An adventurer's perfect day in Queenstown

A local shares their favourite activities in The Adventure Capital of the World.

Meet the explorer: Kyle Mulinder, known as Bare Kiwi, provides an authentic glimpse into his and his fiancée's adventures around New Zealand. Kyle is a self-taught photographer and filmmaker, who makes nature and adventure photography and inspirational video.

Queenstown. It really is a place that needs no introduction. It’s a guaranteed good time year-round. The city is constantly humming, occupied by an endless stream of travellers eager to taste the Adventure Capital of the World. With a lucrative tourism industry and high number of visitors, Queenstown is often referred to as “the bubble”. Here’s how to experience Queenstown’s jaw-dropping scenery and fun-loving atmosphere like the locals do.

Morning

Get Up Early: With many great places to watch the sunrise in Queenstown, it’s hard to choose where to go! If you’re up for a bit of early morning exercise, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views from the top of Queenstown Hill. If you prefer to ease into the day, take a drive to Lake Hayes for mirrorlike reflections or stroll along the Queenstown waterfront to the One Mile car park for views of The Remarkables.

Eat at the Chop Shop: Located down a little alleyway and up a flight of stairs, the Chop Shop Food Merchants used to be Arrowtown’s best-kept secret. With its cozy setting, unique furniture (think lamps constructed out of bike chains, plants in bags), and reputation for being consistently outstanding, the cat is out of the bag. If you have to wait to be seated for breakfast, it’s worth it. The Asian fusion menu blends flavours creatively and the coffee is some of the best I’ve had in Central Otago. You might even get seated at the bar, which overlooks the chefs in action.

Originally a settlement of Chinese miners working on the 1860s gold rush, Arrowtown is now a bustling town where you can still explore the now historic Chinese Village.
PHOTOGRAPH BY HUANG XINGWEI, XINHUA/REDUX

Explore Arrowtown’s History: A visit to Arrowtown, with its quaint buildings steeped in history, feels like you’ve stepped back in time. A gold rush in the 1860s brought 1,500 miners who camped along the river, which eventually led to the establishment of a permanent town. Today a procession of small heritage buildings stretches toward a tree-lined avenue of tiny miners’ cottages. Take a stroll through the historic Chinese Village; the people who lived there were the definition of resilient.

Site Trampoline: Unleash your inner child on the world’s biggest, most powerful trampolines. Site Trampoline has Olympic-quality trampolines as well as a trampoline park with over 30 interconnected trampolines! Get your bounce on and attempt the freestyle tricks you’ve seen the pros do—the foam pit and airbag have your back. There’s also the option for group or private coaching sessions if you want to master something in particular.

Afternoon

Lunch at Frank’s Eatery: Frank’s Eatery is a welcoming, bright space with comfy, cushioned corners. Like its name suggests, Frank’s is all about being straightforward, providing wholesome food that is ethical, organic, and local. The café is a little bit off the beaten track, located out past the Remarkables Park shopping area, but that just makes it even more of a local spot.

A Round of Disc Golf: If you haven’t heard of disc golf, imagine traditional golf, but instead of a ball and clubs players use a flying disc, or Frisbee. Like traditional golf courses, disc golf courses are typically in beautiful settings. Queenstown has two disc golf courses: the original course at Queenstown Gardens and the new course at Tucker Beach. If you need to rent a disc, you can do so at Small Planet Sports.

Take the Skyline Gondola to the top of Bob's Peak.
PHOTOGRAPH BY CHRISTIAN MUERINGER, ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Skyline Gondola: The most iconic view of Queenstown is from the top of Bob’s Peak. It’s undeniably breathtaking; the view never gets old, no matter how many times you’ve seen it. The easy way up is to take the Skyline Gondola, a scenic cable car ride that gains 450 metres in altitude. (If you’re going to stay in Queenstown longer you can buy a gondola annual, which also entitles you to exclusive discounts). The harder, or more active, way is to hike up the Tiki Trail. You’ll reach the top in about an hour, which emphasises how steep the track is.

Luge: A trip up the gondola combined with a few spins on the luge track is a must-do when visiting Queenstown. It’s competitively priced, super scenic, and undeniably fun. The luge slogan, “once is never enough”, is so apt—make sure you go for the five-ride option. And while you’re not allowed to race on the track, it’s hard not to get a little bit competitive.

Race down the luge of a mountain in Queenstown.
PHOTOGRAPH BY JILL SCHNEIDER, NAT GEO IMAGE COLLECTION

Sunset at Bob’s Peak: Bob’s Peak is the best place to watch the sunset in Queenstown. The sun goes down behind the peak, so you get to see the last rays of light illuminate the snow as they make their way up The Remarkables and Walter and Cecil Peaks. The sky turns a beautiful shade of pink and purple mixed with grey and blue once the sunlight disappears. This soft lighting only occurs in winter, with the cooler air temperature.

Evening

Take in the sights around Lake Wakatipu around Queenstown.
PHOTOGRAPH BY STUART BLACK, ROBERT HARDING/NAT GEO IMAGE COLLECTION

Atlas Craft Beer Café: Atlas does craft beer really well. Discreetly located at Steamer Wharf, the bar is modest in size, giving it the feeling of being a place only the locals know about. Atlas has 22 different beers on tap and has a traditional English-style hand pump. Beers aside, Atlas is renowned for its $19.90 steak meal. Actually, everything on their dinner menu is under $20! The bathrooms are a feature in and of themselves.

Queenstown’s Nightlife: Within the space of 500 meters, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to bars. Whether it’s craft beer, boutique rum, wine, cocktails, an ice bar, or cheap drinks you’re after, there’s something for everyone. For live music try Little Blackwood; for cocktails served in a teapot head to World Bar; for the cheapest drinks in town it has to be 1876; and for a good time, simply go anywhere! Be sure to walk through the alleyways that link up between Beach Street and Church Street where there are lots of hidden gems to be discovered.

Curry Chips at Devil Burger: It’s a given that a visit to Queenstown is likely to result in at least one big night out on the town. I don't know of anywhere else in New Zealand where the bars are full and open late every night of the week. Should you find yourself caught up in the party scene and out late, swing by Devil Burger before heading home. Sure, they do great burgers, but try their curry cheese chips—they’re New Zealand’s version of poutine. Afterwards, book a ride with Savy to get home safely.

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