The South Island adventure capital

Set on the shore of Lake Wakatipu with dramatic snow-topped mountain ranges as a backdrop, the alpine village of Queenstown is the adventure hub of New Zealand’s South Island – which means that there are plenty of all-action sports on offer all year round, from skiing the slopes of The Remarkables and Coronet Peak in winter to hiking and mountain biking in summer. And when you want to take it easy, simply soak up the stunning mountain-scapes on a scenic helicopter tour; potter round historic Arrow Town; and drive around the stunning picture-postcard lake.

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Top things to do in Queenstown

Since the first daredevil commercial bungee jumper launched from the Kawarau Bridge in 1988, Queenstown has built on its reputation for adventure sports. Begin a stay here with a ride on Skyline Gondola to the top of Bob’s Peak for its panoramic views of the lake, town and mountains (from here, if you’re feeling brave, you can take to the luge, a gravity ride invented in New Zealand – think downhill go-karting).

Jet-boating is best done through the rocky canyons of the wild Shotover River, or on the calmer Dart River, at the northern end of Lake Wakatipu. It’s near the hamlet of Glenorchy, the gateway to the lake’s hiking trails and known for its spectacular scenery which was used a location in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy.

For a birds-eye view, hop in a Cessna Caravan for a scenic 35-minute flight over the snowy Richardson mountains with Air Milford to Milford Sound, one of the top attractions in the area. Then take a boat trip on the sound itself, where you’ll pass the Stirling Falls (three times the height of Niagara), fur seals basking on the rocks, and if you’re lucky the odd Fjordland crested penguin or pod of playful bottlenose dolphins.

A cruise on Lake Wakatipu aboard the Edwardian vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw is also an absolute must, and may include a stop at Walter Peak High Country Farm where you can go horse trekking and watch sheep shearing demonstrations.

Of course this is New Zealand, so no trip is complete without at least one visit to a winery. This region is famous for pinot noir which you can sample at one of the many vineyards in the Gibbston Valley (known as the Valley of the Vines): one of the best is the Gibbston Valley Winery, where the New Zealand’s largest wine cave holds more than 300 barrels. Stay for lunch or hire a bicycle to explore the nearby trails.

Only 20-minutes drive from Queenstown, wandering the streets of the historic gold mining town of Arrowtown makes for a lovely morning. Brunch in The Chop Shop Food Merchants, which is tucked away down a side alley, and try to bag one of the tables on the sun-trap balcony. After one too many glasses of pinot noir the night before the pork belly Bao buns and crispy fried blue cod tacos really hit the spot.

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