Queenstown is the epitome of adventure. Kiwis seem to have a fondness for one-upping each other over the craziest inventions. Really, you just have to look at the facts. Taupo is the skydiving capital of THE world and both bungy and zorbing (that thing where you roll down a hill in a big plastic ball) were invented in New Zealand.
I was surprised at how Queenstown still came off as a relatively small town, even with how popular it has become on a worldly scale. I appreciated this, that they’ve still kept it a special and unique place with the more than 2 million visitors that go there every year.
Because you hear so much about all the crazy antics you can get up to, you may be surprised that Queenstown has a lot more to offer than just adrenaline activities. Still, you have to have at least 1 or 2 experiences that get your heart beating out of your chest for a proper visit to this adrenaline capital.
Because of this, I divided up this list of 10 experiences to have in Queenstown. The first 5 will be all about the adrenaline, the last 5 will simply be some of the best experiences to have around town.
So you must know that bungy was created in New Zealand by AJ Hackett, but did you know that the first ever commercialized bungy was placed just outside of Queenstown, over the Kawarau Gorge? Queenstown, therefore, is considered the birthplace of bungy, and you can find the most bungy platforms here over any other place in New Zealand.
There are 3 separate jumps around town, try all 3 to prove yourself as the real daredevil you are!
The Kawarau Bungy is about 20 minutes outside of Queenstown and is the original. It’s considered the baby bungy at 43 meters (141 feet). This is the only bungy that allows you to try tandem with a friend or loved one, and you also have the option of getting dunked (or not) in the cool blue river below.
The second largest bungy is right in town, called The Ledge Bungy, located at the top of the Skyline Gondola. This is one of the more versatile bungys since you’re not tied at the feet, you can jump off the 47 meter (154 feet) high platform in a variety of freestyle ways. In the winter, you can even bungy at night here, which is meant to be amazing. Queenstown lit up at night, especially in the winter, looks like a site to see.
If you’re of the ‘go big or go home’ persuasion, the Nevis Bungy is for you. The Nevis is the highest bungy in New Zealand at 134 meters (440 feet), and it is definitely not for the faint of heart. You contemplate your fate as you’re slowly taken out to a platform where no platform should be, above the Nevis River. You get to enjoy and/or scream through 8.5 seconds of freefall to really think about what you’ve just done.
You’ll have to book through the AJ Hackett headquarters in town for this one, since you can only get to the Nevis Bungy through private transport.
The prices for an adult bungy at both the Kawarau and Ledge Bungy go for NZD$195, whereas the Nevis will cost you NZD$275. If you want evidence in the form of professional photos or videos (which most of us do) for any of these bungys, it’s going to cost you quite a bit extra.
You can find more about pricing and information on the official AJ Hackett website here.
Shotover Canyon Swing
The cousin to the bungy excursions around town, the Shotover Canyon Swing is just as terrifying a way to defy heights. This is the world’s highest cliff jump, and you have the luxury of attempting it in a variety of ways – there are over 70 jump styles available!
Once you’re all strapped in, it’s a 60 meter (197 foot) freefall down and a 200 meter (656 foot) swing across the Shotover River, before eventually coming to a stop 100 meters (328 feet) below the original platform. And rest assured, the crazy guys who work that swing will probably mess with you once you’re up on the platform – just to increase that tad bit of giddiness you may have.
The Shotover Canyon Swing is about 15 minutes outside of town, and you’ll need to book it in Queestown, where you’ll be brought to the private jump site by the company. Prices start at NZD$219 for the first jump, and are NZD$45 for each additional jump.
If you want to get an idea of what to expect, I loved the Stoked for Saturday video Jordan and Jenna put together.
There are a ton of other jet boat rides around Queenstown that may be cheaper and advertise for a longer experience, but the original and most popular one is the Shotover Jet. Personally, I’m glad I did this one from hearing other traveler’s experiences, it seems like this company has the popularity because they have the experts.
The longer ones that go for about 45 minutes to even an hour sometimes, give you more time out on the water, but I’ve heard they’re nowhere near as exciting or adrenaline inducing as the Shotover Jet. And how could you beat the beautiful view of the Shotover River? It’s a gorgeous setting to have close calls with cliff faces and 360 spins.
The Shotover Jet is NZD$135 for adults and you can expect to pay more if you want professional videos and pictures. They don’t allow you to carry on your own GoPro since there are so many jolts and spins throughout the ride, it’s a safety hazard. The ride itself is only 25 minutes, but I had an incredible time on the water. There’s nothing like skidding over 4 inch deep water at 50 miles an hour.
Okay, this one will make you laugh, at least it did for me. The Hydro Attack is labeled as the “ultimate blend of shark and machine” and I could not agree more – it’s literally a water machine in the form of a shark. Another Kiwi invention, the Hydro Attack is meant to feel like something between riding inside a torpedo and a fighter jet.
