Queenstown is one of those magical places that is beautiful all year round. Situated on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by towering majestic mountains you will be spoilt for views and not short of adventure activities to get your heart racing. Queenstown is coined the adventure capital of the world and you can sure see why from the minute you arrive. If you look to the lake there will be an array of jet boats flying around, if you look to the skies you may catch one of the Paragliders making their descent from a mountain peak and if you look closely enough at the gondola you may catch a brave soul partaking in the A J Hackett ledge Bungy .
Best thing about all of this? It doesn’t matter when you arrive in Queenstown, this activity never stops. We are also spoilt for ski fields around Queenstown which is perfect for you winter snow bunnies. The Remarkables and Coronet peak are in Queenstown and Cardrona ski resort in Wanaka is only an hours drive away. If you are planning on getting up the mountain for the white stuff then you’re best to book your holiday between June and August. For Hiking or camping, November to February will not disappoint. To experience a stunning autumn colour display travel in April/May and to see the beautiful blossom season spring into September and through to November.
Summer (December to February)
Summer in Queenstown is all about spending long leisurely days lakeside, dining alfresco and enjoying outdoor adventures. Temperatures range from 25- 32 degrees with little to no rain. If you are used to summer temps in the late 30’s don’t be fooled by these lower temperatures.The New Zealand sun packs a punch and you will definitely need to slather on your sunscreen.
With the sun still shining till 10pm at night at the height of summer you will have plenty of time to kick back and relax after the day’s adventures – have a lakeside barbeque while watching the kids splash around,sample a superb local wine or craft beer from one of the many nearby Wineries or Boutique Breweries , or head out for a gelato and a stroll to watch the activities on the lake while the sun sets over the mountains.
The DOC office in downtown Queenstown is a go to for all your trail needs. From multi-day hikes to a quick stroll with the kids, they hold all the information you could want to plan your perfect hike. Tour booking agents also line Shotover street, head to our firm favourite The Station and talk to the girls behind their desk. They are incredibly helpful and full to the brim with knowledge about the best things to do in Queenstown, in the space of about half an hour you can have your whole holiday booked up. Summer days like we said before are long, dry and hot… Lake activities are always fun and companies like Kjet will have you up and down the Shotover river with views you will never forget.
Don’t forget to take a trip up to the Gondola to the skyline building and race your friends down the hill on a Luge, wander around the skyline building and take your time lapping up that picture perfect landscape from the viewing deck.
Autumn (March to May)
Queenstown always knows how to celebrate a new season and autumn is no exception. The green leaves change to beautiful shades of red, yellow and orange and the whole landscape sheds it’s summer wardrobe for a much warmer and interesting coat. The romance of the colours on display during this time are a big attraction, as is the blue sky days and cool evenings.
A mere 20 minutes from Queenstown you’ll come across historical Arrowtown which hosts the ever popular Arrowtown autumn festival. To really experience the landscape and get those Instagram photos to make everyone at home jealous of your adventures you should hike, the weather is cool, the days are dry and mother nature is putting on a real show for you. From the heart of Arrowtown the Sawpit Gully hike is a Short day hike that will take you high above the township and reward you with spectacular views.
Cycling is also one of the many extensive and picturesque activities for you to get up close to the Queenstown surrounds, whether you would like a cruisey ride following the Queenstown trail or fancy getting choppered to the top of the mountains to ride down you will not be short of choice.
To end your autumn escape perfectly choose from one of the amazing restaurants in town, many boast excellent outdoor seating areas with the added luxury of a blanket and heaters just in case the temperature does drop a little. Ivy and Lola’s on the wharf is a locals favourite and a perfect to watch the last of the sunlight on the waters edge.
Winter (June to August)
It’s Ski Season. You will need to wrap up warm to enjoy the party that Queenstown throws during winter. The township transforms into an international ski resort attracting thousands of tourists, ski athletes and Seasonal workers. The area boasts four ski mountains all with their own unique terrain. The Remarkables and Coronet Peak are both easily accessible from the town centre.
NZ Ski provides a bus that runs every 20 mins from the station building making your day up the mountain hassle free. Both mountains boast diverse terrain and appeal to skiers and boarders alike, Off-piste on both mountains is out of this world and you are greeted with the most incredible views as you make your way to base. Don’t fear, if you have brought the wee kiddies along with you NZ ski has an amazing kids programme called Skiwiland where they will learn the basics and bond with other children for the day, leaving you time to explore the mountain. Cardrona and Treble cone are a short drive away from Queenstown and are great if you have a little experience on the snow.
After a day in the white gold, you cannot miss the town’s famous night culture, packed with eateries, bars and plenty of places to strap on your dancing shoes you will have a job trying to visit them all. Our personal favourites include The World Bar for a slice of live music, Barmuda for the amazing outdoor fire pit and Eichardts bar for some of the best views and cocktails in town. Queenstown’s winter event calendar is stuffed full, kicking off with the American Express Queenstown Winter Festival,the pick of the crop,followed by the international Audi Quattro winter games NZ. As the snow season starts to slow down, fear not Gay ski week NZ is sure to insert some excitement into your spring skiing, week-long activities, a flurry of rainbows around town and fun to be had for all!
Spring (September to November)
Springtime weather can be more unpredictable than other seasons. Queenstown’s climate is influenced by New Zealand’s island location in the pacific. Fear not, check our excellent post on all the best things to do in Queenstown if the weather is looking a little unpredictable for the day.
Not only the windiest season of the year, but the snow melt from the mountains can make lake levels a bit too high for comfort. On the other hand, you will likely experience fresh, clear and mild days and the last few weeks of snow. You can’t beat skiing/boarding on a warm Spring day.
Gay Ski week kicks off in spring so keep your eyes out for events happening all around town. The mountains also quieten down a lot so Coronet and The Remarkables are perfect for a mid-week mountain escape. Get outdoors and add some great holiday snaps to your social media account by hunting down our top photo spots. It’s hard to take a bad photo of Queenstown, your friends will be green with envy.
Lake Hayes is a perfect walk to do rain or shine, easy and accessible for everyone, and boasts views of the mountains around, The lake is also en route to Arrowtown so make sure you drive over there after and sip on some warm hot cocoa from Patagonia or even try your hand at some gold panning in the old Chinese Settlement.
If you fancy escaping the Queenstown bubble then enjoy a leisurely drive up to the head of the lake and explore the paradise that is Glenorchy, for all of you film buffs, Glenorchy plays home to some Lord of the Rings locations and Narnia. The landscape itself is enough to keep your mind and camera busy but don’t forget to have a wander around Mrs Wooly’s general store before you leave, amazing books, apparel and some NZ made Manuka honey can all be purchased here, we’ve also heard she makes a mean coffee and slice of cake! There are plenty of trails to choose from that depart from and near Glenorchy, including the famous Routeburn trek, one of the most popular.
You can get information from local DOC offices, as well as tramping and guide companies. There are DOC maintained huts on the routes where you can stay for a reasonable fee. Like we have previously mentioned Queenstown never stops, we are ready for you 24/7 & 365 days a year so whatever the season, the weather or the time of day you will always have something to entertain you in this beautiful mountain town.
Winter photo- @lisahaymanphotography