When it comes to the best things to do in Queenstown in winter, New Zealand’s home of adventure has it all. Queenstown’s winter activities will take you to new heights; soar over New Zealand’s glaciers, heli-ski down mountains, bike around lakes and dine in world-class restaurants.
Queenstown is the kind of place that will leave you breathless. There’s the high altitudes of the Southern Alps, but there’s also mirrorlike Lake Whakatipu, vine-laced countryside and the atmospheric town itself. You can discover raw beauty in Queenstown’s frosted peaks, iridescent glacial lakes and rolling countryside. Or experience adrenaline-fuelled experiences. Whether skidding across rivers in a jet boat, soaring above in a helicopter, throwing yourself from a bungy bridge or racing down mountains on skis, New Zealand’s home of adventure lives up to its reputation.
The closest ski resort to Queenstown is Coronet Peak, a mere 20-minute drive. Coronet has 280 hectares of terrain for all levels, with non-skiers and sightseers not forgotten. Gondola cabins on the Coronet Express ensure everyone can enjoy the stunning views over the Wakatipu Basin. Coronet is also known for its night skiing, while early risers will want to take advantage of First Tracks, giving access to the perfectly groomed runs an hour before opening. The environment is key for the team here who are constantly working to control and eliminate non-native plants and pests, rejuvenate the area and bring back the native kārearea (New Zealand falcon).
Coronet’s sibling, The Remarkables, is a 45-minute drive on the opposite side of Queenstown. The journey is breathtaking, and the views from the top are stupendous. The Remarkables (also known as The Remarks) has 385 hectares of terrain, and while every level is catered for, it is a particular favourite of those who love terrain parks. There are seven parks at the resort, with the Burton Stash Park the only one in the Southern Hemisphere and one of only six in the world. Keep your eyes open and you might spot a kea, with a tree planting program at the resort aimed at ‘Bringing Back the Birds’ – including this cheeky, clever and endangered parrot.
© The Remarkables
Cardrona Alpine Resort
An hour from Queenstown, or 35 minutes from Wanaka, Cardrona Alpine Resort has 465 hectares of terrain and appeals to everyone from absolute beginners to Olympians. This season (along with sister resort Treble Cone) lift tickets will be capped to avoid overcrowding. Do not miss the Vista Bar, located at the top of McDougall’s Express Chondola. Sip on a glass of Mumm Champagne from your comfy beanbag and enjoy the view.
Treble Cone Ski Area
Just under an hour away, Treble Cone is adored by advanced skiers and riders with 550 hectares to slide on. Advanced and expert riders head for the Saddle Basin with its open powder faces, natural half pipes, and the Motatapu Chutes. There are also plenty of intermediate runs in the Saddle and Home basins. The best place for a drink or snack is the Altitude Bar, where you can take in the incredible panorama over Lake Wanaka.
Tackling untouched slopes is a dream and the way to best experience it is by heli-skiing. Over The Top Helicopters are experts in heli-skiing and offer various combinations – you can go dog sledding, cat skiing, snowshoeing, and more with helicopter transfers. You can even book helicopter flights to the ski fields. The all-black fleet has two different types of Airbus helicopters – Eurocopter EC130 and the Squirrel AS350. They feature leather seats, plush carpet and Bose noise-cancelling headsets. Or set off on a helicopter tour to Fiordland to witness the otherworldly Milford Sound (you won’t regret it).
When it comes to activities, Queenstown has it all. Go wine tasting at some of the many wineries around Otago. Take a bike ride, play golf, go on a jet boat or check the view from the Skyline Gondola. And you can taste the remarkable local produce at restaurants like True South Dining Room; Ben Bayly’s The Bathhouse, which opened in December 2022; Botswana Butchery, Rātā, or Aosta in Arrowtown.
Wherever you stay and whatever you do, the scenery will be the hero of your holiday. From the pristine lakes, braided rivers, gorgeous gorges and soaring peaks to verdant pastures and forests, Queenstown is a breath of fresh air. Stay longer. Take your time. And breathe.
Onsen Hot Pools Retreat & Day Spa
Luxuriating in the therapeutic hot water at Onsen Hot Pools Retreat & Day Spa is essential on any winter break in Queenstown. It will soothe muscles that are tight from skiing or snowboarding. Nature has a way of calming the soul, slowing your heartbeat, and making you feel at one with the world. Something to consider as you soak in a steaming hot onsen while you breathe in the pure mountain air and revel in the view over the Shotover River gorge and snow-sprinkled ridge. It is heavenly.
Queenstown luxury accommodation
Queenstown might be the adventure capital of New Zealand, but it also boasts an impressive array of exclusive accommodation. Read: 14 best luxury Queenstown accommodation
Located in picture-perfect Glenorchy, Blanket Bay is a luxurious lodge offering majestic views of the surrounding mountains and Lake Wakatipu. The lodge is striking with its soaring rooflines and stately timber and stone architecture. Stay in the Main Lodge or opt for the space and privacy of the chalets or the unparalleled luxury of The Villa. With its panoramic outlook, Blanket Bay will undoubtedly be one of the most beautiful places you will ever stay.
Minaret Station Alpine Lodge
If being in one of the world’s most remote locations appeals to you, you’ll love Minaret Station Alpine Lodge. It is so isolated that it is only accessible by helicopter. The lodge has just four chalets located on a working high-country farm in Otago. From here, Southern Lakes Heliski (Minaret’s heli-ski division) can take you to one of the world’s best heli-skiing terrain, with more than 800 runs on 17 different mountain ranges. Refuel with dishes from the station’s 20,000-hectare farm or seafood fresh from Stewart Island.