15 Best Day Trips from Queenstown near New Zealand's South Island

The city of Queenstown, being a major tourist destination itself has a lot of places around within a couple of hours of drive that are ideal for quick day trips from Queenstown that can be entertaining and fun filled that will take your mind off the stress of everyday life. Listed below are 12 places which are sure to make a perfect day trip from Queenstown.

1. Arrowtown

Arrowtown, NZ
Just a 20 minutes away from Queenstown, Arrowtown is one of the best day trips from Queenstown. A former gold mining town which offers a lot of day activities to do, the town is located in a scenic spot and has a very interesting history to it. You can take a stroll in Buckingham Street which is a heritage area and visit the Chinese settlements from the 1870s which have been restored by the conservation department. You can also hike through the Sawpit gully Trail and Tobin’s track while halting at the Crown Range road for a spectacular view from its lookout point. The Lake District Museum has been described as one of the best small museums in New Zealand. To conclude, you can also try your luck with panning for gold that still remains in the river which is a fun activity to do with friends and family.

2. Wanaka

That Wanaka Tree
One of the most visited tourist spots in New Zealand; Wanaka is just an hour away from Queenstown, making it an ideal day trip destination from Queenstown. Wanaka offers a lot of spectacular views from its various peaks such as Roys peak, Mt Iron and Isthmus peak. There are a lot of adventure activities to do here like hiking, trekking, mountain biking and road cycling. Air-based and water-based activities such as sky diving, paragliding, canoeing,  jet boating and kayaking among others. Winter is a great time in Wanaka to engage in fun snow activities such as skiing, heli-skiing and sledging.

There are a lot of Instagram worthy scenic spots in Wanaka for the shutterbug in you. Gear up with your camera and head to some of the famous spots in Wanaka such as That Wanaka tree, Glendhu bay, Mou Waho Island, Lake Hawea and Blue pools to add some amazing pictures to your gallery.  

3. Mt. Aspiring National Park

Mt Aspiring National Park
Located around 2 hours from Queenstown, Mt. Aspiring National Park has a lot to offer to people who love to be around nature. The national park is home to various hiking tracks that can be completed within hours and even days. A hike in the Rob Roy Glacier Track, Blue Pools Walk and West Matukituki Valley can be completed within a few hours and won’t burn you out.

You can also take a canyoning tour around the park that involves hard walks and swimming during which you can experience the spectacular beauty of the national park. If you like air and water based activities, you can go jet boating on the Wilkin and Makrora Rivers and helicopter ride around the southern alps to experience the aerial beauty of the region. There are tour agencies in the area that will help you plan the best day out in the national park.

4. Cardrona

The village of Cardrona can be reached within just an hour from Queenstown and winter is the best time visit because of the unlimited opportunities to ski your heart out, making it one of the perfect winter day trips from Queenstown. The Cardrona hotel which is one of the best known ski resort in the area still functions for you to have a great skiing and apres skiing experience. Cardrona also has other ski trails which you can check out for snowboarding, tubing and other winter activities.

Apart from skiing, Cardrona also has other non-skiing and summer activities to do such as hiking, biking and horse trekking. You can also take a Gondola ride up to the mountains where you can enjoy a scenic ride and explore the mountains with breath taking views which will you the perfect selfie. If you have a taste for alcoholic beverages, you might love visiting the Cardrona distillery where you can see how your favorite drinks are being produced.

5. Glenorchy

Glenorchy is a lovely quaint settlement which is located about 45 minutes from Queenstown near Lake Wakatipu. This beautiful place is surrounded by mighty peaks, forests and lakes which makes it quite worthy for a day trip from the chaos of everyday life. A famous filming location, Glenorchy has seen the sets of the famous Lord of the Rings and Narnia series which you can visit. There are various lakes in the city – Diamond Lake, Lake Sylvan and Lake Reid to name a few.

You can also visit the Glenorchy waterfront reserve which, a lovely park offering splendid views with hills and greenery in the background. If you are up for some adventurous activities, you can always resort to and helicopter ride around the region, skydive the Southern Alps and go jet boating, funyaking and kayaking, horse riding and go on 4WD eco tour of Glenorchy.

