Queenstown is in the South Island of New Zealand and known as the adrenaline capital of the world for a good reason. It has the highest bungee and cliff jump in the world, skydiving, white water rafting… the list goes on! Or you can take it easy on Lord of the Rings territory tours and day trips to Milford Sound. In fact, there are too many to choose from, so which ones are worth doing? Which ones should you save for the North Island? I traveled to both North and South Islands, doing as much as I could in the time I had. Some things are considered “must dos” while others made the list from personal experience.
Canyon Swing – The 360 foot drop makes this the highest cliff jump in the world. I am scared of heights but I wanted to forced myself to do something out of my comfort zone. I certainly achieved it with this! You drop straight down and then swing outwards through the canyon. You can make up your own unique way to jump off or choose one of their props and ride off in style on a small tricycle or down a slide. I did a tandem jump with my friend so we couldn’t use props, instead we jumped off on our own, thinking that would be the easiest way… WRONG. Theres nothing more terrifying than standing at the edge of the platform, looking down and leaping off the cliff. I almost backed out but in the end, we enjoyed it so much, we did it again! For an extra $45 you can do a second jump. We chose to dangle and have them pull the release. Much less stressful!
Here is the video of my first jump!!
Shotover Jet – This jet boat ride will have you screaming with excitement. You’ll be speeding around on a river in the middle of a narrow canyon while doing sharp 360 degree turns and other fun tricks. It’s like a roller coast on water!
Luge Rides – At the top of the skyline are race tracks that you can ride down in luges which are basically like small non-motorized race cars. This is the perfect option if you want something a little tamer but still get a bit of a rush as you ride down the side of the mountain. There are two tracks, one for your first ride and then a faster one for your next. Theres also one in Rotorua in the North Island, which is the original. My friends did it there said the view in Queenstown was much better and the tracks are similar, so I would suggest doing it here. Always go with the better view!
Bungee jump – There are many to choose from thanks to bungy legend AJ Hackett. You can start “low” with a 142 foot drop if you choose the Kawarau Bridge jump, recommend for first timers or people that are more nervous. It is also where the first original bungy jump happened. If you are more daring, you can try Nevis which is the tallest in the world with a 440 foot drop. I had no desire to try these because the thought of dangling upside down is terrifying. However, if you are braver than myself, this is the place to do it!
Skyline experience– If you don’t want to ride the luges, going to the top of the Skyline is still worth it as the view is amazing! I got a package that gave me access to the cable car ride, 3 luge rides and a lunch buffet at the top. You can also go for a dinner buffet and watch the sunset over the city, which I ended up doing as well.
Skydiving – I was told that Queenstown is one of the most stunning places for a skydive by…. everyone I have met! 😉 I was debating to do it even though the thought of it makes me queasy but once again, I like to step out of my comfort zone. However, by the time I decided to do it, the weather went sour and was no longer good enough for the dive during the rest of my stay (it got cancelled three times!). Maybe it was a sign that I am not ready for it yet. One step at a time!
Milford Sound – It is a world heritage site for a reason… it is beautiful! There are many different ways you can explore such as kayaking, scenic flights and river cruises. I did a day tour but I personally thought it was a bit overpriced for what I got. It cost me $159, this included transportation which is about 4 hours each way and a 90 minute boat ride. You can bring your own lunch or buy it on board but its expensive. I was surprised for that price, it wasn’t included. There is a toilette stop during the drive where you can buy lunch from a local shop to bring aboard. There are other stops along the way where you can get out and take scenic shots in places such as Mirror Lakes. Even though I thought it was pricey for basically a day on the bus, it was worth it in the end. As your boat cruises down the river, you are surrounded by all different size waterfalls that are streaming down the mountains and off cliffs. Don’t just take my word for it, take a look at my photos!! 😛
Save it for the North Island…
White Water Rafting – If you are not going to the North Island, I still recommend it for the South as you’d still get an adrenaline rush. However, the rapids are not as intense, so depending on what type of experience you want, you might actually prefer it in Queenstown. If you do it in the North, Rotorua is the place to do it. The rapids are supposed to be more fun and you get to raft down Tutea Falls, a 23 foot waterfall, which the highest rapid waterfall in the world. It was definitely my most intense white water rafting experience!
Lord of the Rings tour – The one in the South brings you to scenic spots where the movie was filmed. However, there is another in Wellington that brings you to even more filming locations and the WETA workshop. That is where all of the magic happened; the props, costumes, set, editing and anything else needed for the movie. Everything you get to see are authentic from the Lord of the Rings as well as other movies that they have worked on. The tour starts off driving to different film locations where you are given behind the scenes information that any fan (or movie lover) would love hearing about such as stories about actors and experiences during filming. Lunch is included and then afterwards you head over to the WETA workshop for a tour. Afterwards, you are back on the road, heading to other film locations. We also drove past Peter Jackson’s house! If only we could have stopped in for a cup of tea.
Side Note: When you are planning your trip to Queenstown, I would suggest adding in a few extra days as the weather changes drastically, affecting the outdoor activities. Upon my arrival the weather was in the warm 70s, sunny skies and no clouds. My next four days were either raining or cloudy and much, much colder. I went from shorts and a tank top to having to buy jeans and wearing a coat, so make sure you book enough time incase you have some bad weather days.
If I didn’t spark anything that you were interested in, don’t worry, there are tons of other things to do. Everywhere you turn is a booking agency that can help you find whatever type of activity best suits you. Queenstown was my favorite city in New Zealand so trust me when I say… you’ll love it no matter what you do!