15 Best Day Trips from Queenstown

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
Our travel recommendations are based on our personal experiences and research, written by locals and travel experts with deep familiarity with the destination. When you book a hotel or tour that we link to, we may earn a commission.

Queenstown is one of New Zealand’s major tourist centers, frequented by local tourists from all parts of the country as well as international tourists from across the globe.

Annually, more than 2 million visitors make their way to the South Island destination to have their fill of experiences.

Queenstown is a marvelously diverse town thanks to its proximity to historic towns, museums, national parks, and so much more.

Most of these attractions are within easy reach from the mountainous NZ town.

In this article, we’ve rounded up 15 of the best places to visit, to help you make the most out of your day trips from Queensland, New Zealand.

1. Wanaka

Wanaka, New ZealandSource: Artazum / shutterstock

Wanaka is a stunning lakeside town that is located 64km away from Queenstown.

During the 1 hour and 30 minutes drive, you’ll get to see breathtaking landscapes that range from crystal-clear bodies of water to snowy mountains.

The town is nestled in the heart of the Southern Alps next to its namesake lake, Lake Wanaka.

Wanaka can get quiet at times, especially in the low tourist seasons making it the perfect getaway from the adrenaline of Queenstown.

There are many ideal activities for individuals and families who are looking to become one with nature in this laid-back, lakeside atmosphere.

Perhaps the best part about Wanaka is the great hospitality from the locals.

2. Historic Arrowtown

Historic Arrowtown, New ZealandSource: gracethang2 / shutterstock
Historic Arrowtown

For any ardent explorer, a trip to the Historic Arrowtown is a must to get an insight into the fascinating gold mining past.

Arrowtown is located 21km a short 15-minute drive (21km) from Queenstown.

The town is home to the superb Lake District Museum.

This delightful town lies conveniently between Queenstown and Wanaka and is enclosed by trees and lush greenery that changes color in autumn.

Wandering the banks of the Arrow River lets you rediscover the life that the thousands of Chinese miners once lived.

While the miners are long gone, their legacy still lives on.

This humble village has historical buildings that line the streets.

The main street houses a unique dining and shopping precinct.

The preserved gold rush community of Arrowtown is rich in heritage, and for this reason the town is one of South Island’s iconic tourist destinations.

3. Lakes District Museum

Lakes District Museum, New ZealandSource: mastapiece / shutterstock
Lakes District Museum

This museum is often described as one of New Zealand’s best small museums.

The museum is situated north of Queenstown in the heart of the picturesque Historic Arrowtown.

The Lakes District Museum is home to a fantastic collection of intriguing artifacts, photos, and films that tell about the history of this gorgeous Lakes District.

It also functions as Arrowtown’s Information Center and post office.

Some of the artifacts inside the museum include the main mining tools and clothing from the 18th century.

These present the authentic picture of the early life as it was in the District.

After you’re finished touring the fascinating Lake District Museum, visit the adjoining art gallery that features both local and international exhibitions.

Also, attached to the museum is a bookshop/gift shop.

4. The Catlins

The CatlinsSource: Filip Fuxa / shutterstock
The Catlins

The Catlins is an area on the south coast of the South Island.

This rural area has a rugged coastline that is full of marine wildlife, chilly beaches, and a native forest.

If you are looking for the real taste of New Zealand at a slower pace, you need to come down to the Catlins to experience an amazing south coast experience.

The wild and beautiful journey from Queenstown to the Catlins takes around 3.5 hours.

The Catlins is an easy day trip from Queenstown where you get to enjoy the marine wildlife that thrives in the nutrient-rich waters.

If you’re lucky you’ll get to spot the New Zealand sea lions, the rare yellow­eyed penguins, the precious Hector’s dolphins, albatrosses, petrels, and gannets.

5. Skippers Canyon

Skippers Canyon, New ZealandSource: i viewfinder / shutterstock
Skippers Canyon

Skippers Canyon is located about 30 minutes to the north of Queenstown.

