The best things to do and ways to unwind in Queenstown this autumn

The Police Camp historical cottage, Arrowtown.

Queenstown in autumn is the perfect time of year to experience this beautiful region at a different pace and to indulge the senses in the colours and flavours of the season. 

Words: Ella Kinney, Destination Queenstown

Autumn temperatures are cooler at sunrise and sunset, but the warm sunny days are ideal for exploring the region and enjoying the activities and attractions that make Queenstown famous. Soak up the autumn sunshine while you explore local vineyards and wineries by bike or fill your days exploring local galleries, diverse retail stores, cafes and restaurants. Challenge yourself to try something creative and new but not too far out of your comfort zone. The crisp evenings are perfect for sipping a glass of award-winning local pinot noir beside a fire.

If you’re after something a little more relaxed, it’s a short drive to Arrowtown, renowned for its lively heritage, beautiful buildings and bright colours in autumn. A popular spot for photographers, the historic gold mining village is celebrated for its famous autumn hues when the deciduous trees on the surrounding hills turn red and gold.

Explore the quaint streets, old miners’ cottages, restored Chinese Village, and Lakes Museum. Make sure you leave time to experience Arrowtown’s award-winning restaurants and cafes with their gourmet food and spectacular wine lists. Finish your day off with a cheese platter, glass of wine, and an arthouse movie at boutique cinema Dorothy Browns.

PaintVine night in Queenstown.


•Paint & Wine at Yonder: Local eatery and hot spot Yonder hosts monthly Paint and Wine nights led by Paintvine. What better way to get the creative juices flowing than with a glass of wine? The concept is simple – take a brush in one hand, a drink in the other, and paint a masterpiece.

Jewellery making workshop at Sherwood with Jessica Winchcombe: With 10 years of experience making jewellery, Jessica Winchcombe runs an exclusive monthly ring-making workshop at Sherwood on the first Sunday of each month. During the workshop, participants design their own silver ring and learn to make it using a variety of tools and sustainably sourced sterling silver. Groups are small, with a maximum of 10 people, with morning tea provided.

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Photography Tour: There are quite a few well-known and award-winning travel photographers based in Queenstown, many of whom run their own personalised photography tours, giving visitors the chance of capturing stunning images of Queenstown’s most photogenic locations. Beginners and non-photographers are also welcome.

Outdoor dining at Queenstown Mall.

3) EAT YOUR WAY AROUND QUEENSTOWN: Queenstown attracts people from all around the world, many of whom extend their stay and make the resort town their permanent home. This is reflected by the variety of ethnic food available including Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Thai, Chilean, Argentinean, French, Pacific Island, Mediterranean, Malaysian, and Korean cuisine — see how many international flavours you can try. The impressive hospitality scene in Queenstown is ever-changing. Try out one of the many new local cafes and restaurants such as The Fat Lamb, Big Fig, Love Chicken, White & Wongs, and Rosie B’s.

Queenstown Trail – The Queenstown Trail is a series of custom-built, off-road cycling routes linking Queenstown with pretty Arrowtown and Gibbston Valley wine country. Graded easy to intermediate, the 120km network is a fantastic way to reach major sights while soaking up gorgeous scenery along the way.

Mountain Biking – With an incredibly diverse network of trails spread throughout show-stopping landscapes, it’s no wonder Queenstown vies for the crown of New Zealand’s ultimate mountain biking destination. Everyone from beginners to pros can get in on the action.

Road Cycling – Dirt may be the new snow but it’s not all about mountain biking in Queenstown, with plenty of rewarding rides for roadies, too. Country roads around the Wakatipu Basin offer view-filled loops from an hour to all-day, with plenty of coffee and food stops for essential refuelling.

Gibbston ‘valley of the vines’ – A fantastic option for cyclists, the Gibbston River Trail meanders past the dozen or so cellar doors and other attractions lining the Gibbston Valley. It’s around 9km of flat, easy riding from end to end, with Gibbston Valley Winery a hub for bike hire and shuttles. Bike tour operators will also collect you from other points along the trail so you don’t have to do the full there-and-back.

