Region in Profile: Queenstown

Posted by:
17 Jul 2014

As New Zealand’s premier snow and adventure activity destination, you’ll never run out of things to do and see in Queenstown! While the local population remains small at around 20,000 residents, close to 1.5 million people visit the area each year from around the country and world.

Nestled in a bay on Lake Wakatipu and shadowed by Coronet Peak and The Remarkables, Queenstown is the largest urban centre in Central Otago, in the lower third of the South Island.


Lake Wakatipu was formed around 15,000 years ago by a glacier moving down from the north-west. The Remarkables Range was formed by the extreme folding and faulting of schist rock – this happened to such an extent that many of the rock faces are almost vertical. Early Maori travelled through the area to hunt and gather pounamu (greenstone).

The first Europeans to settle were sheep farmers in the 1850s and the population exploded in the 1860s when gold was discovered on the banks of the Shotover River. When the gold started to run out, the population decreased; it wasn’t until the 1950s that Queenstown started to become the popular tourist destination that it is today.

Being a student in Queenstown

Queenstown is a very popular place for young travellers and international students. Being a tourist hot-spot, the locals are very friendly and accommodating. You’ll never run out of people to talk to – local or international!

You’ll find students enjoying the many shops, cafes and bars in the CBD, hitting the slopes or doing water activities on Lake Wakatipu. The CBD itself is just 1km square, so most places are within walking distance and there’s a small community/family feeling within the whole region.

Queenstown shopping district

Areas of interest

Queenstown is surrounded by breathtaking scenery and historical wonders. The Remarkables and Coronet Peak are great mountainous areas to explore, with the Ben Lomond Walkway and Queenstown Hill covered in walking and biking tracks. The Queenstown Gardens are also a beautiful place to wander and rest.

The wine-making area near Queenstown, which is said to be the world’s southernmost wine region, is great to visit. There are also several annual festivals held in Queenstown, such as the Blues & Roots Festival and the Winter Festival.

Awesome activities

Even if you’re not the adventurous type, there’s plenty to do all year round. Summer is warm and calm, while winter is crisp and still. Spring and autumn come to life with vibrant colours and blooms. All three English New Zealand language schools offer their students great activity programmes during all seasons.

Here are some of our favourite activities in Queenstown:Chairlift in Queenstown

  • Take a leisurely trip on the gondola up to the Skyline complex. From the top you'll see amazing panoramic views of Queenstown and the surrounding mountains and hills. Enjoy a meal at the restaurant buffet. If you’re into astronomy, a local expert astronomy guide provides stargazing tours.
  • There are plenty of therapy options in Queenstown – retail or otherwise! Visit Toi o Tahuna art gallery, the numerous retail and boutique clothes shops or choose from a number of world-class spas, hot pools and golf courses.
  • Watersports Queenstown operates on the clear, calm waters of Lake Wakatipu and offers a number of water activities such as paddle boats, sea kayaking and paddle boarding – a great way to spend a half or full day during summer or spring.
  • Man bungy jumping in QueenstownAre you an adventure junkie? Do you crave adrenaline? Then you can’t miss out on bungy jumping and riding on a jetboat. Both of these world-wide favourites were invented right here in Queenstown. The Kawarau Bridge bungy and jetboat touring business were the first of their kind in the world, while the Nevis Highwire is the highest in Australasia.
  • In the winter, the most popular thing to do in Queenstown is to visit any of the four commercial slopes to ski or snowboard, or even just play in the snow! If you don’t have your own gear, there are plenty of places to hire everything you need at a great price. We also recommend the Ice Arena, located in the Queenstown Gardens. Hire some skates and have a great time, there are even lessons available if you need some help getting started.

What’s your favourite thing to do in Queenstown? Tell us about it in a comment below.

Photo credits:
Queenstown Shopping District by Ben Wiseley, CC-BY-2.0
Queenstown Chairlift by Peter Harrison, CC-BY-2.0
Steve's Nevis Bungy by Steve Montgomery, CC-BY-SA-2.0