Queenstown – a Winter Wonderland for Everybody!

The Magical Place that is New Zealand.

Winter in the Southern Hemisphere can be a bit of a buzz kill. Wet, cold, and miserable – my least favourite. I’ll let you in on a secret though… there is one place down around my neck of the woods, that makes a southern winter, a little bit magical. That place is called New Zealand.

Winter in New Zealand is absolutely stunning. I mean, in my humble opinion, winter anywhere is amazing – obviously. But, New Zealand is one of those places that even non-winter lovers can enjoy during winter. How you ask? Queenstown. That’s how.

Queenstown is an absolute mecca of activity. There are a ton of things to do, whether you are a ski enthusiast or not. You get the feeling like you are in a smaller-scaled Canada. The mountains have a ‘rockies’ feel – snowcapped and stunningly reflected in the lake. Everyone is happy and friendly. AND they serve the best god-damn burgers on the planet there (if you don’t try a Fergburger – we can’t be friends). 

Of course, there are many, many more amazing places to be explored over the whole of New Zealand during winter as well. Unfortunately for me, I have yet to discover those places (bucket list 2018!). So, this post will focus on how you can spend a magical week or more in Queenstown, to escape those winter blues.

When Should I Go?

Anytime ever! For Winter; between June and September.

Ski resorts generally officially open on June long weekend every season – however, this is obviously weather dependent. If you aren’t planning on skiing, this is a great time to get your hands on some off-peak flight and accommodation deals.

If you are planning on spending most of your time skiing – August is your guy! It is peak season for a reason. I personally wouldn’t pay out a ton of money for flights and lift tickets to ski any earlier. Those beautiful snowcapped mountains have boulders underneath ready to destroy the bottoms of your ski’s or board. Ride carefully my friends.

Where Should I Stay?

If it’s your first time to NZ, you should 100% stay in Queenstown. You will be close to all the activities, bars, restaurants and shopping.

If it’s your second or third time, why not stay in Wanaka? It is just as, if not more beautiful (crazy, right?!) than Queenstown, and just a lot a little bit quieter. Wanaka is also perched on the waters edge of a beautiful lake and surrounded by snowcapped Alps – perfect for those wanting more of a relaxing getaway.

In Queenstown, we stayed at the beautiful BreakFree The Waterfront in a huge 2-bedroom lake view apartment. What a treat! I would highly recommend looking into apartment style accommodation. Keep those pennies in your pocket for après beers and make use of the kitchen facilities 🙂

Where Should I Ski?

There are four mountains across Queenstown and Wanaka, and each mountain has different characteristics.

Coronet Peak – also known as Concrete Peak. Unfortunately, this mountain is subject to extremely icey conditions, which can be both dangerous and terrifying for even experienced riders. Having said that, the terrain is wide and open, and great for beginners. Just make sure you get it on a snow day or shortly after and you’ll be fine.

The Remarkables – Family friendly and lots of fun! I actually loved the Terrain Park at Remarkables (and I am no expert when it comes to riding park!). My favourite part about Remarkables was the varied terrain. It has some easier stuff down the bottom for the newbies and some steeper stuff up the top for the experienced riders.

Cardrona – The most versatile! Cardrona is the most family friendly of the four resorts. It is also home to the most insane park that attracts professional riders from all over. Just being able to watch these guys throw down is an added bonus!

Treble ConeMy favourite! It was may have been because the day before we went the mountain was closed because it was blizzarding and blowing an absolute gale. This meant, by the time we got there, we were zooming through 30cm of powder (relatively heavy, southern hemisphere powder but hey powder is powder you guys!).

We laid first-ish tracks down the right hand side of this photo at Treble Cone… amazing!

I would not recommend Treble Cone for riders less than intermediate level. Unfortunately, there is not much terrain available for a beginner. If you’re a shredder though, this is your top go-to!

What do I do if I don’t Ski/on Rest Days?

Well if you don’t ski, you can leave. JUST KIDDING!  Queenstown is adrenaline junky heaven! There is so much to do over there, it actually blew my mind a little bit! Here are a few that I can highly recommend:

Shot-over Jet Boat Ride – a tourist catch for sure, but for good reason! These drivers go through an insane amount oftraining before they are allowed to take passengers and when you see how they drive, you’ll know why! They speed over 10cm deep water along the famous Shotover River into the beautiful River Canyons. Make sure you rug up! hehehe —>   

Scenic Helicopter Ride – there are a few different packages on offer in Queenstown and
they do not go cheap. A mere 20 minutes away will set you back around $200 per person! Is it worth it? If you have the spare change, absolutely! The views you get are jaw-dropping and they all include an alpine, glacier or snow landing. It’s a bucket list item I would recommend ticking off!

Skyline Gondola, Luge and Stratosphere Restaurant – The Skyline Gondola is a perfect way to see Queenstown from above, without a helicopter. Take the gondola up, zoom around the racetrack a few times on your luge and retire for a buffet lunch in Stratosphere restaurant. Bookings for lunch and dinner are highly recommend and don’t forget to request a window table! Fingers crossed you get good weather for this one! 

Other things you can get up to include bungee jumping, paragliding, day tours to Milford Sound or just a good old food and bar hop around Queenstown. We also visited the towns of Arrowtown, Glenorchy and Cromwell. The possibilities are endless honestly. I would be flat on my back surprised if you got bored. 

What Else do I Need to Know About my Trip to Queenstown?

I am so glad you asked guys! 😛

Plan Ahead!

Were you listening when I talked about peak season? (Were youuuu?). While some parts of the year will be more affordable than others, New Zealand in general is a popular place. Get in there and book early! I booked as early as February for August and we were rewarded with phenomenal accommodation at a really great price.

Hire a Car.

Good luck getting around without one! The closest ski resort is about a 25-minute drive from the centre of town. PLUS, you will want freedom to explore the old local towns and go to any resort of your choosing based on snowfall the previous night. It is a necessity guys. I would recommend getting a mid-size car, to help you up those winding mountain roads.

Get Budget Savvy.

If you’re worried about breaking the bank with all the amazing activities there is to do, consider some money-saving tips like these:

  • Stay in self-contained accommodation with a kitchen so you can at least eat breakfast and dinner at home most days.
  • Make sandwiches and take snacks to put in your pockets for the chairlifts to avoid spending ridiculous amounts of money on resort food (NZ actually isn’t as outrageously priced as Australian ski fields, but they are still darn cheeky!)
  • Use the Groupon app to check daily for deals on lift tickets, activities or dining specials
  • Head to a travel agent at the start of the week in Queenstown and book in all your activities with the one person. Push them to give you a deal if you book everything with them. We saved a bunch of money by doing this.

No matter what you end up doing over there, I know you will have an amazing time in one of my favourite places in the world! Don’t forget to pack your thermals 🙂