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10 Best Things To Do in Queenstown For Non-Adrenaline Junkies

A blonde woman standing on a hill on an overcast day overlooking a large green blue lake

Updated on June 6th, 2023

Queenstown, New Zealand is renowned for being the Adrenaline Capital of the World, but what can you do if you are not really into throwing yourself off a bridge or out of a plane? Here is my list of the 10 best things to do in Queenstown for Non-adrenaline junkies!”


A map of New Zealand with an avatar of blonde woman stuck over the word Queenstown

Queenstown, New Zealand


A blonde woman in sunglasses and a pink top standing in a field of tall grass with a backdrop of rolling green hills with a white text overlay and red youtube button
SWWW and Vikky Queenstown Hike, New Zealand

25 years ago, I spent 6 weeks exploring New Zealand with my friend Laura. We were loaned a car & a tent & took 4 of those weeks to fall in love with the South Island. So much so, she never left! More recently, my friend Vikky & I decided to return to this beautiful island & took 10 days basing ourselves in Queenstown. Somehow, I knew I would fall in love again with this isolated part of the world & I wasn’t wrong. 10 days was not enough but Queenstown I knew would be the perfect base to “dip my toe back in the water”.

SWWW Bungee jumping in 1992. Best things to do in Queenstown

Queenstown has a reputation for being the capital of the world for adrenaline junkies. Bungy jumping was born here & you have several choices of which spectacular location to throw yourself off a bridge…or out of a plane…maybe hurtle at speed along a shallow river & all manner of other ways to terrify yourself. I have done my fill of these & actually wanted to get to know Queenstown without the fear. Here is my list of top recommendations if you would like to do the same.

10 Best Things To Do in Queenstown For Non-Adrenaline Junkies?

1. Arrive!
View of blue lakes and mountains from an aeroplane arriving in Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown is a spectacular town, nestled beneath the Remarkables mountain range, on the edge of beautiful Wakatipu Lake. This means that whichever way you choose to arrive, it will take your breath away.

If you fly, make sure you have a window seat as arriving to the view over the mountains will take your breath away & prepare you for the awe-inspiring scenery you are about to witness.”

If you are driving, then you will be equally rewarded as there are points along the roads which give you views down into the valley which can compete with any scenery you have seen throughout the world. Once there, there are loads of options to see more…

2. Drive to Glenorchy
A blonde woman in a pink top standing by the shore of a lake with a black mountain backdrop with a white text overlay and red YouTube button

Views of the river and mountains at Glenorchy, New Zealand

Officially the drive to Glenorchy takes 45 minutes, but why would you when you have so many amazing stops along the way? If you have a car it is one of the top things to do in Queenstown. The route takes you along the edge of the lake. Every few kilometres there are places to pull off & admire the view. The drive can get quite busy so my advice would be to leave either early or late. We ended up getting on the road at 11 am.

Once you arrive in Glenorchy, head down to the lake for some breath-taking views. When the sun is out the water is a vibrant blue, setting the mountains off behind. While you are there, if you’re hungry, I would recommend the Sugar Loaf Café but I also heard that Queenies Dumplings are a great option.

Views of the river, jetty and mountains at Kinloch, New Zealand

If you choose to turn around at Glenorchy, then there is a chance you will miss the best part of the drive. Most people do end their journey here, but if you’re feeling intrepid then keep going on the dirt road for another 30-40 minutes to Kinloch. If you’re lucky, you’ll see some of the jet boat tours coming along the river as you drive.

If you’re unlucky, they’ll noisily interrupt your peace & quiet while enjoying a drink at the Kinloch Lodge Cafe & admiring the old dock!

The view is usually a peaceful haven where you can just enjoy seeing nature at its finest. It was very tempting to stay a night here & if you have the time & enjoy the quiet ambience, I would definitely recommend it. Follow the link above for all the details & availability.


