Queenstown has its iconic adventures and they’re incredible. But once you’ve experienced the high of hurling yourself off a bungy and the delight of scoffing down a Ferg Burger, there’s so much more to explore. Many visitors arrive wanting to experience what living here is really like. If that feels familiar, this guide to exploring Queenstown like a local is for you.
Venture beyond the usual hotspots
Take time to get off the beaten track. Head for these hidden gems and slow adventures where you’ll meet locals enjoying their favourite corners of Queenstown.
Amble along the Queenstown Garden Trail
A chill little adventure that's accessible to everyone. The Queenstown Garden Trail starts at the town beach and winds into Queenstown’s botanical gardens. Stroll beneath tall trees planted in the mid-1800s, enjoy the rose garden in summer, check out the playground if you have littles in tow, or try your hand at Frisbee golf, before continuing as far as you like along the lake shore.
Kelvin Heights Peninsula to Jack’s Point Trail
10km from Queenstown, the Kelvin Heights Peninsula track loops around a golf course. Dip in and out of the forest and past sculptures by New Zealand artists, while admiring the lake views.
If you’ve still got steam in your legs The Lakeside Trail continues another two hours on to Jack’s Point Clubhouse, where you can refuel with lunch or a snack. Both trails can be walked or cycled, and you can book a water taxi to take you home the scenic route.
Lakeside Trail. Credit Geoff Marks
Stroll from the Hilton Resort back to Queenstown
We’re big fans of walks that end with treats. Start at the Hilton Resort and Spa in Kawarau Village (a 20-minute drive or 15-minute water taxi ride from Queenstown) and take the Frankton Arm Walkway to the Frankton Marina for a relaxing stroll of just over 3km.
Finish up with lunch and drinks by the lake at the Boat Shed Café in the historic New Zealand Railways Shipping Office, which is a bit of a local fav. Then carry on another 7km into Queenstown or loop back to your starting point and reward yourself with a massage in the Hilton’s spa.
Immerse yourself in local history at The Lakes District Museum
This museum in Arrowtown introduces you to the region's history and explores what makes Queenstown the place it is today. Discover the geological processes that shaped the land, explore Māori settlement and the stories of the gold rush and European pioneers. Cap off your journey into the past by hiring gold pans and giving panning a go in the Arrow River.
Explore Bob's Cove
This is a real secluded treasure. Bob’s Cove is 14 km from Queenstown. Wander down through native bush and birdsong to the shore of Lake Whakatipu. When you reach the lake the trail continues past a historic lime kiln, and a hill with a fantastic lookout, before arriving at Picnic Point. Pack a bag of local goodies, bring your swimsuit, and bask in the serenity.
Bob's Cove Nature Walk
Connect with the community at local events
Get a feel for Queenstown culture by getting involved in local happenings. These events are a great way to give back to the community and meet locals who share your passions.
Queenstown Mountain Bike Club Dig Night and Pedals & Pints
Every Wednesday evening, Mountain Bike Club members and mountain biking enthusiasts meet up, shovels in hand. You may be maintaining a legendary trail or helping to build a brand-new adventure. Digs are followed by yarns over fish and chips. Anyone can get involved.
Meet up with local riders at the MTB Club’s regular Pedals and Pints events, where everyone’s welcome to meet up for a ride that caters to all levels, followed by a few cold ones down at a local bar. Follow Queenstown Mountain Bike Club on Facebook to find out more.
Open mic night at the Sherwood
The Sherwood Songwriter Society is a free monthly open mic for musicians or spoken word poets. Share your own compositions or enjoy the abundance of Queenstown talent. Held the last Thursday of each month at the Sherwood, the open mic is also supported by local craft beer good sorts, Altitude Brewing, who shout all performers a free drink.
Go to a Queenstown pub quiz
If there’s one thing Queenstown folks love it’s a good pub quiz, so if you’re a terrific trivia buff you’ll be in hot demand. Here’s a line-up of pub quiz fun times hosted by local hostelries – booking ahead is advised.
- Pig & Whistle Pub. Every Tuesday from 7pm.
- The Beech Tree. Every Wednesday from 7pm.
- Lokal Kitchen & Bar. Every Wednesday from 7pm.
- Morrison's Irish Pub. Every Thursday from 7pm.
- Canyon Brewing. Every Thursday from 7pm.
- Searchlight Brewery. Not as regular, so check their website.
Culture in the community at Te Atamira
Queenstown’s community arts and culture space Te Atamira is a hub for exhibitions, performances, workshops and other events. The space exists to inspire creativity every day, so events are accessible, entertaining, and affordable, with everything from Mozart by touring maestros, to movement and music for your little wrigglers.
Part of the international movement of free community fun runs, Queenstown Parkrun starts in the Queenstown gardens every Saturday morning at 8am. Join the friendly crew of locals for an easygoing 5km run. All you need to do is register before you turn up.
Farmers markets are the best way to discover local producers and taste the best of what’s in season. The Remarkables Market is every Saturday (October to April) from 9am-2pm at The Red Barn in Remarkables Park. Wander around the stalls listening to live music and filling your basket with fresh veggies, salmon, award-winning sausages, cakes, and coffee.
Sundays are for the Arrowtown Farmers Market, which runs from October until Easter, 10am-2pm at Arrowtown’s Library Green. Stock up with local cheese, honey, salami, and baked goods.
The Remarkables Market
Eat like a Queenstown local
We’re spilling the beans on Queenstown’s secret eateries and local favourites.
Giovi for authentic Italian
Every good town has its favourite local Italian eatery, and in Queenstown, it’s Giovi’s. Head to Giovi in Remarkables Park in Frankton for handmade pasta, pizza and gelato, or to Farelli’s Trattoria by Giovi on Steamer Wharf for delicious Italian food in a casual setting.
Be sure to check out Frankton when you start to get hungry because it’s home to a cluster of gourmet goodies. The FiveMile centre has a range of places to eat, but we can’t go past Tanoshi for a lunch of ramen or donburi. Local favourite Taco Medic’s Frankton taqueria continues its tradition of fresh corn tortillas stuffed with local produce. While Hustl Café serves up cracking coffee, a cabinet full of treats and a great brunch in their sunny space.
Taco Medic, Frankton
Nest in Fernhill
When Queenstown locals want a special night out they head to Nest Kitchen & Bar for a table overlooking Lake Whakatipu. The highest eatery in town, the views are as panoramic as you’d expect. Paired with Nest’s classic modern bistro fare made using the best local ingredients, and indulgent cocktails, this really is a place to linger and dream of living here all the time.
Altitude Brewing for craft and heart
Not just a damn fine craft brewery, Altitude Brewing are also stalwarts of the local community, giving one percent of their profits to Whakatipu causes every year, as well as supporting in other ways. The beers are eclectic, infused with local flavours and inspired by the local lifestyle.
Country Lane for treats and boutiques
The Country Lane artisan village in Frankton is worth a stop. Buzzstop Honey Centre’s café serves honey-inspired goodies and great coffee, while the Sugary Patisserie is a treasure trove of takeaway delights. Take time to explore the interesting shops.
Fish & chips on the beach
There’s little tastier or more quintessentially Queenstown than fish and chips on the lakeshore. Line up with the locals at Erik’s or Chur Fish and Chips, grab your hot package of delicious, greasy goodness, and head down to the beach. Just watch out for those ducks.