Set amidst the enchanting Wakatipu lake and the accurately named ‘Remarkables’ Mountain range, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was purely the natural beauty of Queenstown that makes it menacingly encapsulating, but, alas! The spectacular scenery merely provides an outstanding backdrop for the wonders within! Queenstown is known for its many activities, from skiing, parapenting, hang gliding to skydiving, and Frisbee golf to its incredible nightlife, as much as it’s known for its enchanting landscape.
10 Key Things about Queenstown, New Zealand
1. History of Queenstown
Queenstown, initially valued for its moa (a flightless bird) and pounamu (a green gemstone), prospered under a gold rush in the 1800s. Today, it is one of the world’s finest premier alpine resorts. Early Maori expeditioners to Queenstown came in search of pounamu, or greenstone, a nephrite jade. It is a semi-precious stone of huge cultural importance to the Maori people. In the 1800s, the Europeans found gold and the gold rush began in 1862. Within a year Queenstown was a mining town with streets, permanent buildings and a population of several thousand. It was declared ‘fit for a queen’ by the NZ government and hence, Queenstown was born. Today, gold is still mined in the region, but typically with heavy machinery. Since then, they came to the area seasonally to hunt and gather these greenstones. Expeditions continued up until the middle of the 19th century. By 1900, the gold had petered out and the population was a mere 190. It wasn’t until the 1950s that Queenstown became a popular holiday destination.
2. Night Life in Queenstown
Queenstown has some of the best options to enjoy your nights in New Zealand. Below Zero Ice, The Bunker, The World, Subculture, Surreal and Tardis are just some of the bars and night clubs in the city.
Below Zero Ice bar has been hand-sculpted by two of the world’s top ice carvers from North America. The walls, bar, furniture, sculptures and the glasses containing legendary vodka cocktails are created from ice. You will be astonished to see a real gas fireplace and a life size gondola made from ice. The Bunker is a rather small bar hidden behind rustic walls, but, here comes the surprise- the cocktails are to die for! The World bar always has a charged up atmosphere with foot-tapping music and a dance floor. The eclectic décor will keep you awestruck for some time after you enter through its doors. Surreal is a bar-cum-restaurant which occasionally hosts live gigs. Subculture is an underground bar that is also famous for its great music and live acts. Are you a fan of hip-hop music? Do not miss out Tardis, the ‘ultimate’ bar popular for its Jäger Fridge kept at a temperature of -17°C.
3. Safety in Queenstown
Queenstown is a relatively safe town. However, visitors should still take care to ensure their own personal safety. Many of the other people in town are also visitors. The most common offence committed against tourists in the Queenstown are car break-ins. Remember to always lock your doors and do not leave valuables in your vehicle or unattended.
4. Living Expenses in Queenstown
The rent of an apartment (one bedroom) in the city centre would be approximately 1,868 NZ$ (USD 1239). The same outside the city centre would cost you nearly 1000 NZ$ (USD 663). Those of you who are planning to shift to the city could consider buying an apartment at the price of 10,000 NZ$ (USD 6633.5) per sq.m. in the city centre or at 6500 NZ$ (USD 4312) outside the city centre. The average cost of basic utilities for an 85 sq.m. apartment is 106.25 NZ$ (USD 71).
The tariff for budget hotels is in the range of 150-175 NZ$ (USD 100 to USD 116) whereas luxury hotels will cost you anywhere between 200-3000 NZ$ (USD 133 to USD 1990) per night.
5. Cuisines of Queenstown
With a wide selection of top restaurants to choose from, you’ll be spoilt for choice when dining out in Queenstown. The first dish on your ‘must try’ list should be their Ferg burger. Restaurants are of international standards, offering local and ethnic cuisines from award-winning chefs. In addition to excellent food, Queenstown restaurants offer superb local wines, striking views and exceptional services.
