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One Week in Queenstown Itinerary: Your Local’s Guide

Queenstown

It’s finally time to plan your one week in Queenstown – but where to begin? This small town, tucked next to the Southern Alps, is packed full of endless adventures, good food, exciting activities, and luxurious moments. Around every corner is a breathtaking landscape, and within every cafe are friendly locals.

Of course, there are a few must-do excursions, including visiting Milford Sound, journeying over the Crowne Range to Wanaka, and ticking off skydiving, bungy jumping, and jet boating. However, for every bucket-list activity, there’s a hidden gem that only the locals know about.

Below, we take you on a journey that explores Queenstown from all angles and encompasses the vibrant spirit felt here. Get ready for an adventure you’ll never forget with this unbeatable one week in Queenstown itinerary.

Day 1: Arrive in Queenstown, explore town

Historic photo of Queenstown airport
Photo by LaraBelova/Getty Images Signature

Arriving in Queenstown, especially if you’re flying in from Auckland or elsewhere in New Zealand, will be a memory you won’t soon forget. As you’re soaring above the Southern Alps, you’ll soon hear the call that the plane is descending. Weaving between staggering mountains and above jaw-dropping blue lakes, you’ll imagination cannot fathom where this plane could be landing. Then, out of nowhere, Queenstown appears, and your heart races with both excitement and adrenaline of landing in one of the most picturesque airports possible.

After grabbing your bags, you’ll be out of the small airport and on your way in no time. We strongly recommend a rental car for this itinerary, especially from day three onwards, and staying in town or along Frankton Road. There are plenty of hotels to choose from, but some of our favorites are:

Crown Plaza Queenstown ($$$): Located right in the heart of Queenstown and with stunning views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables, you’ll have everything Queenstown has to offer at your fingertips.

Sherwood Queenstown ($$$$): Set along Frankton Road, Sherwood is a stunning mix of luxury and authenticity. 

After you’ve checked in, you’ll be itching to head outside and explore this charming town. Get to know the area by walking the lakefront and exploring Queenstown gardens before choosing one of the many incredible restaurants in town for dinner.

Day 2: Go up to Skyline via gondola or hiking and enjoy dinner at Walter Peak

Walter Peak
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Hopefully, you had a good night’s sleep as today will be packed full of exploring and indulging. Your first activity of the day will take you up to Skyline Queenstown, either by a 5-minute gondola ride or a 50-minute hike up the tiki trail. Skyline sits 1,476 feet (450 meters) above Queenstown, and once here, you can grab yourself a coffee and admire the 360 degree views, opt for an exciting luge ride, or even get your adrenaline pumping with a bungy jump. Or, for those who packed their hiking shoes and want a real challenge, from Skyline you can continue up three hours to the top of Ben Lomond.

When you’ve soaked in all the views and headed back into Queenstown, you’ll likely want some time to refresh before your exciting evening activity. Tonight, hop aboard the TSS Earnslaw, a historic coal-fired steamship, for a 45-minute cruise across Lake Wakitipu to Walter Peak.

You’ll immediately feel like you’ve stepped right into traditional New Zealand culture with sheep, goats, and farm dogs wandering around. Soon you’ll be called inside for an incredible BBQ dinner served at Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant. Luckily, when you’ve had your fill, you can enjoy a relaxing cruise home and hit the hay for yet another big day tomorrow.