This historic canyon is 22km long.

Skippers Canyon was once a busy gold mining area and was the first site where hydroelectricity was generated to sustain the gold mining.

This scenic gorge was carved out by one of New Zealand’s richest gold-bearing rivers, Shotover River.

The Canyon can be accessed by the Skippers Road which is mainly one-way.

The narrow and steep Skippers Road is one of the most precipitous and picturesque roads in the whole of New Zealand.

On your day trip to Skippers Canyon, you’ll be able to appreciate the beauty of the scenery and the thrill of the cliff-side gravel roads.

Suggested tour: Skippers Canyon Thrilling Jet Boat Ride & Scenic Transfers

6. Routeburn Track

Routeburn Track, New ZealandSource: Giantrabbit / shutterstock
Routeburn Track

Are you game for an alpine adventure? This track is considered to be one of the many Great Walks of New Zealand and is located a 45-minute drive from Queenstown.

The entire Routeburn track is 32km long.

Along the way, it overlaps the Fiordland National Park and the Mt. Aspiring National Park.

If you would like to extend your visit, you can hike along the track.

It would take you about 2 to 3 days to finish the entire track.

The Routeburn Track has some of the biggest scenery, ranging from huge valleys, soaring mountain peaks and towering cliffs to lakes and waterfalls.

There are 4 huts maintained along the track.

7. Alexandra

Alexandra, New ZealandSource: Ho Su A Bi / shutterstock

Alexandra is a town located on the banks of the Clutha River.

This fascinating town is situated at the confluence with the Manuherikia River.

Alexandra is located over an hour’s driving distance from Queenstown.

This underrated South Island gem is bursting with orchards, vineyards, and a rich mining history.

If you visit Alexandra in winter, you ought to go to the Lower Manorburn Dam where tourists usually go to immerse themselves in some natural ice skating.

In summer and autumn, the town overflows with locally grown apples, cherries, peaches, and apricots.

8. Central Otago

Central Otago, New ZealandSource: Rolf_52 / shutterstock
Central Otago

Central Otago is within an hour’s drive from Queenstown.

The town is well known for its hospitality.

The motto for Central Otago is “A World of Difference.”

There is a lot to explore around Central Otago within a day; there are also lots of leisurely activities for families, couples, and solo retreaters.

Central Otago is a haven for all things leisure.

The area has a rich history, exotic wildlife, prestigious wineries (more than 80 of them), and amazing dust trails.

There is an abundance of mountain ranges and wide plateaus to explore on the 58km day trip from Queensland.

Recommended tour: Boutique Winery Half-Day Tour & Vineyard Platter-Style Lunch

9. Milford Sound

Milford Sound, New ZealandSource: Dmitry Pichugin / shutterstock
Milford Sound

Milford Sound is also referred to as Piopiotahi and is located 3 hours and 30 minutes away from Queensland.

Piopiotahi is acclaimed as the country’s most famous tourist destinations and was once dubbed “the 8th wonder of the world.”

Visit this fjord to see the wondrous waterfalls that are larger than the Niagara Falls.

This makes the 295-kilometer journey so much worth it.

Piopiotahi is situated in Fiordland National Park which is known as an area barely touched by man.

The landscape here is spectacular: the blue-green fjords, the lush rainforest, and the dramatic sky­high mountain ranges.

Amazing tour: Milford Sound Coach Tour & Lunch Cruise from Queenstown

10. Kawarau Gorge

Kawarau GorgeSource: i viewfinder / shutterstock
Kawarau Gorge

This major river gorge located in Central Otago is of major historical significance.

Kawarau Gorge is located between Queenstown and Cromwell.

The Kawarau River flows through the gorge.

Kawarau Gorge starts some 30km from Queenstown to Gibbston and continues for another 25km, where the river emerges into the upper valley of River Clutha.

