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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 book anything!
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 – and a selection of Queenstown tours to choose from too!
Once you arrive in Queenstown you will quickly discover that you will need to decide on which tours you want to include in your Queenstown itinerary.
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 Queenstown.
I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many tours we’ve done around Queenstown because it’s 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 absolute 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 tours for you!
Related Read: After a spending a long day experiencing the Queenstown tours you’ll need to relax and refuel with the best food in Queenstown!
Sightseeing Tours in Queenstown
There are a few amazing sightseeing tours in Queenstown that stand out above the rest! Sightseeing tours are best suited for people who can really appreciate beautiful landscapes and might even be interested in taking some breathtaking photos!
For me, sightseeing tours in Queenstown are all about sitting back, relaxing, and taking in the natural beauty of some amazing places around 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 Walter Speak Station and back. The TSS Earnslaw is the last remaining ship from the gold rush and still runs on coal today. 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 that has indoor seating and an outdoor deck that cruises through the lake past the Remarkables and Southern Alps to Mt Nicholas Station (another working farm). The commentators on this tour will even provide you with some knowledge about the Maori legends related to the lake. In addition, cheese and wine boards are served.
On this cruise, you’ll still get the same views but it’s a much cheaper cruise! Since it’s only a couple of hours long, this is a great activity that allows you to have time for something else, like this guided e-bike ride! The Ride to the Sky e-bike tour starts right across from the Queenstown airport and will take you up 800 m (2,624 ft) to the top of Grants Peak where you will have one of the best views of the most magnificent mountains in Queenstown.
Related Read: One of the most raw farmland experiences you can have in New Zealand is exploring a real wool farm on the Mt Nicholas Farm Tour.
2. Lord of the Rings Queenstown 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 from Queenstown 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 Lord of the Rings 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! This Lord of the Rings half-day tour to Glenorchy is also one of the most highly rate LOTR tours available. It was also great to hear information about the Lord of the Rings movies as well as so much information about the area in general. Our guide had an incredible amount of knowledge to share!
But if you are a die-hard fan you can book the full-day tour instead that will make use of the 4WD to take you to more isolated places around the lake. Lunch back in town is also included!
Better yet, if you have the ability to splurge you can see the sights from the sky on a Lord of the Rings helicopter tour that is sure to blow you away. It’s 70 minutes of air time that makes two landings for the best possible views of the location.
3. Go on a scenic flight
There’s really no better way to see Queenstown than from the sky. On a scenic helicopter flight tour, you’ll get to see a side of Queenstown most don’t and get to land in remote areas high in the mountains. Popular landmarks on these tours may include Lake Wakatipu, the Remarkables, The Southern Alps, Skippers Canyon, and the Wakatipu Basin.
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! It finishes with a landing on a snow-capped peak.
A flight over the mountains around Queenstown is probably the most exciting scenic tour in Queenstown you could possibly do!
Related Read: If there are too many things to do in Queenstown and you don’t get the chance to take a scenic flight you can also pick the best Mount Cook helicoper ride just 3 hours north from Queenstown center!
4. Day Trip from Queenstown 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!
There are lots of different tours from Queenstown to Glenorchy that you can choose from. This Kiwi special tour is straightforward and simple and also super affordable! It’s a 4-hour tour that takes you on a beautiful drive to Glenorchy, and once there, allows you to enjoy the town for a couple of hours, grab a coffee or beer, and walk around the lake to soak up the views.
If you want something still casual and slower-paced but with more stop-offs at some of the best viewpoints around the lake then the Glenorchy and Paradise Half-Day Explorer is the way to go! It even visits the small settlement of Paradise.
If you want to access some of the more rural places then the 4WD tour is a must! If you happen to be a Lord of the Rings fan then you’re really in for a treat as you will hit countless filming locations, regardless it will be quite the scenic day!
If you happen to be a photographer (or aspiring to become a better one!) I also wanted to point out this 5-hour Private Photography Tour of Glenorchy with a personal professional photographer who doubles as your guide. They will show you some of their personal favorite spots to shoot from along with giving you tips and advice or answering any of your photography questions.