Taco Medic, Pedro’s House of Lamb, Eichardt’s, Bespoke Kitchen, Vknow and Caribe Latin are the best restaurants in the city. Local chefs are passionate about the region’s produce, and seasonal menus are often inspired by fresh whitebait, venison, Cardrona valley merino lamb, wild pheasant, and locally-grown vegetables and stone fruit. One restaurant that stands out from all others is Rata for the sole reason that its head chef is a Michelin star chef. Eating in this ‘candy store’ is an absolute delight. Amisfield Winery and Gibbston Valley are famous for their wide variety of wines. Remember to sample their world class pinot noir wine in one of the picturesque vineyards.
The city has no shortage of tasty dishes and drool worthy drinks to grab your attention. Queenstown is fast becoming a world class destination for food and wine.
6. Statistics of Queenstown
The Queenstown-Lakes District has a land area of 8,704.97 square kilometres not counting its inland lakes. It has an estimated population of 32,400 (as of June, 2015). Apart from English, the next most common language spoken in Queenstown-Lakes District is French, which is spoken by 2.9 percent of people. For New Zealand as a whole, the most common language apart from English is Māori, spoken by 4.1 percent of people. Astonishingly, 25.7 percent of the people in Queenstown-Lakes District were born overseas and 70 percent of Queenstown’s population is of European ethnicity. Close to 23 percent of the population are Roman Catholics.
7. Public transport in Queenstown
Transport in Queenstown is modern, friendly and most importantly- affordable. Queenstown’s public transport options include buses, taxis, trains, flights or ferries. Alternatively, you may hire a car or a motorbike. Taking a bus is the most preferred way to go around the city. Connectabus runs a daily passenger service that services all major hotels and motels every 20 minutes, and also Queenstown Airport. You can buy a ticket at the stand outside O’Connells shopping centre in town, or when you board a bus. Adult fares start from 4.5 NZ$ (USD 3) and the fare for a child is 3.5 NZ$ (USD 2.32). You can purchase a GoCard to get a discount of 10% or a seven day pass that will enable you to enjoy unlimited travel for a week at a nominal rate of 47 NZ$ ( USD 31) for adults and 30 NZ$ (USD 20) for children.
8. Weather of Queenstown
Queenstown has four distinct seasons. Enjoy the outdoors during the summer season which has long, warm days, while in autumn, you can enjoy the sight of red and gold blanketing the hills. If you visit Queenstown in winters, you’ll be left awestruck at the sight of the stunning snow-capped mountains and green valleys. In spring, the area looks like a painting.
Spring: September-November; Average high: 21°C; Average low: 10°C
Summer: December-February; Average high: 28°C; Average low: 21°C
Autumn: March-May; Average high: 23°C; Average low: 15°C
Winter: June-August; Average high: 6°C; Average low: -1°C
9. Culture of Queenstown
The culture of Queenstown is largely inherited from British, Oceanian and European customs, interwoven with Maori and Polynesian tradition. Experience Maori culture through unique dances and plays performed by Queenstown’s leading cultural group- Kapa Haka. Kiwi Haka is another group whose performances will take you through the authentic and spiritual culture and customs of Maoris. Located in the Skyline complex at the top of the gondola overlooking Queenstown, Kiwi Haka can be enjoyed with the gondola ride only or with dinner in the Skyline Restaurant. Reservations are essential. Popular New Zealand music has been influenced by blues, jazz, country, rock and roll and hip hop.
10. Places to Visit in Queenstown
Things to do in Queenstown: Ride the Skyline Gondola up Bob’s Peak to photograph the iconic view of Queenstown found on every Queenstown postcard. You won’t be disappointed. While up at the Skyline Ridge, ride the chairlift to the top and luge down the racing tracks with spectacular views everywhere you look. Those who appreciate a supersized dose of adrenaline will be happy to discover all kinds of heart-pumping adventurous activities to indulge in, including death-defying jet boat rides through narrow canyons and the highest bungee-jump in the country.
Established in 1975, the Queenstown Winter Festival, held every year in June, has grown to become one of the largest winter parties in the Southern Hemisphere. The opening party on June 19 kicks off with a fantastic fireworks display over Lake Wakatipu.The ten day affair attracts more than 45,000 people from around the world to come and take part in the festivities. If you decide to Visit Queensland during this time, you’ll be left mesmerised by the snapshot of Queenstown’s unique culture along with wining and fine dining with a cast of global party characters. During the day, you’ll have the chance to bear witness to events such as Mountain Bikes on Snow, a competitive event that sees cyclists competing with each other to navigate a frozen mountainous course. For those travelling with family, be sure to take the young ones to the ice rink or the much-anticipated Festival Street Parade. The festivities continue when the sun goes down, as a rotating ensemble of bands and DJs keep the tunes pumping long into the night. There’s also a great line up of comic acts by local and international comedians to entertain you.
