48-Hours in Queenstown: Where to go and what to see if not skiing

View of Queenstown, New Zealand | 48 Hours in Queenstown | What do see and do in Queenstown

When you think of New Zealand, you probably think of dramatic mountainous landscapes, adventure sports, and the humble little national icon – the kiwi. When you think of New Zealand, you are thinking of the South Island, and there’s no better place to get a taste of New Zealand than by heading to Queenstown.

Queenstown is best known for its ski-fields and as the gateway to Fiordland National Park, but when the travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand opened I already had a trip to Auckland booked, but a spur-of-the-moment decision led me to spend just 48-hours in Queenstown. And boy, do I wish I had spent more time in this stunning location!

Read on to discover what to do with two days in Queenstown –

Day One

Take a Gondola Ride to the cities most iconic landscape

Enjoy an iconic Queenstown experience and take the Queenstown Gondola up 450 metres up to Bob’s Peak. From the top, enjoy the postcard-perfect views of the aptly named The Remarkables mountain range and Lake Wakatipu below.

For kids or the kids at heart, try the Queenstown Luge and zoom down the course of banked corners, tunnels, and dippers. If you’re feeling hungry, grab something to eat at the Market Kitchen Café or at Stratosfare Restaurant (the perfect place for a scenic dinner!).

For fitness fans, consider hiking up and riding the gondola down!

With so much to do atop Bob’s Peak, this is a great family-friendly activity in Queenstown that will be a hit with everyone!

Adventure seekers, get ready!

Queenstown known as the adventure capital of the world and thrill-seekers will know that bungee jumping is the ultimate things to do in Queenstown, New Zealand!

A J Hackett, the New Zealand entrepreneur and adventure seeker, set up the first commercial Bungy site in the world at Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge just outside Queenstown. So popular is the jumps from this site, most locals know the bridge as “A J Hackett Bridge” (check it out on Google Maps!)

Enjoy the scenic views of Kawarau River before jumping off the ledge and enjoying the thrill of your life! Bungees cost around NZD$200, plus extra for the photos or videos.

Not ready to take the plunge? There’s plenty of other ways to get your thrills in Queenstown, including:

Try a Fergburger

It’s hard to miss the lines outside this Queenstown institution! Claimed to be the best burger on the planet by some. This busy burger join is known for delicious burgers that won’t break the bank!

Ferg has taken over this strip with the Fergbaker (perfect for breakfast), Ferg’s Bar (a great place to start your night after a burger!), and Mrs Ferg (I can vouch that the sorbet and gelato is delicious!) in the neighbouring stores.

Tried Ferg already? Consider dining at Public Kitchen and Bar. This waterfront restaurant and bar serves up fresh kiwi fare that’s unpretentious. Or try neighbouring FINZ Seafood and Grill for an upscale seafood feast!

Hot tip: Many people don’t know that you can pre-order your Ferg fix and skip the often-long queue!

Onsen Experience

If you do a search on Instagram for ‘Queenstown’, it won’t be long til you find the Insta-gorgeous Onsen Hot Pools. This must-do Queenstown experience allows you to really get into the holiday mood as you soak in the 38.3-degree hot pools overlooking the picturesque shotover River.
Whether you go solo or with up to four of your closest friends, each person visiting will recieve a complimentary drink and snack while you soak in their indoor or outdoor onsen.

Upgrade your Onsen experience with a bespoke massage treatment which will have you feeling your best after a bust few days exploring New Zealand!

Day Two

Day trip to Milford Sound

One of the most dramatic and beautiful parts of New Zealand, Fiordland National Park is a must! The area is best known for its three Sounds, the most famous being Milford.

Described by Rudyard Kipling as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’, Milford Sound is always spectacular – daily scenic flights and cruises reveal its beauty to visitors. It’s also the easiest Sound to visit as it has a public road (though it is still recommended you book a tour to Milford Sound as it’s quite a treaturous road, especially in snowy or icy conditions!)

If you take a coach tour return to Milford Sound, you should dedicate a whole day (6:30am departing Queenstown, 6-7:30pm arriving back in Queenstown). You can reduce the duration of the day trip from Queenstown by choosing to fly one or both legs. Personally, I think the best way to experience the best of the trip is to drive-and-fly. This allows you to see all the beautiful landscapes and build up the anticipation of arriving in Milford, and then enjoy the spectacular scenes from above as you return.

