What is the Queenstown Trail?
Known in Māori as Ngā Haerenga (The Journeys), the Queenstown Trail is one of New Zealand's 23 Great Rides.
It accesses some of the most spectacular scenery in the country including mountain, lake and river vistas that will have you pulling out your camera around every corner. The Queenstown Trail was built and is managed by Queenstown Trails, a non-profit trust dedicated to developing a stunning network of public trails around the Whakatipu basin.
The 130km+ of trails is split into 7 individual trails that can be done as sections or as a multi-day bike packing trip. It doesn’t have to be hard yakka either. Most of the trail is flat and easy-going, with plenty of opportunities for picnics and coffee/food/wine stops. Many bike hire companies in Queenstown also offer e-bike rentals, which will take the strain out of the hills. If you’re only up for a one-way excursion, many offer drop-off or pick-up shuttle services.
Here’s a 3-day itinerary to inspire your adventure. If you’re not staying in downtown Queenstown, you can hop on the trail from anywhere else along the way, so keep that in mind when you’re doing your planning. Any of these days can also be done individually if you’re just looking for a couple of hours in the saddle!
Better By Bike, bike hire
Day 1: Queenstown to Gibbston
Get ready for a big first day with up to 40kms of riding from Queenstown to Gibbston Valley.
The Queenstown Trail officially begins at the entrance to the Queenstown Gardens at the lakefront. Circumnavigate the gardens, then head along the rolling Frankton Track towards Frankton, with a coffee stop at the historic The Boat Shed Cafe & Bistro or a beer at Altitude Brewery on the way.
Continue along Frankton Beach (also a great spot for a swim), then through the tunnel at the Kawarau Falls bridge, winding down the willow-lined Twin Rivers Trail until you reach the historic Lower Shotover bridge. Stop halfway along for a photo of Coronet Peak in one direction and The Remarkables in the other.
The trail then heads down the true left of the Shotover River. There are plenty of great picnic spots on the sandy shore here if you need a break. The next section does involve a hill or two, so you might want to gather your energy!
The trail follows the Kawarau River with some calorie-burning climbs providing expansive, elevated views of the valley and surrounding mountain ranges. With the hills behind you, it’s an easy roll through pastoral land to the Arrow River Bridges Trail. The 80m wide Edgar Suspension Bridge is a true highlight of the trip and worthy of a stop for photographs of the Arrow Gorge.
Then you'll cycle through the Barfoot tunnel and onto the original gold miner’s road that leads to the Kawarau bridge – home of the Bungy – you have officially made it to Gibbston!
Once in Gibbston, there are a number of boutique accommodation providers dotted along the valley, amongst the vines and in historic cottages, so finding a beautiful spot to rest your head for the night shouldn't be difficult. Explore Gibbston accommodation providers here.
Twin Rivers Trail. Image: Geoff Marks
Day 2: All around Gibbston, then to Arrowtown
You worked hard yesterday so we’re recommending that day two be all about the good times and a bit of cycling (approximately 15kms max)!
The Gibbston River Wine Trail meanders from the Kawarau suspension bridge alongside the Kawarau River and takes you through the area’s premium wine district.
Some highlights are Peregrine Winery, which has won awards for both its wine and its architecture; the Gibbston Valley Winery for the full winery experience and excellent gastronomy; Mt Rosa for its local cheese boards; and for something more casual, the Gibbston Tavern, a classic Otago pub that is a shady and idyllic stop on a sunny day.
After exploring and tasting all Gibbston has to offer, perhaps a short nap in a secluded riverside spot is in order before you head back down the trail towards the Kawarau suspension bridge.
Retrace your strides to the Edgar Suspension Bridge and follow the signs for the Arrow River Bridges Trail. A short way along you’ll cross the Knights Family underbridge, complete with views of the gorge. Next up is the Southern Discovery suspension bridge, which is yet another opportunity for an Insta-worthy photo stop. The final section of the track is flat and shady under the many trees that line the riverside on the approach to Arrowtown.
Home to the gold rush in the 1800s, Arrowtown is lined with quaint old buildings housing pubs, restaurants, shops and cafes. Head to the Fork n Tap for a pint, Slow Cuts for dinner, and cocktails at Blue Door.
Refuelling at Mt Rosa Winery
Day 3: Arrowtown to Queenstown
This route will take you past the old Chinese mining village, which is an interesting place for exploring and taking in Arrowtown’s rich history. Follow the track from here along the river and onto the Countryside Trail, across Malaghans Road and down the tree-lined avenue through Millbrook Resort. Stop here for a coffee at the Hole in the One Cafe and take in the manicured landscapes and reflective ponds of this highly acclaimed golf resort.
Suitably refuelled, continue through the resort and down Christine’s Hill, where you will see signs for the Lake Hayes circuit trail. If you’re feeling energetic, the loop track is a scenic and rewarding ride around this iconic lake. Otherwise, a quick stop on the shore will provide some lovely photo ops of The Remarkables, with swans, geese and ducks in the foreground.
Head back to the Countryside Trail and continue along, following the Shotover River until you reach the old Shotover Bridge.
Now it’s a matter of retracing your steps across the bridge, through Frankton and back into town. Just in time for a massage or spa treatment to reward yourself before dinner at one of the many restaurants and bars Queenstown is known for.
Biking along the Lake Hayes Track
Ways to care for Queenstown while you’re biking
While you’re biking in Queenstown you can minimise your impact by respecting people, wildlife and places – check out these handy Tiaki tips for treading lightly during your trip.
You can help protect Queenstown's landscape by donating to Love Queenstown, a local community fund that supports our region's climate, conservation and biodiversity projects or supporting Queenstown Trails who work to maintain and extend our trail network.