There is only 1 road in but the drive back to Glenorchy is no less spectacular in the other direction. By the time we arrived back, it was 3 pm & the town had only a few visitors left. Here, we chose to take a walk by the lake along the Glenorchy Walkway. It is flat & takes around 1-2 hours to complete the circular route on boardwalks around the water. Enjoy being in nature, sharing it with the swans, ducks & rabbits as you go. Peace & solitude is the order of the day!

3. Take A Wine Tour for the Best Wineries in Queenstown
The green of the vineyard at The Gibbston Valley in the Central Otago area, New Zealand

The Gibbston Valley & the Central Otago area is the world’s southernmost wine-producing region. For this reason alone, it is worth exploring with your taste buds! If you are into Pinot Noir, then it is totally not to be missed. In addition, the wineries are only a short drive from Queenstown so are easy to reach on a tour. Alternatively, you can opt to take a self-guided cycle ride. Gibbston Valley offers bike hire & a handy bus from town so you can choose to explore by yourself.

A blonde woman touching her cheek and smiling at a wine distillery with a white text overlay and red youtube button

I chose to take a tour with Appellation Central Wine Tours. Throughout the day we visited 4 tastings, tucked into a delicious lunch & got to see more the area has to offer in both landscapes & wines. Altitude Wine Tours also came highly recommended if you fancy checking them out. Love wine? Why not also check out my posts on Mendoza, Argentina or Australia?

4. Hike Queenstown Hill Walking Trail
Views of the lake & surrounding countryside during the Queenstown Hike, New Zealand

For views over the beauty of Queenstown & to blow the cobwebs away, then this is a fantastic uphill walk. It took us 2 ½ hours with lots of photo stops. Even better, you can walk to the start on Belfast Terrace which is just on the outskirts of the town. As a result for non-hikers, it must be one of the best hikes in Queenstown!

A blonde woman in sunglasses standing at the top of hilly landscape with a majestic view above the clouds with a white text overlay and red youtube button

Be prepared for the weather to change in an instant so take lots of layers (this is a general rule in New Zealand!) & plenty of water, particularly if it’s a hot day.”

Also be prepared for stunning 360-degree views of Queenstown, the Remarkables, Lake Wakatipu, Coronet Peak & the glaciers on top of the mountains, even in the summertime. Love hiking? Check out some of my favourites in Cuba, Ecuador or the iconic Inca Trail & Mount Kilimanjaro!

5. Skyline Gondola
A blonde woman looking from the window of a cable car down to the town below bordered by a blue lake and black mountains with a white text overlay and red YouTube button
Skyline Gondola, Queenstown New Zealand

For great views without the effort then you cannot miss the Skyline Gondola. Effectively this is a cable car up the side of one of the mountains but once up there you have a bewildering array of activities to partake in should you wish. They have a restaurant, a Bungy jump & a swing & a gift shop. If you fancy going up in the dark, you can also take part in some stargazing. I didn’t do it but apparently, the Luge (go-karts) are loads of fun, even if you think it’s not your “thing”!

6. Watch Other People Throw Themselves Off A Bridge – Bungy Jumping in Queenstown!
Kawarau Bridge and a sign in the local hire shop, Queenstown, New Zealand

You may not fancy throwing yourself off a bridge with only a large elastic band to save you from the raging river below, but watching others do it can be just as entertaining but without the fear! When I first went to Queenstown 25 years ago, the Kawarau Bridge & its Bungy was a distracting source of awe every time we passed it. We would always pull over to watch a line-up of both terrified & triumphant tourists. Back then I was determined to have a go. On my final chance, I took the plunge…literally by bungy jumping in Queenstown!

I am very proud that I did it then & have no desire to do it again! I have the video, the photos, the T-shirt & the proof. 25 years & a detached retina later, I was happy just to watch!”

A young blonde woman in double denim, Bungee Jumping from a bridge in Queenstown, New Zealand – March 1995, while a couple look on

If you head this way, you can opt for the slightly less daunting Zipride where you can hurtle down the valley on a seat or headfirst should you wish. This option means someone else presses the release without you having to will your body to go against every instinct it has before you shoot headlong across the ravine. Either way, watching is fun too!

