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10 extreme activities to do in Queenstown New Zealand

Updated on January 28, 2014

Queenstown, a one-of-a-kind place to visit.

Queenstown is a one-of-a-kind place, there's nothing else quite like it. New Zealand is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing tourist destinations and most new visitors are coming because they were a fan of Lord of the Rings. Other movies filmed in Queenstown include: Vertical Limit, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe (Narnia), Prince Caspian and the Bollywood movie I Hate Luv Storys.

But people don't just come to Aotearoa (New Zealand) to see their favourite movie settings, there are a large group of thrill-seekers looking for a unique (but affordable) adventure. They often choose Queenstown.

There is an exciting range of extreme activities available in Queenstown including: Skiing, Luge riding, Mountain Biking, Bungy jumping, Snowboarding, Sky diving, Hang gliding, paragliding, White water rafting, Zip riding (flying fox) and scenic Helicopter rides.

The best thing about choosing New Zealand as your destination to experience these activities is that NZ has very high safety standards compared to the rest of the world. It's also a very cheap country to visit, not quite as cheap as places like India and South America, but relative to safety, very cheap. The cost of food and accommodation is excellent, the streets are safe and the people are friendly.

Skiing in Queenstown
Skiing in Queenstown

1. Skiing

Queenstown is one of the most loved ski spots in the entire world. Skiers from Europe, Canada and the USA choose Queenstown in the off season to practice their skills. Many also come just for general leisure. Some of the things you need to consider when visiting Queenstown to ski are:

Season

The ski season in Queenstown starts on the 9th of June and can last as long 4 months, all the way up to the middle of October. It's best to plan your trip so that you arrive around early July. Don't bet on snow always being available as early as June!... I've heard many stories of people booking a 2 week trip to Queenstown, only to find out that there was no snow. Visiting in July will guarantee that there's plenty of snow so you'll be able to make the most of your trip.

Snow Gear (Clothing)

Unless you already own ski gear, it's probably best that you just hire it. It's not that expensive and if it gets ripped or wet, you can usually just swap it for a new lot with the ski clothing hire company. Kids can be "snow clothed" for as little as $20 per day and adults for about $40. You might even find it cheaper than this if you are staying for longer. If you plan on visiting again (and don't plan on eating too many doughnuts), you could think about buying your own snow gear. You'll still need your own thermal underwear, thermal socks and boots (although the boots can be hired).

Lessons

One thing about ski lessons, there A LOT of ski instructors in Queenstown, some can charge you extortionate prices so make sure you get a few quotes before committing. Look around for online coupons, also talk to the ski (and clothing) hire people and see if they have a package deal available.

Ski Hire

Skis usually cost around $100 per day to hire but can be substantially cheaper if you are hiring for multiple people and are planning on skiing for more than a week. The ski fields themselves hire skiis, snowboards and toboggans, and if you're lucky you might be able to snatch a package deal.

Mountain Biking in Queenstown
Mountain Biking in Queenstown

2. Mountain Biking

This is a must-do activity for anyone visiting Queenstown (or New Zealand). Mountain Biking offers unparalleled value for money and can often be as free as CHEAP! If you already own your own mountain bike and gear then you'll be pleasantly surprised at the world-class quality of Queenstown's mountain bike tracks. Sometimes you can even get free mountain bike hire when you hire a Campervan. All campervans come with bike racks so you can bring your mountain bike wherever you go.

Bike Hire

If you don't have your own bike, you'll probably have to hire one, although a quick online search for "online bike store NZ free shipping" will give you some excellent places to purchase a quality mountain bike with speedy shipping. Bikes are generally around $40 - $120 per day (depending on the bike), so if you plan on staying for a while, you might want to buy one and then sell it on trademe (NZ's version of eBay) before you leave.

Tracks

There are free and paid mountain bike tracks available in Queenstown, skyline offers a gondola and bike track package for $85, this allows you to use the bike track for the whole day (10am start) along with the gondola for taking the bike and yourself back up to the top of the hill. Skipper's Canyon and Bob's peak are both free mountain bike tracks, and actually better than the paid ones (in my opinion). I would suggest trying all of them, the skyline one is amazing though, it's all downhill and you don't have to push your bike up any hills at all.

Scenery

Mountain Biking is an amazing way to see the tranquil native bush and the serene countryside. Yes, you can do the same thing walking, but you won't get close to seeing anywhere near as much... bikes are just faster! Queenstown is not short of jaw-dropping scenery, and you'll want to see as much as possible.

