodle Oink, the Fergburger (with cheese of course) and the Tropical Swine.

Our tip? Start calling Ferg about an hour before you plan on eating and place a phone order for pick up (after extensive trial and error we can advise this will on average take about 30-60 tries). You will hopefully get through after ten or so minutes of calling, and then it’s roughly a 30-40 minute wait before you can drive in and pick it up (again advising 30-40 mins from our extensive trial and error). Go to the counter at the left (a small window) when you collect your order (you don’t need to wait in the line).

Otherwise, we found the line wasn’t too bad at 8am (only five or so people). So if, like James, you fancy a burger at any time of the day – go at 8am. Burgers are on average $14 (they range from $10.00 to $18.90).

We love to eat our Fergs at the Botanic Gardens – but note parking can be a bit tricky there, and the maximum parking allowed is four hours.

As James accidentally sliced his leg with a Stanley Knife while we were in Queenstown we had to cut our walks short, (thankfully we had already done Ben Lomond twice!), but next time we’re back in Queenstown we really want to check out the Mt Alfred Hike near Glenorchy and of course, Lake Alta.

We hope you find this helpful, and as always, shoot us any questions/comments you might have! :)

#awaywithcj #travelblog #nzblog #nz #newzealand #queenstown #aotearoa #nzmustdo #cjmaddock #sunrise #sunset #queenstownlive