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Hop on a shuttle, bike around the vines, or go on a guided beer and wine tour – there’s all sorts of ways to taste the terroir. An easy 25 minute drive from downtown Queenstown will take you to Gibbston Valley, the heart of Central Otago wine country. Ruggedly beautiful and home to some of the region’s oldest vineyards, it’s a wonderful place for a wine tour by bus, bike, or on foot.

If you’re wanting to try something a little closer, but equally as impressive, there is a collection of beautiful winery-restaurants dotted around Lake Hayes, an easy 15-minute drive out of Queenstown central. A great option for a self-guided wine tour.

If you’re wanting to try out some local brews, Queenstown’s craft beer scene is starting to come into its own with new local breweries, craft beer bars, and beer and wine tours, establishing at a rapid rate. Why not start your evening with a local twilight craft beer and wine tour and see where the night takes you?

Artbay Gallery.

Take the time to explore Queenstown’s art and retail scene. Queenstown and Arrowtown are home to excellent art galleries and craft workshops.

Paintings, drawings, contemporary sculpture, watercolours and photography are all on display in various public galleries and workshop spaces. Often you can meet the artist and purchase their work as a memento of your visit to Queenstown. There are tour providers who will take you around the local galleries, or simply create your own tour list and visit the galleries that appeal to you.

Inspired by a simpler way of life, and the wish to remove the clutter from their own homes, interior designer Martina Blanchard and buyer Sunny Wehrle opened concept store and coffee studio SLOW. SLOW only stocks considered products which are made ethically and with care, and beautifully crafted coffee and food. It’s the perfect place to slowly sip on a tea or strong coffee, take inspiration from the beautiful clothing and interiors, or enjoy a good book.

Queenstown offers a wide range of walking tracks and trails that explore different parts of the region, including Ben Lomond, Queenstown Hill, Glenorchy, Arrowtown, and Lake Hayes. Some trails are little more than a stroll, others are wide but challenging uphill hikes towards far-off peaks. Narrow trails that cut into gullies offer a different kind of excitement.

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Queenstown Hill Time Walk – Located in the heart of Queenstown, the Queenstown Hill Time Walk is one of the most popular and accessible walks in the region. It’s not difficult to see why — the steep but well-maintained track winds through pine forest as you climb, before breaking out above the treeline where you will reach the infamous ‘Basket of Dreams’ sculpture. Continue a further half hour up the track and you will be rewarded with the most spectacular 360-degree views over the Remarkables, Cecil Peak, and Lake Wakatipu. Duration: 2-3 hours return. Moderate fitness levels required.

Bobs Cove – A short 15 minute drive out of Queenstown will take you to the start of the Bobs Cove walk. This short track passes through native bush to reach a stunning cove on Lake Wakatipu. It’s a great option for kids at roughly 40 minutes return.

Mt Crichton Loop Track – This dynamic loop track starts from a carpark 12km from Queenstown on the Glenorchy–Queenstown Road. The well-formed 3-4 hour walk features rivers, waterfalls, native bush, and unbeatable views. A highlight of the track is Sam Summers’ Hut. Built around 1930 and still providing basic accommodation for hikers to this day, the hut provides fascinating insight into times gone by.

Moke Lake –  is a beautiful scenic spot, with a feeling of seclusion despite being a mere 15 minutes’ drive from Queenstown. Pack a big picnic with some local goodies, a Frisbee or a rugby ball, and even your swim suit if you’re feeling keen – on warmer autumn days the temperature of the water is perfect for a dip.


Created in partnership with Destination Queenstown. For everything you need to plan your next trip to Queenstown, from accommodation options to the endless array of activities and attractions, as well as a full calendar of events visit


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NZ Life and Leisure This article first appeared in NZ Life & Leisure Magazine.
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