Looking for the best day trips from Queenstown? I’ve got you covered!
As a New Zealander who lives in Auckland, I’m fortunate that Queenstown is only a short flight away. I’ve visited this popular holiday destination multiple times and it’s definitely somewhere I’d choose to return to again and again.
Located in the lower part of the South Island in New Zealand, there’s no better place to take a well-deserved break than Queenstown. This picturesque resort town is best known for its stunning natural beauty and endless activities.
There are plenty of things to do in Queenstown, no matter what time of the year you visit but there are also some incredible day trips to do from this lively town.
Perfect for when you want a bit of a break from the hustle and bustle.
Wondering where to go near Queenstown? You’re in luck because there’s a ton to do.
This list of the best day trips are all short drives from Queenstown so whether you’re there for a weekend or a week you should be able to experience at least one of them!
11 Best day trips from Queenstown
1. Mount Cook
Mount Cook is one of the best day trips from Queenstown and a must-see for any traveller. Located in the foothills of the Southern Alps, this majestic mountain stands at an impressive 3,724 metres and is the highest peak in New Zealand.
The best way to experience Mount Cook is by taking a scenic flight out of Queenstown. This will give you an incredible bird’s eye view of the mountain and its surrounding landscapes as you soar high above it.
Alternatively, you can also book a day tour which includes transport from Queenstown to Mount Cook and you’ll have the opportunity to explore Mount Cook Village, see the stunning Lake Pukaki, visit Tasman Glacier and more.
✅ Check prices and reviews here
2. Milford Sound
Visiting Milford Sound is a must-do when exploring Queenstown and the surrounding region. With spectacular mountains that surround the fjord, breathtaking waterfalls, and plenty of wildlife to watch, Milford Sound is an unforgettable experience.
The best way to explore Milford Sound is by taking a boat trip on one of the many scenic cruises available from Queenstown. This will give you a unique view of this breathtaking landscape from the water and allow you to take in some incredible sights!
If you have a car you can drive to Milford Sound and book a cruise from there. If you don’t have a car or you’d rather sit back and relax you can book day trips from Queenstown to Milford Sound which includes transport on a comfortable coach bus.
Things to do in Milford Sound
- Go on a Lake Cruise
- Take a scenic flight (departs from Queenstown)
- Hike Milford Track
- See Milford Sound from above in a helicopter (departs from Queenstown)
Step back in time and explore the quaint streets of Arrowtown, nestled just outside Queenstown. Known for its gold mining heritage, beautiful alpine scenery, and old-world charm, a guided tour through this historic village is an unforgettable experience.
Wander about cobblestone paths with your experienced guide who will provide you with captivating stories from Arrowtown’s past as well as the opportunity to take in all its beauty.
You can also explore Arrowtown independently if you have a car or by taking the public bus. No matter how you choose to explore, you’ll be sure to fall in love with its quaint shops and cafés. Autumn is a gorgeous time to visit with all the leaves changing colour!
Things to do in Arrowtown
- Bike the valley of the vines
- Explore Arrowtown Village
- Walk the Tobins track (just 30 mins each way)
- Visit The Lakes District Museum
Wanaka is a stunning lake town located on the South Island of New Zealand. A day trip to Wanaka gives you the best of both worlds with its close proximity to Queenstown and tranquil alpine setting.
With one day in Wanaka, you can take in the stunning mountain views, go wine tasting at one of the local vineyards, or rent a bike and explore the town. Other popular activities include taking a jet boat ride or jet ski tour on the river or exploring one of the many scenic walking trails that surround the town.
Compared to Queenstown, Wanaka definitely has a bit of a slower pace about it so take your time exploring the lovely town. Of course, you can’t miss out on visiting the Wanaka Tree and grabbing a quick snap!
Things to do in Wanaka
- Lake jet ski or jet boat tour
- Visit the Wanaka Lavender Farm (seasonal)
- Mou Waho Island Cruise
- Walk the Diamond Lake Track
- Take a photo of #ThatWanakaTree
A mere 45 minutes away from Queenstown, the picturesque town of Glenorchy lies on Lake Whakatipu’s northern shoreline. It is known to many as one of New Zealand’s most breathtaking places and has even been featured in the Lord of the Rings films!
This picturesque spot offers visitors stunning views of mountains and glaciers, as well as plenty of hiking trails, water activities, and local attractions to explore. It’s likely you’ll recognise the classic Glenorchy red shed.
