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The Queenstown and Wanaka area is world famous for incredible skiing, thanks to its prime location in the heart of the Southern Alps and wonderfully long ski season (June to October!). But what if you don’t ski? Not to worry – there are plenty of outdoor and indoor activities in Queenstown for you to enjoy all winter long that don’t involve hurtling down the side of a mountain. Here are some of our favourite activities in and around Queenstown during winter when you don’t ski.
The TSS Earnslaw is truly a Queenstown icon. It is over a hundred years old and when you imagine Lake Wakatipu, it’s hard not to imagine this vintage steamboat cruising across the lake amidst the mountain backdrop. Kids (and adults) of all ages will enjoy viewing the engine room and watching the giant steam engines at work before joining in on a piano singalong. Beyond being a symbol of Queenstown, the TSS Earnslaw has also had many famous passengers and has been featured in several Hollywood movies. This is a great winter activity in Queenstown that doesn’t involve skiing and is suitable for the whole family.
Just because you don’t ski doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the après ski! Queenstown is home to a lively nightlife and bar scene, and there’s a variety of bars and restaurants to suit any mood. Join up with your friends and family who have spent the day hitting the slopes, warm up by the fireplace and enjoy a beverage or two. After all, you are on holiday!
Queenstown is an amazing place to visit all year, but its thriving winter scene creates a special atmosphere you won’t want to leave. The best part is, even though it’s known for its skiing, there are plenty of other things to do in the winter if you don’t ski. Why not try one of these activities when you’re planning your Queenstown winter holiday?
Whether you choose to indulge in adrenaline sports or not, one of the best indoor activities in Queenstown during all seasons is to relax and treat yourself to a spa day. There are plenty of spa services around town to suit your fancy, including massages, nail salons, hot pools and facials. Invest in your relaxation and wellbeing and come out feeling refreshed and ready to take on that Queenstown nightlife.
Imagine entering a dark cave, allowing your eyes to adjust, then all of a sudden, you’re surrounded by hundreds of glittering, sparkling lights. That’s all part of the mystery and allure of the Te Anau Glowworm Caves, home to these fantastical creatures that make you feel like you’re in a fairy tale. Not only is this a great activity for families, but it’s accessible year-round. You’ll start with a boat cruise across Lake Te Anau, surrounded by beautiful snowy mountains, before entering the sculpted caves and discovering the glow worms inside a dark network of twisting limestone passages. There’s even an underground waterfall and whirlpools inside, adding to the adventure. If you’d like, you can add a short guided forest walk to learn about the unique flora and fauna of the region. Once you experience the Te Anau glowworms, you’ll quickly realize why this is one of the best day trips from Queenstown and you won’t feel like you’re missing out on skiing at all.
Queenstown is home to some of the best hiking in the country, with close proximity to Great Walks like the Milford Track, Routeburn Track and Kepler Track, as well as numerous day hikes like Bob's Peak, Queenstown Hill and Moke Lake. All of these walks boast spectacular and varied scenery and are a variety of difficulties, so even if you’re a novice hiker or want to bring small children along, there’s something for everyone. Hiking is a great activity to try instead of skiing as you still get to enjoy the outdoors and stay active. Take in the gorgeous scenery and treat yourself to ice cream after one of these walks!
Arrowtown is a quaint town just outside of Queenstown and is rich in its gold mining history. The buildings in town are reminiscent of a simpler era, making Arrowtown a charming and picturesque place to visit in New Zealand. Spend an afternoon strolling along the Arrow River where miners once panned for gold and learn about the history of the Chinese settlement. There are plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants, as well as museums and golf courses to fill your day with activities.
Queenstown is the adventure capital of the world, and while you may not be a skier or snowboarder, you can still tick something off your bucket list by partaking in an adrenaline sport. There are so many to choose from, including jet boating, paragliding, giant canyon swings, skydiving and much more. Even in the winter months, Queenstown has clear weather that makes it possible to enjoy these thrills all year round. Whether you choose to jump off a bridge or fly over the lake, there are plenty of adrenaline activities to suit your style.
New Zealand is famous for a number of endemic birds, including the kiwi, our national bird. However, it’s quite hard to spot kiwis in the wild as they are nocturnal and some species are endangered. The Kiwi Birdlife Park in Queenstown gives you the chance to not only see these special flightless birds, but watch a feeding and learn more about their history and what makes them so special. This is a great family activity that suits animal and nature lovers. If you would rather try and find a kiwi in the wild, then make time to get down to Stewart Island, New Zealand's third-largest and book onto our Wild Kiwi Encounter tour.
Our Stewart Island Wild Kiwi Encounter tours run daily from Oban - book here.
Fiordland National Park is home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the world and is one of the best day trips from Queenstown. The two most commonly visited fiords in the park are Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound. Each offers spectacular views in all types of weather and the potential of seeing wildlife like dolphins and seals. In the winter months, the surrounding mountains are snowcapped and on a clear day, the scenery is unparalleled. While Milford Sound is one of the most visited places in New Zealand, winter is an optimal time to book this activity as there will be fewer crowds. If you have time in your schedule full of activities, why not opt for an overnight cruise? (our overnight cruises are available from September)
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