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The 5 Best Day Trips From Queenstown

Date: 5 February 2020

Queenstown is the perfect place to base yourself for a New Zealand holiday. There are heaps of activities to do in town, plenty of great dining options and a thriving nightlife. It’s also conveniently located in close proximity to some of the best places to visit in New Zealand. Here are the 5 best day trips from Queenstown for you to add to your holiday itinerary.

1. Wanaka

Distance: 67 km / 1 hour

Activities:

  • Hike Roy’s Peak or Mt Iron
  • Go kayaking or jetboating on the lake
  • Enjoy wineries like Rippon and Maude
  • Visit Cardrona for skiing or mountain carting
  • Check out family activities like Puzzling World and the lavender farm
  • Try skydiving

Located just an hour’s drive over the Crown Range, Wanaka is fondly referred to as Queenstown’s little sister. On your drive over, you’ll pass Cardrona, home to some of New Zealand’s best skiing during the winter. During the summer, you can try mountain carting, a unique way of hurtling down the side of a mountain.

Once in Wanaka, you’ll be graced with a gorgeous alpine lake nestled amongst the mountains, surrounded by excellent walking trails, wineries and adventure sports. One of the most popular day hikes is Roy’s Peak, a steep climb with breathtaking, Instagram-worthy views. If you’re interested in something a bit shorter, Mt Iron is popular amongst the locals. After your day hike, sample local wines at Rippon or Maude, or stop by Puzzling World or the lavender farm for a family-friendly activity. If you’re feeling up for it, you can even go skydiving over this amazing landscape for an experience you’ll never forget.

2.Fiordland National Park

Distance: 175 km / 2 hours 10 minutes

Activities:

  • Cruise Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound
  • Explore the Te Anau Glow Worm Caves
  • Go on a Great Walk

Milford Sound is one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist attractions, with an estimated one million visitors expected in 2019. Located in Fiordland National Park, Milford Sound is, of course, a must-do in New Zealand; however, there are many other amazing attractions for you to experience during this day trip. Te Anau is a great jumping off point for Fiordland activities, including Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound, the Te Anau glow worm caves and several of New Zealand’s Great Walks.

Te Anau is just over two hours drive from Queenstown, meaning if you get an early morning start, you could potentially do more than one of these great activities during your day trip. However, we strongly recommend spending at least one night in Te Anau so you can explore what Fiordland has to offer.

Couple at the Wilmot pass overlooking Doubtful Sound

View over Doubtful Sound

3. Arrowtown

Distance: 20 km / 20 minutes

Activities:

  • Explore the quaint town centre via bicycle
  • Hike a picturesque trail
  • Visit the Arrowtown Chinese settlement
  • Pan for gold in the Arrow River
  • Attend the Arrowtown Autumn Festival

Arrowtown is one of the most accessible day trips from Queenstown, located just a short 20 minute drive away. During the autumn, it transforms into a beautiful image out of a storybook, with multi-coloured leaves and trees lining the mountains for a stunning panorama. However, Arrowtown is a great place to visit year-round, with its charming town centre and walking trails nearby. Learn about its gold mining history and the Chinese settlements while having the opportunity to see a snapshot of this historic time. You can even try your luck at panning for gold in the Arrow River. One of the best ways to experience Arrowtown is by hiring bicycles and exploring at your leisure.

If you happen to be visiting during the fall, the Arrowtown Autumn Festival is a must do. The leaves are in full effect and there are plenty of family-friendly activities throughout the week.

4. Glenorchy

Distance: 46 km / 45 minutes

Activities:

  • Hike the Routeburn Track
  • Visit The Lord of the Rings filming locations
  • Cruise the Dart River on a kayak or an exhilarating jetboat
  • Go horseback riding through the Dart Valley

It’s no secret that The Lord of the Rings was filmed in New Zealand. Diehard fans spend weeks, sometimes even months, covering both islands to see where iconic scenes were filmed. Glenorchy, situated just a 45 minute drive outside of Queenstown, is home to many LOTR locales, including Isengard, Lothlorien and Amon Hen.

Beyond LOTR set hunting, you can take advantage of the incredible nature by hiking one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, the Routeburn Track. There are other fantastic multi-day walks in the vicinity as well, including the Rees-Dart Track and the Greenstone-Caples Track. Not interested in walking? Explore the Glenorchy area by horseback, or cruise down the Dart River in a kayak or exhilarating jetboat ride

5. Mt Aspiring National Park

Distance: 129 km / 2 hours

Activities:

  • Hiking one of the many stunning trails
  • Take a scenic flight
  • Try canyoning down gorgeous waterfalls
  • Go fishing or hunting

Mt Aspiring National Park stretches over the Southern Alps down to Fiordland, offering a plethora of bucket list hikes and outstanding scenery. Not only can you try your hand at fishing or hunting in the national park, but you can go canyoning, which includes jumps, slides, swimming and abseiling down waterfalls. One of the most luxurious and unique ways to experience this region is with a scenic flight which showcases the incredible mountains, glaciers, lakes and valleys.

Beyond the incredible outdoor activities, Mt Aspiring is a wildlife lover’s dream. There are more than 400 species of butterflies and moths, and 59 species of bird. Get ready to fully immerse yourself in nature during this day trip from Queenstown.

Whether you have a week or a month in New Zealand, you’ll likely spend at least a few days in the adventure capital of the world. When planning your holiday in Queenstown, be sure to include a few of these incredible day trips on your itinerary.

Need more inspiration? Check out these popular destinations on the South Island.

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