If you’re looking for an adventure, why not take a day trip to Glenorchy from Queenstown? You can book guided tours which will help you explore the best of what this lovely town has to offer or rent a car and drive there yourself.
Don’t forget to stop at one of the many wineries along your way for some delicious local wine! Or if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan there’s an organised tour that will take you to a number of filming locations on your way to Glenorchy.
Things to do in Glenorchy
- Lord of the Rings tour
- Visit the Glenorchy red shed
- Marvel at the stunning Dart River
6. Omarama Hot Pools
Omarama is a small town located 2 hours from Queenstown which may seem a long way to travel to visit some hot pools but trust me, it’s worth it.
I visited these stunning pools in autumn and the colours of the surrounding trees were just gorgeous. It’s the ultimate way to relax for the afternoon and you get to escape the hustle and bustle of Queenstown so it’s a win-win!
The hot pools are wood fire spa pools and you have the ability to adjust the temperature by either closing or lifting the metal door to the chamber. Closing it will stop air getting in so the wood will burn at a slower pace but if you open it then the wood will start burning quicker due to a bigger flame and as a result, the water in the tub gets hotter.
It’s a pretty unique experience and the sound of the crackling wood is something you just can’t beat. If you love the outdoors then this is the place for you.
Don’t think you have to drive two hours only to go to the hot pools though – there are other things you can do in Omarama while you’re here.
Things to do in Omarama
- Soak in Omarama Hot Pools
- Walk the Benmore Peninsula Track
- Visit the clay cliffs
Cadrona is a small ski village located in the heart of the Southern Alps in New Zealand. The area is best known for its stunning natural beauty and excellent skiing opportunities, making it an ideal place to visit for outdoor lovers and winter sports enthusiasts alike.
If you aren’t a huge snow enthusiast, not to worry, you can go gin tasting at the Cadrona Distillery (my kind of afternoon!) or have a meal at the historic Cardona Hotel.
Plus, you can visit the Cardona Alpine Village with its amazing views and explore the old mining tracks. Or there’s always the famous bra fence. If you’ve got no idea what I’m talking about just type ‘Cardona Bra Fence’ into google maps and you’ll find this unique attraction.
The best bit about Cadrona? It’s only an hour away from Queenstown. So if you’re looking for a day trip that involves some spectacular scenery and plenty of skiing, then why not take a drive to Cadrona?
Things to do in Cadrona
- Gin tasting at Cardona Distillery
- Explore old mining tracks
- See the Cardona Bra Fence
- Go skiing
- Visit Cardona Hotel for lunch
8. Explore Doubtful Sound
Doubtful Sound aka Milford Sounds sister is located in the Fiordland National Park and offers spectacular natural beauty. With its deep valleys surrounded by towering rocky cliffs, Doubtful Sound is a stunningly beautiful place to explore.
The best way to experience this day trip from Queenstown is on a guided tour as then you don’t have to worry about transport and you’ll get to enjoy live commentary throughout your journey.
Begin your South Island exploration of the majestic Doubtful Sound, as you are escorted from your Queenstown hotel to beautiful Lake Manapouri by coach. Enjoy the journey through UNESCO-listed Fiordland National Park and take in the peaceful scene on a ferry ride across its still waters.
Then traverse Wilmot Pass, pausing along the way for an unforgettable snapshot opportunity – capturing Doubtful Sound’s incredible blue hue winding between alpine gardens draped with moss and towering walls cloaked in deep rainforest vegetation.
✅ Check reviews and prices here
9. Central Otago
Boasting breathtaking vistas, quaint villages and abundant history, it comes as no surprise that Central Otago has become a coveted destination for globetrotter.
Whether you’re looking to relax in the surrounding mountains or explore its fascinating culture, this spectacular region of New Zealand is sure to offer an unforgettable experience.
Central Otago is known for its rugged mountain ranges, crystal clear rivers, and unique wine-growing regions. If you’re looking for an unforgettable day trip from Queenstown, then Central Otago should definitely be on your list.
You can explore the area by taking a scenic drive through the region or book a guided tour which will take you to some of the best wineries and historical sites in the area. Don’t leave before trying some of the delicious Central Otago wine!
