Life goes fast. So, when it’s time to take a break, take a proper break. Slow down, relax, and take the time to really enjoy and explore what New Zealand has to offer. There’s so much to uncover in and around Queenstown, so take your time and explore local delights like Glenorchy, Arrowtown, Gibbston, and Fiordland while you’re here.
Here are our suggestions for a six-day slow travel itinerary, to relax, unwind and experience Queenstown on a deeper level.
Day one: connect & reset
Reset with a soak
Connect with Queenstown on foot
There’s no better way to connect with the essence of a place than exploring it on foot. For panoramic views of the town, Lake Whakatipu, and The Remarkables mountain range take the Tiki Trail up Bob’s Peak, or hike the Queenstown Hill Track. Both are short but steep climbs, so if you’re not feeling that energetic, ride the gondola, or simply stroll along the lake shore. There are plenty of scenic short walks to be found to truly immerse yourself in Queenstown’s surrounds.
Explore Queenstown’s creative soul
The majestic Central Otago landscapes and the glorious golden light have inspired generations of artists. Meet talented local painters and sculptors and marvel at their works, by doing the Queenstown Art Trail, exploring the artists’ studios and galleries of Arrowtown, or wandering the plethora of exceptional art galleries dotted around Queenstown’s town centre.
Take to the water for a fresh perspective
Lake Whakatipu is the jewel of Queenstown. Take to her waters and get a different perspective on the town and the surrounding mountains. Embark the Spirit of Queenstown catamaran or the Million Dollar Cruise and explore hidden coves and our magnificent mountainous landscapes from the water.
Family stroll along the shores of Lake Whakatipu
Day two: discover hidden gems
A dawn hot air balloon flight
Watch the sun rise over the mountains as you drift silently on the breezes above the Whakatipu Basin. Sunrise Balloons will transport from your hotel to the launch site, where you can help the crew inflate the balloon before taking flight. Toast your remarkable adventure with a champagne celebration on landing.
Explore boutique craft ales
Queenstown has a growing craft beer scene, with six craft breweries creating characterful brews with local ingredients. Take a craft beer tour or visit in your own time under your own steam. Searchlight Brewery is a hidden treasure just off Gorge Road with a sunny beer garden, while Canyon Brewing has views over the Shotover River and the historic Edith Cavell Bridge from its outdoor deck.
Learn to e-foil on the lake
Glide silently and emission-free across the waters of Lake Whakatipu on an e-foil. Fliteboarding is designed with the same tech as the America’s Cup flying cats and Fliteschool are New Zealand’s only e-foil instructors. Those in the know say it really is the next best thing to flying.
Give back by clearing some wilding pines
The pine trees that dominate Queenstown's landscape are an introduced species from North America that crowd out New Zealand's native vegetation. If you’d like to spend a few hours hanging out with locals and helping to reclaim the hills from the pines, contact the Whakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group to volunteer.
E-Foiling on Lake Whakatipu
Day three: Arrowtown history
The historic gold mining village of Arrowtown is rich in heritage and natural beauty. Getting to Arrowtown from central Queenstown is easy. The #2 Arthurs Point to Arrowtown route makes stops in Queenstown and the Frankton Hub before continuing on to Arrowtown. Fares are just $2 with a Bee Card, or $4 cash each way.
Visit Lake Hayes and Mora Wines & Artisan Kitchen
On the way to Arrowtown stop off at Lake Hayes and walk the loop track around the tranquil waters, soaking up the reflections, and the mountainous views. Just after Lake Hayes, stop in at Mora Wines & Artisan Kitchen for a restorative wine tasting, or relax over lunch in the gardens of the historic cottage surrounded by greenery and sculptures.
Immerse yourself in gold mining history
Arrowtown is recognised as a Tohu Whenua – a place that shaped our nation’s history, where you can connect with the past. The Lakes District Museum explores Arrowtown's history from local Māori communities to the harsh pioneering days of European settlers and gold miners. Hire a gold pan from the museum and stroll down to the restored 1880s Chinese mining settlement for a glimpse into life for early miners, before trying your hand at prospecting for your own nugget of treasure.
Ride the Arrow River Bridges Trail
Hire a bike or an e-bike and enjoy a leisurely cruise along the Arrow River Bridges Trail. Starting near the Chinese Village, the leafy trail runs alongside the Arrow River, passing picnic and swimming spots on the way to Gibbston. You’ll cross four bridges, and ride through picturesque farmland before ending at the Kawarau Suspension Bridge. There you can continue on the Gibbston River Wine Trail.
