Queenstown
History & Heritage

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Our most recommended Queenstown History & Heritage

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: Time Tripper Underwater Experience

3. 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: Kawarau River Jet Boat Adventure

4. 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

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

6. 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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From Queenstown: Arrowtown and Gibbston Valley Winery Tour

7. From Queenstown: Arrowtown and Gibbston Valley Winery Tour

Embark on a self-guided bike tour of the Arrowtown and Gibbston Valley region. After a scenic 25-minute drive from Queenstown, arrive in quaint Arrowtown, your driver will provide you with an extensive briefing covering navigation and bike safety. Benefit from a detailed trail map to assist you on your journey before heading off on your cycling adventure. Enjoy passing through this historic gold-mining town before biking your way down the beautiful Arrow River Bridges Trail. Ride over the Kawarau Bungy Bridge and admire charming countryside views before finishing off at the Gibbston Valley Winery. Relax and refresh briefly at the winery before being shuttled back to Queenstown.

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From Queenstown: Lord of the Rings Full-Day Tour

8. From Queenstown: Lord of the Rings Full-Day Tour

From Queenstown, outside the Station at the corner of Camp and Shotover streets, begins a full-day tour that takes you for a comprehensive and memorable Lord of the Rings experience. You’ll enjoy expert and entertaining commentary from your guide who has true passion for the books and the movie trilogy. You will travel in a small group to ensure that your experience is a personal and interactive one. The filming for all 3 movies in the Lord of the Rings trilogy was done in director Peter Jackson's native New Zealand. On this South Island tour you'll visit numerous locations, sights and scenes from the movies, while taking in some of the most spectacular scenery found anywhere in the world. During the day you’ll have the chance to see and touch countless weapons, costumes, and other items from the movie, taking as many photographs as you like. Lunch is included on the tour and is served in a restaurant.

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Queenstown: Kawarau River Rafting and Jet Boat Ride

9. Queenstown: Kawarau River Rafting and Jet Boat Ride

Raft the Kawarau River, perhaps better known as the River Anduin in Lord of the Rings, for a great half-day activity in Queenstown This is a perfect introduction to whitewater rafting for first-timers. There will be plenty of rapids action plus time to sit back and enjoy the spectacular scenery. Catch the free shuttle from the centre of town out to the raft base where you will be fitted out with all your gear. From there, head back into the heart of Queenstown to catch your jet boat transfer. Take on the beginning 22 km of the Kawarau river at 95 km/h with thrilling 360-degree spins as you arrive at the rafting station. Your rafting adventure covers 8-kilometers of the river. Take on grade 2-3 rapids and perhaps the occasional grade 2-4 rapid, when there are higher water levels. These are usually easier to navigate and there is less risk of falling out. Enjoy flat stretches of river between the rapids where you have the opportunity to race your friends on the other rafts or jump out and swim. Keep an eye on the other rafts, as there is a good chance of a water fight. Conclude your adventure by rafting the longest commercially rafted rapid in New Zealand, the Dog Leg. This is a 400-meter long and grade 3/4 rapid. Add some extra excitement by joining in on the optional cliff jumping section, or sit back and watch your friends take a leap.

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From Queenstown: Lord of the Rings Half Day in Middle Earth

10. From Queenstown: Lord of the Rings Half Day in Middle Earth

Your journey through Middle Earth starts from the station info building on the corner of Shotover Street and Camp Street at 10:00 AM. From there you will travel to Arrowtown, once a gold mining town (which you can still pan for gold and find some if you are lucky) passing Coronet Peak, one of the many ski fields in the area.  See The Ford of Bruinen where the Black Riders are swept down the river and then onto the Gladden Fields where Isildur is ambushed by Orcs. From Arrowtown you will travel towards the Kawarau river where you will see The Argonath (The Pillars of the King) Then its time for some fun handling and photographing weapons, such as Gimli's axe, Aduril and Narsil.  After spending time reenacting scenes with the weapons it's time to leave Middle Earth behind and return to Queenstown.

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Other Sightseeing Options in Queenstown

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What people are saying about Queenstown

Overall rating

4.8 / 5

based on 52 reviews

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

Awesome trip, a real must do for Queenstown visitors.