This is a great tour if you want to see the beautiful Glenorchy but also improve your landscape photography skills or be shown the best locations to unleash your own creativity. Note: You will need to bring your own camera gear.
Wine and Beer Tours in Queenstown
Dan and I love having a good drink or two – especially while on holiday! 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 Queenstown tours in particular we recommend if you are feeling a little bit thirsty…
5. Gibbston Valley Wine Tour from Queenstown
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 Queenstown wine tour is the perfect way to spend a day!
Dan and I love this Wine Sampler tour by Altitude Tours. The tour mixes the perfect amount of wine sampling and wine knowledge, as well as seeing some of the gorgeous Gibbston Valley outside of Queenstown. Their tour vans are very luxurious and the was guide super helpful, friendly, and knowledgeable. We highly recommend these guys!
Another one of our favorites is the Central Otago Wine Tour which includes stops at 4 boutique wineries and a gourmet meat and cheese lunch platter. The other cool thing about this tour is that it also makes a couple of photo stops as your hopping in between the different wineries.
If you’re on a budget, this hop-on hop-off wine tour is the best choice. It’s the cheapest way to visit many different wineries and not have to worry about a designated driver. It’s also one of the most highly rated tours in Queenstown.
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 Queenstown 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 and learn a bit about what makes the region special from the bus as you enjoy the views out the window!
If you are set on beer then this beer tasting tour is another great option and definitely one of the most fun tours in Queenstown! This tour first stops at Altitude Brewing which is one of the top breweries in the country, the best part is that they are based right next to beautiful Lake Wakatipu and Remarkable ranges. You’ll then go on to have a walk around the historic Arrowtown before hitting another brewery for lunch and finishing the day at a winery.
For more information on the beer tour, check out our blog on the best Queenstown breweries!
Day Trips from Queenstown (and Multi-day Trips)
Some of the best Queenstown tours actually involve leaving Queenstown for a full day, or if you have time, even overnight! Here are some of the best 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 driving yourself to Milford, then we recommend that you book this nature boat cruise. It is super affordable and with different departure times, you can easily get on a cruise that suits your itinerary.
If you don’t have your own transport, then you need to book a tour to Milford that includes transport. The most common type of tour is a bus tour where the guide, who is also the bus driver, will take you to some of the best attractions on the way to Milford before you board your boat cruise.
Bus tours from Queenstown to Milford Sound are really full-day trips. They are long, and with the drive, expect to be gone for around 12 hours! This full-day tour is my favorite Milford Sound tour with transport departing from either Queenstown or Te Anau. 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 that long of a day 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 elevate your experience (quite literally) and cut down on time by flying to and from Milford Sound and be back in Queenstown in under 6 hours (including your cruise). Pretty awesome right!?
Related Read: Find out why we think The Milford Sound Lodge is the premier place to stay while visiting Milford!
8. Doubtful Sound
There’s only one other fiord in Fiordland National Park that rivals Milford Sound and that’s Doubtful Sound!
Doubtful Sound is far less crowded than Milford Sound and the tours available are more expensive, but it’s 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 it’s understandable to go with the day cruise and to be honest, it’ll still be amazing!
The beauty and remoteness of Doubtful Sound make a day trip there easily one of the best tours in Queenstown!
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 to the park is essential!
There are a couple of options available for day tours to Mount Cook from Queenstown. However, my top pick is this small group tour. It’s only $200 NZD and visits Lake Pukaki, Tasman Glacier (picture above), and Lindis Pass – all great highlights!
Once in Mount Cook, you are then given 4 hours of free time to do whatever you’d like inside the national park. Some of the best and most popular things you can do in that time frame is the Hooker Valley hike which may just be the most beautiful hike in all of New Zealand.
If you aren’t up for a long hike or want to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience then a glacier landing on Tasman Glacier with a helicopter ride can be done by booking a Heli Hike tour. If you’re worried about transport to get to these different activities don’t be. The guide on your original tour will help you get where you need to go and will pick you up once you’re done so there’s no reason not to make the most of your time inside Mount Cook!
