Updated: Aug 8, 2019
The perk of living in one of the most beautiful parts of the globe means we often have friends and family fly from afar to come visit us in Queenstown, with four separate groups in the last month alone. Having just dropped the last couple of visitors off at the airport and said our farewells, it got us thinking, "what are the best Queenstown travel tips that all visitors should know?" We decided to compile a list to help you get the most out of your Queenstown holiday so you can have the best Queenstown experience, ever!
1. Book accommodation in advance
Are you the kind of traveler who flies by the seat of their pants and throws caution to the wind? A renegade? A nomad? A vagabond? A wanderer? Well, that's not going to fly here! Queenstown is (still) a small town with massive appeal which means that the accommodation that is available usually books up in advance. Don't just roll into town hoping to grab a $15 dorm bed at a backpackers or a family room at the Hilton on the day of, you're more than likely going to be disappointed. The earlier you book your accommodation the better chance you have a nabbing a good deal.
2. Check in with the D.O.C
The Department Of Conservation (D.O.C) has offices in most tourists hubs around New Zealand and there is one in the center of Queenstown. If you plan on doing any hiking or other outdoor pursuits make sure to check in and have a chat to the local team as they will be able to point you in the right direction and make sure you have everything you need to know about a safe an enjoyable adventure.
3. Ditch the car
For many folks, Queenstown is but a stop on a longer road journey around New Zealand and thus it makes sense to keep the vehicle you already have (as long as you have parking sorted). If you are coming to QT solely to check out the local sites and activities then don't bother with the hire. Parking is more than often hard to find and more likely you won't need a vehicle on a number of days you are here. Instead grab yourself a GoCard for the bus and you can ride for $2 per trip. For bigger day trips or tours then there are plenty of group and private transport solutions available.
4. Use the local Apps And websites
You know those websites and apps you constantly use at home and you don't know how your life would function without them? The ones you totally take for granted and make life that much easier? Well, they often disappear when travelling abroad. Apart from some larger international apps like Airbnb, Uber and Yelp (which all work in Queenstown) there are some local ones that are going to make your stay that much better.
▪ First Table: 50% off the first table of the night at Queenstown's best restaurants
This app, although now being used internationally is a true Queenstown start-up. Search their extensive list of Queenstown restaurants and book your First Table to get 50% off the cost of the bill (the check). New spots are released a week in advance (at midnight), so make sure you are prepared to book, as they sell out fast. Visit Website
▪ Food On Q: Local restaurant food delivery service
Uber was late to arrive in Queenstown, having just setup back in 2018. Uber Eats on the other hand is still non-existent in these parts. That gap left a spot in the market that Food On Q were more than happy to fill! They have partnered up with an ever growing list of local restaurants and food outlets to offer home delivery around the Queenstown area. Don't feel like leaving your b'n'b or serviced apartment to get delicious food? These guys have you covered! Visit Website
▪ Bar Hero: 20% off food & drinks at Queenstowns best bars
This is for all you happy hour seekers. Get 20% off at a number of Queenstown's best bars. For $10 you can get 2 hours of discounted food and drinks for groups up to 10. Basically, for as little as $1 per person, you and your mates can have a sweet discounted arvo session at one of Queenstown's favourite bars. Visit Website
5. Wake up early
This is especially true if you are staying in/near the center of Queenstown. Even if you are not a morning person, we definitely recommend waking up before sunrise on at least one of the days you are here (ideally a clear day) and heading into town to wander around the wharf, beach front and gardens. There is a real magic that you only find early in the morning as the sun hits the lake and mountains but before the crowds have descended on the center. Trust us, you won't be disappointed!
6. Avoid driving up the ski fields
In-line with ditching the car, this one is more specifically for those visiting Queenstown during winter school holidays. Queenstown is a draw-card for many families wanting to ski during the winter holidays. The ski fields have a limited capacity for how many vehicles they can accommodate and they've been known to close the road due to reaching capacity during these few weeks of the ski season. If you don't want to get caught out then there are buses that operate from Queenstown to the ski fields on a regular schedule throughout the day or for a more relaxed door to door service, check out our private snow transport options.
7. Try the wine
It may come as a surprise that Queenstown is the gateway to the Central Otago wine region. Wine isn't usually the first thing that travellers think of when it comes to Queenstown, as it's often overshadowed by the adventure and adrenaline aspects of the region. The reality is that just a short drive out of Queenstown you find yourself among one of the highest regarded wine regions that the new world has to offer. Wines produced in Central Otago (predominantly Pinot Noir) are often very successful when competing on the world stage. To fully immerse yourself in the tastes of the region, make sure to get yourself onto a tour of some of the best producers in the region. See more.
8. What To Pack
One of the most common questions we hear is "What should I pack for my Queenstown vacation? " and to be fair it isn't an easy question to answer. Time of year is definitely a big factor in what clothes you should pack when visiting Queenstown. The weather here can often change very quickly and a beautiful summers day can turn to a wet and cold one in the blink of an eye. Also, winters are often more mild than most people expect, but that doesn't mean we are not prone to a sudden cold snap, too. The best advice as what to pack fro when visiting Queenstown is layers. Bringing light weight layers as well as water-proof jacket is the most efficient way to pack for Queenstown conditions. Carrying a few extra items with you in a backpack during the day means you will be ready for any change in weather. Take-off or put-on as you need them without the need to bring oversize items that you will hardly use.
*We still recommend a good winter jacket if visiting during the cooler times of the year.
Each traveller is unique and look to get something different out of their Queenstown trip. Hopefully these local tips for having the best Queenstown experiences help in planning your holiday and make your time here as enjoyable as it can be.