Queenstown
Culture & History

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Our most recommended Queenstown Culture & History

TSS Earnslaw: 1.5-Hour Cruise From Queenstown

1. TSS Earnslaw: 1.5-Hour Cruise From Queenstown

Join the TSS Earnslaw for a 1.5-hour cruise across Lake Wakatipu. Admire spectacular alpine scenery and enjoy plenty of time to explore a piece of living history. Listen to engaging commentary from your experienced captain who will highlight points of interest throughout your cruise. Make your way to Steamer Wharf at Queenstown’s waterfront. Climb aboard the oldest working coal-fired passenger steamship in the southern hemisphere and feel free to explore! View the collection of historical photos in the small onboard museum and check out the skipper’s wheelhouse. Visit the engine room to feel the heat of the giant steam engines at work and see the stokers shovel coal into the glowing fireboxes.  Soak in the dramatic mountain views surrounding Lake Wakatipu and relax at the cafe where you can enjoy a wine or beer and snacks are also available for purchase. 

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TSS Earnslaw: Cruise and Walter Peak Farm Tour

2. TSS Earnslaw: Cruise and Walter Peak Farm Tour

Start with a scenic cruise, crossing Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak High Country Farm. Explore the decks, visit the steam room, or chat with the captain in the wheelhouse. You’ll find a licensed cafe on board. Disembark at Walter Peak and join the host for a farmyard tour. Get up close to sheep, deer, and highland cattle. Help feed the farm animals, watch a farm demonstration, and explore the lakeside gardens. Enjoy a morning or afternoon tea including scones, muffins, coffee, and tea. The Walter Peak Farm tour is the perfect way to get a taste of New Zealand's farming lifestyle in an interactive way. This 3.5-hour tour is suitable for all ages.

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Queenstown: 2-Hour Zipline Tour with 4-Lines

3. Queenstown: 2-Hour Zipline Tour with 4-Lines

The perfect starter to your adventure experience in Queenstown. Journey through native forest on four incredible ziplines with stunning views across Lake Wakatipu to the Remarkables mountain range. Make your way to the Skyline Gondola summit (gondola ticket is your own expense) to meet your experienced guides. Harness up and feel the wind in your face as you glide down the ziplines. The ziplines start low and slow and gradually build your confidence as they get progressively longer, higher and faster. Your experienced guides will launch and receive you at each tree deck, showing you fun tricks you can try. Enjoy their light-hearted, informative stories on local history, myths, legends, and ecological principals at each suspended tree-house.

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Queenstown: Time Tripper Underwater Experience

4. Queenstown: Time Tripper Underwater Experience

Take the stairs down under Lake Wakatipu and travel back to the beginning of time. Time Tripper is a 14-minute state-of-the-art animated show that takes you back 90 million years ago to what Queenstown was like all those years ago. Your time-travel pilot will guide you through the time of the dinosaurs, taking you back to when New Zealand was formed and flying you deep into the earth to when the Southern Alps were created. Ending in present-day Queenstown, you'll then experience activities all from the comfort of your seat. Following your informative session, you'll enjoy 10-15 minutes of underwater viewing during which you can see the famous diving ducks, slinky eels, and trout that lie beneath. This approximately 30-minute activity is Queenstown’s only underwater experience, blasting off every half hour from the Main Town Pier.

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Queenstown: 3-Hour Zipline Adventure with 6-Lines

5. Queenstown: 3-Hour Zipline Adventure with 6-Lines

Take on a spectacular and exhilarating zipline eco-adventure through the native forest canopy. Make your way to the Skyline Gondola summit and meet your experienced guides. Harness up and feel the wind in your face as you glide down breath-taking ziplines. Traverse down the mountain tree-to-tree via twelve aerial, tree-top platforms, with the highest tree-house at 25-meters above the ground. Launch from deck to deck and your guides will be there to help you at every platform. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. Admire the spectacular views of Lake Wakatipu and the remarkable mountain range as you zipline through the trees. Listen to light-hearted and interesting stories about local history, myths, and legends at each suspended tree-house. Walk downhill through the beech forest for 20-minutes with a guide to reach the finish, where you will ride the world's steepest tree-to-tree zipline, descending at speeds of up to 70kph.

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Queenstown: Kawarau River Jet Boat Adventure

6. Queenstown: Kawarau River Jet Boat Adventure

Discover Queenstown’s untouched and pristine wilderness during an authentic jet boat adventure across Lake Wakatipu and along the historic Kawarau River. Choose from a 25-minute or 1-hour experience and spend more time on the water with a convenient departure right from the heart of Queenstown. Depart from Thunder Bay next to Steamer Wharf in the heart of Queenstown and travel far up the Kawarau River, covering a distance of 47 km. Along the way, listen to interesting commentary from your experienced driver. After getting equipped with a life jacket and spray jacket, climb on board and experience exhilarating 360-degree spins, skimming the water at speeds of up to 95 km/hour.  Then, travel down the river where it is calmest, even when the lake is rough. Take your camera along to capture the stunning scenery of your jet boat experience with frequent photo opportunities.