6. Mt. Cook Village

Mt Cook

Mt Cook Village is located in the heart of Mt Cook National Park about a 3.5 hours drive or day trip from Queenstown and has a plethora of activities to entertain the adventure seeker in you. Before visiting, it is advised that you enquire with the visitor centre to check about the weather forecast and if it is safe to visit the park during the particular time. You could either visit the village on your own or book with a touring agency to have a package day tour.

Mt Cook offers a lot of hiking tracks such as Sealy Tarns track and Hooker Valley track that can be completed within a few hours. You can also experience the aerial beauty of the region by taking a scenic flight that will give you memories that you won’t forget in a lifetime. For the adrenaline junkie in you, activities like sky diving, rock climbing, boating, horse riding is also available.

7. Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo
Lake Tekapo is another wonderful 3 hour day trip from Queenstown. It offers a lot of pleasant activities to enjoy during a visit there. Though the small town is named after a lake, there is also Lake Alexandria in the region which is as lovely as Lake Tekapo. The lakes have pristine clear waters and are surrounded by beautiful landscapes that are sights too behold. When in Lake Tekapo, do not miss the famous Church of the Good Shepherd which is one of the most photographed Churches across New Zealand.

The sheepdog memorial is another place of significance which serves as one of the instagram worthy locations. There are a couple of tracks in Lake Tekapo – Mt John Summit track; Cowans Hill Walkaway where you can hike to your heart’s content enjoying the scenic backdrop and while taking in the beauty of nature. The Tekapo springs is another attraction here where you can relax and rejuvenate your body mind and soul. Other adventure activities here include taking scenic flight around the area, fishing, jet boating, skiing and snowboarding among others.

8. The Catlins

The Catlins
Located about 3 hours from Queenstown, the Catlins is among the best day trips from Queenstown. Comprising of a dreamy coastal destination located between Otago and Southland regions,  there are quite a few lookout points in the Catlins.  Nugget Point, Lighthouse Lookout, Kaka Point, Waipapa Point and Slope Point all offer spectacular views of the ocean and surrounding areas. They also serve as bird and sea lion, penguin and seal spotting places.

The Catlins reserve some of the most beautiful waterfalls in New Zealand such as McLean Falls, Purakaunui Falls, Matai Falls and New Zealand’s own Niagara Falls to name a few. One among the famous attractions of the Catlins also includes the Cathedral Caves which is one of the largest sea caves in the world which is breathtaking in its own way. Last but not the least, you can walk your way to the beautiful Lake Wilkie enroute which you can experience the stunning beauty of the lush green forests of the region.

9. Skippers Canyon

Skippers Canyon
This magnificent gorge is located about 45 minutes away from Queenstown and is a 22 km paradise for people who love to hike and trek, making for one of the most adventurous day trips from Queenstown. It offers a wide range of activities for the adventure seeker in you such as hiking, white water rafting and jet boating among others. With the jet boating being one of the main attractions there, the ride takes you through the city with rock mining history. You can also go for a Shotover river rafting experience or a 4WD ride, bungee jumping, skiing, etc for a rush in adrenaline.

The Skippers canyon also provides trails for biking and hiking which can be completed well with half day. Also, Skippers Canyon can only be visited through tour planners and can’t be accessed by people on their own.

10.  Fiordland National Park

Fiordland National Park
It takes about 2 hours to reach the Fiordland National park from Queenstown and it is one of the most visited national parks in the region all for the right reasons. Even though it takes about 4 days to completely enjoy the Fiordland National Park, there are activities to do which can be completed in one day for a great experience. You can simply hike around the national park which is known for its wilderness and stunning views. Te Anau which acts as the gateway  to Fiordland National Park also has a lot of fun activities to do including a visit to the glow worm caves which gives you a stunning magical experience.

Another thing to definitely strike off is a Milford or Doubtful Sound Cruise which allows you to scenic beauty of the region through its pristine clear waters and surrounding peaks while experiencing the native flora and fauna of the area. If not cruise, you can always take a scenic flight to enjoy the same.

11. Invercargill

Oreti Beach
Invercargill being the capital off the Southland offers a range of things to do. If you love everything that has to do with automobiles, then you are in for a treat, for the city has an obsession with cars and bikes. Visit the Bill Richardson’s transport World and Classic Motorcycle Mecca which boasts a large collection of cars, bikes and other automobiles from across the world including classic vintage pieces.

Heavy machinery lovers will absolutely love ‘Dig This’ where you can ride and operate heavy machinery like bulldozers, skid steer loaders, 5/ 15 tonne diggers, etc. You can also visit the Demolition World which contains the ruins of buildings, vehicles and other things for you to discover. You can also visit the Oreti beach if you would like to witness a romantic sunset with your loved one which also has a lot of water based activities to offer such as swimming, surfing and kayaking.

12.  Dunedin

Dunedin is located about 3.5 hours away from Queenstown and has a strong Scottish history to it. Founded by Scottish immigrants, the city of Dunedin is small and lovely and most of the city can be covered by walks. The city by itself is a piece of art with beautifully constructed buildings and roads. The city also has a couple of museums and art galleries which will easily awake the inner nerd in you.

The Tunnel Beach is a lovely beach offering pristine blue water and with a beautiful backdrop that just leaves you awestruck. The sandstone cliffs of the Tunnel beach offer a great venue for a hike near the beach with splendid views the ocean and the surrounding scenery. You can also visit the Moeraki Boulders beach which is a regular spot for the shutterbugs to click amazing images. Last but not the least, you can experience the wildlife of the Dunedin region by taking a guided tour or a self-drive across the Otago peninsula to spot the rare yellow eyed penguins, fur seals and colonies of sea lions.

13. Walter Peak High Country Farm

Farm Animal
If you are that person, who adores animals and loves to be around them - petting and cuddling with them, then Walter Peak High Country Farm is an ideal place for a relaxing getaway. Located near Lake Wakatipu, this place offers a peaceful and lovely farming tour featuring quite a few farm animals. You have an interactive experience where you learn how to shear a sheep, feed the cattle and watch the sheepdogs responsibly doing the duty.

Most importantly, you get to interact with the farm animals and even deers and alpacas. You can watch and learn the traditional farming activities and even try your luck at spinning wool. You can also enjoy a horseback ride around the farmland and experience the tranquility of the same. There is also a licensed café inside where you can taste some delicious dishes. This trip is ideal for everyone and children especially who enjoy the company of all those adorable creatures.

14. Cromwell

Cromwell, Central Otago
Located about 50 minutes from Queenstown, Cromwell is a beautiful lakeside town which is also known as ‘Fruit Bowl of the South’. Not only do you get to taste some of the best New Zealand cuisines here, the town also offers a plethora of activities to keep you occupied on your visit there. One of the relaxing activities to do there is to take a bike ride in one of the many bike trails around the lovely Lake Dunstan.

Known for its fruit production, the city is marked with huge fruit sculptures which serve as a cute photo spot. You can also go jet boating on the Kawarau river to get a dose of adrenaline rush. Central Otago is known for making some of the best wines in the country and Cromwell contributes to it by having some fine wineries like Wooing tree vineyard, Misha’s vineyard tasting room and Scott Base vineyard which you can visit to give your taste buds the true taste of wine. There are quite a few walking trails around the city as well where you can take a pleasant stroll.

15. Alexandra

A walk through a vineyard
Nestled between two great rivers Manuherikia and Clutha, Alexandra is yet another Central Otago town that has a history with its gold deposits. One thing almost nobody misses when visiting Alexandra is visiting the Clock on the hill. Just a small walk up, the place offers great views of the lovely town. The town is also home to plenty of cycle trails where you can rent a cycle and cycle all you want. Season play a role in Alexandra too – in summers you enjoy the local delicious fruit harvests while in winter you can enjoy activities such as skiing, winter skating, ice hockey and snowboarding.

During Septembers you can experience the beautiful cherry blossoms during the annual Alexandra Blossom Festival which also features artistic shows, plenty of stalls and spectacular fireworks as the day comes to an end. Alexandra also has a lot of quirky cafes and restaurants to you can check out to indulge your taste buds. Lastly, being yet another Otago town, Alexandra also has plenty of vineyards to check out and stroll through them to see the process of making wine.

We hope this article was helpful to you for planning your day trip from Queenstown. Do let us know in the comments section below of your experience if you have visited any of these places.

This post was published by Nishaanthini

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