Nestled on the crystal-clear Lake Whakatipu shores and flanked by the majestic peaks of the Southern Alps, it’s no wonder Queenstown has become a popular holiday destination for many. The number of people who call the lively region “home” is also growing. But what is it about this picturesque New Zealand South Island town that convinces people to settle down? 

Beyond the stunning landscapes and adrenaline-pumping adventures, there's a community spirit and quality of life here that's hard to find elsewhere. In this article, we dive into the hearts and minds of the locals to uncover why they choose to live and work in Queenstown.

A deep sense of community

Queenstown is more than just its postcard-perfect scenery; it's the people who make this place vibrant and full of life.

“Queenstown is home... it’s almost like it wraps itself around you. I’m so fortunate to get to meet incredible people here every day,” explained Frances Piacun, who is the Founder of Artbay Gallery and Waka Ama. When Frances moved to Queenstown in 2014, she was training to go to the Waka Ama, a traditional Pacific outrigger canoe, world championships in Rio de Janeiro. But there were no waka (canoes) in Queenstown. So, she established the Whakatipu Waka Ama Club, and began coaching a local crew.

Queenstown is a town where everyone knows your name, and the support among locals creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere that enchants everyone who visits.

“I came here with every intention of just doing a couple of ski seasons. But I quickly discovered that wasn’t happening… so we've built our life here, and all our friends are here,” told Charlotte who came over to work in ski patrol, and then met her long time partner, Sam. Charlotte first met Sam on the mountain in 2018, when she was a lift operator and he was a ski patroller. Now they are a ski patrolling couple.

These are just some of the many stories that come together to weave the fabric of this lively and nurturing community. 

This deep sense of connection, safe environment, and multiple schooling and study options makes the region a great place raise young families. 

Frances - Waka Ama holding a canoe

Queenstown local, Frances Piacun

Keeping work and life in balance 

For many, the decision to move to Queenstown is a pursuit of balance. 

“I also like to simply sit in peace. One of my favourite things is having a cup of tea and a caramel square in Glenorchy, just sitting, looking, and being. If you have a busy life, being still in this gorgeous region is amazing,” Explained local entrepreneur Karen Hattaway

Whether skiing before work, a lunchtime hike, or an evening sampling local wines, Queenstown offers an unparalleled work-life balance that's hard to match.

A hub of innovation and opportunity

Despite its serene setting, Queenstown is a hub of innovation and growth, offering diverse opportunities across tourism, hospitality, and tech sectors.

“I’ve experienced firsthand what it's like to think big and be told something wouldn't work. When I was trying to find the right spot for Blue Kanu, I was told many things. That Queenstown wasn't ready for this. That Pacifica Māori fusion food with an Asian influence wasn’t going to work. I wasn't listening. I see Blue Kanu as more than a restaurant. It’s Manaakitaka (showing respect, generosity and care for others). It's the way I believe hospitality should be given,” said Karen Hattaway Founder of Blue Kanu.

Hattaway sheds light on the town's entrepreneurial spirit. After opening multiple restaurants here herself, you can see how the environment evokes innovation and business ambition.

But it’s not just about the hospitality and tourism scene. You will find Queenstown filled with a mix of eclectic careers including artists, writers, those in the film industry and sporting profession. With the scenery on offer it is no wonder creatives find this town a place to be inspired. 

“Arrowtown has this really interesting community. It's small enough that everyone knows everyone but full of people from all different walks of life. In Arrowtown, you can have a famous musician or artist next to a salt of the earth Central Otago type,” explained Charlotte who lives in the picturesque Queenstown suburb of Arrowtown

Ski patrollers Charlotte and Sam on the slopes at Coronet Peak

Queenstown couple, Sam and Charlotte

Embracing sustainability and nature

Living in Queenstown comes with a deep respect for the natural environment. Locals are at the forefront of sustainability, keen on preserving the beauty that surrounds them. 

“Reforestation is not just a good choice for the future of Coal Pit. It also honours Queenstown. We're lucky to call ourselves locals, and it’s our responsibility to be stewards of the land,” told Anika who is a Gibbston-based wine maker. Anika was born in Ohio, and after travelling all over the world making wine, Anika decided to make Queenstown home.

The region is on a journey to regenerative tourism. We're aiming for a carbon zero visitor economy by 2030.  Our goal to change the way people travel for good in becoming a regenerative destination by 2030 is a world first – luckily we have so many locals passionate about sustainability. 

“We donate to the Whakatipu Reforestation Trust and go to their planting days, so if you want to give back to the community in an environmental sense, they do amazing reforestation work.” Pete Oswald, a free skier reflects on the community's commitment to eco-friendly practices and the active lifestyle that the great outdoors supports.

Pete Oswald, wife and baby on the Invincibles Track with snowy mountains in the background

Pete Oswald and family

A cultural melting pot

Queenstown's appeal is global, attracting people from all corners of the world. This cultural diversity enriches the town with international cuisines, festivals, and traditions.

Mel’s story has familiar beginnings – a young traveller falls in love with New Zealand, in particular Queenstown, where she has scored work as a ‘lifty’ at Coronet Peak ski field.  “I visited other places,” she explained, “but when I reached Queenstown I knew I’d found the place for me.”

The attraction of Queenstown goes beyond its mountainous landscapes and adventure sports; it's the quality of life, the community, and the opportunities that make residents proud to call it home. 

Through the voices of the locals, it's clear that Queenstown offers a unique blend of natural beauty, community warmth, and vibrant living. 

Whether you're seeking adventure, a change of pace, or a new family-friendly place to call home, Queenstown embodies the essence of living life to the fullest. 

Come for the views, stay for the lifestyle.