Zoom down the mountains1/21
“Walk up from the top of Shadow Basin chairlift at The Remarkables to catch incredible views of Queenstown and the Southern Alps,” says local powder hound Jim Peacock. “Cardrona suits all abilities, Treble Cone is full of black diamond runs, there’s a network of interconnected runs at Coronet Peak and The Remarks offers so many different chutes and little rock jumps,” he explains. Since Australians last saw these slopes, Cardrona and Treble Cone have introduced dual-mountain lift passes, Coronet Peak has installed new gondola cabins and the Sugar Bowl extension at The Remarkables has been completed.
Stroll to a secluded cove2/21
There might come a point when you can no longer believe your eyes, when the scale of Queenstown’s mountain scenery seems too epic to be real. Regain your bearings on Bob’s Cove Track, a 40-minute return trail lined with ferns and mossy rocks, which opens out onto a stretch of grass and crescent of sheltered shoreline. Just a 15-minute drive from town, it’s a tranquil spot to hit reset.
Live the lodge life3/21
You don’t check in at Blanket Bay, about 40 minutes along the road to Glenorchy. There’s nothing as prosaic as a lobby, either. Instead, friendly faces await your arrival then whisk your bags, car and cares away while you drift to the stone-and-timber Great Room and snuggle into a sofa by windows that frame a view this high-end lodge doesn’t so much enjoy as inhabit.
Hit the beach – yes, the beach4/21
There might not be a surf break but the pebbly coves and bays along Lake Wakatipu’s long shoreline fill with sunseekers in summer. Locals love to lie out at pretty Wilson Bay, about 10 minutes drive from town, the quiet stretch a haven for boat folk and families. Kelvin Heights Beach (picutred) on Kelvin Heights Peninsula faces north and catches the most sun.
Trust the chef at a winery lunch5/21
An ex-Noma chef, an unmatched commitment to the produce of the Central Otago region and a dreamy spot between mountains and vines has positioned the bistro at Amisfield among the world’s finest destination diners. The ever-changing four-course lunch menu may be light on details – “quail, pinot gris, wild boletes” – but chef Vaughan Mabee’s pedigree and philosophy all but guarantee a good time: “We choose our partners in our menu for the quality they offer as well as their commitment to sustainability and ethical farming practices.”
See the sunrise on a scenic flight6/21
Just as Mount Aspiring comes into view, the sun breaks above the ranges and tints the snowy peaks rose-gold, its rays reaching into the five-seat Cessna 206 that soars above glaciers, rivers and alpine lakes. “You’d think I’d done this before,” grins Liam Anderson, who has piloted sunrise flights for family-owned Glenorchy Air since the experience launched last year. He points out landmarks and says every season offers a unique outlook.
Spike your adrenaline levels7/21
When dangling off a bridge, leaping from a plane or swinging high above a valley sounds like any ordinary day in Queenstown, it’s time to double down. Local adventure pioneers AJ Hackett combine the Nevis Bungy jump (the country’s highest at 134 metres) with the Nevis Catapult, which flings you across the craggy valley in a sling, in one stomach-dropping package. Back on earth, Oxbow Adventure Co. tests your limits with jet-sprint boating at 100 clicks, clay bird shooting and off-roading in a one-of-a-kind all-terrain vehicle.
Cycle to a winery8/21
“Just follow this mountain until you get to The Remarkables then turn left,” says Josh from Around the Basin as he passes out e-bikes. The well-marked tract of the Queenstown Trail from Arrowtown to Gibbston Valley traces the Arrow River, crosses suspension bridges and winds into the Gibbston River Wine Trail. After lunch at laid-back Kinross, spend time in the tasting room. Down the road, Baz the dog greets guests at Mt Rosa where a cheese and charcuterie board and glass of pinot melt time before Around the Basin arrives to collect you.
Skip the queue at Fergburger9/21
Ask around for Queenstown tips and you’ll hear plenty about Fergburger, where punters have been lining up for a deluxe burger and fries for 20 years. If your weary ski legs won’t hold, duck next door to Ferg’s Bar. “Come in wearing jandles or a tuxedo and we’ll always treat you like you’re in a tux,” says general manager Stephen Bradley of the relaxed all-day joint that opened in July last year. Breakfast (including a hair of the dog) starts at 7am, with drinks and tapas (think fried chicken, dumplings and tofu sliders) served until late.
Image credit: Daz Caulton
Dine local at Rātā10/21
The menu at Rātā may change with the seasons but there’s one dish that’s been around for two years: Cloudy Bay storm clams with wakame seaweed butter, chilli and toasted sourdough. And it only takes one umami-rich bite to understand why. Chef Josh Emett’s lauded restaurant, in the heart of town, elevates South Island ingredients and proudly pours New Zealand wines.
