1 Day Queenstown Itinerary
Are you passing through Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island and only have one day to explore and adventure as much as you possibly can?
Dave and I can relate. We spent 2 days in Queenstown but one of those days didn’t count as we were recovering from a week of van life and it was pouring with rain. In my opinion, you could spend anywhere from 1 day to 7 days in Queenstown because there is so much to do!
Queenstown is a beautiful town surrounded by incredible mountains on the South Island of New Zealand. It is an extremely popular destination for people to visit to seek out adventure. Some popular things to do in Queenstown include hiking, mountain biking, skiing and bungee jumping and of course photography which is the main reason we were there.
If you are into photography like us, I recommend this Half-day Queenstown Photography Tour!
There is so much to do and see in Queenstown and choosing what to prioritise can be really hard. This is why I have decided to create this 1 day Queenstown itinerary based on activities that you can do during Spring, Summer and Autumn.
This guide will give you a finalised 1 day itinerary for Queenstown, as well as provide you with the best restaurant and accommodation options and some extra activities in case you have extra time.
📍 Where is Queenstown
Queenstown is located on New Zealand’s South Island. It has its own international airport which is only about a 15 minute drive from the town centre.
Click here to open the map in Google Maps!
🚌 How to Get from the Airport to Queenstown
To get to and from the airport from the centre of Queenstown, you can get bus #1 which takes about 25 minutes. It goes all of the way to the airport and you can purchase bus tickets on the bus or you can buy a Bee Card in the main airport terminal. The fare works out to be cheaper with a Bee Card. Note: Every passenger needs their own Bee Card.
The Bee Cards are $5 each and you then need to top them up with a minimum of $5. With a Bee Card, the Airport bus is $2 for adults and without a Bee Card it is $10. You can find more on the fare pricing on the NZ Gov website here.
Alternatively to the bus, you could get a shuttle transfer, however the bus is pretty easy and very adorable so I recommend it over the shuttle.
Rent a car
If you are travelling around New Zealand, you might want to rent a car from Queenstown airport. You don’t really need a car for Queenstown itself unless you are planning on travelling further outside of Queenstown.
I recommend pre-booking your rental car when planning your trip so that you don’t miss out. I like to use Rentalcars.com to get the best price when hiring a rental car.
🕔 How Long to Spend in Queenstown? Is 1 Day Enough?
1 day in Queenstown is better than none! You could definitely spend more time there and I would say the sweet spot for the perfect number of days in Queenstown would be 3.
If you do only have 1 day though, there is plenty that you can squeeze into your day to experience as much of Queenstown as possible.
📆 Best Time to Visit Queenstown
Choosing the time of the year to visit Queenstown all depends on what you are wanting to do while you are there.
I have based this itinerary off the non-Winter months but if you are wanting to ski, Queenstown is a great place for it in Winter.
The best time to visit Queenstown to go mountain biking is from October to May as this is when all of the trails are open.
If you are just looking at doing the other outdoor activities such as hiking, Summer is the best time to go to get almost guaranteed good weather, otherwise Autumn is a great time to avoid the crowds.
🛌 Where to Stay
We stayed slightly outside of Queenstown at an affordable but nice motel called the Autoline Queenstown Motel. Some other great options located in the centre of Queenstown are:
Sofitel Queenstown Hotel & Spa – oh my gosh what I would give to stay here! It looks divine!
St James Apartments – St James Apartments has accommodation options for solo travellers to groups of 9 people! Each apartment has its own kitchen and living space so it is a great place to stay if you would prefer to save some money by cooking instead of eating out.
Mi-pad Queenstown – Mi-pad Queenstown is 4 star accommodation, with a rooftop terrace with fantastic views of the mountains and the city.
Click here for more accommodation options in Queenstown!
📃 Queenstown 1 Day Itinerary
This 1 day Queenstown Itinerary has a bit of everything from outdoor adventure, good food and shopping and sight-seeing. If you don’t like the look of everything in the itinerary, I have also included some alternative activities at the end.
Morning (6 hours)
You’ll need to wake up nice and early for this adventure packed day!
You’ll want to start by having a good breakfast to keep you going until lunchtime and then it’s straight to the Queenstown Gondola to do one of the best hikes in Queenstown. I can recommend Odd Saint, which is located downtown on Earl Street and has some really yummy and kind of unusual hot breakfasts.
Alternatively, you could go to The Exchange which is also located in Queenstown on Ballarat Street so just a short walk from any Queenstown Hotel. At The Exchange, you will find breakfast options such as Eggs on Sourdough, Avo Toast, Acai Bowls and more.
Ben Lomond Track
Distance: 10.8km / 6.7 miles | Elevation Gain: 1,010m / 3,313 ft | Time: 5-6 hours | Difficulty: Moderately challenging
Ben Lomond is one of the best hikes in Queenstown with absolutely incredible views of the surrounding mountains!
You can actually hike it all the way from the centre of town instead of taking the gondola, making it a free thing to do in Queenstown, however this adds on a lot of distance, time and elevation to your hike. With only one day in Queenstown, I recommend taking the gondola.
