Things to See and Do
Wine & Food
Central Otago produces some of New Zealand’s greatest wines and few can pass up the opportunity to sample the sumptuous wines made here.
Central Otago has been quoted as being named one of the top five New World wine producing regions by leading British wine writer Jancis Robinson MW. “There is no doubt Central Otago is establishing itself as New Zealand’s premier pinot noir area and, maybe in a decade, the world’s” – Oz Clarke of BBC Food and Drink, UK.
And you won’t be limited by varietals, also stunning are the fruity, dry-ish Rieslings, crisp green apple Pinot Gris, succulent Chardonnays and celebratory bubbles. For any New Zealand wine lover, a life cannot be complete without a tour through this southernmost wine region. Shaly soils, clear alpine air, skilled and innovative wine producers and a climate perfectly conducive to grape growing combine to create the wines of Central Otago famous for their purity, intensity and vibrancy. Stories of pioneering tenacity abound as do tales of failure and success, not to mention the nights when helicopters hover above the vines to keep early frosts at bay. While grapes were first planted in the district by a Frenchman during the 1860’s gold rush, the modern industry has been established for not much more than 20 years. In that time, vineyards have literally sprung up on all suitable land across Queenstown and Central Otago and at last count, there was a total of 75 wineries serving 177 vineyards and an annual production of more than 3500 tonnes of grapes.
Winemaking in Central Otago is where dramatic landscape meets creative people and risky business. You’ll find high tech winemaking matched by stunning modern and traditional architecture and superb cellar door restaurant operations where menus are innovative and appear to reflect the tastes and sensations of the very soil that produces the wine. Just 20 minutes drive from downtown Queenstown, a tiny, cliff enclosed, barren valley called Gibbston is home to several widely celebrated vineyards which happily coexist alongside several adventure tourism operations including bungy jumping, rafting and river surfing.
Nature & Scenic
Queenstown is surrounded by high peaks, hangings valleys, clear blue water and vast open areas. It is framed by the World Heritage Area of Te WahiPounamu, with Mt Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks within this vast area.
The Parks – one each side of the main divide – have an almost tangible distinctive atmosphere that is unique to this place. While each has its own characteristics, in either you can feel the ancientness of the forest and smell the generations of tree decay in the lower reaches. Higher up, the beauty of the glacially created landscape is almost overwhelming. To set foot here is to experience the primaeval, haunting nature of Te Wahi Pounamu. Here, the worries of everyday life pale into insignificance as sheer vastness diminishes any human concern.
Once on a trail ancient natural laws work to still the mind and rest the soul. Rowdy, rushing rivers and verdant flora gives way to alpine meadows, in the springtime bright with flowers, then dark, unmoving tarns or mountain lakes as you near the highest reaches. Your spirit will soar with the majesty of views across peaks and valleys stretching as far as the eyes can see.
Fiordland & Milford Sound
The Maori were the first to attribute the creation of fiords to a ‘titanic mason’. According to legend, Tu-te-raki-whanoa carved out the fiords with his adze Te Hamo. He started in the far south where he created a rough coastline with many islands. By the time he reached Milford Sound, he had perfected his technique and carved an awe-inspiring fiord. Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) was his greatest achievement. The goddess of the underworld, Hine-nui-te-po, came to see the handiwork of Tu and was so alarmed at the beauty of Piopiotahi, that she worried that once people had seen the fiord they would not want to leave its beauty. To encourage humans to not dwell too long she released the sandfly into Milford Sound! Wet or fine Milford Sound is incredibly grand. Sheer granite cliffs tower into the sky and plunge into the depths of clear water, while Mitre Peak stands like a massive sentinel, guarding this amazing fiord.
Doubtful Sound is a haven of nature with ancient rainforest, abundant wildlife and superb physical grandeur. Practically untouched by man, the fiord has a deep stillness, a sense of solitude and serenity - it is quite simply and unquestionably breathtaking.
