Winter Festival Opening Party Fireworks

Why Queenstown’s Winter Festival is a must-do

The Real Journeys Queenstown Winter Festival is a highlight on New Zealand’s event calendar. We talk to festival director Rae Baker about why it’s the ideal time and place to celebrate winter.

Fancy doing an obstacle course in your undies when it’s -7 degrees Celsius? How about sliding down a ski slope with your dog? In Queenstown, anything’s possible – and at no time is the town’s quirky personality more evident than during the Real Journeys Queenstown Winter Festival, an annual event that kicks off the snow season and is held over four days in June. 

The tradition started back in 1975 with a few locals competing in mountain races, and now encompasses live music, comedy acts, a torchlight procession, quiz nights and Dodgeball. Of course, there’s still plenty of events to celebrate the snow’s arrival, too, including Mountain Bikes on Snow, snow skate slaloms, snow tubing and the “Tour de Cardies”.

We sat down with festival director Rae Baker to talk all things Queenstown and find out what’s on this year’s agenda.

The Remarkables Ski Field

The Remarkables Ski Field

What do you love the most about winter in Queenstown?

While Queenstown is a popular place all year long, the vibe leading into winter is unique. As the fires get lit, the snow comes and the beanies come out, the buzz for ski mountains’ opening is tangible, and everyone can’t wait to get a piece of it.

Cardrona Alpine Resort

Cardrona Alpine Resort

What is it about Queenstown that makes it the perfect place for New Zealand’s biggest winter celebration?

There are four fantastic ski fields around Queenstown and I believe you’d be hard-pushed to find a setting more stunning than the backdrop of Lake Wakatipu with its jagged, snow-capped mountains. Our community embodies our sense of playfulness – Queenstown has an appetite to party. 

Luge track at dusk

Luge track at dusk

What activities would you recommend in Queenstown?

Originally famous for its location near so many ski fields, there are now plenty of other activities to suit every type of traveller. From racing a luge down Bob’s Peak to watching the stars over a glass of wine, there’s something for everyone. It's the perfect winter holiday destination. 

Monteith’s Dog Derby

Monteith’s Dog Derby

What can we expect from this year’s Winter Festival?

Queenstown Winter Festival turns 44 this year, and to celebrate it’s getting a facelift! We have a new naming rights sponsor in Real Journeys  and a new mountain host at Cardrona. With all the events you know and love, from the Monteith’s Dog Derby to the good old polar plunge on iHeartRadio Day, we are also shaking things up with prominent Kiwi musicians Tiki Taane, Maala, Leisure, Nadia Reid and The Black Seeds taking to the stage. The festival has always been about letting your inhibitions run a bit wild and embracing the true essence of Queenstown, so we’re continuing that tradition in 2018 with a few surprises along the way – so stay tuned!

The Queenstown Winter Festival runs from June 21-24 2018.

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