7 days in Queenstown: a New Zealand skiing itinerary
Reward yourself with the ultimate snowy getaway to the Mecca of New Zealand skiing: Queenstown.
With epic ski trails, fantastic restaurants, a serious wine scene and some of the most striking scenery in the country, a trip to Queenstown will soothe the soul.
Day one: Queenstown
Where better to kick-start your South Island/Te Waipounamu ski adventure than in the heart of it all, Queenstown. Known for its amazing ski towns, great bars and restaurants, and picturesque locale on the edge of Lake Wakatipu, it’s hard to resist a holiday here.
With three of New Zealand’s best ski resorts on its doorstep, Queenstown makes a great hub for a winter vacation.
You’ll want to take things slow on arrival day, so why not check out Queenstown’s more than 150 bars, restaurants and cafes? Explore the streets on foot, making fine food your theme. Try breakfast at Yonder, where the winter porridge with hazelnut and almond praline is top-notch. For lunch, head to the trendy Atlas Beer Café for craft beer and jalapeno poppers. Round out your day with dinner at Rata, which showcases the best of New Zealand/Aotearoa cuisine and local wines; we’re talking cured Fiordland venison and Cloudy Bay clams.
If you want to squeeze in sightseeing between meals, get a bird’s eye view of the town and surrounding mountains from Bob’s Peak. The Skyline Gondola is the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere and will take you 480 metres above the town.
Accommodation tip: The Rees Hotel, Queenstown
Day two: Coronet Peak
Ease into your ski adventure by making Queenstown’s closest ski resort, Coronet Peak, your first stop. Only a 25-minutes drive away, you’ll be there before you can decide which podcast to put on.
There are a tonne of different lessons available at Coronet Peak, from Skiwiland for kids (two to five years) to coaching workshops for advanced riders. Our pick is private family coaching; spend time with your kids while improving your downhill performance.
If one day at Coronet isn’t enough, stay on or head back later in the week for night skiing. It’s on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 4-9pm.
Day three: Gibbston via Arrowtown
Once famous for gold mining, Arrowtown is now a picturesque tourist village with restored timber and stone homes, and shops you’ll want to capture on camera. The historic town makes for a great day trip when you need a break from the slopes.
Lakes District Museum
To learn more about the gold rush of the 1800s, as well as the area’s Māori origins, visit Lakes District Museum & Gallery in Buckingham Street. Once you’ve explored the exhibits, you can hire a gold pan and head down to Arrow River – plenty of fun for kids.
Instead of heading back to Queenstown, drive south-east to Gibbston, the ‘Valley of the Vines’. This is pinot noir territory. Pick one or two wineries to call into; our choice is family-owned Mt Rosa Wines, which gets an extra tick for its sustainability focus. Enjoy an afternoon cheese platter in the tasting room (a former woolshed) as you make your way through the wine list.
Accommodation tip: Gibbston Valley Lodge & Spa
Day four: Gibbston to Cardrona
An hour north of Gibbston is Cardrona Alpine Resort, a fun, mostly intermediate ski resort with wide trails and a top terrain park.
Après ski should be part of any snow holiday, and it doesn’t have to mean clubbing. When your ski legs start to tire, stop by Vista Bar, at the top of McDougall’s Express Chondola, and enjoy a glass of bubbles with hard-to-beat views.
Alpine Stargazing Tour
Learn all about the southern sky (and hopefully see the Southern Lights) on a 1.5-hour-long stargazing tour. Organise a special pick-up at Cardrona mountain road.
Accommodation tip: Cardrona Alpine Resort
Day five: Queenstown via Millbrook
Grab first lifts at Cardrona before venturing back down the hill and returning to Queenstown, but be sure to stop off in Millbrook for a little indulgence.
No ski trip is complete without resting weary muscles, and Millbrook Spa, 20 minutes from Queenstown, is the ideal location. This award-winning day spa has a treatment to suit everyone, including foot soaks, back massages and body wraps.
The Lodge Bar
Once back in Queenstown, make your way to The Lodge Bar for a quintessential cosy alpine dining experience. Enjoy Te Matuku oysters with house-infused sage tequila.
Accommodation tip: Sherwood Hotel, Queenstown
Day six: The Remarkables
With north-facing sunny slopes and an elevation of 1943 metres, The Remarkables is not to be missed. As a bonus, it’s only a 40-minutes drive from Queenstown.
Big mountain runs
The Remarkables has some of the most impressive and easily accessible big-mountain terrain, and if you’re an advanced skier or boarder you’ll want to make a beeline up the Shadow Basin chair. From the top, you can drop into fresh off-piste and double diamonds.
Although ‘The Remarks’ has a reputation for serious slopes, it’s also family-friendly. There are lessons for kids aged four and up, plus a tobogganing area. You can also hire a Yooner (a ski/sled hybrid) for something quirky.
Day seven: Queenstown
Make the most of your last morning with a couple of final stops to soak in the beauty of this alpine gem.
A scenic cruise aboard the 107-year-old steamship TSS Earnslaw is a peaceful way to see more of the lake while also learning about the ship’s history. You can combine the cruise with a 25-minute jet-boat tour, during which you’ll travel at up to 95km/h.
Queenstown Gardens Trail
If you’re keen to be active on your last day, there’s a 3.1-kilometre trail through Queenstown’s botanical gardens. At only 1.5 hours return, this is a great activity if you’re short on time. It’s also wheelchair and pram friendly.
Note: New Zealand’s ski season runs from June to October.
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