The best places to visit in Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown is a world-class destination famed for its spectacular scenery and adrenaline-fuelled pursuits. This is our guide to the best places to indulge in some fireside comfort and celebrate the art of après-ski in Central Otago.
Penthouse balcony view at Eichardt's Private Hotel in Queenstown, New Zealand
Penthouse balcony view at Eichardt's Private Hotel in Queenstown, New Zealand

Nothing clears the head quite like the bright skies and crisp air of a near-freezing morning in Queenstown. A few deep breaths are all it takes to feel refreshed and revitalised, ready to take on the day ahead. Which is just as well, as the region is home to some of the world’s best pinot noir and the tendency to overindulge soars as the temperature drops.

Of course, you don’t need to spend your days blasting down the region’s ski fields to enjoy a winter escape in Queenstown, although it does add a certain satisfaction as you treat yourself to a venison steak dinner or while away an afternoon wine-tasting through the Gibbston Valley.

In fact, the longer you spend exposed to that fresh, bracing air, the more decadent it feels when you find your way back to an open fire or sink yourself into a steaming hot bath or spa pool. Here, we explore the best places to eat, drink, stay and play in and around Queenstown.

Best Queenstown accommodation

Two orange arm chairs in a cosy looking room at Queenstown hotel, Eichardt's Private Hotel New Zealand
Parlour Room at Eichardt’s Private Hotel, Queenstown New Zealand.

QT Queenstown

Considered by many to be the jewel in QT’s crown of trans-Tasman boutique hotels, this lakefront property serves up postcard views of Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountain ranges, just a crisp 10-minute stroll from the town centre. Light, bright rooms set this property apart from the moody aesthetic found in other QT properties.

Gibbston Valley Lodge & Spa

If big skies and open space are more your scene, Gibbston Valley Lodge & Spa is the place for you. Just a 20-minute drive from the airport – and 30 minutes from the nearest ski field – the luxury lodge opened in late 2019 becoming the newest addition to the popular winery, which is one of the region’s founding vineyards. All of the resort’s 24 private villas feature open gas fireplaces and are located just a short walk from the winery’s cellar door and cheesery. Guests can choose to dine at the lodge’s private restaurant or head into nearby Arrowtown. For those seeking deep relaxation, the resort’s spa is world-class and as popular with locals as it is with guests. Plus, there are two secluded hot pools available for guests to soak up the sweeping views of the valley.

Eichardt’s Private Hotel

Plenty of places lay claim to lakefront views in Queenstown, where the town stretches along the shores of Lake Wakatipu. But none shares the absolute lakefront positioning – and accompanying views – of Eichardt’s Private Hotel, built on the site of Queenstown’s first building (a woolshed-turned-hotel). As the town has continued to sprawl outwards, Eichardt’s remains the most exclusive address for those wanting to stay in the heart of the bustling town centre, while still offering a calm oasis of classic luxury. Each of the hotel’s seven suites offers picture-postcard views and open fireplaces, while the two-bedroom penthouse includes a full-service kitchen (complete with Gaggenau appliances), plus an outdoor lounge, fireplace and hot tub, all overlooking the lake. Add to that your own private sauna and you’ll be hard pressed to ever make it up the mountain.

The Spire Hotel

Tucked away down one of Queenstown’s three bijoux laneways, The Spire Hotel offers sleek modern luxury and open gas fireplaces to keep you warm and well-rested. Its central location is perfect for those wanting to make the most of Queenstown’s après-ski culture, while providing a cocoon of calm serenity behind closed doors.


A former ’80s motor inn, this lakeside hotel has been renovated to offer simple yet sleek accommodation with alpine views. Similar to the wave of retro surf motels taking over Australia’s coastal towns, Sherwood combines sustainability and eco-design with a touch of rock n roll. Its in-house restaurant is also well worth a visit.

Looking for more top-tier Queenstown accommodation? See our edit of the best Queenstown Airbnbs to book.

