Queenstown is one of New Zealand’s major tourist centres, frequented by local tourists from all over the country as well as international tourists from all over the world.
Every year, more than 2 million tourists travel to South Island destinations for a wealth of experiences.
Queenstown is a very diverse town due to its proximity to historic towns, museums, national parks and more.
Most of these attractions are easily accessible from New Zealand’s mountain towns.
In this article, we’ve rounded up 15 of the best places to visit to help you make the most of your day trip from Queensland, New Zealand.
Wanaka is a charming lakeside town 64km from Queenstown.
During the 1 hour 30 minute drive, you will see breathtaking scenery, from crystal clear water bodies to snow-capped mountains.
The town sits in the heart of the Southern Alps, next to its namesake Lake Wanaka.
Wanaka can get quiet at times, especially during the low tourist season, making it the perfect getaway to escape the adrenaline rush of Queenstown.
There are many ideal activities for individuals and families who wish to become one with nature in this laid-back lakeside atmosphere.
Perhaps the best part of Wanaka is the hospitality of the locals.
2. Historic Arrowtown
For any ardent explorer, a trip to historic Arrowtown is a sure-fire way to learn about the fascinating history of gold mining.
Arrowtown is a 15-minute drive (21 km) from Queenstown at 21 km.
The town is home to a superb Lake District Museum.
Conveniently located between Queenstown and Wanaka, this delightful town is surrounded by trees and lush greenery that changes colour in autumn.
Wandering on both sides of the Arrow River allows you to rediscover the life once lived by thousands of Chinese miners.
While the miners are long gone, their legacy lives on.
This humble village has historic buildings lining its streets.
The main street features unique dining and shopping areas.
Arrowtown’s well-preserved gold rush community has a rich heritage, making the town one of the South Island’s iconic tourist destinations.
3. Lake District Museum
This museum is often described as one of the best small museums in New Zealand.
The museum is located in the heart of picturesque historic Arrowtown, north of Queenstown.
The Lake District Museum has a large collection of interesting artifacts, photographs and films telling the history of this beautiful Lake District.
It also doubles as Arrowtown’s information center and post office.
Some of the artifacts in the museum include major mining tools and clothing from the 18th century.
These show a true picture of early life in the area.
After visiting the fascinating Lake District Museum, visit the adjoining art gallery, which features local and international exhibitions.
In addition, there is a bookstore/gift shop attached to the museum.
4. The Catlins
The Catlins is an area on the south coast of the South Island.
This rural area has a rugged coastline full of marine wildlife, frigid beaches and native forest.
If you’re looking for real New Zealand flavours at a slower pace, you need to come to the Catlins for an amazing South Coast experience.
The wild and beautiful journey from Queenstown to the Catlins takes approximately 3.5 hours.
Catlins is an easy day trip from Queenstown where you can enjoy the marine wildlife that thrives in nutrient-rich waters.
If you’re lucky, you’ll spot New Zealand sea lions, rare yellow-eyed penguins, prized Hector’s dolphins, albatrosses, petrels and gannets.
5. Captain’s Canyon
Captain’s Gorge is approximately 30 minutes’ drive north of Queenstown.
This historic canyon is 22 kilometers long.
Captain Canyon was once a busy gold mining area and was the first site to generate hydroelectric power to sustain gold mining.
This scenic gorge was carved by one of New Zealand’s richest gold-bearing rivers, the Shotover River.
The canyon is accessible via the Captain’s Road, which is mostly one-way.
The narrow, steep Captain’s Road is one of the most treacherous and picturesque roads in New Zealand.
On your Captain’s Canyon day trip, you’ll be able to enjoy the beauty of the scenery and the thrill of the cliffside gravel road.
Suggested Tour: Captain’s Canyon Thrilling Jetboat Tour and Scenic Pickup
6. Roadburn Circuit
Do you like alpine adventures? Considered one of New Zealand’s many Great Walks, this circuit is a 45-minute drive from Queenstown.
The entire Routeburn circuit is 32 kilometers long.
Along the way, it overlaps Fiordland National Park and Mount Aspiring National Park.
If you want to extend your visit, you can hike along the track.
It takes about 2 to 3 days to complete the entire track.
The Routeburn Track has some of the greatest scenery, from huge valleys, soaring peaks and towering cliffs to lakes and waterfalls.
There are 4 cabins along the route.
Alexandra is a small town on the River Crusa.
This charming town is located at the confluence with the Manuherikia River.
Alexandra is just over an hour’s drive from Queenstown.
