The 13 Best Tours in Queenstown
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With so many tours available in Queenstown, it’s hard to know which ones to choose! That’s why we wrote this blog, which outlines the best tours in Queenstown as well as includes important information to know before you go!
The BEST Queenstown Tours
Queenstown is the ultimate tourist destination in New Zealand. With over 3 million visitors a year, the list of things to do and see is practically endless. Whether you are a foodie, an adventurer, or a lover of photography, there is something for everyone in Queenstown.
Once you arrive in Queenstown you will quickly discover that you will need to decide on what Queenstown tours you want to do while there.
But what are the best tours in Queenstown? What type of tour should you go on? Well, in this blog I’m going to help you figure all of that out!
Over the past year, Dan and I have been exploring Queenstown and all it has to offer. And with that comes joining many tours in and around the area.
I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many tours we’ve done around Queenstown because it is just too many to keep track of. But out of everything we’ve done, there are a few tours that stand out as fantastic experiences – ones that I will recommend to you in this blog, the best tours in Queenstown.
1. Scenic Cruise on Lake Wakatipu
2. Lord of the rings tour
3. Scenic flight
4. Day trip to Glenorchy
5. Gibbston Valley wine tour
6. Craft Beer tour
7. Milford Sound day or overnight tour
8. Doubtful Sound day or overnight tour
9. Mount Cook day trip
11. Jet Boating
13. Nevis Bungee
I’m going to break this list of Queenstown tours up into categories so you can find the right tour for you!
Sightseeing Tours in Queenstown
1. Scenic Cruise on Lake Wakatipu
Lake Wakatipu is as iconic as Queenstown itself and one of its biggest drawcards. As you cruise along the lake’s calm waters you can begin to see Queenstown’s true beauty and stunning landscape.
There are two Lake Wakatipu cruises available both offering a different experience.
The first is the very popular TSS Earnslaw Cruise to the Walter Speak Station and back. The TSS Earnslaw is the last remaining ship from the gold rush and today still runs on coal. You can visit the coal room and see the workers shoveling it into the furnaces. Or if you want, just relax and enjoy a drink at the bar!
The second cruise is the cheaper Spirit of Queenstown scenic cruise. This cruise is aboard a catamaran and cruises the lake to Mt Nicholas Station (another working farm). On this cruise, you’ll still get the same views but its a much cheaper cruise! You can also pair this cruise with a farm experience or even a self-guided bike ride that includes a cruise on the TSS Earnslaw too!
2. Lord of the Rings Scenic Tour
If you’re a fan of the Lord of the Rings movies, then you will likely already know that all three films were filmed in New Zealand – and many of the locations were in and around Queenstown!
On a Lord of the Rings Scenic tour not only will you be taken to the iconic movie filming locations, but you will be rewarded with breathtaking views along the way!
When Dan and I joined this tour we had already lived in Queenstown for 6 months and we thought we’d seen it all. But after spending the day on a guided tour, we realized that wasn’t true.
On the tour, we were taken to places we had never been to before which was impressive seeing as we did a lot of exploring!
It was also great to hear information about the Lord of Rings movies as well as so much information about the area in general. Our guide had an incredible amount of knowledge to share!
Book your Lord of the Rings tour in Queenstown here!
3. Go on a scenic flight
There’s really no better way to see Queenstown than from the sky. On a scenic helicopter flight, you’ll get to see a side of Queenstown most don’t and land in remote areas high in the mountains.
Scenic flights around Queenstown range in price but it’s all dependent on the time you spend in the air. The shortest flight available is around 20 minutes long. This tour is one of the cheapest with a 20-minute flight and alpine landing for under $200 NZD.
If you want more airtime then this 35-minute flight is a great choice!
4. Day Trip to Glenorchy
A day trip to Glenorchy is one of the best tours in Queenstown! I have personally visited Glenorchy around 10 times and honestly never get sick of the stunning views!
The drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy is one of the most beautiful in the country! For that reason, I really can’t recommend joining a day tour (or driving yourself) to Glenorchy enough.
Of course, on a tour, you’ll get to see a lot more as your guide will take you down all the little gravel roads and river crossings to the most beautiful spots! Some of the best tours include this 4WD tour (great for accessing the best places) or this Paradise half-day tour (as an awesome budget option).
Wine and Beer Tours
Dan and I love having a good drink or two – especially while on holidays! Queenstown really caters to those who want to get out of town a bit and explore beautiful vineyards and craft breweries, as well as sample a few (or many)!
There are two tours in particular we recommend if you are feeling a little bit thirsty…
5. Gibbston Valley wine tour
Central Otago (the region that Queenstown is in) is known for producing some incredible wines despite its tricky climate and higher altitude. In fact, in this region and more specifically the Gibbston Valley, some of the best Pinot Noir in the world is produced! So if you love wine, then going on a wine tour is the perfect way to spend a day!
Our recommended Tour: Wine sampler
Dan and I love the Wine Sampler tour by Altitude Tours. The tour mixes the perfect amount of wine sampling, wine knowledge, as well as seeing some of the gorgeous Gibbston Valley outside of Queenstown. Their tour vans are very luxurious and guide super helpful, friendly and knowledgeable. We highly recommend these guys!
6. Beer Tasting tour
If you are a beer lover more so than wine, there is also a tour for you! Small craft breweries have recently been popping up all over Queenstown creating this new “craft beer” scene in and around Queenstown! There has been no better time to get out and embrace this change and try some beer from the many microbreweries in town.
There are a few different styles of tours available including this beer and wine tour. It’s a great option because instead of just being beer or just being wine, you get to choose what you taste at each place! If your set on beer then this hop on hop off beer tasting tour is another great option!