Take in a movie, Arrowtown-style
Dorothy Brown’s is a charming boutique cinema with a roaring fire and comfortable seats. Take in an arthouse film or a contemporary movie with a glass of wine. Follow up this dose of culture, by tasting local NZ whisky or local vintages at the Winery. Or head to the atmospheric cellar bar of the Blue Door for a nightcap, a yarn with the locals, and a spot of live music if you’re in luck.
Day four: Glenorchy wild nature
Glenorchy’s soaring peaks, glacial rivers, and ancient beech forests will immerse you in awe-inspiring natural beauty with outdoor adventures aplenty and New Zealand’s finest hiking. To really immerse yourself in this place, why not book a few days stay?
Take a trip to Paradise
There really is a place called Paradise, and it’s every bit as glorious as its name suggests. In fact, the beech forests in Paradise were the setting for the enchanted forest of Lothlorien in the Lord of the Rings. Paradise Ziplines operate an eight-zipline course through the forest canopy and over an alpine stream. Watch out for the infamous Orc Chasm where you zip through a canyon only metres above a rushing river.
Horse trek into the backcountry
Discover Glenorchy at a gentle pace. Ride on horseback through braided rivers, native bush, and across open fields. Hear stories of the area and visit film set locations before stopping for an alfresco picnic. There are half-day and full-day rides for all levels of skill.
Kayak the Dart River
Paddle an inflatable kayak down the Dart River, exploring tributaries, dramatic river canyons, and pools under mighty beech trees. Your funyak adventure starts with a breath-taking jetboat ride, before you drift downstream to Paradise taking in the magical scenery and stopping in the forest for a wilderness picnic lunch.
Take a backcountry hike
Glenorchy is the starting point for the Routeburn, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. Guided Routeburn Walks take you on a wilderness experience through beech forests and into alpine valleys, with knowledgeable guides. If you’re looking for something more off the beaten track, the Invincible Gold Mine Trail combines glimpses of the rich mining heritage of the Otago Goldfields Park with panoramic mountain views.
Day five: Gibbston and beyond
Head to Gibbston, the valley of the vines, for renowned Central Otago wineries nestled between rugged ranges and the dramatic rocky bluffs of Kawarau Gorge.
Cycle tour the wineries
The Gibbston River Wine Trail runs along Kawarau Gorge past the many cellar doors of the Valley of the Vines. One of the nicest ways to sample the local pinot noir and aromatic whites is to hire a bike and cycle the scenic, easy trail. Bike tour operators can collect you along the trail if your legs get tired.
Canyon adventure in Kawarau Gorge
Take a half-day guided canyoning tour in Gibbston for an exhilarating perspective on this beautiful area. Abseil 10 metres down waterfalls, climb rocky cliffs and slide natural water slides on the Kawarau River. No canyoning experience is needed.
Take a guided tour to Skippers Canyon or Macetown
Skippers Canyon Tesla Tour follows the rugged Skippers Road that zigzags up the sheer cliffs of the Shotover River Valley. Famed for being one of the most hair-raising drives in the world, you’ll discover historic sites along the way. Or choose the Macetown 4WD adventure, a narrow, rugged road that crosses the Arrow River 25 times on your way to the atmospheric, abandoned goldmining village of Macetown.
Biking the Gibbston River Trail
Day six: Milford Sound
Milford Sound in Fiordland was once described as the eighth wonder of the world, experience it by air and take a scenic flight or hop on a coach from Queenstown and relax, taking in the views along the way. The drive there is magnificent, past Kingston, a historic railway town and the lakeside settlement of Te Anau.
Visit the glow-worm caves of Te Anau
A network of limestone passages with whirlpools and an underground waterfall, the Te Anau caves are also home to an indoor galaxy of glow worms lighting up the caves with their bioluminescence. Cruise across the lake and take a guided tour through the caves.
Take a nature cruise on Milford Sound
Encounter the wildlife and waterfalls of Milford Sound on a Nature Cruise, where you may see seals, dolphins and penguins. The skipper will bring you within touching distance of the mighty cliffs that fall into the fiord, and close enough to feel the full force from the 155m Stirling Falls.
Milford Haven Cruise, RealNZ
Plan your Queenstown local experience
For even more ideas on how to slow down, experience more and live like a local, learn How to Become a Temporary Local on Your Trip to Queenstown.
If you’re looking for a place to stay that fits your slow travel ethos, Queenstown is home to a number of hotel and lodge accommodation options that connect deeply with place and community.
As you explore Queenstown slowly and mindfully, share your experiences with us on Instagram by tagging #QueenstownLive.