I chose to travel with Cheeky Kiwi Travel over others because of the well-versed and clear itinerary listed online and knowing I’d be on a small group tour with no more than 16 other travelers; not just another tourist bus filled with 50+ people. Having been on the trip, I am so glad I chose them.

Our Cheeky Kiwi Travel guide, Cal, was knowledgeable without spurting out every random fact he knew. He shared stories of the land that intrigued and when he saw a Kea, an endangered mountain parrot, limping and eating garbage, he immediately picked up the trash and reported the bird’s condition to the park. They’re small actions, but it betters the park and, hopefully, ensures the Kea is safe and the injury looked after.
Also, when the flight section of my trip was cancelled due to weather, the team quickly acted to refund me for the cost of the flight. It was back in my account in just a couple of days!

They also support other small businesses in the area. The two-hour boat cruise around Milford Sound was onboard Cruise Milford‘s ship and it was a great experience. The small team on the vessel provided complimentary coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and cookies which I paired with my lunch provided by Cheeky Kiwi Travel. As we were cruising the Sound, Captain Chris and his team shared plenty of knowledge about the area.

Dine at Queenstown’s best restaurants

End a great day in Milford with a spectacular meal at one of these great Queenstown restaurants –

  • The Bunker Restaurant & Bar: Tucked away on the notoriously hard-to-find Cow Lane, The Bunker is one of Queenstown’s best kept secrets. Whether you choose the fine dining menu specialising in game and red meats to the Upstairs “Old School Cool” Cocktail Bar—home of some of the town’s best cocktails and late-night house music—The Bunker is not only hard to find but hard to forget.
  • Botswana Butchery: Undeniably one of Queenstown’s best and most renowned restaurants,  the ever-so-stylish and inviting setting will instantly make you want to stay all night long and with roaring fires and lake views. With a focus on local meat and game —everything from the finest cuts of wagyu eye fillet and slow roast lamb shoulder from the “Butchers Block” to an extensive range of seafood (try the Flash Fried NZ Paua with garlic and lemon—yes!), this is one place meat-lovers will delight in eating!
  • Nest Bar & Kitchen: Known as the highest alfresco eatery in Queenstown, Nest specialises in Mediterranean food served sharing-style. After dinner, enjoy a drink at the bar which is fully curated with a selection of NZ gin and tonics, Japanese whiskeys, and plenty of wine and spirits from the Central Otago region.
  • Rātā: The restaurant of legendary celebrity chef, Josh Emett, this eatery is one that you should try at least once, foodie or not and it’s sure to leave wanting more. The deliciously inventive menu celebrates New Zealand in all its glory, from the freshest produce to locally sourced organic ingredients that are preserved, fermented and dehydrated to bring the flavours of the south year-round.

Have an extra day in Queenstown?

If you are staying an extra day in Queenstown, why not rent a car and visit historic Arrowtown. A former gold rush town, the gold days are long over (although you can still pan for gold in the river with some success), so Arrowtown’s focus is on hosting visitors.
Play a round at the challenging local golf course or take a 4WD journey to Macetown, a ghost town accessible only by wagon track, or simply while away some time wandering the streets, café hopping, or catch a film!

Glenorchy is also a short drive away from Queenstown. Set against the background of towering mountain ranges and native beech forests, Glenorchy has plenty of things to do, from walking tracks, horse riding, fishing, to finding those perfect photography spots. It is also home to filming locations from The Lord of the Rings.

Where to stay in Queenstown

QT Queenstown30 Brunswick Street, Queenstown – Luxury is truly elevated when you stay at this boutique Queenstown hotel. Think impeccably styled lakeside heaven with a little added quirk.

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Queenstown79 Peninsula Road, Kawarau Village, Queenstown – Discover this all-suite hotel accommodation in Queenstown where every stay begins with their trademark Doubletree Cookie.

Mi-pad Hotel Queenstown4 Henry Street, Queenstown – This award-winning hotel offers unfussy smart budget hotel in Queenstown offers basic rooms, many with great lake views.

How to get from Queenstown Airport to town

There are a few options to get into town from Queenstown Airport, including taxis, rideshare (Uber and Ola are the most popular), and shuttles.

I chose to take the Super Shuttle both ways after having excellent experiences with them around the country. Best of all, there is a shuttle departure to meet every single flight in Queenstown so you are sure to be able to get on board. You can pre-book your shuttle transfer on their website or simply turn up and the shuttle will leave within 10minutes of your arrival!

Planning a trip to New Zealand? Read these next:

48-Hours in Auckland

48-Hours in Wellington

48-Hours in Christchurch

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