Secret Queenstown: Top Tips only locals know

Defining a ‘local’ in Queenstown is a conversation in itself. I have lived and breathed the beauty that is Queentown for 12+ years, but I still wouldn’t claim the title of a true local. They are few and far between these days, with the town growing every year. I can, however, share some of my secret Queenstown must-dos. Consider them the tips of an ‘almost local’ 😉

1. Backcountry Saddle Expeditions

Queenstown, amazing as it is, is only one of the beautiful must-see places in the region. Halfway between Queenstown and Wanaka is a small town called Cardrona. Cardrona is famous for its ski field in winter and mountain bike tracks in summer, and it’s also home to Backcountry Saddle Expeditions – a highly recommended horse riding trek through the Cardrona Valley that caters for all riding levels. The scenery is breathtaking and the area’s rich goldmining history is fascinating.

Me on the trail in Cardrona.
A great experience for the whole family.

2. The Cow Pizza & Spaghetti House

With so many tempting restaurants right on your doorstep, The Cow is one that can easily be missed – it’s tucked away down Cow Lane, off Beach Street, behind the SkyCity Casino – but it’s worth seeking out. Recently celebrating its 40th birthday, The Cow is a true locals’ secret. The restaurant, with its roaring fires and cosy ambiance, is an Italian treat that’s been serving the town since 1977.

3. The Boat Shed

Nestled on the shore of Lake Wakatipu, alongside the Frankton Trail, is The Boat Shed. It’s a café offering lake views and a fresh seasonal menu of locally sourced produce, catering for breakfast through to late-afternoon treats. It’s a bit off the beaten track, so not many visitors know it, but it’s a true favourite of mine.

Lake Wakatipu as seen from above. I highly recommend a scenic flight while you’re in town.

4. The Blue Door

It’s no secret that Arrowtown is a Queenstown must-see. But you may not know that tucked down an alley, behind the award-winning Saffron restaurant, is a blue door you do not want to walk past. Open that door and you’ll step into a historical stone bar. A hidden escape where you can enjoy mulled wine by a roaring fire in winter or a glass of local pinot in the courtyard in summer.

5. Views from the top

I certainly don’t need to tell you how beautiful Queenstown is. But I can give you some tips on the best walks that will give you the greatest views. Queenstown Hill Time Walk takes around 40 minutes. It’s 500m to the summit, where you’ll feel on top of the world while still in the centre of town. Head out to Arrowtown and up Tobins Track for a 45min climb to look out over Arrowtown and the wider Queenstown area. Or head down past the historic Chinese Settlement (above the Arrow River) and down Sawpit Gully loop track for spectacular views of Lake Hayes and the Remarkables.

The view from Tobins Track.

6. Two-wheel adventures

It’s often overlooked, but one of the best ways to explore the region is to hire a bike and get out there. One of my favourite tracks is the Gibbston River Trail. The trail itself links right through from Queenstown, but I recommend starting from the Kawarau Bungy Bridge. This route takes you through wine country and along the Kawarau River. Pack a picnic – it’s an amazing day.

Where to stay
Queenstown is home to many fantastic hotels, but I do have a few personal favourites. For a comfy and convenient stay that’s also a lot of fun, check out the brand new Jucy Snooze, located in the centre of Queenstown. It’s a cool budget stay with both private rooms and space-age sleeping pods. If you’re travelling with a family, I love Heritage Queenstown. And if you want to spoil yourself, check out QT Queenstown, another new property that locals and visitors alike can’t get enough of.

Space-age pods at Jucy Snooze Queenstown.

The post could go on and on, but then my special secrets would not be so secret anymore. Please take the time to tick at least some of these off your extensive Queenstown must-do list. I promise you won’t regret it 😊

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