For more information on the beer tour, check out our blog on the best Queenstown breweries!
Day or multi-day trips from Queenstown
7. Milford Sound
Without a doubt, if you’re coming to Queenstown you should either drive to Milford Sound yourself or join a tour from Queenstown! Milford Sound is one of my favorite places in New Zealand. In fact, it’s my second favorite only to Mount Cook (below).
If you’re planning on driving yourself be sure to read our blog on the ultimate road trip from Queenston to Milford Sound! It lays out all the best stops and times they take to visit. You may also want to read our blog on choosing the best Milford Sound cruise!
If you’re doing a tour from Queenstown then the tour bus driver will have you covered and with the time they have, they’ll stop at some of the highlights along the way.
Our recommended boat cruise in Milford: Nature Cruise
The bus tours are long and with the driving expect to be gone for around 12 hours! If that sounds a little much then join an overnight cruise that way you’ll split the journey up and spend a night in Milford (such an amazing experience). Alternatively, you can fly to and from Milford Sound and be back in under 6 hours (including your cruise).
The best cruises I have done in Milford Sound is the Nature Cruise. Not only are they longer than the Scenic Cruise but the boats are smaller and the chances of seeing wildlife are so much higher! If you are driving yourself then joining my all-time favorite, the Encounter Nature Cruise (only available for self-drive).
We have a ton of blogs about Milford Sound, be sure to check them all out!
8. Doubtful Sound
There only one other fiord in Fiordland National Park the rivals Milford Sound and that’s Doubtful Sound! I haven’t personally been to Doubtful Sound (hence why there’s no photo) but it’s high on my bucket list!
Doubtful Sound is far less crowded than Milford Sound and the tours available are more expensive, but its simply because it’s so remote and the experience is far more off the beaten path!
From Queenstown, you can join day tours to Doubtful Sound or overnight cruises! My personal choice would be the overnight cruise and when I return to Queenstown soon it’s the one I’ll be joining! However, the tour isn’t cheap so its understandable to go with the day cruise and to be honest, it’ll still be amazing!
9. Mount Cook National Park
Mount Cook National Park is my favorite place in New Zealand. I really can’t recommend this place enough! Now for many people, you’ll simply be driving to the park yourself and in that case, be sure the check out our blog on the best things to do in Mount Cook NP. However, if you’re in Queenstown and not planning a road trip then doing a day trip the park is essential!
There are a couple of options available for one day tours to Mount Cook. However, my top pick is this tour. It’s only $200 NZD and visits Lake Pukaki, Tasman Glacier (picture above) and Lindis Pass – all great highlights!
In all honesty, spending a day in Mount Cook isn’t enough so please only use this option if you simply don’t have the time or transport!
Queenstown Adventure Tours
First and foremost is my favorite adventure tour in Queenstown, canyoning. If you want a thrill, but also a proper tour that lasts a few hours then canyoning is perfect. It is also one of the best value adventure tours in Queenstown!
Our recommended tour: Canyoning Queenstown
Canyoning involves abseiling, zip-lining, cliff jumping and rocking climbing all in one! It can sound pretty crazy but with the right guides, canyoning is actually really safe. So if you’re looking for an exciting adventure activity canyoning is one of the best choices in town!
For more information, read our blog all about our experience canyoning in Queenstown!
11. Jet Boating
Jet boating is another great adventure tour in Queenstown. These tours run from 30 minutes to an hour and are a great way to explore Queenstown’s many rivers. Although this is an adventure sport, this tour really is for everyone. All you have to do is sit back and try to relax as your experienced driver takes you the ride of your life.
Our recommended tour: Shotover Jet jetboating tour
The Shotover Jet tour is the best in town and also the first to begin operations in Queenstown. They are a little out of town but do offer a complimentary shuttle to the boats. If they are a little price for you then this tour with K-Jet is a great budget option and involves a 1-hour ride!
For more information, check out our blog all about jet boating in Queenstown!
If you’re after a real adrenaline rush then you can’t pass on skydiving in Queenstown. Not only are you in for the ride of your life but you’ll also get to take in stunning views as you fall at over 200ft a second to the ground!
Then once the parachute opens it’s a very relaxing and scenic flight to the ground! There are two companies in Queenstown who do skydiving however only one (Nzone) operates in Queenstown. The other is actually in Glenorchy (Skydive Southern Alps).
13. Nevis Bungee Jumping
Our last Queenstown tour is a big one… literally! Standing at 134m high is the southern hemispheres tallest bungy jump the Nevis Bungy! Of course, this one’s not for the faint-hearted and coming from someone who skydives as a sport bungy jumping is much scarier!
However, if you do have what it takes then who not cross this bad boy off your list and leave Queenstown knowing you concerned its craziest tour!
The best way to lock yourself in is to book your bungy now! that way you have to do it!
Before you go…
During any visit to Queenstown, you must embark on at least a few tours. Without the local knowledge and expertise tours bring, you will never get to know Queenstown’s true beauty. This can get pricey and with limited time and money so this list is here to help you make the choice that’s right for you to get the most out of your trip!
If you would like any more advice on the best tours in Queenston for you please reach out and we will be more than happy to help you!
Accommodation in Queenstown
Need accommodation in Queenstown? Then you’d better book asap to avoid missing out on the best places to stay! Click here to view and book hotels in Queenstown!
If you’re not sure where to stay then read our where to stay in Queenstown blog for a breakdown on all the areas to stay!
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Around the South Island
- Best things to do on the South Island – This massive article covers all the best places to visit and things to do on the south island of New Zealand
- New Zealand road trip itineraries – Check out 10 amazing road trip itineraries of both the north and south island.
January 4, 2020