This underrated South Island gem is full of orchards, vineyards and a rich mining history.
If you go to Alexandra in winter, you should go to Lower Manorburn Dam, where tourists usually go to soak in some natural ice skating.
In summer and fall, the town is filled with locally grown apples, cherries, peaches and apricots.
8. Central Otago
Central Otago is less than an hour’s drive from Queenstown.
The town is known for its hospitality.
Central Otago’s motto is ‘A world like no other’.
There is a lot to explore around Central Otago in one day. There are also plenty of leisure activities for families, couples and singles.
Central Otago is a haven for all things leisure.
The area is rich in history, exotic wildlife, famous wineries (more than 80 of them) and amazing dirt tracks.
There are rich mountains and vast plateaus to explore on a 58km day trip from Queensland.
Recommended Itinerary: Boutique Winery Half-Day Tour and Vineyard Platter Lunch
9. Milford Sound
Milford Sound, also known as Piopiotahi, is a 3 hour 30 minute drive from Queensland.
Piopiotahi is known as the country’s most famous tourist destination and was once called the “Eighth Wonder of the World”.
Visit this fjord and see a wonderful waterfall bigger than Niagara Falls.
This makes the 295km journey well worth it.
Piopiotahi is located in Fiordland National Park, known for its off the beaten track.
The landscape here is spectacular: turquoise fjords, lush rainforests and spectacular sky mountains.
Amazing Trip: Milford Sound Coach Tour and Lunch Cruise from Queenstown
10. Kawarau Canyon
This major river gorge in Central Otago is of great historical importance.
Kawarau Gorge is located between Queenstown and Cromwell.
The Kawarau River flows through the canyon.
The Kawarau Gorge begins about 30 kilometers from Queenstown to Gibbston and continues for 25 kilometers, where the river flows into the Upper Crusa Valley.
The drive from Queenstown to this gorge of natural beauty, bustling with gold miners a century ago, will take you approximately 50 minutes.
During the Otago Gold Rush of the 1860s, the gorge came alive.
History buffs will need to visit Kawarau Gorge to explore the well-preserved remains of miners’ huts.
Visitors can also pan for gold at the Gold Mining Center.
Available Tours: Kawarau: Half-Day Canyoning Adventure from Queenstown
Glenorchy is 45 km from Queenstown.
This town is a true paradise in New Zealand.
Glenorchy is surrounded by magnificent snow-capped mountains, ancient beech forests, immaculate turquoise lakes and pristine rivers.
This frontier town has made a name for itself as the backdrop for several films including The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
Near this vibrant country town are Kinloch and Paradise settlements, also known for their stunning scenery.
Glenorchy continues to attract nature lovers, who tend to make several photo stops just 45 minutes from Queenstown.
Recommended Tour: Half-Day Paradise Glenorchy and Lake Wakatipu
12. Mount Aspiring National Park
Mount Aspiring National Park is located in the Southern Alps of the South Island, a 2-hour drive from Queenstown.
This national park was established in 1964 as part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Site.
Covering an area of 3,562 square kilometers, the park is the third largest park in New Zealand.
The mountain from which the park is named is Mount Aspiring, 3,033m above sea level.
People travel from Queenstown to this popular hiking and climbing destination for an extraordinary mountaineering experience.
Fiordland is a 2.5 hour drive from Queenstown.
A visit to this natural beauty will take you back to a world untouched by man.
The Fiordland is one of the largest wilderness areas in the Southern Hemisphere and has been declared a World Heritage Site.
If you want to experience one of the most remote places in the world, it’s time to start preparing for a day trip to this perfect region with the stunning Milford Sound.
The Fiordland is Fiordland National Park, made up of beautifully carved valleys, wetlands, rainforests and steep mountain landscapes.
Fly over it: Milford Sound flight cruise flight
14. Market Excellence
Unlike other popular markets around the world, Market Excellence offers the best of local and regional cuisine.
Here, you’ll find handcrafted crafts like candles and fresh produce like meat, cheese and bread that take center stage.
The market is located in Remarkable Park, east of Queenstown.
The park is open every Saturday from 9am to 2pm, October 21st to April 14th.
15. Romer Gallery
Located in the heart of Queenstown, the Romer Gallery showcases rare New Zealand landscapes.
The gallery attracts tourists seeking an artistic and cultural experience.
They come to see the amazing work of Stephan Romer, an internationally acclaimed photographer who brings us the beauty of the wilderness by capturing New Zealand’s magnificent landscapes in a unique and unique way.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Queenstown, New Zealand
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