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Gourmet Food and Wine Tour with Lunch and Wine Tastings

7. Gourmet Food and Wine Tour with Lunch and Wine Tastings

Visit 4 premium vineyards over 2 wine subregions (Gibbston and the Cromwell/Bannockburn basin). Have a wine barrel cooked lunch consisting of 5 tasting dishes matched with wines for a unique tasting in Australasia's largest underground wine cave. Taste local cheeses at a local vineyard. Visit Old Cromwell town and the must-see Arrowtown. Have a taste of locally handcrafted chocolates at your leisure. Then, go on a stunning drive through the Kawarau Gorge whilst learning about the early pioneering history of this rugged region. View the historic Kawarau Bridge and original AJ Hackett Bungy.

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Arrowtown and Gibbston Valley: Self-Guided Bike Tour

8. Arrowtown and Gibbston Valley: Self-Guided Bike Tour

Enjoy having the team collect you from your accommodation before you cycle from Arrowtown to Gibbston Valley yourselves or get dropped off at Gibbston and explore the area by bike. All staff are locals and will have some top local tips for you. Once you have been fitted to a bike  and are all ready to go, jump on a Hardtail Cruiser bike or Premium E-bike to start the trip at your own pace.  You will be given maps that have all the information you will need to make the most of the trip back to Queenstown. The ride is between 2-20 kilometers: you can choose to be dropped off at Arrowtown for a 20-kilometer ride or at Gibbston Valley for a 2 kilometer ride.  Once in Gibbston Valley, you can stop by a range of award-winning wineries. These include Gibbston Valley, Chard Farm, Peregrine, Mt Rosa, Waitiri Creek/Cargo Brewery, Peregrine, Gibbston Tavern, and Gibbston Valley Cheese experience, to name a few.

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Queenstown: Milford Sound Scenic Flyover with Hotel Pickup

9. Queenstown: Milford Sound Scenic Flyover with Hotel Pickup

Experience unimpaired views of New Zealand's South Island's South West Coast from the comfort of your window seat as you fly through a landscape of unbelievable grandeur and beauty onboard a fixed-wing aircraft. Your expert local pilot will provide interesting and informative commentary on the 1 hour 10 minutes flight. Depart from Queenstown Airport and head north over the Coronet Peak skifield, historic Skippers Canyon and the Shotover River - the second-richest gold-bearing river in the world. Enjoy panoramic views of Lake Wakatipu and glacier-fed braided rivers as you fly along the Dart River Valley into the World Heritage Area of Mt. Aspiring National Park. Continue your breathtaking journey into the Fiordland National Park, over the rugged West Coast and the Tasman Sea before a quick U-turn descending into Milford Sound itself. Fly down the middle of the Fiord, with the dramatic sheer mountains on either side, and aerial views of the cascading Stirling Falls. Return to Queenstown on a different flight path over the stunning World Heritage Area, over Lake Quill and the Sutherland Falls. Snap memorable pictures along the way or simply sit back and marvel at the stunning landscape beneath you.

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Queenstown Half-Day 4WD Lord Of the Rings Discovery Tour

10. Queenstown Half-Day 4WD Lord Of the Rings Discovery Tour

Embark on an adventure safari packed with breathtaking scenery, thrilling 4WD action, and LOTR filming locations. Visit the filming locations of Minas Tirith, Misty Mountains, the Pillars of the Kings (Argonath), Gladden Fields, the Ford of Bruinen, and more.  After pick-up from your hotel, journey around the Wakatipu Basin to see The Remarkables, which were used as various mountains throughout the three movies. Travel part way up Queenstown Hill for a bird's-eye view onto Deer Park Heights, which was used for the refugees of Rohan and the Battle of the Wargs scenes. From the viewpoint, head to Kawarau Gorge where the filming took place for the Argonath - 'Pillars of the Kings'. After Kawarau Gorge, travel to Arrowtown where the loss of The One Ring scene at Gladden Fields was shot. Near Arrowtown, you will experience a true off-road adventure. Following a historic gold mining road up the Arrow River, cross the river many times to get to the Ford of Bruinen. Here you can indulge in a refreshing afternoon tea and try your hand at a spot of gold panning. From Arrowtown, travel to the entrance of Skippers Canyon for spectacular panoramic views of the Wakatipu Basin and into the Canyon.

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Other Sightseeing Options in Queenstown

Want to discover all there is to do in Queenstown? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about Queenstown

Overall rating

4.8 / 5

based on 199 reviews

My wife and I had one of the best scenic flight with Glenorchy Air here in Queenstown. We booked the 80 Minutes Milford Sound Scenic Flyover and got a bonus when our very friendly and accommodating Pilot Ian Anderson told us that instead of a flyover at Milford Sound, we will be making a landing and picking up some hikers back to Queenstown, which we are ok with. The flight from Queenstown to Milford Sound was so picturesque as we flew above mountain lakes, lush rain forests, snow covered mountains & glacier. We will definitely do the Milford Sounds Scenic Flyover again next time we are in Queenstown again. A big thank you to Pilot Ian Anderson, Mikaela and Jasmine of Glenorchy Air for the memorable experience. Felix & Evelyn Auckland, NZ

We booked for 4 but only 1 was able to make our initial boarding check-in time so the lovely staff moved us to the next available sailing time so we all could experience the Earnslaw, this was very much appreciated. The ship/boat is quite large with lots on board to see and do, as well as the views outside are spectacular. The staff are extremely courteous and polite. Thanks for such a happy experience guys.

Good for small kids, an unique experience with the farm animals. The tea and snacks were great. The TSS Earnslaw ride was very relaxing.

Very relaxing afternoon. Enjoyed the time cruising and listening to live music. Once in a lifetime experience!!

Absolutely fantastic experience, such wonderful history