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Queenstown - the Home of Adventure 

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The Queenstown Story

During the last ice age 15,000 years ago, a huge glacier moving from the north-west carved out what is now Lake Wakatipu. The Maori first came to this area via the valley systems of Southland and Otago in search of food, fibre and stone resources.  They hunted the large, flightless moa and they discovered sources of pounamu (greenstone) at the head of Lake Wakatipu. 

In 1860 William Gilbert Rees and Nicholas Von Tunzelman came to the area to develop its pastoral potential but this quickly changed when Thomas Low and John MacGregor discovered gold in the Arrow. This then led to other discoveries in the Shotover in 1862. The goldrush peaked in 1863 and by 1865 many miners had left to join the Westland goldrush. 

The gold finally ran out some years later and many of those early prospectors decided to stay in Queenstown, captivated by the beauty of the surrounding mountains and rivers.  In fact, it was gold prospectors who hit on its very fitting name when they pronounced it a “town fit for a Queen”.

The first ski field was launched on Coronet Peak in 1947 and brought a whole new dimension to the town as a winter destination. In the 1970s there was huge growth in international tourism to New Zealand which benefited Queenstown. 

The adventure tourism industry took off with the likes of Kawarau Jet (1960), Skyline Gondola (1968), TSS Earnslaw scenic cruises (1969), Shotover Jet (1970), Cardrona ski field (1978), The Remarkables ski field (1985), AJ Hackett Bungy (1988), Serious Fun River Surfing (1989), and NZONE tandem skydiving (1990), and Queenstown began to earn its reputation as the Adventure Capital of the World.

Today Queenstown is rated as one of the world's top destinations and the Southern Hemisphere’s premier four season lake and alpine resort.  It is the largest town in Central Otago and is easy to get to thanks to an international airport and excellent road access.  

Queenstown at a Glance 


Nestled in the Southern Alps of New Zealand on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown is the premier four season lake and alpine resort in the Southern Hemisphere and is rated as one of the world's top destinations.

It is situated 310m (1,017ft) above sea level at latitude 45 degrees south and longitude 169 degrees west.


A popular holiday spot at any time of the year, Queenstown is renowned for its four distinctive seasons. 

The alpine climate means winter brings crisp, clear blue-sky days amongst snow-capped mountains, spring retains the snow but blooms into longer, warmer days, summer offers hot days averaging 26ºC and long twilights, and autumn’s brilliant red and gold colours are a special feature across the region.

Summer: Hot and dry, daytime high 18-30ºC, nights generally cool

Autumn: Clear warm days, daytime 12-25ºC, nights cool to cold

Winter: Crisp clear days, daytime 5-10ºC, nights cold

Spring:Crisp morning and evening, 9-20ºC, nights cool

Annual rainfall: 913mm (36 inches)

Average annual snowfall: It snows down to lake level (downtown) on average about 3 times in winter. Coronet Peak 2.03m (about 6.5ft) per annum. The Remarkables 3.67m (about 12ft) per annum. Cardrona 2.7m (about 8.9ft) per annum


According to New Zealand’s last census in 2013, 28,224 people usually live in Queenstown-Lakes District.