First published on 13 May 2013. Updated on 23 May 2013.
See and do
In winter, Queenstown becomes an alpine playground offerring skiing and boarding of every level from beginner to advanced and heli-skiing. When the flakes start falling, make tracks for the two closest resorts to town – Coronet Peak (+64 3 442 4620) or Remarkables (+64 3 442 4615), each about a 45-minute drive from town. Buses are also available from opposite the Sofitel hotel. Both resorts cater for beginners and intermediates, but advanced skiers will lap up the challenging runs at Remarks, particularly the Gallipoli Chutes.
Over the hill near Wanaka, a cruisy skiing day is to be had at Cardrona (+64 3 443 7341), while it’s an intermediate’s dream at Treble Cone (+64 3 443 7444), which boasts the best powder in the district.
When the flakes aren’t falling and you still crave an adrenaline rush, take a jetboat ride on K-Jet, which takes off from the wharf on Lake Wakatipu. Marine Pde, Queenstown. +64 3 442 6142.
Wanaka River Journeys is the hidden jetboating adventure gem of the Southern Lakes Region and is worth the drive over the Crown Range to get to. 99 Ardmore St, Wanaka. +64 3 443 4416.
If you head over to Wanaka, stop by the Cardona Hotel for some lamb shanks on the way home and an ice-cold Speights. 2310 Cardrona Valley Rd, Queenstown. +64 3 443 8153.
Surrounding Queenstown are a number of the world’s leading producers of cool-climate pinot noir. Chard Farm’s Viper and Tiger single-vineyard pinot noirs are exceptional drops and if you can’t choose between them get the blend of both – the Mata Au. 205 Chard Rd, Gibbston. +64 3 442 6110. Rockburn’s Three Barrels Sauvignon Blanc and pinot noirs are stars of the region. Gair Ave, Cromwell. +64 3 445 0555. If you can get your hands on a bottle, Peregrine’s trophy-winning 2009 Pinot Noir is a steal at NZ$60. 2127 Kawarau Gorge Rd, Gibbston. +64 3 442 4000.
Eat and drink
At Rātā, expect top mod-NZ cuisine from land and sea. Right now, we’re into the wild venison, Marlborough king salmon and Northland kingfish. You’ll also be more than impressed with wine list that starts some local trophy-winning drops. 43 Ballarat St, Queenstown. +64 3 442 9393.
Sasso opened late last year bringing a fine taste of Italy to the Southern Alps. Don’t skip past chef Sal Grant’s burrata, which is chargrilled with pumpkin, thyme and balsamic, or the Cardrona Valley lamb rump. 14/16 Church St, Queenstown. +64 3 409 0994.
Leading Queenstown’s renowned bar scene is Barmuda – order up a Mojito, Caipiroska or 42 Below Martini – outside by the fireplace in the courtyard. Searle Ln, Queenstown. +64 3 442 7300.
When it’s rocking, Bardeaux is the place for a glass of pinot after a day on the slopes. Order by the bottle and not by the glass, and if that’s not your tipple, there’s a good range of beers by the bottle. Eureka Arcade, Queenstown. +64 3 442 8284.
For a glass of wine in a more refined setting, Eichardt’s Bar is the place to swing by – and the view is terrific. 2 Marine Pde, Queenstown. +64 3 441 0450.
Those craving a drink and a light bite should head to Searle Lane Bar and Rotisserie, where it’s about beers and burgers. 15 Church St, Queenstown. +64 3 441 3934.
The best burgers in the nation are at Fergburger, where the Southern Swine is the call, and for a pick-me-up before a day on the slopes, grab a chicken pie from Ferg Bakery next door. 42 Shotover St, Queenstown. +64 3441 1232.
A cosy boutique hotel with a fireplace hits the spot on a winter visit to Queenstown. The Dairy, recently remodelled, also has plush beds and a sumptuous breakfast. 10 Isle St, Queenstown. +64 3 442 5164.
Down on the lakefront at Eichardt’s Private Hotel, you’ll need to splash out, but what you get is New Zealand’s best boutique hotel rooms complete with a fireplace and views of Lake Wakatipu that don’t get any better – you’re right on the water. Pick up a bottle of their own blended version of the cracking Mt Edward Pinot Noir. 2 Marine Pde, Queenstown. +64 3 441 0450.
Air New Zealand flies from Melbourne to Queenstown. Alternatively, fly to Christchurch and hire a car from Hertz, then take the drive south – one that’s up there with the world’s best, particularly when you cruise past Lake Tekapo.