Things to do for Kids in Queenstown: Attractions for children include ice skating throughout the year at the Queenstown Fun Centre in the gardens, Skyline gondola and the TSS Earnslaw Steamship / Walter Peak High Country Farm. Alpine Aqualand is Queenstown’s new aquatic centre for having fun with the whole family. A large, indoor heated swimming facility, it includes a 30 metre training/racing pool, a large fun pool for adults and children along with hydroslides. If your kids love watching Discovery Channel and Nat Geo, do take them to the Kiwi & Birdlife Park. The shy and quiet kiwis, keas (the only parrot species living in the mountains and glaciers), the very rare black stilts, morepork and tuatara (if you’re lucky enough) will make your children jump in glee.
Museums and Galleries: Museums & galleries in Queenstown are worth exploring to see just how the local landscape still inspires people today. Queenstown’s museums showcase their rich Maori, European and natural heritage. Browse through the fascinating replicas, re-enactments, exhibitions, videos and other objects which bring their natural, cultural, social, military and historical events to life. In the CBD, you’ll find Queenstown Fine Art Gallery and Central Art Galleries, both known for their exhibitions by New Zealand’s renowned artists, and worth investigating if you have a penchant for collecting original souvenirs. Vesta is an intriguing mix of museum, cafe and design space, with always something different to see. Artbay is a gallery inside the famous Mountaineer Building with some innovative paintings and sculptures.
The most fascinating museum in the area is the Lakes District Museum in Arrowtown. Here, you’ll find out all about Queenstown’s old mining heritage, the Chinese community and the development of New Zealand’s railways.
Places Nearby: Arrowtown is Queenstown’s closest neighbour (20 minutes’ drive) and attracts visitors from far and wide who come to explore its stunning landscape, heritage, historic buildings, museums and the great restaurants. A 45 minutes’s drive to Glenorchy will amaze you with its magnificent snow-capped mountains, pristine lakes and rivers, ancient beech forests and national parks. Those of you who are fans of the Lord of the Rings trilogy will be surprised to know that this picturesque town formed the backdrop of this film, among many others. Nestled between the Eyre Mountains and the Hector Range, the pretty township of Kingston is on the southern tip of Lake Wakatipu and on the border of Otago and Southland, just a 45 minute drive from central Queenstown. The road offers spectacular views and there are some good photo stops along the way – the best being at the top of Devil’s Staircase. Queenstown’s six spectacular golf courses all located within a 25 minutes’ drive from the centre of town, make Queenstown a must-visit golfing destination.
Offbeat: Queenstown’s stunning scenery is ideal for helicopter flights, plane flights, private heli-tours and hang gliding. Those with an appetite for adventure might prefer an aerobatic flight, parapenting or sky diving. Fishing options in Queenstown are vast with adventures ranging from dry fly fishing, spinning and trolling, wading, float tubing, backcountry fly fishing or for the ultimate Queenstown fishing trip, take a helicopter into the untouched wilderness.
Author’s Conclusion: To say that the scenery you’ll find here is among the best in the world would not be an exaggeration. Set against the backdrop of the Remarkables, alpine forests collide with lakes so still that you’d swear they were made of glass. Picture-perfect views and action-packed adventures, combined with a lively bar and restaurant scene overflowing with travellers who know how to party, make Queenstown the perfect setting for a dream-like vacation.
|Population||32,400 (approx.) as of 2015|
|Currency||New Zealand Dollar (1 USD= 1.51 NZD or CA) as of Feb, 2016|
|Time Zone||NZDT (UTC +13:00)|
|Driving||Left Hand Traffic, Right Hand driven vehicles|
|Emergency||Police, Fire, Ambulance: 111|
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