You will need to take the gondola up to Bob’s Peak which is about 480m above Queenstown. The gondola costs about NZ$52 per adult and there are a range of different packages to choose from.
😲 Fun Fact: The Queenstown Gondola is the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere!
At the top of the gondola, there is a restaurant, toilets, water station so you can fill up your water and use the facilities before starting your hike. Make sure you pack enough water and food because it is a big hike with lots of elevation so you will get hungry. I recommend packing some snack bars and a sandwich to eat at the top.
The trail starts in the pine forest so there won’t be any views at first. Breathe in that beautiful pine needle aroma as you hike. I’m obsessed with the smell of pine trees as we don’t have them in Australia and they remind me of a Christmas movie.
Once you leave the pine forest, the views begin. After 1.5 hours into the hike, you should reach the Ben Lomond Saddle, where you will find a seat. This is a good spot to stop for a snack. For those of you who are beginners or not all that into hiking, you can stop here. The views are still absolutely epic from here.
In fact, this is where Dave and I stopped. This was well before our backpacking days and we were taking SO long to hike because we kept stopping to take photos so we kind of ran out of time to hike all of the way to the summit.
The rest of the way up to the summit is a steep climb and the trail becomes a bit less maintained.
Late Lunch (0.5 hours)
Once you arrive back to the top of the gondola, you are bound to have worked up an appetite after hiking Ben Lomond. Luckily for you, there is a restaurant (Stratosfare) and a café (Market Kitchen) to choose from at the top of the Gondola.
If you want to eat at the Stratosfare Restaurant, you can book lunch at the same time that you purchase your gondola ticket in a package. The food here is pretty fancy so if you are looking for something a bit more basic like pizza or fish and chips, then the Market Kitchen Café is probably for you!
Ride the Luge (1 hour)
You cannot visit Queenstown without having a go on the Luge! The Luge is one of the best things to do in Queenstown and you will probably want to go more than once.
What the heck is the Luge, you might ask? Think outdoor Summer toboggan without the long silver slide that toboggans are attached to. It’s almost like a downhill go-kart and so much fun! Dave actually made me have a go and I had so much fun that I went more than once.
If you are wondering if it is just for kids, no it is not. The Luge is for everyone, however, kids need to be over 85cm tall and 2+ years of age.
You can book your Luge ticket as part of your gondola package.
You’ve had the absolute best day in Queenstown so far and you are probably exhausted from all of the fun and hiking!
Relax and Wander around the Shops / Go for a Cocktail
It’s time to slow down a little and wander around the shops. One thing I remember about Queenstown, is that there was somereally great shopping!
Once you are all shopped out, you could go for a beer or a cocktail at Birdy.
For dinner, you absolutely have to try Fergburger. It’s the most famous burger place in New Zealand and gets super busy. You probably won’t get a seat and you will probably have to wait a while to get your order, but the burgers are delicious and there are loads of fun burger types.
Did you finish your day early, or have an extra day in Queenstown?
Here are some extra activities for those of you who are super fast hikers and have time to spare in the afternoon, or have 2 days in Queenstown.
Queenstown Bungy or Swing
The Queenstown Bungy and Nevis Swing are world famous and whenever we tell anyone that we have been to Queenstown, we are asked if we did the bungee. I haven’t but Dave has and he says it was absolutely terrifying. He would do it again though so I guess that’s a sign that it was fun?
You can book the Queenstown Bungy and Swing here. It’s only a 10 minute walk from the centre of Queenstown to the bungy.
The Bungy is NZ345 and the Swing is NZ280 per person.
Shotover River Extreme Jet Boat Ride
Take an adrenaline pumping jet boat ride on the Shotover River. This is one way to wake you up if you are exhausted after hiking to Ben Lomond! The cost is approximately NZ160 per adult.
Your captain will be driving FAST and doing 360-degree spins as well as maneuvering through tight canyons and over rapids.
There are multiple tours throughout the day so you can easily find one that fits your schedule. The tours go for about 25 minutes.
Small-Group Zipline Adventure
This Zipline Adventure is a great alternative to the Bungy and Swing if they sound like a bit too much adrenaline for you.
You will zipline down the mountain with incredible views surrounding you. The Zipline Adventure is located at the top of the Skyline Gondola so you could do this right after you are finished at the Luge.
The cost is approximately NZ120 per person and I recommend pre-booking here.
If you are into mountain biking, there are some great trails in Queenstown! Hire a bike from ALTA Snow/Bike Shop and use Trailforks to search for trails!
Join a Queenstown Wine Tour
Are you in need of a bit of a chill day after all that adventure? What better way to relax than to join a wine tour. This tour goes to 3 different wineries and a wine cave, provides you with afternoon tea and includes some sightseeing at Lord of the Rings film sites.
Planning a trip to New Zealand? You might also enjoy these guides!
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- New Zealand South Island 8 Day Campervan Trip
- Reasons Lake Tekapo is Worth Visiting
- Best Wine Tours From Christchurch NZ
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