Best Queenstown restaurants

Ayrburn dining precinct in Arrowtown, near Queenstown New Zealand
Ayrburn, Queenstown. Photo: Chris Meehan


One of the most ambitious hospitality projects to ever land in New Zealand is now open in one of the country’s most picturesque settings. Located between the charming historic village of Arrowtown and the pristine shores of Lake Hayes, Ayrburn serves up majestic views of Aotearoa’s Southern Alps – including Coronet Peak and The Remarkables – from across a manicured estate, which was first established as one of the area’s earliest sheep farms in 1864. Today, those original farm buildings have been painstakingly refurbished as part of a $184 million development to house five unique venues – with a further three still to come.

Just a 25-minute drive from Queenstown (with shuttle buses available), the destination dining precinct is home to The Manure Room (wine bar), The Burr Bar (cocktail bar), The Barrel Room (private dining and wine cellar), The Dairy (ice creamery) and The Woolshed (casual dining). They will shortly be joined by The Bakehouse (café and deli) and R.M Specialty Meats (butcher) mid-year before a signature fine-diner completes in the offering towards the end of the year.


Chef Vaughan Mabee’s food looks like the fantasies of a twisted taxidermist. Duck heads stare blankly at the ceiling. Deer antlers drip what appears to be blood. Severed green fish heads hold what looks like tiny ice creams in their open mouths. It looks like Dark MOFO on a plate.

What you can’t see through Instagram, though, is that every mouthful of this extraordinary meal – without exception – is delicious in a way that will have you gripping the edge of the table. The ‘blood’ in the antlers is a plush, sensual deer milk ice-cream topped with a sauce of local berries, ones that make up part of the deer’s diet. The seaweed tuille cornets inside the fish mouths were filled with delicate pieces of greenbone, also known as butterfish, kicked into gear with horseradish and parsley powder.

Mabee, who currently sits at number 44 on the Top 100 World’s Best Chef Awards – the first New Zealand chef to make the list – can cook. The menagerie isn’t there to shock or appal but to tell the unflinching story of the land on which this boundary-obliterating chef lives, works, hunts and gathers.

“What I make is borderline art,” says Mabee. “And there are few chefs who make art that tastes as good as it looks.”

Bannockburn Hotel

Locals will be furious for us sharing this inside secret (which sits a solid hour’s drive from Queenstown or 40 minutes from Arrowtown) but we would be remiss not to mention this hidden gem, which arguably sports the best wine list in all New Zealand. Just a stone’s throw from Bannockburn’s famed Felton Road – home to some of the region’s most acclaimed wineries – you’ll find the dining room and sprawling garden peppered with winemakers and industry experts. Paired with a perfectly executed menu of Spanish small plates made from local produce, the only thing more glorious than sipping a glass of 2017 Felton Road Bannockburn Pinot Noir (sold out universally yet somehow available here by the glass) is pairing it with the spectacular views across the Bannockburn Valley and Kawarau River.

Mora Wines & Artisan Kitchen

Whether you’re looking for brunch, lunch or just a cheese platter to graze on, Mora (formerly Akarua Wines) serves up some of Queenstown’s best all-day dining in one of the prettiest settings. The kitchen and dining room is housed in a heritage cottage, while outside a large alfresco courtyard is kept toasty with open fire pits and a cellar door.


Supporting the argument that Queenstown’s best restaurants aren’t found in Queenstown at all, Aosta continues to lead the charge as one of the region’s most in-demand dinner bookings.  Executive chef Ben Bayly – the creative force behind some of the country’s best restaurants –  is responsible for a menu of northern Italian classics, combined with local New Zealand produce. Think kina [sea urchin] pappardelle with shaved paua [abalone], followed by lamb involtino or wagyu bavette with caponata. Now open seven days, you will find sibling venues Little Aosta, serving up pizza, pasta and Spritz, and Blue Door Bar, serving up cocktails and killer snacks, sharing the same historic alleyway.