Skill Level

You'll need to take your skill level (and the level of the people travelling with you) into consideration before planning your trip. Ring the Queenstown iSite (information centre) to find out more information about each specific mountain bike trail. Their number is - From outside New Zealand: +64 3 442 4100 or Freecall within NZ: 0800 668 888.

Tours

If money is not an issue, then a Mountain Biking tour could be the best option. Tour guides will pick you up (and your bike) and take you to various different trails, giving you tips and even lessons on mountain biking. Don't arrange bike hire until you've talked to the tour company, they might offer it as part of their package.

Clothing

If you're going to Queenstown in the winter, you'll need to wear thermal underwear and appropriate bike clothing. You'll work up a sweat while biking so depending on the person, make sure you just have a t-shirt and shorts handy in case you get a bit hot.

Bungy Jumping in Queenstown
Bungy Jumping in Queenstown

3. Bungy Jumping

On da in 1987, a crazy New Zealander by the name of A J Hackett decided to climb the Eiffel Tower, he slept the night and waited until the morning where he tied a bungy cord to his feet and jumped off the tower, attracting worldwide media attention... well that's the short version.

Now, Bungy Jumping is a global phenomenon, with 1000's of tourism companies taking part, A J Hackett's business is the largest and most successful, and they offer loads of other extreme adventure touirsm options. Queenstown is where it all started, and coincidentally, it's the best place to go bungy jumping.

Safety

The best way to stay safe when bungy jumping, is to choose the most reputable companies, A J Hackett's company is the best and they have about 8 different jumps around the country (including the harbour bridge if you're in Auckland).

If you act responsibly then you won't have any problems, just make sure you talk to your doctor before doing a bungy, it's not a recommended activity for people suffering from any heart conditions.

Tandem

When skydiving, tandem diving with an experienced diver is much safer and will also make you feel much better about the insane amount of space between the ground and yourself. But when you're bungy jumping, it's a completely different thing, tandem jumping increases the weight and definitely increases your chances of injury. Think twice before choosing this option.

Milford Sound, New Zealand
Milford Sound, New Zealand

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Zip Riding in Queenstown
Zip Riding in Queenstown

4. Zip Riding (flying fox)

Zip riding is definitely one for the whole family, and when I say the whole family, I mean it! When you go zip riding in Queenstown, you can take up to 6 people down the zipline at the same time!... I haven't done this one personally but I have seen youtube videos of people doing it and it seems much safer than bungy jumping. Definitely on my bucketlist.

Cost

Single ride

Adult - $60

Child* - $40

3 Rides - (May be shared between multiple people) - $105

Five Pack (Can also be shared) - $150

If you've been on this ride and have any info you want to share, please leave a comment in the box at the bottom of this page.

5. White Water Rafting

Queenstown White Water Rafting
Queenstown White Water Rafting

You can't visit Queenstown without going White Water Rafting. This is right at the top of the MUST-DO list for Queenstown activities. Lots of companies offer white water rafting so there's loads of competition and the packages are often competitively priced.

If you're a master, then there are quite a few places where you can do this yourself... although I wouldn't recommend it. It's always more fun going with others so find a good raft tour company and stick with the group.

Safety

Safety gear is usually supplied and they won't let you go rafting unless you have all the required gear. It's best to use their stuff for 2 reasons: They perform daily checks on all of their safety gear, and in the case of an injury, the company's insurance will cover your medical bills (unless of course, you've signed a disclaimer).

Clothing

The white water rafting company will sometimes supply your clothes but it's wise to contact them in advance and find out what you are going to need. Most people just bring their swim suit. A nice warm set of dry clothes to change into afterwards is a must.

Queenstown Rafting are the best to go through in my opinion, they've been doing it since 1974 so they really know what they're doing. It costs $199 per person and the activity lasts about half a day. Most trips require a minimum of 8 people for a booking. If you contact the information centre, you might be able to arrange to join a group.

Helicopter Rides Queenstown
Helicopter Rides Queenstown

6. Helicopter Rides

Cost

This is definitely one of the more expensive ones on the list, but if you're only planning on 1 or 2 trips then the cost still won't add up like skiing can. Price ranges from as cheap as $200 per person and anywhere up to $10,000. It can be significantly cheaper if you're going with others.