A drive from Queenstown to this naturally beautiful gorge that was bustling with gold miners a century ago will take you approximately 50 minutes.

The gorge was full of activity during the Otago Gold Rush of the 1860s.

History buffs need to visit the Kawarau Gorge to explore the preserved remains of the miner’s cottages.

Tourists can also pan for gold at the Goldfields Mining Centre.

Available tour: Kawarau: Half-Day Canyoning Adventure from Queenstown

11. Glenorchy

Glenorchy, New ZealandSource: Marconi Couto de Jesus / shutterstock

Glenorchy is located 45km away from Queenstown.

This town is a true paradise in New Zealand.

Glenorchy is surrounded by magnificent snow-capped mountains, ancient beech forests, immaculate blue-green lakes, and pristine rivers.

This frontier town has made a name for itself by providing a backdrop for many films such as “The Lord of The Rings” and “The Hobbit.”

Near this small rustic town that is full of life are the Kinloch and Paradise settlements that are also known for their stunning scenery.

Glenorchy continues to attract nature enthusiasts who tend to make several photo stops on the 45-minute drive from Queenstown.

Recommended tour: Half-Day Paradise Glenorchy & Lake Wakatipu

12. Mt Aspiring National Park

Mt Aspiring National Park, New ZealandSource: Malgorzata Litkowska / shutterstock
Mt Aspiring National Park

Mt. Aspiring National Park is located 2 hours away from Queenstown, in the Southern Alps of South Island.

This national park was established in 1964 and forms a part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Site.

The park covers an area of 3,562 sq km and is the 3rd largest park in New Zealand.

The mountain that gives the park its name, Mount Aspiring, stands at an altitude of 3,033m above sea level.

People travel from Queenstown to this popular hiking and mountaineering destination for an exceptional hiking experience to the top of the mountain.

13. Fiordland

Fiordland National Park, South Island of New ZealandSource: Blue Planet Studio / shutterstock
Fiordland National Park, South Island of New Zealand

Fiordland is 2.5 hours away from Queenstown.

A trip to this natural beauty will take you back in time to when the world was untouched by man.

Fiordland is one of the greatest wilderness regions in the Southern Hemisphere and has been listed a World Heritage Site.

If you would like to experience one of the most remote places in the world, it’s about time you start preparing for a day trip to this immaculate region that is home to the stunning fjords of Milford Sound.

Within the Fiordland is the Fiordland National Park which is made up of beautifully carved valleys, wetlands, rainforests, and sharp mountain landscapes.

Fly over it: Milford Sound Fly Cruise Fly

14. Remarkables Market

Remarkables Market, QueenstownSource: www.remarkablespark.com
Remarkables Market

Unlike other popular markets across the world, the Remarkables Market can be counted on to yield the best of both local and regional delights.

Here you will find handmade crafts such as candles and the fresh farm produce such as meats, cheese, and bread that take center stage.

The market is located east of Queenstown in Remarkables Park.

The park opens every Saturday morning from 9 am to 2 pm, from 21st October to 14th April.

15. Romer Gallery

Romer Gallery, QueenstownSource: www.queenstownnz.co.nz
Romer Gallery

The Romer Gallery is located in the center of Queenstown and showcases the landscapes of New Zealand that are rarely seen.

The gallery attracts travelers who seek an artistic cultural experience.

They come to enjoy the stunning work of Stephan Romer, an internationally-acclaimed photographer who has a distinctive and unique approach to capturing the superb landscapes of New Zealand, to bring us the beauty of the wilderness.

15 Best Day Trips from Queenstown:

  • Wanaka
  • Historic Arrowtown
  • Lakes District Museum
  • The Catlins
  • Skippers Canyon
  • Routeburn Track
  • Alexandra
  • Central Otago
  • Milford Sound
  • Kawarau Gorge
  • Glenorchy
  • Mt Aspiring National Park
  • Fiordland
  • Remarkables Market
  • Romer Gallery