Queenstown Itinerary: The Perfect Three Days

 The Remarkable Mountains putting on a show for the Queenstown scene

The Remarkable Mountains putting on a show for the Queenstown scene

If you’re working out your New Zealand itinerary and you find yourself with only three days allotted to time in Queenstown, don’t worry!  This post has you covered.  Whether you are passing through Queenstown on your campervan honeymoon or you’re taking a long weekend visiting from Australia or you decided to fly down from Auckland with your best friend, this three-day itinerary captures the best features of Queenstown by day and night.  I’ve got your meals covered, your activities lined up, and even your must-dos included here. You’re about to have the perfect three days Queenstown has to offer!

 Skyline luge with a view of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu

Skyline luge with a view of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu

Day 1

Breakfast: 

 Left: Almond milk cappuccino at Vudu Café  |  Right: Vudu Café decor & milk alternatives

Left: Almond milk cappuccino at Vudu Café  |  Right: Vudu Café decor & milk alternatives

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If your hotel, hostel, Airbnb, or friend’s house does not provide breakfast, head to Vudu Café in town – a quaint, yet lively spot decorated with a rustic, natural look to make you feel right at home. Order some of the incredible buckwheat pancakes, the delicious vegan black rice & coconut pudding jar, or free-range eggs Benedict (an old, pre-vegan, favorite of mine).  Don’t forget to snag a cup of quality-made coffee.  Vudu Café is one of the best in town!  For my fellow plant-based eaters, there are lots of vegan options on their menu, so don’t worry about limited choices!

 Skippers Canyon Jet with friends

Skippers Canyon Jet with friends

Morning Activity:

Book yourself on a *jet boat and see what the hype is all about!  There are four jet boat companies located in Queenstown.  The lake-going companies are K-Jet and Thunder Jet, both an hour-long ride around Lake Wakatipu and down the Kawarau River. 

Expect to have an absolute ball zipping around doing 180˚ spins (don’t worry, it’s highly unlikely you’ll get sea sick or soaking wet) and seeing Queenstown from a different angle. 

The two other jet-boat companies: Shotover Jet and Skipper’s Canyon Jet are a bit different.  These are both slightly out of the town center, but the effort is worth it.  Shotover Jet, including transportation, is an hour and a half experience in total (30 minute boat ride) along the beautifully blue Shotover River. 

Skipper’s Canyon Jet, a personal favorite of mine, is a three-hour journey into – you guessed it – Skipper’s Canyon!  You’ll see Lord of the Ring’s filming locations, drive along New Zealand’s most dangerous cliff-side road, and go deeper into the canyon than even most locals do!

Lunch/Brunch:

Once you’re back in town and have a good adrenaline buzz on, walk over to Yonder and try to snag a table outside (unless it’s the dead of winter!).  Enjoy their eclectic and innovative menu full of uniquely delightful options.  They cater to all dietary requirements and have choices for everyone, which is why they’re my favorite place to eat in town!  The staff are always so friendly (they’re usually your pal by the end of your meal) and the atmosphere is modern and thoughtful.  If you’re a foodie, expect to get an amazing presentation with kick ass backdrops from all angles.

 Ancient Grain Salad at Yonder

Ancient Grain Salad at Yonder

Afternoon Activity:

Once you’ve had a good laugh over your morning thus far and feel full and satisfied, meander towards Queenstown Hill – a must-do during your visit!  It’s a pretty easy hike, so don’t stress if you aren’t the most athletic.  You can walk off your lunch cruising along the winding pathways and up to the Basket of Dreams.  Soak in the views; you’ve earned it.  Take a moment to breath Queenstown’s incredible air and feel grateful for the place you get to be for three unforgettable days. Feeling ambitious?  Walk all the way to the top and check out the panorama in all directions.  It’s not one you’ll forget easily.

Dinner:

Head back to your temporary abode, have a shower, and get ready for an evening experience unlike the rest.  Make your way to the lakefront and prepare to board the most beautiful boat in the lake, *The TSS Earnslaw.  This majestic vessel, built in 1912 (same year at the Titanic!), is the only coal-fired steamship in the southern hemisphere still used for commercial passenger-carrying use (source).

 AJ Hackett Social Club event on the TSS Earnslaw

AJ Hackett Social Club event on the TSS Earnslaw

The TSS Earnslaw (or “Earnie” as we call her) will glide across Lake Wakatipu in style and dock at Walter Peak High Country Farm for a gourmet barbecue buffet dinner at the Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant.  Most of us locals believe it’s the best meal in Queenstown, especially when the four-hour experience includes unlimited local produce, fresh ingredients, and an after-dinner farm show.

