8 hikes you should go on when staying in Queenstown, New Zealand

 In Active Travel, New Zealand, South Island

Queenstown is without a doubt my highlight of New Zealand.

Queenstown, if you don’t already know, is a town situated in the south-west of the South Island which sits of the shore of Lake Wakatipu.

Amongst many other attractions and reasons to love it (which you can see in my QT backpackers guide here), Queenstown is also home to some of the most beautiful hikes in the world. If you’re planning a visit, you want to make sure you have your hiking boots packed.

From afternoon strolls and day hikes to week long adventures, there’s something to suit every ability and you’ll be soaking up some of the most breathtaking landscapes you’ll ever experience.

Seriously. There aren’t many places that have taken my breath like Queenstown.

Top tip: Another unbelievable hike that i have to mention in New Zealand is the Tongariro Crossing on the North Island, which you can join me live for in this YouTube vlog.

I’ve backpacked New Zealand on two occasions now: the first time I discovered the South Island, and the second time (with the tourism board) I uncovered the North.

I craved Queenstown that much on the second trip, I booked myself a birthday weekend down there and flew from Auckland!

Over the years I’ve created sooo much content on New Zealand to share with you, including guides on budgeting for backpacking New Zealand, saving money when travelling New Zealand, all my top tips, and 10 reasons why New Zealand should be your next destination.

So if you’re planning your Kiwi adventure, head to the link below to uncover all my travel guides!

8 hikes you should go on when staying in Queenstown, New Zealand

Without further ado…

Here are 8 hikes you cannot miss next time you’re in Queenstown, New Zealand…

1. Queenstown Hill

Treat yourself to views across Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu on this uphill walk to the summit of Te Tapu-nui…

Time: 60-90 mins each way (depending on how fast you walk, which route you take, and how many photo stops you have – it took me 60 mins up and 60 mins down)

Distance: 1.5-2.5km each way (again, depending on which route you take)

Gradient: moderate (500m elevation – steep in places but mainly ok!)

Starting point: Car Park just off Belfast Terrace, 9300

Top tip: Don’t stop at the famous ‘Basket of Dreams’ – keep going up another 500m or so for even better panoramic views!

  • 8 hikes you should go on when staying in Queenstown, New Zealand
  • 8 hikes you should go on when staying in Queenstown, New Zealand
  • 8 hikes you should go on when staying in Queenstown, New Zealand
  • 8 hikes you should go on when staying in Queenstown, New Zealand

2. Tiki Trail

Starting from the bottom of the gondola, hike up towards the lookout, take some snaps, and then either hike or take the gondola back down. 

Time: 60-90 mins each way

Distance: 1.6km each way

Gradient: moderate (300m elevation gain)

Starting point: Behind the gondola on Brecon Street.

  • 8 hikes you should go on when staying in Queenstown, New Zealand
  • 8 hikes you should go on when staying in Queenstown, New Zealand
  • 8 hikes you should go on when staying in Queenstown, New Zealand
8 hikes you should go on when staying in Queenstown, New Zealand

3. Ben Lomond

One step up from the Tiki Trail (excuse the pun), we are now heading for Ben Lomond’s 1748m summit! Expect beautiful views across the city and of Mt Earnslaw and Mt Aspiring when the weather is clear.

Time: 1 hour (bottom > gondola) + 2 hours (gondola to saddle) + 1 hour (saddle > summit)… so 2-4 hours each way, depending on where you start and how far up you go! (although some people say it can take longer to get to the summit!)

Distance: bottom to summit – approx 8km each way

Gradient: steep/ challenging (approx 1000m elevation from the gondola, 1400m from Brecon St)

Starting point: Brecon Street at the gondola base, or Bob’s Peak (the top of the gondola)

Top tip: Make sure you have enough daylight hours to complete the trail!

Top tip: Be prepared for snow and/or ice between April and November. Layer up to combat the differences in temperature as you ascend!

4. Sunshine Bay track

An easier, scenic route for that day you just want to take it easy and enjoy the sea! I actually cycled this route and it’s perfect for walkers, cyclists and runners alike! Follow the coast round and take in the views.

Time: 30 mins – 1 hour each way

Distance: 4-5km each way

Gradient: easy-moderate (a couple of uphill bits but nothing too challenging)

Starting point: Queenstown city centre

Top tip: Don’t miss the side-track that leads to a waterfall at Two Mile Creek Falls!

8 hikes you should go on when staying in Queenstown, New Zealand

5. Lake Hayes

One of the most popular routes in Queenstown, and one of the most picturesque – you definitely don’t want to miss the beautiful views and the stunning reflections as you complete the circuit round one of New Zealand’s most photographed lakes. Why not stop off to do wine tasting at Amisfield Winery and Bistro as your walk round?

Time: 1-2 hour loop

Distance: 8km loop

Gradient: easy-moderate

Starting point: anywhere on the lake!

Top tip: walking round the lake anti-clockwise is easier than going clockwise!

6. Queenstown Gardens to Frankton

Explore the gardens for as long as your heart desires, and then follow the coast around again, this time east, towards Frankton.

Time: 1-2 hours each way

Distance: 7.5km each way

Gradient: easy-moderate

Starting point: Queenstown Gardens

8 hikes you should go on when staying in Queenstown, New Zealand

If you have more than a day to play with and you fancy a bigger hiking challenge, consider these two hikes…

7. Routeburn Track

Time: 2-4 days

Distance: 32km

Crossing the Southern Alps and linking two National Parks – Mt Aspiring and Fiordland – take in ice-carved valleys, wetlands, forest, lakes and breathtaking Fiordland views.

Start at the eastern trailhead, beyond Glenorchy, (two hours’ drive from Queenstown); the finish is at the Divide on the Te Anau–Milford Highway (four hours to Queenstown). One way and return can be done by shuttle.

The Routeburn can also be joined with either the Greenstone – Caples Tracks (below) to make a near-loop back to Lake Wakatipu.

 

8. Greenstone – Caples Track

Time: 4 days

Distance: 61km

Two World Heritage valleys, mountain views, saddles between mountains, forest, grassy hills, rivers… this loop has it all.

Start near the shore of Lake Wakatipu, beyond Glenorchy (two hours’ drive from Queenstown, can be done by shuttle).

Top tip: Head up the wilder Caples Valley to complete most of the uphills during the first two days, then follow the more open Greenstone, famous for an idyllic trout-fishing river. The low-level Greenstone can be walked all year, while the Caples may be off limits in winter. (queenstownnz.co.nz)

Top tip: Make sure you do the longer trails during the walking season (end of October through to April) to avoid dangerous weather and to access the best facilities.

For more long hike inspiration, click here.

8 hikes you should go on when staying in Queenstown, New Zealand

Bonus! New Zealand’s most popular cycling trail

The Otago rail trail

3-5 days. 152 km. Clyde to Middlemarch.  Some of the best views you’ll ever experience. Definitely not one any avid cyclists want to miss!

Shuttles go from Queenstown to Clyde twice a day, making this the perfect extension to your Queenstown holiday! 

8 hikes you should go on when staying in Queenstown, New Zealand

Have you been to Queenstown?

What were your favourite hikes and walks? I’d love to know!

Love as always + happy adventuring,

Mollie.

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8 hikes you cannot miss in Queenstown, New Zealand
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