Day 3: Visit Milford Sound

Milford Sound, a must visit during one week in Queenstown
Photo by Rossillicon/Getty Images

A must-do day trip from Queenstown, and one of the most iconic destinations in New Zealand, is Milford Sound. Deemed the 8th wonder of the world by Rudyard Kipling, a famous British writer, you have to see these majestic landscapes in person to fully grasp Milford Sounds beauty. There are a few different options to tackle today’s adventure, which include:

  • Coach, cruise, coach tour: The most popular choice, you’ll wake up bright and early and hop on a coach bus for a four hour drive to Milford Sound with a few stops along the way. Once you arrive in Milford Sound, you’ll transfer to a boat where you’ll cruise along the sound before returning to the coach for a ride back home.
  • Self-drive: The same idea as the coach bus, except you’re in charge of driving. This option allows more freedom, but do keep in mind the drive is along narrow and mountainous roads. You’ll also have to book your own cruise and make sure you give yourself plenty of spare time so you don’t miss it.
  • Fly: The quickest of the three options, by far. Hop on a small plane and take an hour flight to Milford Sound, where you can again transfer to a boat and cruise Milford Sound before flying back. There are also options to fly one way and coach the other way.

Your wallet and confidence driving will impact your decision, but if you’re looking for a local recommendation, we’ve found the coach, cruise, fly option is best. The drive to Milford is incredible, and having to drive yourself means you’re focusing on the road instead of the scenery. And if you add on a flight on the way home, you’ll get to see Milford Sound from all angles!

Day 4: Morning Arrowtown, spend the day wine tasting at Gibson Valley

Arrowtown in autumn
Photo by Janis Apels/Getty Images

Another full day of adventure and breathtaking landscapes await you today. Wake up bright and early and make your way to Arrowtown. Located a 20-minute drive from Queenstown, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back to an earlier time as the town’s historic main drag pops into view. The building fronts of the historic gold mining town have remained relatively unchanged and are now filled with wonderful boutique shops and restaurants.

If you’re ready to stretch your legs from the long journey yesterday, Arrowtown is also a perfect place to get out those hiking shoes and tick off one of the many hikes in the area, just be sure to pack layers and sunscreen. There is something for everyone here, ranging from 50-minute flat walks to six-hour treks straight uphill.

Once you’ve explored to your heart’s desire, the next stop takes us 10-minutes down the road to Gibbston. Whether or not you’re a wine lover, there’s no doubt you’ll fall in love with the ultra-charming ‘Valley of the Vines’ that’s home to a dozen different wineries. For the full experience, you’ll want to tour a few different wineries. Our recommendations include:

  • Gibbston Valley: The oldest winery in the area that’s a perfect first stop. Take a tour of its wine cave and pop into the cheesery to sample some delicious Whitstone cheeses.
  • Kinross: When you’re stomach is grumbling, head to Kinross to enjoy lunch in its stunning outdoor restaurant with wood-fired pizzas and fresh salads. 
  • Peregrine: While Peregrine is one of the more expensive wineries in Gibbston, its unique architecture and stunning tasting room make it a must-stop.

Day 5: Explore Wanaka

Roys Peak in Wanaka
Photo by Kamchatka/Getty Images

By now, you probably think you’ve explored the most breathtaking landscapes the South Island could offer. Yet, just over the Crowne Range, is another inviting and stunning small town that’s home to adventure-loving locals and expats. The drive itself is breathtaking, taking you up 3,677 feet (1121 meters) along a windy road, alongside scenic sheep farms, and through Cardrona Valley. There’s so much to do and see in Wanaka you could easily spend a couple of days here, so we’ve laid out a few options for you to choose from depending on what you’re in the mood for.

Hike Roys Peak – Deemed one of the best day hikes in New Zealand, this five to six-hour hike starts just outside of Wanaka and climbs steadily up a well-maintained track to Roy’s Peak summit. The views here are insanely beautiful and more than make up for the challenging climb.

Drive to Mt Aspiring National Park – If you want to see rugged nature and thundering waterfalls without having to hike for hours on end, you’ll want to add this drive to your list. While the road is only 32 miles (52 kilometers) long, it will take nearly two hours as you stop to let sheep cross the road and drive through shallow fords.

Paddleboard or kayak on Lake Wanaka – Right on the waterfront you’ll find paddleboards and kayaks you can rent. Gliding across the deep blue water with nothing but mountains in your sight is an ideal way to enjoy Wanaka.

