If you’re fascinated by the magic of winter you don’t have to head up to the slopes to enjoy Queenstown’s spectacular winter scenery. Explore Queenstown’s winter wonders with this guide to fun things to do in Queenstown in winter for non-skiers.
Experience the Queenstown winter landscape
It’s not unusual to wake in winter to the surrounding mountains coated in a fresh blanket of white. Rug up and take a wander through town along the Queenstown Gardens Trail to soak up the views. Play a round of frisbee golf, then stroll along the lake before heading back to town to find a breakfast or lunch spot with a view of the snow-capped peaks.
A ride up the Skyline Gondola offers maximum scenic reward for minimum physical effort. Midwinter is the best time to book one of Skyline’s alpine stargazing tours and explore the wonders of the night sky with a local guide. With the aid of a powerful telescope, you’ll see the Southern Cross, the Milky Way and nebulae. alongside the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn.
Explore the wintery, mountainous landscapes around Queenstown with a private tour in a Tesla. Choose to drive the historic Skippers Canyon road along sheer cliffs, visit the head of Lake Whakatipu at Glenorchy in Mount Aspiring National Park, or explore Lord of the Rings locations with your own personal guide in this whisper-quiet luxury, zero-emissions car.
Skippers Canyon, Nomad Safaris. Credit: Matt Leedham @worldofleedham
Rug up for an outdoor adventure
For something more contemplative, rise before the sun in a hot air balloon, taking in the magic of a winter morning from on high as the sun gilds the peaks of the Remarkables. Help the crew inflate the balloon before ascending to altitudes of 6,000 feet, where you’ll drift silently above the Whakatipu basin, enjoying panoramic views of the lake, snow-capped mountain ranges, and rivers. The family-owned and operated company has been flying in the region since 1998.
E-Bikes have opened a whole world of biking possibilities for all ages, no matter the weather. If you’re eager to explore, wrap up warm, pop on a pair of gloves and hire an e-bike. Snow usually sticks to the hills, so start by discovering the Queenstown Trail, a 130km all-season network of cycle trails that run throughout the region from the centre of Queenstown out to Frankton, Kelvin Heights, Arrowtown, and Gibbston. It’s a spectacular way to see the region in winter, and you can hire a shuttle pickup for the return leg.
Soak up the snowy scenery
Discover the landscape around Glenorchy on horseback. Two local horse trekking operators offer a range of expeditions for experienced riders and beginners. Ride along the Rees River, through rolling paddocks and native forests as your guides share stories of the region’s history. Off-season you’ll often have the whole valley to yourself, and the spectacular skies, snowy peaks, and stories of days gone by make this a winter adventure to remember.
You don’t have to be a skier to appreciate snowy slopes. Buy a sightseeing pass and take a gondola ride to the summit of Coronet Peak for spectacular views. Then relive childhood fun by hiring a toboggan and cutting loose in the snow play area. Or learn how to Yoon for an adventurous combo of skiing and sledding that’ll get your heart racing.
For a wild winter adventure, embark on a snow-shoe experience into the snowy backcountry of Mount Larkins via a helicopter. A guide will show you how to use snowshoes and guide you through the wintery terrain. Or, fly into to Snow Farm and take command of your own sled dog team of Huskies, driving along beautiful high-country trails.
Horse-trekking in Glenorchy
All-weather fun in winter Queenstown
We’re an alpine resort 310 metres above sea level, so winter isn’t all sunny blue sky days. But even when the weather isn’t great, there are wonderful winter adventures to be had.
Kiwi Park is an eight-acre wildlife sanctuary in the heart of Queenstown that breeds and releases over 20 species of native New Zealand wildlife for important conservation programmes, funded completely by visitor tickets. Visit one of the largest kiwi houses in the country and stroll down a treelined walkway separated from the kiwis on both sides only by a two-metre glass wall.
Indoor skydiving adventure, iFLY is the perfect winter rainy day thrill. Suit up and experience weightlessness on their wall-to-wall cushion of air. The iFLY crew are committed to inclusive adventure, so if you’re physically or cognitively disabled ask about their all-abilities sessions.
Queenstown’s ice arena offers skate rentals, skating instructors, hockey stick rental and even cute skating aids shaped like penguins and seals if you need a bit of help staying on your feet. Their ice bumper cars are fun for all ages, as you bump and slide over the ice.
Zipline eco-adventure, Ziptrek Ecotours is Queenstown’s first zero carbon activity. Rug up and glide through the forest on one of their thrilling zipline tours that operate in all weather. Enjoy views from their lofty treehouses across Lake Whakatipu to the Remarkables, while your guides tell stories about local ecology and conservation.
Indoor entertainment hub, Kingpin has fun for everyone with karaoke, escape rooms, VR games, pool, table tennis, bowling, darts and arcade machines. Once you’ve beaten your buddies refuel with a menu full of crowd-pleasing favs and their list of cocktails and craft brews.
Treat yourself to a hot tub with a wonderful winter view
Warm yourself from your winter excursions at one of Queenstown’s memorable hot tubs with vistas that are adventures all by themselves.
Driftaway is Queenstown’s newest holiday park, where you can book a private lakeside hot tub looking down the Frankton Arm with lake and mountain views. Extra special at sunset.
At Arthur’s Point, the THC Nugget Point Hotel spa overlooks the Shotover River as it winds along the valley floor. This exquisite, ornate retreat has a sauna, steam room, hot tub, saltwater plunge pool, and a Roman bath. Therapists offer massages, beauty, and spa treatments.
The Onsen Hot Pools Retreat is absolutely worth the hype. Perched on a cliff above the Shotover River at the bottom of Coronet Peak, these cedar-lined hot pools may be at their most beautiful in winter when the sun sets on the snowy slopes. The adjoining day spa offers massages and treatments for a full dose of sensual indulgence.
Onsen Hot Pools
Eat, drink and be merry Queenstown style
The après-ski scene in Queenstown is unmissable whether you ski or not, with snug firelit bars pouring local wines, craft beers, and cocktails, and convivial restaurants serving up everything from tapas to three-hat fine dining.
In the early evening, wander along the Queenstown waterfront before hopping onto Perky’s Floating Bar to soak up the views and watch the sun go down with your hands wrapped around a glass of mulled wine. Or find atmospheric hideaway, Bardeaux and grab a seat by the roaring log fire before ordering a Central Otago single malt to toast midwinter getaways.
For a meal with a view to write home about, climb the hill to Nest at Kamana Lakehouse. This is Queenstown’s highest alfresco dining terrace, but in winter you’ll be just as impressed with the panoramic vistas of the lake and the snowy Remarkables from their floor-to-ceiling windows.
Further afield, celebrated award-winning chef Vaughan Mabee cooks with Central Otago produce at Amisfield on the shores of Lake Hayes. Book a table in their firelit conservatory and sample their organic pinot noir while gazing out at the midwinter night sky.
Head to Arrowtown to taste New Zealand malt whiskies and wines from New Zealand boutique wineries at The Winery. Then take an aperitif by the fire at local institution the Blue Door, before grabbing a bite to eat. Everything’s within five minutes’ walk, so you won’t get cold or wet.
Perky's Floating Bar
Plan your Queenstown local experience
Our local profile stories are packed with more ideas to inspire you to experience Queenstown and the surrounding region like a local. See Queenstown through the eyes of photographer, Krista May, or discover mountaineer, Hamish Fleming's favourite winter adventures.
As you explore Queenstown, share your experiences with us on Instagram by tagging #QueenstownLive.