Located at the southern end of Lake Whakatipu, Kingston is a great spot to stop for some fresh air, a bite to eat, or just soak up the views on your way to Milford Sound or Queenstown.
Kingston is only 47km from Queenstown, but the drive is a dream for photographers. The road twists its way along beside Lake Whakatipu at the foot of the Remarkables with a handful of of locations to pull over to admire and snap a shot of the iconic lake.
One of the best spots to pull over and check out the vista is the Devil’s Staircase Lookout Point where you can marvel at the panorama of lake and snow-capped mountain peaks stretching into the distance. Here’s 10 of the top things to do in Kingston.
1. Play a round of golf at the Kingston Golf Club
Enjoy a slower pace of life with a round of golf at the Kingston Golf Club. This delightful nine-hole course surrounded by mountains and woodland features challenging natural obstacles, including small creeks and groves of pine trees.
Kingston Golf Club
2. Picnic and swim at the Kingston Beach
Soak up some sunshine and scenery with lakeside picnic tables by the sandy beach. It’s particularly lovely in the autumn when the leaves of the poplars and willows turn golden in the low sunlight. Thrill seekers can brave the pure, icy waters of the lake and go for a swim along the shore.
3. Ride the Around the Mountains Cycle Trail
Kingston is the start (or the end) of the Around the Mountains Cycle Trail, one of New Zealand’s Great Rides. The 186km trail runs around the Eyre Mountains from Kingston to Walter Peak and can be ridden in either direction.
The high-grade trail is built for a comfortable ride and terrain is intermediate to easy. It takes three-five days to ride the trail, depending on how relaxed you like your pace. The trail takes in lakeside, farmland, high country, small towns, and national parks.
Around The Mountains cycle trail. Credit: @bike_now
4. Fish from the boat ramp or try fly fishing with Chris Dore
Kingston is in the heart of celebrated fly-fishing country. Learn to fly cast and set out exploring the rivers and trout streams around Kingston with fly fishing guide Chris Dore. A certified casting instructor, Chris will have you pulling in those rainbow whoppers in no time.
Or if you have a fishing license, the boat ramp at Kingston is the perfect spot to try a cast into Lake Whakatipu. The deep glacial lake is well stocked with brown trout, rainbow trout, and salmon, and it’s fed by rivers that are also fishing hotspots.
5. The Real Country Farm Experience
Discover southern farming traditions with the Real Country Farm Experience and head home with some new rural skills. Real Country’s farm skills workshops will teach you to change a tyre, jump start a flat battery, and work with horses, while another tour offers claybird and target shooting, archery, and cracking a stock whip.
6. All aboard The Kingston Flyer
Kingston is home to the iconic Kingston Flyer Steam Train. The historic railway reached Kingston in 1878, connecting Invercargill to the Central Otago gold fields. But as railway passengers declined through the early twentieth century, the last commercial journey was completed in 1957, reopening as a heritage visitor attraction in 1971.
The restored Kingston Flyer is now owned by a local historic enthusiast, and runs from Kingston to Fairlight over September - December, a 1.5-hour return journey through spectacular mountain scenery.
Kingston Flyer station. Image: @landschapen
7. Ride snow bikes at Snowmoto
Snowmoto is the only place you can ride snow bikes in New Zealand. Snow bikes are unique beasts with a ski instead of a front tyre and a yeti track at the back that drives the whole shebang. Snowmoto take you up in high backcountry near Kingston for stunning views of the Central Otago mountains, Southern Alps and lakes.
The Snowmoto crew offer a pickup and drop off from Frankton near Queenstown, and you can choose a half day or full day experience. Some motorcycle experience is needed.
8. Off-road adventures with Xtreme 30
Xtreme 30 offer self-drive off-road adventures. Get the adrenaline pumping with a hoon around their purpose-built track or take a two-hour off-road tour up Kingston Hill for river crossings, steep climbs and breath-taking views of Lake Whakatipu.
9. Hike the Lower Wye Creek Track
If you’re a keen hiker there are a few great tramps in and around Kingston, so pack your boots. The Lower Wye Creek Track is 20-minutes’ drive from Queenstown on your way to Kingston. This steep track follows a pipeline to a hydro dam, climbing through native beech forest and past waterfalls with excellent views back over the lake. You may meet rock climbers heading up to the rocky cliffs around the creek. The 6.66km walk is 4hrs return, so dress warm and take snacks and water.
Lower Wye Creek Track. Credit: @ameliaroams
10. Meander the Te Kere Haka Track or Hike the Shirt Tail Track
Located on the shores of Lake Whakatipu, the Te Kere Haka Reserve begins past the railway station at the far end of the Kingston township and is the starting point for two local walks. The easy Te Kere Haka Track follows the lake shore for a leisurely 1hr stroll with views of the lake and the Hector Mountains.
For more of a challenge, the advanced Shirt Tail Track is a steep 1.5hr tramp that follows the Shirt Tail Stream up through red beech forest to a waterfall, and above the bush line for views over the lake and Kingston. Beyond the waterfall the track is very steep, rough and unmarked, so a moderate level of fitness and tramping boots are required.