New Zealand fur seals and Fiordland crested penguins can be seen on many of the small islets in the entrance to the fiord, while bottlenose dolphins can often be sighted as they swim alongside the boats. Several outstanding waterfalls adorn the rich bush clad walls.
Art & Culture
Be inspired by your surroundings, create your own piece or art in one of Arrowtown’s galleries, be welcomed into the home of artists in the Wakatipu to see their work, or meander through the many contemporary Maori and European galleries showcasing local and New Zealand art from well known and emerging artists.
An ever-present creative culture underpins Queenstown life and the region is buzzing with a vibrant arts, crafts, theatre and music scene. Local artists and craftspeople are in permanent residence here; the immense landscape proves to be an inspirational backdrop. Artist’s studios' pepper the countryside, some of which sell their wares from the door.
Queenstown features several stage production organisers with seemingly vast resources in terms of talented thespians and production people. Grasp the chance to watch a local performance. In summer, frequent performances delight crowds in the Queenstown Gardens.
Vibrant nightlife provides work for professional musicians, sound engineers and small recording studios. Head out on the town, open your ears and sink into the soulful sounds of local jazz, live bands, house and drum and bass. A popular destination for New Zealand artists, catch well-known and emerging New Zealand musicians in one of the many local bars.
Imagine teeing off, and as you follow through, your eyes catch a glimpse of your surroundings. Some of the most exhilarating scenery on the planet! Dwarfing mountain ranges, golden, sun-scorched hills, rushing rivers and crystal clear lakes. How can your golf not go to another level when playing in such an inspirational setting.
Golfers are spoilt for choice in Queenstown, two championship length courses of the Bob Charles designed, Millbrook, and the new Jacks Point designed to challenge your length and accuracy; Kelvin Heights golf course, possibly one of the most blessed courses for its setting on a stunning peninsula reaching far into Lake Wakatipu; Arrowtown Golf course reminds you of a bygone gold mining era with scenery and traps for unwary. A quality club course that treats visitors as members; and a nine-hole course at Frankton with a setting under the Remarkables mountain range.
Golfing in Queenstown. Remarkable. Unforgettable.
Southern Lakes Quick Facts
In the centre of the Southern Lakes region is an area with some of the world's most stunning scenery. People come here from all over the world to gaze at the lakes, rivers and mountains, and to play on them.
Queenstown, the hub of the region, is a year-round alpine resort and considered the adventure capital of New Zealand.
Nearby is Arrowtown. It is smaller and mellower, preserving the relics of the Gold Rushes of the 19th Century.
Protected from the outside world by the grandeur of the mountains is Lake Wanaka. Crystal clear lake waters lap the shores of Wanaka town and the feet of the Southern Alps. To the west are two of the world's greatest hiking trails, the Milford and Routeburn tracks, while Milford Sound, New Zealand's only World Heritage Area possesses one of the planet's most spectacular landscapes.
Southern Lakes – the spirit of adventure.
Dwarfed by mountains but with a huge, friendly heart, Queenstown is a cosmopolitan resort with an adventurous pedigree. Tucked into the picturesque Queenstown bay, its natural physical attractions and man-made developments create endless opportunities for fun, relaxation and holiday making.
First the Maori cam in search of Pounamu (greenstone) and the giant Moa bird. Later came the farmers, the gold miners, adventurers, filmmakers, wine enthusiasts and Hollywood stars. All drawn by Queenstown’s intense alpine energy, stunning scenery and boundless possibilities.
A very big adventure
Queenstown is a sophisticated resort set in the magnificent Southern Alps of New Zealand and is infamous for adventure – many of its residents seem hooked on adrenalin. The list of adventure activities is impressive, unbeatable even. But there’s much more.
Experience the vibe
Born as an 1860’s gold mining camp on the edge of Lake Wakatipu, 140 years later Queenstown’s downtown heart is energised by a permanent buzz from a lively café/bar scene, first-class restaurants and diverse shopping streets.
The canny locals never let an opportunity for celebration slip by and right through the year there is a wide range of events on offer – many with their roots planted in the four distinct seasons experienced on the 45th parallel.