You’ll go under water, jump 16 feet in the air, and skim over the surface of Lake Wakatipu at 50 miles an hour. I’d call it a shark that’s flipping out on some really strong stimulants.
Just take a look at the video – no really, it’s hilarious.
Out of everything else on this list, I wouldn’t call this the most exciting experience to have but it would sure be a unique one. Hydro Attack will cost you $149 for just 15 minutes out on the water – but hey, at least you can say you’ve ridden inside a roboshark.
If you’ve ever wanted to experience the feeling of hovering over water, the Flyboard experience in Queenstown should be at the top of your list. You have to get used to balancing on a flying jet ski, but once you do you can get up to a height of 30 feet and do dolphin dives through the lake.
The experience will cost you NZD$135 for 20 minutes out on the water, but it’s one of the more unique experiences you can have in Queenstown if you’re up for it!
Again, Stoked for Saturday does a great video on the experience, which you can find here.
Skyline Gondola + Luging
Moving on to the not-so adrenaline focused activities, the Skyline Gondola is a must-do for anyone who makes a visit to Queenstown. The slow moving gondola gives you expansive views of town and the impressive Lake Wakatipu down below. I took most of my best shots of Queenstown from the gondola and at the top.
Speaking of the top, there are numerous activities to keep you busy for an afternoon once you reach the top platform at 450 meters (1476 feet) above Queenstown.
The Skyline Gondola prices are NZD$32 per person and give you access to The Ledge Bungy, a restaurant with possibly the best view of Queenstown, and my personal favorite, the scenic luge tracks.
There are two separate luge tracks, a beginner route and one that’s more advanced. All with the stunning backdrop of Queenstown as you fly down a curvy hill with glee. I went with a few new friends I met through the hostel I was staying at, and we had such a fun time racing each other to the bottom.
The Skyline Luge prices start at NZD$45 per person, and that includes 2 luge rides and the gondola ride to get there. You can also add on more luge rides for not too much extra if you want to go down the mountain more than twice.
Did you know that New Zealand is not only known for its lamb, but for tasty massive burgers as well? Fergburger is the king of that burger title, with meals about the size of your head. The line can be long, but it’s worth the wait for these juicy burgers that will most likely fill you up for most of the day.
The Fergburger Bakery next door is also a great place for late night meat pies after experiencing the vibrant nightlife in town.
Note: although the burgers were incredibly tasty, I personally wouldn’t say they’re the best in all of New Zealand. My vote goes to Ekim Burgers in Wellington, if you’re looking for the craftiest burger experience. With that said, you still have to try Fergburger, if even just because it’s the most famous burger joint in Kiwi Land.
This is such a touristy thing to put on the list and a little silly, but I had a fun time experiencing an ice bar in Queenstown, even though we were the only ones in the bar! This is one of those experiences that is perhaps more fun when you have a group to go with, but my friend and I ventured into the bar on our own just to see what it was like. In one word, cold. Very cold.
There was the ice version of air hockey, a vodka luge, and unique chilly cocktails that were surprisingly really tasty. There are multiple ice bars around Queenstown but the one we went to was called Below Zero. I believe I chose that one simply because I heard it was the better one from other travelers.
Again, I think it would be a blast if you were with a big group, but it was a “cool” experience nonetheless. Also, even after being decked out in warm clothes, you can only really stay in the room for about 20 minutes before losing all feeling in your limbs.
Sunset at the Beach with the Rest of Town
One of the aspects I loved most about Queenstown was the communal feeling of the place, and, as I mentioned before, how it felt like a small town that just happens to have a tons of tourists.
The best place to see this in action is watching the sunset at the beach looking out over Lake Wakatipu. In the summer when I was there, the sun didn’t even set until about 10pm. People come out in droves with boxes of beer, volleyballs, and frisbees from 5pm on and just have one huge party until the sun goes down. It felt like a social college campus, it was easy to walk up to other groups and just hangout with everyone.
It’s the perfect experience to get a feel for what Queenstown is all about – the good things in life.
Lastly, the Queenstown Gardens are an underutilized green space and a quintessential spot to spend an afternoon, go have a picnic, or read a book on a nice day. We went there after my friend’s bungy to chill out for a bit after all the adrenaline, and we even saw a family of baby ducklings while we were relaxing on the grass. It was the cherry on top to our day.
I could go on about what there is to do in Queenstown, but these suggestions should at least give you an idea of the abundance of activities available there.
As you probably could’ve guessed, with the prices of a lot of these activities, Queenstown is a playground for the rich. But, it’s also a place that can easily be enjoyed by the budget traveler as well. While I was there, I used sites such as Bookme to find steep discounts on some of the attractions I wanted to do. You can even find the Shotover Jet for $1 on there if you’re lucky enough to time it right.
And sometimes, it’s important to remember that you just have to splurge sometimes to have that one experience of a lifetime. Really, what better place to do it than the adventure capital of the world?
Did you enjoy this post? What else would you add to a list of experiences to have in Queenstown?