Blue Kanu

When you want to combine great food with good times, Blue Kanu is the place to take your party. Blending Pasifika and Asian flavours to create their own unique style of cooking, which they like to call “Polynasia”, Blue Kanu serves up tasty tropical fun, no matter how cold it is outside.

The Boat Shed

For the best breakfast (or lunch) with a view, you’ll need to hop in a car and head out of town, until you reach The Boat Shed. Housed in the old Railway Shipping Office, this lakeside café and bistro dishes up generous serves that are as pretty as the surrounding views.


You don’t have to spend a lot to eat well in Queenstown, especially if you can grab a stool at Tanoshi. The small but mighty teppan bar serves up ramen and donburi for lunch, before switching to a menu of Japanese tapas for dinner. If you can’t get into the restaurant, they have a separate take-out bar, Tanoshi Iko, just up the road.

Best Queenstown bars and drinking spots

Cocktails and snacks at The Lodge Bar in Queenstown New Zealand
The Lodge Bar

The Winery

If neither time nor weather are on your side, The Winery is the perfect one-stop shop to sample wines from throughout the region – as well as a few further afield. With two locations (one in Queenstown, one in Arrowtown), The Winery’s unique self-serve dispensers are both fun and convenient, allowing you to select either a taste, half glass or full glass from a wide range of New Zealand wines, while an electronic card keeps track of your tab. Be sure to chat to the staff, who really know their stuff and will happily guide you through the regions. Once you’ve found a favourite, order a cheese board and make the most of the open fireplace.

The Lodge Bar

For fireside comfort and exceptional snacks – courtesy of executive chef Matt Lambert, who held a Michelin star at his New York restaurant The Musket Room for seven years – The Lodge Bar is a favourite with locals and visitors alike.

The Bunker

The scene of many an after-party, The Bunker has been serving up quality cocktails and late-night thrills for nearly 30 years. It’s hidden location only adds to its allure, ensuring those not in the know (or too inebriated to use Google Maps) won’t crash the party.


What’s better than sampling the wines of Central Otago’s best vineyard? Sampling the wines of five of Central Otago’s best vineyards. Just a 30-minute drive from central Queenstown will land you in the heart of Gibbston Valley, where you will find the Kinross cellar door, representing five of the region’s leading boutique wineries, including Coal Pit, Wild Irishman, Valli, Hawkshead and Kinross. With a team of expert sommeliers to guide you through your tasting, you’ll need to book ahead to ensure you don’t miss out.

Things to do in Queenstown

Person soaking at Onsen Hot Pools with mountainous views in Queenstown New Zealand.
Onsen Hotel Pools, Queenstown New Zealand.

Scenic flight

The only thing more impressive than marvelling at the Southern Alps from the ground, is marvelling at them from the air. Get up close and personal with Queenstown’s magnificent mountains, offering unobstructed views. A one-hour flight will take you over five of the region’s glaciers, or you can spend the morning in Milford Sound and add on a two-hour nature cruise with Southern Discoveries, to experience the natural wonder up close. Book a Queenstown scenic flight now.

Gibbston River Trail

Every seasoned skier knows the only way to stop those leg muscles seizing up is to keep moving. Grab a bike and peddle through Gibbston Valley, with pit stops at various cellar doors along the way. The road up to Chard Farm – overlooking The Kawarau River – offers some of the most spectacular views in the region, while Mt Rosa Wines is famous for warming visitors with their signature mulled wine. The full trail is nine kilometres of easy riding, starting at Kawarau Suspension Bridge, with many operators offering pick-up and drop-off options.

Onsen Hot Pools

Plenty of hotels offer their own private spas and saunas, but none can compete with the scenic drama of Onsen Hot Pools, overlooking the Shotover River. Instagram has made this spot a Queenstown cliché but nothing can diminish the joy of peeling off your thermals after a long day on Coronet Peak and stepping into this bubbling nirvana. Plan ahead to book your spot at Onsen Hot Pools, as this is one of the hottest tickets in town.

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