After-dinner Activity:

While your happy bellies digest your meal, sip on a cocktail near the piano lounge or take a peek into the engine room and learn a bit about how the vintage vessel works.  Once you’re docked and disembarked, make your way through the back alleys of town for a nightcap.  Sip on some well-crafted, quality drinks, enjoy an after-dinner wine off of a very impressive list, or select from a range of beers at Queenstown’s “Old School Cool” spot, The Bunker.  Soak in your first day sitting by the fire relaxing to the easy-listening sounds of their late night house music and get ready for another perfect day.

Day 2

Today will need a bit of planning in advance, but nothing too complicated.  Depending on the dynamic of your group, your tour choice will vary.  Either way, you’re headed to Arrowtown!

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Breakfast:

If your hotel, hostel, Airbnb, or friend’s house does not provide breakfast, head out to Arrowtown’s famous Chop Shop for a vegan-friendly meal.  The Chop Shop Food Merchant has a fantastic variety of breakfast items and coffee to write home about. 

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Their breakfast rivals Martha Stewart or handsome Curtis Stone's best creations and will leave you over-the-moon happy with your choice, regardless of what it is.  The menu may change throughout the year, but the quality does not waiver.  From my experience, my personal favorites have been the breakfast burrito, eggs Benedict (consumed before I became vegan), and the nutty, sweet pancakes.

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All Day Activity:

After a stroll down Arrowtown’s adorable main street, grab a couple of bikes for your *trip through the Central Otago wineries!  You can start in Arrowtown and cycle to the wineries where you finish the excursion with a glass of wine and lunch at Gibbson Valley Winery. 

Or, you can get yourself to Gibbston Valley Winery, hire bikes there, and make your way through the valley on a self-guided adventure.  If biking isn't your thing, but wine-drinking is, you can book a tour with Queenstown Wine Trail and get a guided experience through the valley from vineyard to vineyard. 

Make sure you stop to watch some crazy hooligans bungy jumping at the world’s first commercialized bungy site, the Kawarau Bridge!

 Gibbston Valley Bike Hire

Gibbston Valley Bike Hire

 Peregrine Wines

Peregrine Wines

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Lunch/Nibbles:

Depending on which tour you book or biking arrangements, your lunch may or may not be included.  If it’s not a part of your package, I recommend having lunch at Gibbston Tavern, nibbles at Gibbston Valley Cheesery, or a post-wine-cave sit-down at Gibbston Valley Winery restaurant. 

Personal recommendation if you have freedom and flexibility with your wine tasting/lunch: Wet Jacket Wines (my favorite winery in all of Otago).  With their recent addition of food trucks to complement their wines, you can’t beat the picturesque seating area nestled under the willow tree adjacent to the woolshed.  Be sure to snag yourself a bottle of the Wet Jacket Wines Pinot Noir no matter what!

 Wet Jacket Wines

Wet Jacket Wines

Dinner:

After a full day of wine tasting and cellar touring, find safe transportation back to Queenstown to prep yourselves for a stunning lake-view meal.  You have a variety of restaurants to choose from, but my waterfront favorite is Ivy & Lola's.  They have meals for all diets and a priceless view.

Alternatively, located along Frankton Road, perched atop a green hillside overlooking Lake Wakatipu, is one of my favorite restaurants and venues in Queenstown, Sherwood.  This establishment seeks to connect you to your dining experience with a thoughtful menu and intriguing wine pairing process.  There are vegan and vegetarian options, which are especially abundant in the summer months.

If, by chance, you were having too much fun in Gibbston Valley and don’t want to go far, consider making reservations at Amisfield Bistro and partake in the “Trust the Chef” with wine-pairing dinner they put on.  It’s a bit pricey, but I can guarantee you get your money’s worth!

After-dinner Activity:

Order yourselves a teapot or two at World Bar or a money shot at Bar Up and let the funky jams ease you onto the dance floor for a boogie (or karaoke!).  If that’s not your type of scene, try the vibes at No5 Church Lane or Habana Bar for a more chilled out experience.

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Day 3

Bring on the adrenaline today!  Sign up for a *bungy, swing, zipride, zipline, skydive, paraglide, etc.  You watched some people jump yesterday, now it’s your turn!  You’ve come to the land of adrenaline junkies and people pushing themselves out of their comfort zone, you have to do the same!  That’s what Queenstown is all about.  There are adrenaline-pumping activities for all ages, shapes, and sizes. 