7. Arrowtown

Arrowtown is an old gold-mining town 20 km from Queenstown. It grew up when gold was discovered in the river here in the 1860s. The town now retains many of the original buildings & is a pleasant place to spend a few hours in the shops & cafes. I have to admit that I didn’t make it there beyond a quick drive through on the wine tour. It looks lovely but I ran out of time to make it a priority.

Things To Do Around Queenstown – Trips Out Of Town

Views of the mountains during hikes in Queenstown, New Zealand

I would thoroughly recommend getting a car to explore the area. Even driving a short distance out of Queenstown in any direction will reward you with amazing views & opportunities for some great hiking trails. When I first visited, New Zealand, we based ourselves in Queenstown & kept leaving & returning to explore the island’s attractions further south. This included many multi-day hikes such as the Routeburn, Greenstone & Kepler Tracks. Unfortunately, I did not have time to return to these magnificent trails on this trip, but it has definitely whet my appetite to come back in the near future. If you are also limited for time, then here are a couple of trips out of town that I would recommend.

8. Milford Sound
A picture of the beautiful reflective mirror lakes of Milford Sound, New Zealand

One of the most spectacular sights in the whole of New Zealand is Milford Sound.

It is often referred to as the 8thwonder of the world. Therefore, as it is so close, it would be a shame to miss out!”

There are loads of choices for transportation & how to explore the Sound once you’re there. For those with more money than time, you can take the option of a flight & cruise on the water. If you are less financially blessed, a coach trip may be an option, & you can add on a one-way flight if you wish. For all the details check out my full guide to Milford Sound.

A picture of a cascading waterfall near Milford Sound, New Zealand
A picture of a cascading waterfall & a raging blue river near Milford Sound, New Zealand

I would advise speaking to an agent once you’re in Queenstown to arrange your visit. We used Happy Travels who were very good & efficient. Although Milford looks close on the map, be aware that there is only 1 road in & out, which means any driver needs to loop down to Te Anau. To get to the Sound can be at least a 4-hour drive each way.

There are many coach tours which do the trip & all appear to stop in the same places. For something with fewer people Fiordland Tours come highly recommended for smaller groups & informative guides.

Self Drive

My friend Vikky & I chose to take a little more time & opted for driving ourselves. We spent a day each heading to & from Te Anau & stayed overnight at the excellent Radfords on the Lake.

I could not recommend this option enough. Without any stops, the route to Milford Sound takes 2 ½ hours.”

We were hoping to do a few hikes along the way but got easily distracted by the odd detour & after 4 hours, ran out of time before our cruise. If you are interested to know more, check out my post with everything you need to know before you take on this epic road trip.

Dark imposing mountains skirting the water of Milford Sound, New Zealand

Milford Sound is spectacular & we were lucky enough to see seals & dolphins in the water as well as experience 4 seasons in 2 hours! The rain only added to the energy & volume from the waterfalls as they appeared from the cliffs surrounding us. However, the drive was even more amazing & I have to say one of the most stunning road trips I have ever done. If you have the time & inclination I would 100% recommend driving yourself.

I booked my cruise with Go Orange via Happy Travels in Queenstown.

9. Wanaka
SWWW's crash helmet, lunch and her bike hired from Lakeland Wanaka, at Wanaka, New Zealand

An hour & 15 minutes drive over beautiful Crown Pass brings you to another stunning lake & the lovely town of Wanaka. As with most stops in New Zealand, if you love hiking, cycling or generally being outdoors, then you’re in for a treat. I headed here alone & it was a great place to be a solo traveller too.

The beautiful green hills and lakes, at Wanaka, New Zealand

In the 2 days I was there I hiked up the Diamond Lake/Rocky Mountain trail for spectacular views of the lake & then hired a bike from Lakeland Wanaka by the water to cycle around the lake to Albert Town.