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
Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand, so it is no wonder that many of the best Queenstown tours cater specifically to thrill-seekers! These adventure tours in Queenstown are guaranteed to get your heart racing but also be loads of fun at the same time!
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 tour! 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 Tours in Queenstown
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 tour, this tour really is for everyone. All you have to do is sit back and try to relax as your experienced driver takes you on the ride of your life.
Our recommended tour: Shotover Jet jetboating tour
Shotover Jet offers one of the best jet boating tours in Queenstown. They are a little out of town but do offer a complimentary shuttle to the boats. If they are a little pricey for you then this tour with K-Jet is a great budget option and involves a 1-hour ride on Lake Wakatipu and the Kawarau River and the Shotover River!
For more information, check out our blog all about jet boating in Queenstown!
12. Skydiving 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 through the air!
Then once the parachute opens it’s a very relaxing and scenic flight to the ground! There are two companies in Queenstown that do skydiving tours however only one (Nzone) operates in Queenstown. The other is actually in Glenorchy (Skydive Southern Alps) which is a 40-minute drive away.
You can book your skydive with Nzone here or with Skydive Southern Alps here. The Nzone is a jump of either 9,000ft, 12,000ft, or 15,000ft while if you jump with the Southern Alps it will be a 9,000 ft jump, each option lasts from 3-4 hours long.
13. Nevis Bungy Jumping
Our last Queenstown tour is a big one… literally! Standing at 134m (440 ft) high it’s the southern hemisphere’s 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 why not cross this bad boy off your list and leave Queenstown knowing you conquered its craziest tour!
The best way to lock yourself in is to book your bungy now! that way you have to do it! Believe me, it is one Queenstown tour you won’t regret signing up for!
Related Read: Super close from the Nevis Bungy are a ton more of must-do things to do over in Skyline Queenstown.
Where to Stay in Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown is filled with amazing things to do but also awesome places to stay! One thing about Queenstown though, if you don’t book in advance you will miss out on the best places (and the cheapest ones at that!) Here’s our list of recommended hotels in Queenstown:
This was the first place I ever stayed in Queenstown. It’s a great budget backpacker hostel with a very social vibe. The building is kind of old but it’s great value and even has onsite parking for free! A dorm bed here will cost you around $28 NZD per night!
Melbourne Lodge – $$
Another beautiful hotel that is located in the heart of Queenstown. What I love about this place is it sits on the end of Queenstown near the airport meaning that you never have to drive through town to visit the ski fields or many major attractions. It’ll save you time and all-round it’s a fantastic place to stay! Rooms here can be as little as $130 NZD per night!
Rydges – $$
I haven’t actually stayed at the Rydges but my brother has. He recommends it as one fo the best places to stay in Queenstown for location, price, and amenities! Surprisingly, rooms start at only $150 NZD per night here.
If you want to be close to town then you can’t pass on the Novatel. It’s literally right in the town center near the bustling beach and walking streets. Great hotel, great location, and all-around a great place to stay! Rooms start at $225 NZD.
Bailey and I spent our anniversary at the Hilton and really loved our stay. It’s located a little out of town but they run a free shuttle every 30 minutes. The rooms are beautiful in classic Hilton-style and to me, it’s great value starting at $225 NZD per night.
If you want more information on the different areas to stay in Queenstown and more options for hotels, then check out our blog about where to stay in Queenstown!
Note: When booking hotels we always use Booking.com. The reason? They are almost always cheaper (we have booked over 250 hotels with them) and if you find a better price they’ll match it guaranteed – even if it’s a special on their own website!
Thanks for reading!
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 to get the most out of your trip!
If you would like any more advice on the best tours in Queenston please reach out and we will be more than happy to help you!
We also have plenty of other guides on our Queenstown covering most all of the topics you might be interested in or have questions about. You can also check out our New Zealand page so you can start putting together a bucket list for this incredible country or choose from some of our most popular reads below: