Top things to do in Queenstown in winter

In winter, when Queenstown is framed by snowy mountains, conversations are sprinkled with comments about skiing, snowboarding, sipping mulled wine, 'bluebird days' and staying cosy in front of roaring open fires.

It's the time of year when you can't help feeling 100% alive, because the crisp air is so amazingly refreshing. If you're thinking about visiting Queenstown in winter, here's what you can look forward to:

World-famous skiing and snowboarding 

As a base for a winter holiday, Queenstown has everything going for it, including a choice of four ski areas within a 90-minute drive of the town centre. To ensure a long season, all of them have snow-making capabilities.

Coronet Peak, New Zealand's original and first commercial ski area, has four lifts and gorgeous rollercoaster terrain for all levels of ability. The Remarkables ski area, overlooking beautiful Lake Whakatipu, has four lifts, seven exciting terrain parks, sunny ski slopes and a massive learners' area.  

Over the Crown Range towards Wanaka is Cardrona, loved for its wide open spaces and family atmosphere. Treble Cone, also on the Wanaka side, has some of the longest runs in New Zealand and is a popular field for intermediate/advanced skiers and riders.

Discover Queenstown's night skiing experience

Coronet Peak was the first ski area in New Zealand to offer night skiing. Three evenings a week, main trails are flood-lit to enable the longest skiing day imaginable. Night skiing is a surreal experience, from both a sporting and scenic point of view.

Check out local winter events

When the snow arrives in Queenstown, winter events start piling up in the local 'what's on' calendar. Every year is different, but you can look forward to live music, fun community events, winter markets, sports events (particularly skiing and snowboarding), light shows and more.

Stay up late to explore Queenstown nightlife

Après ski is for everyone. You don't have to spend a day on the slopes to enjoy the post-snow mood that envelops the town every evening. From pubs with live music to nightclubs that are open until the wee hours, Queenstown rocks after dark. Latin dancing, mechanical bull riding, laser tag, night luging and hot pool soaking are some of the other, out-of-the-ordinary activities to keep you entertained.

Appreciate the astonishing alpine landscapes

When all the mountain ranges are cloaked in snow, the region's alpine scenery is at its best. You can immerse yourself in it actively, with fun pursuits like snow-mobiling, snow-shoeing and tobogganing. Or you can fly over the lakes and ranges on a helicopter or fixed-wing scenic flight.

When conditions allow, driving over the Crown Range to Wanaka will surround you with exceptional snowy scenery. Make sure you pause at the top for huge views. Winter walks for outstanding views include Tobin's Track up to the Crown Terrace, the Lake Hayes Walkway, Bob's Cove Track, the Moke Lake Loop Track and a stroll around Queenstown Gardens.

More Queenstown adventure activities

Queenstown has been entertaining visitors for decades, so there's a well-developed infrastructure for the pursuit of winter excitement. You can go hot air ballooning, four-wheel-driving into the mountains, ice skating at Queenstown Ice Arena and zip-lining at Ziptrek above a native forest.

One of the easiest ways to have an adventure in Queenstown is to ride the Skyline Gondola up Bob's Peak. The ride delivers panoramic views of Lake Whakatipu and the Remarkables. At the top you can settle into a table at the Stratosfare Restaurant or get some thrills on the luge track. With more than 900 metres of corners, tunnels, straights and dips, the track promises low-to-the-ground racing fun that everyone will enjoy. At night the Skyline is a place for star-gazing, accompanied by mulled wine or hot chocolate.

Take it easy with Queenstown hot pools and spas

Winter adventure, in all its shapes and forms, can leave you ready for a rest. Queenstown does that superbly too, and often with a side-dish of amazing scenery. Onsen Hot Pools at Arthurs Point serves up private hot tubs with massive views of the Shotover River and rugged mountains. They also offer a range of spa treatments, which you can combine with a hot tub soak. There are numerous other day spas in the region, so you can have all the massages, facials and body wraps your heart desires.

See waterfalls, wildlife and majestic mountains in Fiordland

Helicopter and fixed-wing flights to Fiordland leave Queenstown every day. They're trips that do double-duty – you get an extraordinary scenic flight over the peaks and glaciers of the Southern Alps, then you land at Milford Sound for fiord activities, like cruises, kayaking and hiking. There are also daily coach trips to Te Anau and Milford Sound from Queenstown. There's a prehistoric, lost world feel to Fiordland. Roaring rivers, from the rainforests high above, suddenly find themselves in thin air and plummet as spectacular waterfalls to the sea below. Your phone's camera app will get quite a workout.

Restaurants and wine tours around Queenstown        

Queenstown is close to several significant wine sub-regions, including Gibbston, Bannockburn, Bendigo, Cromwell, Wanaka and Alexandra. Pinot noir takes the starring role, however pinot gris, chardonnay and riesling wines also stand out for their character and quality. Link up with a local wine tour operator if you'd like to visit a few cellar doors without the bother of driving. Some of the best winery restaurants close to Queenstown include Gibbston Valley, Amisfield and Akarua.

In the town centre, there are more than 150 bars and restaurants staffed by talented people from all over the world. This diversity of cultures has given Queenstown an innovative and highly-creative food scene that's constantly changing. From cult-status burgers to high-class degustations, there really is something for everyone.

Frequently asked questions about Queenstown

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Explore the best things to do in Queenstown in winter with Air NZ

The best time to organize your Queenstown winter holiday is now. Start by booking flights, then create an itinerary that includes your favourite things to do.