Things to do in Central Otago
- Go for a winery tour
- Rent an e-bike and discover the Lake Dunstan Trail
- Explore the historic towns of Clyde and Cromwell
- Take a scenic drive through the region
- Cruise along Clutha River
10. Hike Roy’s Peak
If you’re after an adventure that will truly take your breath away, then a day trip up Roy’s Peak should be on the top of your list. This bucket list-worthy hike is located just outside of Wanaka and offers breathtaking views over Lake Wakatipu, as well as some of the best panoramic views of New Zealand’s stunning Southern Alps.
The best part? It’s only an hour and 45 minutes drive from Queenstown. So if you’re looking for an easy day trip that will give you some incredible views and plenty of fresh air, then Roy’s Peak is definitely the way to go!
The hike itself is 16 kilometres and will take you about 5-6 hours return. The walking track is well formed which makes for an easy walk in terms of the terrain but you do require a bit of fitness as it can be quite steep in places, especially on the way up.
It’ll be so worth it when you reach the top though. Try to do this hike early in the morning to beat the heat, even better if you get up early enough to do it at sunrise!
11. Mount Aspiring National Park
Mount Aspiring National Park is another great day trip from Queenstown. Located just over an hour away, this stunning national park is home to some of New Zealand’s best trails and offers incredible views of snow-capped mountains and glacier rivers.
Explore the park either by foot or by taking a scenic flight over its breathtaking landscape. There are plenty of walking trails to choose from, ranging from easy strolls to multi-day treks.
The Routburne track is the most famous hike here and although it takes most walkers 3 days and 2 nights to do the whole thing, it is possible to just hike a section of it – perfect for a day trip!
Things to do in Mount Aspiring National Park
- Hike a section of the Routeburn Track
- Visit the Blue Pools
- Hike the Rob Roy Glacier Track
- See Mt Aspiring from above in a scenic helicopter ride
Where to stay in Queenstown
When planning your holiday, make sure you also have a plan for where to stay in Queenstown. If you haven’t got a car then you probably want to consider staying somewhere quite central, but if you have got a car then you can easily stay a little bit further out.
If you’re searching for luxurious accommodation in Queenstown or simply somewhere comfortable to rest your exhausted head after an exciting day, there’s surely something that will suit your needs. From plush apartments and hotels to budget-friendly hostels, the choices are virtually limitless!
Best luxury Queenstown accommodation
Best budget Queenstown accommodation
Best Day Trips from Queenstown: FAQ
Where can I drive from Queenstown?
You can drive to a number of nearby attractions from Queenstown, including Arrowtown, Wanaka, Glenorchy, Cadrona, Fiordland National Park, Central Otago and Mt Aspiring National Park. Basically anywhere on this list and more!
Queenstown is also a popular location to pick up rental campervans from if you want to do more than just a day trip around this beautiful part of New Zealand. With so much to do here, it’s easy to spend a week or two exploring.
Is Queenstown worth visiting?
Without a doubt, yes! Queenstown is one of my favourite destinations in New Zealand and I’m certainly not the first person to say that… There is so much to do in Queenstown itself but apart from that, as you can see there are also plenty of awesome day trips from Queenstown.
Have I convinced you to add Queenstown to your NZ bucket list yet?!
Do I need a car in Queenstown?
No, you don’t need a car when visiting Queenstown – but it does make getting around easier. Public transport in this area is limited and best suited to getting around the town centre.
If you want to visit any of the nearby attractions then a car is recommended but definitely not essential. As you can see by the recommendations on this list, there are plenty of day tours you can book that either depart from Queenstown or offer to pick up from Queenstown hotels.
Conclusion: 11 Best day trips from Queenstown
Queenstown is the ideal destination for a short getaway or a longer vacation with an abundance of activities to choose from that can make it difficult to decide what you should prioritize!
With this guide, I hope I have given you some ideas on which day trips around Queenstown are worth exploring.
Whether your desire is for an action-packed adventure or just a calming excursion in nature, there’s something available for everyone here. So what are you waiting for? Book your holiday to Queenstown today!
• 15 Best things to do in Queenstown alone | A solo travellers guide
• 10 Best Things to Do in Queenstown for Free
• 11 Best day trips from Queenstown
• Best Places to Stay in Queenstown (from Luxury to Budget!)
• The Ultimate Travel Guide For Fall In New Zealand
• 21 Day New Zealand Itinerary: What to See & Do from a Local
• Does it snow in Queenstown? Winter Travel Guide
• 10 Best Wine Tours Queenstown