How to spend the festive season in Queenstown

19 December 2019

Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year in Queenstown. The days are long, the weather is warm, and there is so much to see and do.

For Queenstown locals, the holiday season is the perfect time to unwind and enjoy time with family. But not so for tourists. Visitors to Queenstown want to get out and make the most of everything this amazing town has to offer during the holidays.

 

If you’re spending the festive season in Queenstown, then you’re in luck. Not only can you enjoy holiday-themed events, Christmas lights and festivities, but Queenstown is one of the few places in NZ where there is still a tonne to see and do over the holidays – even on Christmas Day.

From tours to hiking to world-class restaurants, there is plenty to experience this Christmas and New Years in Queenstown. In this blog, we’re going to tell you exactly how to spend the holiday season here in Queenstown!

What to do in Queenstown during the Holidays

1. Jet boating 

It’s hard to find a more iconic Queenstown experience than jet boating. In fact, the first commercial jet boat operator originated in Queenstown back in 1958 and was one of Queenstown’s first-ever adventure activity.

Today, jet boating is one of the many adventure-based activities in Queenstown. And while it is one for adrenaline junkies, there are jet boating options to suit the whole family.

On a warm summer day, a scenic (and refreshing) jet boat ride is the perfect way to spend an hour.

KJet is the original jet boat operator here in Queenstown, and they will operate as usual throughout the holidays (even on Christmas Day). Jet boats depart every hour on the hour from the lakefront in town.

2. Visit Milford Sound

Sure, it may be Christmas but that shouldn’t stop you visiting New Zealand’s natural wonder – Milford Sound.

Milford Sound is a magnificent fiord located a three-hour drive from Queenstown. Milford Sound is renowned for its towering peaks, sharp cliff faces, unique wildlife, and of course, hundreds of waterfalls.

Our Milford Sound tours operate as normal every day during the holiday season. Even on Christmas or New Year’s Day you can jump on a full-day tour to Milford Sound and be back in Queenstown in time for dinner!

We have a wide variety of coach and cruise packages to choose from, including a kayaking combo for those looking for adventure. You can either drive yourself and book a cruise when you arrive in Milford, or you can jump on one of our coach tours which include stops at all the best places along the road to Milford.

3. Go Ziplining

Queenstown was practically made for adrenaline junkies, and ziplining is one of the best adventure activities you can do in the area.

Not only will ziplining get your heart racing, but the views of the surrounding mountains as you wiz above the trees is hard to beat.

Ziptrek Ecotours runs awesome ziplining tours from Queenstown, and they are (you guessed it!) open as normal every day throughout the holiday period.

4. Spirit of Queenstown Scenic Cruise

Queenstown is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful towns in the world. But what a lot of people don’t know is, the views get better when you venture out on the lake.

Out on Lake Wakatipu, you have a clear view of the surrounding mountains and see Queenstown nestled up against the lake’s edge.

The best way to see these impressive sights is on our Spirit of Queenstown Scenic Cruise. Our comfortable catamaran is the perfect setting for sitting back, relaxing and soaking up the views. With a fully-licensed snack bar and bar on board, you can enjoy an ice-cold drink as you cruise along.

For an even more exciting trip, you can add on the Mt Nicholas Farm Experience where you can explore life on a real working merino sheep farm. It’s the perfect activity on a festive summer’s day!

Where to eat in Queenstown over the Holidays

1. Christmas BBQ by the lake

Don’t feel like eating out? Then why not opt for a BBQ on the lake’s edge in St Omer’s Park. There are several public BBQs available to use for free. All you need to do is pack up your chilly bin (that’s what us Kiwis call a cooler) of meat and drinks and grab a BBQ.

The earlier you head to the park, the better. The park gets busy on sunny days, and the BBQs may be taken. St Omer’s Park is a popular place for Queenstown locals, and will no doubt be very festive and lively on Christmas Day.

2. Skyline Christmas dinner at Bob’s Peak

The Stratosphere Restaurant at Bob’s Peak hosts an annual Christmas celebration. This ticketed event offers a Christmas Day lunch or dinner option and is a mouth-watering Christmas buffet.

But the food isn’t all. The ticket also includes a scenic ride on the gondola, a visit from Santa, live entertainment, and two luge rides. It is a full-on event that will keep everyone entertained on Christmas Day!

On New Year’s Eve, Stratosphere is the place to be. The restaurant hosts a special ticketed event and could very well be the best seat in all of Queenstown to watch the fireworks.

3.Public Kitchen and Bar

Public Kitchen and Bar is one of Queenstown’s most popular spots for two reasons. One is its amazing location next to Earnslaw Park on the lake’s edge. And two, it serves incredible food and drinks.

And the good news is Public Kitchen and Bar will be open for Christmas Day. Enjoy choosing from a menu offering everything from New Zealand lamb to seafood and vegetarian options. There is an impressive selection of New Zealand craft beer on tap and local wines.
For Christmas Day, Public is only taking reservations until 7pm, after that it’ll be walk-ins only. So, if you want to guarantee a table and prevent having to wait, it’s best to make a reservation for earlier in the evening.

Other restaurants that will be open in Queenstown on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve this year include the Three Sixty Restaurant at the Crowne Plaza, Jervois Steakhouse, Prime, The Grille, Pier, Boardwalk, and Wakatipu Grill and Stacks Pub at The Hilton.

New Year’s Eve in Queenstown

New Year’s Eve is a big event in Queenstown. Most people will head to the lake’s edge and beaches to enjoy free live entertainment and watch the fireworks at midnight. It is always a lively event and quite the party.

After the fireworks, you can head out to one of the many nightclubs around town and continue the celebrations. The bars will be full and the drinks will be flowing on what is one of Queenstown’s busiest nights of the year.

For those who prefer something a little quieter, there are other options. You could hike up Queenstown Hill and watch the fireworks from the top. Or, if you don’t mind getting up early, you could hike Ben Lomond on New Year’s Day morning and watch the very first sunrise of 2020 from one of the best locations in Queenstown.

Regardless of how you spend New Year’s here in Queenstown, do it in style and show the rest of the world how welcoming in 2020 should be done.

The holidays are an awesome time to be in Queenstown. So, if you’re lucky enough to be here with us this year, we’re sure you’ll have a celebration to remember.

And don’t forget, the team at Southern Discoveries can help make your festive season run smoothly, so visit our website today and start planning your holiday in Queenstown!

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