Best Queenstown Coffee: Five Hidden Cafes

Updated: Aug 8, 2019

At the risk of being controversial, if Italy created coffee culture, then New Zealand has perfected it! Aside from maybe cosmopolitan Australia, New Zealand has some of the best brewed coffee that you will find anywhere in the world (cue international outrage and mass hysteria) and Queenstown is no exception! Us Antipodeans love our caffeine juice. So much so that it could be argued that cafés have been the downfall of the beloved pub culture of years gone by. Independent cafés and trendy coffee houses are now the go to spots for catching up with your mates, socialising, work meetings, breakfast, brunch, lunch and a home away from home for digital nomads. In this article I'll give you the run down on the Queenstown café scene and what the locals are drinking as well as take a look at five hidden spots that offer Queenstown's best coffee.


The Queenstown Café scene

If you are not already aware, the buzzing Queenstown of today grew from gold hysteria. Back in 1862 gold was discovered in the rivers and the region was soon flooded by folks from all over the world seeking their share of the fortune. At this time the population was much more one-sided, with males out numbering females by a long shot, and it turns out all these men loved to drink! Pubs, bars, hotels and taverns were the center for community life back in the early settlement years of the region. Hundreds of brew houses scattered the landscape and it would have certainly been much easier to find a place that will pour you an ale then it would have been to find any gold. Flash forward to today and all but a few of these original pubs remain. Instead of an ale house on every corner you are now much more likely to find a coffee house. From small, get in and get out spots to trendy cafés for brunches and lunches, Queenstown has plenty of awesome spots to get your caffeine fix.

Today, Queenstown locals are coffee obsessed and you will no doubt hear many differing recommendations for the best Queenstown coffee spot, depending on who you took the time to ask. The good news is you are not likely to go wrong when ordering your favourite morning pick-me up from any café and coffee shop in the area, just maybe steer clear of the supermarket and petrol station brews if you are after a true local coffee experience!

What to order

Just like most other things you'll encounter down here we also have some different names for a few of the types/styles of coffee that we drink, so knowing what to order is a good way to avoid confusion when grabbing a cuppa. Here's a few Queenstown favourites you should try.

Long Black - Most similar to an Americano, though stronger in flavour and aroma, the Long Black is made by pouring an espresso shot/double-shot over hot water.

Flat White - Most similar to a Latte, the Flat White is espresso and hot steamed milk without the froth-heaviness of a Cappuccino.

Chai & Tumeric Latte - A fresh take on the Italian classic café é latte, made with espresso and steamed milk. These coffee-free versions have become very popular among locals in recent years and offer a delicious and healthy (ish - there's usually a good dose of sugar in there) alternative for those wanting something other than coffee.

Fluffy - This is a kiwi kid classic. Called a babycino in other parts of the world, the Fluffy is made by milk that has been frothed with pressurised steam creating a delcious 'fluffy' treat that kids love! It will usually come topped with powdered cocoa and a marshmallow.

My top spots for the best coffee in Queenstown

There are plenty of awesome cafés and coffee shops all over Queenstown, Arrowtown and everywhere in-between, but the ones I want to highlight are the spots for the best Queenstown coffee that you might miss unless you are really paying attention.

1. Swing at Frank's Corner

Even with a pretty central location, you might miss this cute wee coffee stand unless you decide to walk up the right street. Located at Frank's Corner (a local artisan and homeware store), Swing offers delicious coffee and treats and on a warm, clear day, what I believe to be the best spot for enjoying a coffee in the sunshine.

How to get here? Click here for location and directions in Google Maps.

2. Queenstown Signs & Print

So going by the name of this place, coffee is probably not the first thing that springs to mind and hence why it needs to be included. Located only a short 10 min stroll from downtown, Queenstown Signs & Print also house one of the coolest wee cafés in the area that you would be forgiven for missing. The fun and quirky decor make this place a surprisingly cool spot for a cuppa and the food/treat selection is bloody unreal, too! (Vegan and GF options available)

How to get here? Click here for location and directions in Google Maps.

3. Life's A Grind (I & II)

You'll no doubt walk past both of these spots (if not multiple times) if you spend anytime downtown during your stay. These two funky trailer setups offer the most convenient and delicious coffee if you're not looking for a place to sit relax. Definitely for a more 'coffee on the go' type situation, the brews here are made with love and the team working each location are clearly passionate about making great takeaway coffee. So bring your keep cup (or purchase one from them) and you'll be doing your part in keeping Queenstown beautiful!

How to get here? Click here for location and directions in Google Maps. (L.A.G I) | Click here for location and directions in Google Maps. (L.A.G II)

4. Peak Espresso

Forget the tiny house movement, the tiny cafe movement is where it is at! This place proves that size doesn't matter and the only important factor is that great coffee is being made, and it sure as hell is at Peak Espresso! Only a 15 min walk from the CBD, look for the tiny coffee shop at the side of the road. It's the perfect spot to swing in and grab a quick fix on your way to Arrowtown or up Coronet Peak during the winter. This small spot makes strong and aromatic brews which also makes it a local favourite, too!

How to get here? Click here for location and directions in Google Maps.

5. The Buzzstop Honey Center & Cafe

At some point in your Queenstown visit you will definitely pass the turn-off to this place, you just might not realise it and it'd be a darn shame to miss such a good coffee! Located in Frankton (just off the main road), you certainly won't just stumble across The Buzzstop but it's definitely worth venturing out for. The coffee here gets a solid 10/10 from me and the team here are always super welcoming and friendly. As the name alludes to, they also make and sell loads of local honey products and they have hives and honey production on site that you can check out when you visit too, making it a great spot to bring the kids!

How to get here? Click here for location and directions in Google Maps.

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