Charter your own ski field12/21
There’s arriving early at The Remarkables or Coronet Peak to carve the first tracks. Then there’s this: 264 hectares of backcountry white stuff reserved for you and your mates. Soho Basin replaces chairlifts and gondolas with high-spec snow cats, swaps in-lodge dining for an on-mountain après-ski barbecue by Amisfield chefs and vino from the renowned winery and provides exclusive access to run after dream run across the wild, untouched terrain of the Southern Alps.
Après ski at Queenstown’s first pub13/21
Cargo at Gantley’s is what happens when an 1860s gold-prospectors’ tavern meets a modern microbrewery. “We just want it to feel like a friendly local pub,” says Cargo Brewing Company’s Hayley Metcalf. After a day on the Coronet Peak slopes, fall into a beanbag in the leafy beer garden with a boozy hot chocolate or mulled wine, or peel off your layers, sit by the fire inside and order a Cargo IPA and bowl of chips. Little kids (and big ones) will love roasting marshmallows and patting dogs in the pet-friendly bar.
Kayak to a private island14/21
As you paddle towards Pigeon Island, you’ll hear its residents before you see them, a singsong chorus of bellbirds and tui welcoming you. Sam de Reeper of Rippled Earth Kayaking leads tours to Pigeon or Pig islands, about 1.2 kilometres from shore at the northern end of Lake Wakatipu. After a warm drink and a snack on land, coast along the islands’ fringe, stopping to rest and hear De Reeper share natural history and Mãori legends.
Get to Glenorchy15/21
Following the eastern edge of Lake Wakatipu, the drive passes stands of pine, under rocky bluffs and through quiet hamlets, snow-capped peaks sitting sentinel beside you. But after 45 minutes or so, Glenorchy makes its case: a charming frontier town so remote the road only stretched out to reach it in 1962. There’s a pub, a general store, excellent trout and salmon fishing, horse-riding trails and Lord of the Rings tours, plus it’s the last stop for hikers taking on the Routeburn Track.
Sleep on the lake’s surface16/21
You can listen to the lapping of Lake Wakatipu from bed in every waterfront room at Eichardt’s Private Hotel but a night on the property’s eight-berth luxury yacht Pacific Jemm takes you straight to the source. From the Jemm’s bow, watch steamer TSS Earnslaw puff towards Glenorchy or settle at the stern to witness The Remarkables turn violet at dusk as Queenstown’s lights flicker on in the foreground. The glamorous Italian-built floating suite remains docked at O’Regan’s Wharf so you can come and go as you please before retiring below deck to the king-sized stateroom, where the lake will gently rock you to sleep.
Shred the slopes in summer17/21
“Almost all of Queenstown’s mountain-bike trails are on public land and have been built by our community over the past several decades,” says Chris Conway, president of the Queenstown Mountain Bike Club. Head up Coronet Peak after ski season to charge back down along the Rude Rock (pictured) or Zoot trails. Or bump, bounce and skid through the 7 Mile Bike Park with the kids towards a swim and a picnic lunch at Wilson Bay.
Work on your wellness18/21
Sinking into a cedar-lined tub at Onsen Hot Pools, on the mountainside above the Shotover River, bubbling 38°C mineral water contrasts with a cool kiss of alpine air on your neck and shoulders. The one-hour experience is heightened by the calm of watching a New Zealand falcon gliding on the wind and the faint drone of jet boats in the distance.
Find inspiration on a bespoke gallery tour19/21
At the first stop on Black ZQN’s gallery hop around Arrowtown, the Thomas L. Brown Gallery at Lake Hayes, guide and long-time local David Furniss climbs out of the Mercedes with a chuckle, “He’s a character.” Brown doesn’t disappoint, chatting about the paintings he creates in a converted 1900s cheese factory. Closer to town at the Dudley’s Cottage Precinct, in the studio she e-bikes to every day, Jenny Mehrtens explains the process of applying gold leaf to her intricately patterned works.
Encounter a kiwi20/21
Kiwi Birdlife Park, a lush two-hectare sanctuary for native wildlife and flora, hides in plain sight below the Skyline Gondola. Funded by entry fees and gift-shop sales, the refuge runs breed-for-release programs and a rehabilitation centre and opened a state-of-the-art kiwi enclosure last year. Time your visit to catch the twice-daily Conservation Show (hot water bottles and blankets are on hand when it’s chilly), where you might meet Walter the red-crowned parakeet and Titus the tuatara, a reptile species older