Whether you've lived in New Zealand all your life, are a short term resident, or visiting it on holiday you have to visit Queenstown at least once. There is a good reason why it is known as the adventure capital of the world. Not only there is vast array of crazy, adrenaline filled attractions to do here, but it's one of the best places in the whole of New Zealand for hiking. Whatever your reason for visiting is, whether your are here on a holiday or business trip, Queenstown should definitely make it onto your New Zealand itinerary.
Day hiking has to be one of my favourite outdoor activities, I love the unbelievably rewarding feeling you get from completing a nice stroll. Plus it goes hand in hand with photography and it doesn't cost anything! Even though I have walked countless kilometres and completed many stunning day walks in New Zealand, I wouldn't go as far as calling myself a hard core hiker. I usually huff and puff like a chain smoker whilst going up even though I've never smoked in my life! You might hear me swearing every now and then too, especially when I think I am getting close to the top, but in reality it is just another hill bump I went over.
I lived in Queenstown for 7 months altogether, out of the year I spent in New Zealand. On most of my days off I'd do an excursion. Some hikes or as Kiwis would say tramps in here are more demanding than others. Some will take 8 hours to complete whereas others are just leisurely strolls along the lake. Whatever your interest or current mood, there is definitely enough choice for everyone, whether your are just a beginner or hard core hiker. Here are the best of the bunch in my opinion.
The 7 Best Day Hikes Around Queenstown, New Zealand
1. Queenstown Hill
Obvious choice really but it still gets to the top page. Maybe it's the accessibility or the fact that it has such a good 'time to view' ratio. The name is very imaginative that's for sure. New Zealand's Department of Conservation (DOC) recommends 2-3 hours to complete this short walk to which I agree. I recommend taking a picnic up and basking in the sun and enjoy the views like this one.
Duration: 2-3 hours
Trailhead: 15 minute walk away from town centre on Belfast street
2. Ben Lomond (Saddle and summit)
Ben Lomond is a must do for everybody who comes to Queenstown. Although being quite physically demanding the reward is definitely worth the struggle. The views from up there are some of the most photo worthy in Queenstown. I am not a fast walker by any means and I managed to do it in 7 hours from my house on Fernhill, one of Queenstown's neighbourhoods (including one hour at the top). From the top of the mountain you get spectacular 360 degrees of the Wakatipu Basin, Lake Wakatipu, The Remarkables mountain range, Cecil Peak and Walters Peak. If you are adventurous and happen to be visiting Queenstown in the winter, hike up to the top for sunrise! Make sure you are wearing crampons though! You don't want to make it to the front page of New Zealand's herald for wrong reasons!
Duration: 5-7 Hours
Trailhead: Take the skyline gondola up to Bob's Peak or hike from the bottom of the gondola (additional 1 hour).
3. Moke Lake Loop
I must have done this trek about 4 times. It’s definitely one of my faves especially now as it’s where my two good friends Magda and Lutz got engaged (with a little help from my side). Such a beautiful place with such fond memories. The horseshoe shaped path around the lake only takes a couple hours to finish and rewards you with views of Ben Lomond. If there's little wind around you might get some awesome reflections. No wonder it makes for a beloved location for astrophotography enthusiast!
Duration: 2 Hours
Grade: Easy/Moderate in some parts
Trailhead: 15 minutes drive away from the town Centre towards Glenorchy, and another 5 minutes on Moke Lake road.
4. Bob's Cove
This is shortest and easiest tramp on my list. It only takes around half an hour walking slowly. The path follows the shoreline of Lake Wakatipu and is perfect for a late afternoon stroll. There is even a place called picnic point so you know what you should do. Also don't forget to take your bathing suit in the summer, because there are plenty of opportunities to jump in or go for a swim. Bear in mind though, that the water in the lake hardly ever goes above 11 degrees Celsius!
Duration 30-45 minutes
Trailhead: 15 minutes drive away from town centre towards Glenorchy
5. Lake Alta
Lake Alta, aptly translated to Lake High from Spanish, is located near the top of the Remarkables Mountain Range. From the skiing carpark it is only around 1.5 hours and is classed as advanced by the DOC. In the summer it was relatively easy but I can imagine that it gets really hard in the winter. Wrap up warm and take waterproofs because weather can change very quickly at this altitude. If you're brave enough you can go from here to the single and double cones but only if you have mountaineering experience. I just stuck to exploring the surrounding areas, as I didn't feel comfortable enough to summit the cones.
Duration: 1,5 return from the Remarkables carpark
Trailhead: 25 minutes drive from town centre towards Te Anau. Turn left onto the Remarkables ski hill road and drive all the way up until you get to the Ski Lodge.
6. Cecil Peak
If you go back to the first picture in this post, look at the mountain right across the lake, to the right! that's Cecil Peak. Although certainly doable in one day, it will be a very long one. Not many people decide to tackle that mountain and instead choose to fly there by a helicopter. It's a popular place for wedding photographers, and for a good reason, as the backdrop for the photos is absolutely stunning. Although I haven't made it all the way to the top due to sketchy conditions, I've decided to stay on the ridge overnight and get a sunrise shot of Queenstown. It was a very cold and windy night, but damn was it worth it. To get to the bottom of the mountain you will have to use a water taxi or befriend someone who has a boat and can drop you off on the other side of the lake. Also make sure to first ask for a permission to hike. It is private area that belongs to the owner of a sheep station built just on the other side of the mountain. You can find out his number from the local DOC office. It's also worth mentioning that there is no path that will lead you to the top. You will just have to make your own way.
Duration: 8+ hours
Trailhead: wherever you make it to be
7. Bob's Peak
To get to the top of Bob's Peak you can just choose to go with a gondola, but if you are after a thrill of getting up there with the power of your own legs, or just simply want to save money then hike up. This relatively easy hike climbs steadily through the pine forest for about an hour until you get to the skyline building on the top. The views from up here are spectacular. If you google Queenstown half of the photos that show in the results will be photos taken from the viewing platform right in the skyline building, and the best part is that it's free for visitors! If however you want to get the view from the picture above you will have to work for it a bit more. Keep going up past the luge and again through the forest for 10 minutes until you get to a clearing. This is where paragliders take off. If you are having trouble finding it, just ask somebody working either at the skyline or luge and they should be able to point you in the right direction
Duration: 2 hour
Trailhead: Bottom of the skyline gondola, 10 min walk from the town centre.
Whether you are travelling around New Zealand for a few weeks or are just on a short trip to Queenstown you should definitely plan a hike or two into your itinerary! Not only you will be rewarded with some of the most spectacular views in the country, but you will also be glad that you made an effort to see a place from a different, in this case higher perspective! I guarantee you that New Zealand will turn you into an outdoor person!
If you have any questions about any of these hikes don't hesitate to comment below and I will try to answer as best as I can!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I am Marta Kulesza - the photographer and creator of www.inafarawayland.com. I come from Poland, but I've been living, travelling and working around the globe since I turned 18. A few years ago, during one of my trips to Scotland, I bought my first DSLR and my adventure with photography began. When I am not stuck to my computer editing photos and working on this blog, you can find me hiking somewhere in the mountains.