Scenery

Some of the most awe-inspiring scenery in the world can be found in Queenstown, Doubtful Sound, Milford Sound, The Remarkables and Several Large glaciers... not to mention the unique flora and fauna that can only be found in the Otago Area.

Weather Conditions

Queenstown in an amazing place, but when they have storms, they are BIG. You need to be prepared for this so your vacation is not completely ruined. The helicopter tour company will refund you if you are unable to go because of extreme weather conditions, but make sure you have a backup plan so you're not left sitting in your hotel room looking out the window.

Reviews

Always look at online reviews, this is especially important for Heli companies because some of the ones at Rotorua don't really go along with all of the safety practices... and even if they do, wouldn't you want to be in the most capable hands anyway?

7. Luge Riding

The Luge is another great kiwi invention. Basically, you are in a very fast cart-type-thing which you control with handlebars while blasting at top speeds down a smooth concrete track. In New Zealand, it's available in Rotorua and Queenstown. It's also in Singapore and Canada. Skyline are the company who run the luge, they also offer a range of other exciting activities.

Usually you have to pay $36 per person to get to the top in the Gondola (this includes 1 luge ride and the return gondola trip) and then between $5 and $10 for each luge ride after that. If you've never done it before, you have to try it. Most of the time, they make you start off on the beginner track and then allow you to go on the intermediate and advanced tracks once you've shown that you aren't a total idiot!

Safety

To my knowledge, there has only ever been one luge-related death ever. This was due to some young boys being stupid (In Rotorua) when the track was icy... the barrier also wasn't there to stop people flying off a steep edge. This has been fixed and there have never been any problems with the tracks in Queenstown. A little bit of common sense is all that is needed when luging. Take a little extra care in winter, the tracks can get a bit icy.

Snowboarding in Queenstown
Snowboarding in Queenstown

8. Snowboarding

Most of what I said about Skiing applies when Snowboarding in Queenstown. Snowboard hire was $100 last time I went, but you can get it cheaper if you are going for more than 1 day.

If you're an advanced snowboarder then there are halfpipes and slopes especially designed for snowboarding only, these do cost extra but they are well worth it if you've come to New Zealand to snowboard. Certain times of the year, the public is not allowed to use these because a special event may be happening.

Just a few notes in regards to safety: Snowboarding is not like skateboarding, the board is attached to your feet, it's very easy to injure someone (or yourself) if you aren't being careful.

9. Skydiving

Skydiving in Queenstown
Skydiving in Queenstown

If you really want to scare the crap out of yourself then nothing will do it like skydiving. For that reason, I highly recommend packing an extra pair of underwear.

Skydiving is expensive, but worth every cent. If it's your first time then you'll probably want to go tandem sky diving. The cheapest option is about $299 (which actually isn't that expensive really).

Tandem sky diving is when you sky dive with another person (usually with an experienced professional). It's highly advisable that you choose this option if it's your first time. Ask the company themselves if they offer any sort of refund if you chicken out. Some of them have it as policy, and others may allow it just to get an extra customer in the door (only to throw you out of one shortly afterwards.

Photos and Filming

NZONE Skydive and all other major skydive companies allow you to attach a video or still camera to your helmet to capture the exhilarating experience. Some charge extra, while others add this into the total cost. If you're going to jump out of a plane and freefall at 200 kilometres per hour, why not have proof?

Clothing

As I mentioned earlier, start with a spare pair of undies. You'll also need some thermal underwear (with long sleeves and leggings) to wear underneath the skydiving suit that's provided.

Scenery

The scenery is amazing from 9000 feet so this is a huge reason to choose Queenstown as your skydiving destination.

10. Hang gliding and Paragliding

Hang gliding and Paragliding in Queenstown
Hang gliding and Paragliding in Queenstown

As with skydiving, you are required to undergo a medical examination, or to bring a letter from your doctor showing that you are good to go. Hang gliding is an amazing way to experience the spectacular scenery of Queenstown, usually you'll go tandem with an experienced driver (yes they call them drivers) and some are able to communicate with you through a microphone and headset. This is only optional with some companies, it can be good if you want a sort of "guided tour" while you glide.

Safety comes first and all sky dive companies make it their number 1 priority to keep their customers safe. Do what the driver says and don't try any funny business.

Hang gliding is on a traditional hang glider and paragliding is on a parachute type glider and moves much slower. Both are equally as safe but I'd recommend watching some videos on youtube so you understand the differences.

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    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 3 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Wow, New Zealand has it all!