Have a few days in the adventure capital of the world? I’ve had the pleasure (and yes, sometimes pain) of living in this tourist trap for the past year and here’s some of the most popular activities in town:
It all begins with throwing yourself off a cliff/ bridge/ ledge or whatever the hell takes your fancy. The biggest company and founder of the first ever commercial bungy site back in 1988, is AJ Hackett. It’s a brand name you’ll hear a lot of in Queenstown as it offers both the oldest bungy in the world, as well as the highest in New Zealand and for the highest price too… $275 (£135) to be exact. AJ Hackett also offers a number of different activities if bungy isn’t for you – this comes in the form of a human catapult or enormous swing. However, if swinging is your thing (not that kind!) I’d recommend the company ‘Shotover Canyon Swing & Fox’ as this offers a more quirky and unique experience.
The staff are pleasant and encouraging for any naturally nervy customers and there are many different ways in which you can jump off the 60 metre cliff; one which springs to mind is with a giant rubbish bin over your head – the affectionately named Binladen. Their ‘fox’ experience is also a great thrill without the extremity of a full blown cliff jump, this is a 182 metre high zipline which begins with a 6 metre drop over the Shotover Gorge. Additionally, the two can be booked together as a combo deal which saves a few pennies too!
A well known favourite in the Queenstown area is jet boating. This was invented by Sir William Hamilton back in the 1950s and its popularity rings through to today with several companies operating in the local area. The most renowned is the Shotover Jet which was opened back in 1965 but there are a variety of companies which offer different aspects for individuals to enjoy. This is how I would narrow them down:
- Skipper’s Canyon – Best all rounder
- Shotover Jet – Best for thrills
- Dart River Jet – Best for scenery
- K Jet – Best for combo deals
- Go Orange Jet – Best for value
One of the jet boating companies; Dart River Adventures also offer a ‘Funyaking’ tour which is claimed to be the best excursion in Queenstown. I’d say this was a fair judgement as the tour includes both a jet boat at the beginning, for wonderful views of the appropriately named ‘Paradise’ scenic area (a 45 minute drive from Queenstown). This is followed by a kayaking tour with your personal guide down the Rockburn and Ribean rivers. It’s certainly an active day out as you and your kayaking partner have to rely on each other to try and steer the blow up vessel away from piles of rocks and trees, the logistics usually not ending as graceful as you would hope. Dart River Adventures also provide a horse trekking experience for those who wish to enjoy the classic South Island scenery with less of the manual labour.
Nomad Safaris is a favourable tour company for those who appreciate cinema and the well known Lord of the Rings franchise. Their off-road jeeps are a fun and unconventional way of getting round, with a few different locations to choose from. You will get your own personal and knowledgeable tour guide but word to the wise: avoid sitting in the back of the car as you plough through the bumpy rivers and roads because if you’re 6ft tall or weak-bladdered, you’re buggared.
For something more family orientated and close to town, you can pay for a visit up the local gondola for fantastic views over Queenstown and a chance to take a few spins on the luge. The luge is a self controlled cart which speeds down on two different tracks for customers to try out. The gondola also has a buffet style restaurant at the top of the hill which is pricey but a good option for anyone who wishes to splurge on lunch or dinner with a nice view. Also running from the wooded area surrounding the hill, is Ziptrek Ecotours. Essentially a tree top playground, this is New Zealand’s original Zip tour company which, much like what the rest of this little town has to offer, has a spectacular setting for your daytime activity.
Something else worth looking into is the ‘G Force Paragliding’ in which you take a leap of faith off this same cliff face and descend down into Queenstown. People can be seen on a daily basis swooping through the air and performing acrobatics above the rooftops – something for the not so faint-hearted! Or if you wish to go even higher, Queenstown has a couple of sky diving businesses knocking around town for those who love to feel the rush of throwing themselves out of a tiny plane. There is even an indoor sky diving centre for those who wish to remain on solid ground. Now for a relaxing way to end your day, the Onsen Hot Pools are large cedar tubs where guests can unwind with a glass of bubbles overlooking the Shotover River – perfect for those who have gone overhaul on the adrenaline pumping activities!
Queenstown is a great little place if you plan to stay for a few days and want your itinerary packed to the brim. There are certainly enough activities to keep all ages interested. Just be warned, I’d make sure you have the majority of your spending money saved for this town because if the nightly bar crawls don’t chew you up and spit you out, the prices will!