Basically, it was a 1 1/2 hour bike ride along various sized trails to a delicious patisserie for a cake. I then got lost trying to find an alternative route for the way back. Every day is new adventure!”

A picture of 'That Wanaka Tree' alone in the water at Wanaka, New Zealand
Azure waters viewed from the leafy river bank at Wanaka, New Zealand

My final stop was at the most photographed tree in New Zealand #thatwanakatree. Over 70 years ago this tree was laid as part of a wooden fence to hold livestock. Now it sits alone in the lake, with a constant stream of photographic admirers!

In Wanaka, I stayed in the Alpine Motel which was a perfect spot. It’s very central & with really helpful & friendly staff. My favourite eating spots were Kai Whakapai, Kota, Alchemy & of course the very welcome pastry at the end of a tough cycle at Pembroke Patisserie!

10. Eat & drink
Pudding and Cocktails.

If you love food & a drink or two then you have plenty of excellent choices in Queenstown. Here are some of my favourites:

Best Restaurants in Queenstown

Wight & Wong – fantastic fusion ‘east meets west’ cuisine, based on street food from across Asia.

Yonder – highly recommended by all the locals we met & they also own the lively World Bar next door.

Fergburger – this place seems to be recommended as a must-do in everything I read about Queenstown. As a result, the queues for a burger are ridiculous. I heard they can be 2 hours but friends said they waited 15 minutes.

It’s a good burger but I’m not sure I’d wait in a queue for 15 minutes for it, let alone 2 hours.”

If you’re desperate to try one & are a bit of a night owl, I’d recommend it for a midnight snack…without the queues ;).

Ivy & Lola – a great spot by the water for breakfast.

Best Bars in Queenstown

Little Blackwood – cocktails & live music, it’s hard to go wrong…

Bardeaux – if you’re looking for a great late opening bar with fantastic cocktails & an intimate ambience.

The Bunker – they claim to make the best martinis & who am I to argue?

Where to stay in Queenstown

I stayed at Peppers Beacon which was a great spot in walking distance to the main town attractions. It has lake views & excellent staff.


A view of beautiful purple flowers and green hills, Queenstown, New Zealand

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Queenstown & fell in love with this country all over again. It’s hard to believe it took me 25 years to return. In conclusion, I believe Queenstown has a lot more to offer than just it’s credentials as the “Adrenaline Capital of the World”!

Interested to read more?

Calm azure waters viewed from the river bank at Queenstown, New Zealand

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10 Best Things To Do in Queenstown For Non-Adrenaline Junkies

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  1. Really hoping to make it to New Zealand next winter. This will help us decide how much time in Queensland. Lots to do (bungee jumping is not one of them–my ear surgeon would be aghast). Glad to see all of the options of activities. Milford Sound looks beautiful, but there is so much else that you mentioned.

    1. Thank you, Sue & you will love New Zealand! Such a beautiful country & you will definitely not be bored! Safe travels, Sue x

  2. You’ve hit the nail on the head with these recommendations! We still found plenty to do in Queenstown even though we had no intentions of throwing ourselves off bridges ? I was interested to read your review of Fernburger too…we took one look at the queue and knew it wasn’t for us. A great guide, thanks for sharing!

    1. Really pleased to hear that you approve of my recommendations. Thank you for your comment, 15 minutes is definitely too long to queue for a burger in my opinion (although at 1 am it was a very tasty, non-queue option! 😉 Sue x

  3. Enjoyed your blog post! I have visited NZ but did not spend much time in Queenstown. It’s time to revisit this place and do some of the things you have suggested here. I would definitely like to do a tandem sky-jump in this beautiful town a second time in my life . (Did one in Dubai years ago). Wanaka is a beautiful place worth a second visit. Your blog has actually triggered my nostalgia for this place. 🙂

  4. This list is totally my jam. I am NOT an adrenaline junkie at all! The scenery is so so beautiful. I can’t wait until I can go to New Zealand!

    1. Erin, you will love it! There is so much more to see & do than all the adrenaline sports on offer. It is such a beautiful country! Sue x

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