I highly recommend AJ Hackett Bungy – shameless plug for me really seeing as I work for them – and any of their products!  Despite the fact that I’m a little biased, I genuinely believe their products are some of the greatest and safest in the world. With a 100% safety record (the stats don’t lie!), six different products, and outstanding customer service, you won’t be let down with your AJHB experience.  Trust me!

 Ledge Bungy 400 meters above Queenstown

Ledge Bungy 400 meters above Queenstown

Breakfast:

If your hotel, hostel, Airbnb, or friend’s house does not provide breakfast, have something light at Bespoke Café, Queenstown Bakery (I’ve always thought its name was Kai Pai, but that just means “This work is good” in Māori), or the classic Fergbaker.

 Bespoke Kitchen

Bespoke Kitchen

Morning Activity:

Go on the aforementioned thrill-seeking adventure and have the time of your life!  Make sure you get lots of photos and use all the best hashtags to show off your experience to your friends.  Use #cravingapeace if you took me up on any of the suggested activities or meal spots in this article!

Be proud of yourself for doing something epic and pushing your boundaries.   You only life once, so you need to seize the day while you’re alive!

Lunch:

Now that you’ve done something crazy and you’re starting to crash, find your way to the line at Ferg Burger (yes, the line sucks, but it’s a Queenstown “must do”) and grab a big, famous patty -- meat or veggie.  For the rebels and ones who don’t care to wait in the line (I don’t blame you), head over to Devil Burger and stuff your face with their RIDICULOUSLY GOOD curry chips and a burger to pair.  A lot of us locals think Devil Burger is better than Ferg, but it’s one of those on-going never-settled debates.

 Famous Ferg Burger!

Famous Ferg Burger!

Afternoon Activity:

I won’t make you go on a hike again after you eat, but I do recommend taking a stroll through Queenstown and doing some souvenir shopping.  Everyone back home will ask you about your time here and to sooth their jealousy, you can grab them some local honey (not very vegan of me to suggest that), lavender products, stuffed animal kiwi birds, iconic postcards with the Remarkables from all angles, Pounamu stone, pāua shells, kiwi playing cards, or classic kiwi keychains.

 One of the many gift shops in Queenstown

One of the many gift shops in Queenstown

After you’ve ticked that off the list, go on a walk around Queenstown Botanical Gardens and digest what the last few days has been as you take in the remarkable scene (see what I did there?).

 Nice idea on a hot summer day in Queenstown

Nice idea on a hot summer day in Queenstown

Head to your hotel, hostel, Airbnb, etc. for an early evening freshen up.  Once you’ve regrouped, visit Surreal Rooftop Bar for a sunset cocktail or a cheeky coffee to pick you back up on Perky’s floating boat bar.

Dinner:

SkylineQueenstown.jpg

Mosey up to the Skyline Gondola and hop into a floating chariot of glass to the top of the Skyline complex for a *dinner in the sky.  The Skyline buffet is just the perfect way to round out your three action-packed days of adventure.  Positioned just above Queenstown, you can watch the sun setting over town as you dig into a buffet fit for royalty.  This classic dinner spot is a must during your three days in Queenstown, even if it’s not on the last night.

Note: Head up the gondola a bit earlier if you want to luge before dinner!

After-dinner Activity:

If you’re in Queenstown for winter, I recommend checking out the *Stargazing hosted by Skyline Queenstown.  It’s tough to stargaze in summer as the sun stays up until nearly 11 o’clock at night.  I also suggest you check out the Māori Culture Show, which includes the traditional haka performed live by the Kapa Haka group.

For one last nightcap, stick your head into the Little Blackwood or Barmuda for a digestif before heading to bed after your three perfect days in Queenstown.

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You’ve done it!  You’ve squeezed in as many of the classic Queenstown must-dos as you could in your three days.  You may be exhausted, but it’s well worth it. 

If you’re here in winter, substitute the biking-through-the-winery day for a day on the mountains!  Take a ski or snowboard lesson or show off your skills in the park. There’s no shortage of fun to be had on the Queenstown slopes.

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If you liked what you read here, please comment below.  If you have any suggestions on how to improve this itinerary, let me know!  Hey, that rhymes!

Enjoy your trip to Queenstown!  You’re in for a real treat.

NOTE: * = Be sure to book in advance for the best rates and your desired availability


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Kelsey PowellComment