Take a cruise to Mou Waho – A 40-minute ferry from Wanaka lakefront brings you to Mou Waho Island. Once here, a 20-minute hike takes you up to a lake you can refresh in and then you can say you’ve swum in a lake, on an island, on a lake, on an island in the ocean.

Day 6: Explore Glenorchy, book in at the Onsen Hot Pools

Glenorchy, a must visit during your one week in Queenstown
Photo by FiledIMAGE/Getty Images

Today, yet another unbelievably scenic drive awaits you to the tiny town of Glenorchy. Located about a 45-minute drive along Lake Wakitipu, the journey is once again filled with beautiful landscapes and plenty of photo stops. Like Wanaka, there are a few different ways to spend your day here depending on how active you’d like to be.

  • Explore town – Even though it will take you all of ten minutes to walk across town, there are some lovely cafes to enjoy and small shops to check out.
  • Take a Lord of the Rings tour – Think Misty Mountains, Isengard, Lothlorien, and Ithilien Camp. It can be hard to find these locations on your own, so we recommend a guided tour.
  • Walk the Glenorchy Boardwalk – This modest hike follows three miles (five kilometers) of boardwalk and showcases unique birdlife and endless views. It’s perfect for all levels of fitness and ages. If you’re looking for more extensive hikes, check out the Department of Conservation webpage.

Tonight, you’ll celebrate your last night in Queenstown in style. You’ll want to book this one well in advance, even before you arrive in town, as the Onsen Hot Pools are constantly booked out. What you’ll get is your own private indoor/outdoor cedar hot tub with uninterrupted views of Shotover Canyon. You can even order wine and extra spa treatments for a full night of pampering.                                    

Day 7: Skydive & enjoy your last afternoon in Queenstown

Queenstown Wharf
Photo by ojphoto/Getty Images

It’s your last day in Queenstown and perhaps New Zealand, so why not do something big before heading home. As we mentioned before, the options are endless for adrenaline activities, but one you can’t pass up is skydiving. You probably know skydiving involves, so we won’t get into much detail about jumping out of a perfectly good airplane.

Now that that’s out of the way, you’ll be ready for a well–earned lunch and final wander around Queenstown. We recommend checking out Yonder for delicious (and reasonably priced) lunches if you haven’t already. Another local’s favorite, if you still have spending money to spare, is Botswana Butchery which is known around town for its mouthwatering meals using almost all local meat and produce.

Savor those last few bites and incredible views as your time in Queenstown is coming to an end. However, one thing is sure; you’ll already be planning your next visit back.

Where to go after our one week in Queenstown?

Abel Tasman National Park
Photo by Lokibaho/Getty Images Signature

If you’re lucky enough to continue exploring New Zealand after Queenstown, you have some difficult decisions to make. A few of our favorite places in New Zealand include:

  • Nelson – The gateway to Nelson Lakes National Park and Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson is a great location to enjoy sunny days, endless hiking and relaxing days on the beach.
  • Bay of Islands – Located near the top of the North Island, the Bay of Islands is perfect for those who’ve seen enough mountains and want to spend days on end exploring the region’s 140 subtropical islands.
  • Wellington – The capital of New Zealand is full of character, quirky bars, and has a vibrant arts scene. Spending a day or two here is a must, and you may even catch an All Blacks game.

Is one week in Queenstown enough?

One week in Queenstown is the perfect amount. It will give you enough time to enjoy the town, tick off a few of the many activities, and head out on some must-do day trips like Milford Sound and Wanaka.

How much does it cost to spend one week in Queenstown?

One week in Queenstown for one person costs an average of $2300. This is assuming you’re staying in a modest hotel, eating out most meals, and enjoying a few of the many activities Queenstown has to offer. While you can decrease this slightly by staying in budget hostels and cooking your own food, it’s much easier to go above and beyond $2300 with the endless fun to be had in Queenstown. There’s no hiding it, Queenstown is expensive.