There is a reason behind the fact that Queenstown has been branded as the adventure capital of New Zealand. I don’t think there is an outdoor activity that’s not possible to do here, maybe surfing, for obvious reasons, it’s way too far from the sea. Though I am not going to be surprised if river surfing becomes a thing very soon.
Before this website became my full-time job, I worked in Queenstown as a booking agent, meaning I booked adventure activities for tourists coming through. Thanks to my job I got to try a lot of them and I am sharing a few of my favorites.
Best Summer Adventure Activities in Queenstown – My Top Picks
Queenstown features on every single one of my travel itineraries in New Zealand, so make sure to check them out!
The Shotover River, one of several locations that Queenstown Rafting operates on, becomes an endless fun full of rapids that can easily throw you off the boat. Some of them received some creative names (toilet bowl is one of them).
Don’t get scared away! Safety standards are really high in New Zealand so as long as you listen to your guides you’ve got nothing to worry about. My advice is to do it after it was raining and the water level rises to at least grade 4, anything below that, and the rafting turns into a leisurely boat ride.
The best time for this adventure activity is in the spring and early summer (between October and January) when the water levels remain high from the snowmelt coming down the mountains.
How much does rafting in Queenstown cost and how to book it?
Queenstown Shotover Rafting Adventure starts at NZ$ 219 per person. You can check the availability on your desktop computer below.
2. Bungy Jumping
Go big or go home, in other words, if you decide to take the leap, why not do it three times? I’ve done the ultimate combo and Bungy jumped 3 times in one day, including the highest in Oceania Nevis Bungy! Sounds crazy? Damn, right it is!
At the end of the day, you will be more tired than ever in your life from all that adrenaline pumping into your system.
AJ Hackett is the original Bungy company and operates many of the best bungy jumps in New Zealand.
How much does it cost to do a Bungy jump in Queenstown?
There are 3 bungy jumps in Queenstown operated by AJ Hackett and each of them delivers something else. “The Ledge” is the one at the top of the skyline gondola station offering stunning panoramic views over Queenstown.
Even though it is the shortest out of the 3 it has the highest dropout rate. Why you may wonder? The platform was built 300 vertical meters above Queenstown adding an impression of jumping from a much higher distance than you actually do.
The price for the Ledge and Kawarau Bridge jumps start at NZ$ 220. The highest Bungy in Queenstown – the Nevis jump starts at 290 NZ$.
There are also plenty of combos available directly on the AJ Hackett site, where you can also book the jump.
3. Scenic Flight To Milford Sound
If you have already made it to New Zealand you have to visit Milford Sound. Why not do it in style? Book yourself onto a flight and soar above those stunning mountains and glaciers.
How much does it cost to fly from Queenstown to Milford Sound?
The so-called fly-cruise-fly option in short: flying to Milford Sound, taking the cruise around the Fjord then flying back again over some of the most beautiful landscapes in New Zealand is not exactly cheap.
Prices start from NZ$ 619/per person, but to me, it was one of the best adventures I got to experience in New Zealand. Check the availability below.
Whilst it may not be one of the most adrenaline-filled activities, parasailing definitely offers a unique view over Queenstown. Queenstown Paraflights is one of the longest-operating companies around here.
The smiley yellow face painted on the open parachute, floating above Lake Wakatipu became an iconic summer view in Queenstown.
You will get to sail over Lake Wakatipu and enjoy the fantastic views over the Remarkables, Cecil, and Walter’s Peak, as well as Ben Lomond and Bowen Peak.
Solo, tandem, or even triple flights are available which makes it a great adventure activity for families.
How much does it cost to go parasailing and how to book it?
Prices vary on the number of people. When you book a triple flight (3 people strapped in a harness during one flight) then the price is NZ$ 99/per person. For a solo flight, you will need to fork out NZ$ 199!
Bookings can be done directly by filling out the form. The owners also state that they accept walk-ins, which means you can decide on a whim whether you want to participate or not. All you have to do is visit their stand on the pier near the town center.
5. Canyon Swing
If bungy jumping 3 times in one day still seems like not enough for you, you can also book yourself onto the biggest swing in the world – 70 meters high, and 300-meter arch – The Nevis swing. This swing will make you scream at the top of your lungs.
The cool thing about it is that you can do it with your bestie! To add some extra adrenaline to the table you can do it upside down too! That’s the option I went for and I promised to never do that to myself again! just kidding. I am an adrenaline junkie.
Another famous Queenstown swing is the Shotover Canyon swing. These guys know how to have fun and offer all kinds of launches, including starting your flight sitting on a chair and being pushed off the ledge.
How much does it cost and where to book the canyon swing?
Prices for the Nevis Swing and Shotover Canyon Swing are similar and start at ca. NZ$ 250/person. Both companies offer combo deals or tandem deals. You can book directly with either of the companies on their websites.
6. Jet Boat Ride
Originally developed by Mr. Bill Hamilton back in the ’50s to allow local farmers to move freely around their huge sheep stations on the shallow New Zealand rivers, jet boating quickly became one of the most sought-after adventure activities amongst tourists in Queenstown.
There are a lot of jet boat rides to choose from and I have done them all, but one stands out from the rest and that’s the Shotover Canyon jet boat ride. Thanks to the dramatic location where it takes place and the skilled drivers who will make you feel like on a roller coaster ride.
How much does the Shotover Canyon Jet cost and how to book it?
Prices for this water adventure activity start at NZ$ 159 per person. You can check the availability below.
I went luging 4 times in total when living in Queenstown and if someone asked me again I would do it once more without giving it a second thought! Luging is definitely one of my all-time favorites and each time it puts a big smile on my face!
How much does luging cost and where to book it?
Costs vary and become significantly cheaper for multiple rides combining it with the Queenstown Gondola ticket too. For a full list and reservations go to the Skyline Queenstown Website.
9. Earnslaw Cruise
Built in 1912 TSS Earnslaw – a vintage Edwardian steamship is literally a floating museum. The beloved Earnie has taken millions of tourists across the lake to Walter’s Peak High Country Station to observe the life of local sheep farmers.
TSS Earnaslaw is an icon in Queenstown. Talks about decommissioning it have been circling around for decades, yet it is still going strong. Nowadays efforts are being put in place to make it more environmentally friendly, as it does operate on coal.
How much does the cruise on board TSS Earnslaw cost and where to book it?
There are a couple of options to experience the cruise on Lake Wakatipu onboard TSS Earnslaw.
First is by booking solely the cruise (NZ$ 80/person), and the second one involves disembarkment at the Walter’s Peak High Country Station, where you will be welcomed to a gourmet BBQ dinner followed by a farm demonstration around life on a working property (NZ$145/pp).
10. Tandem Paragliding
Imagine soaring hundreds of meters above a beautiful alpine lake surrounded by mountains. In my humble opinion, Queenstown is one of the best places in the World to try tandem paragliding.
A highly qualified guide will take care of the steering and safety while you can relax and soak in the views. Some guides even let you try some steering or if you are up for it, will perform some spins making you go upside down! I highly recommend it!
How much does it cost to paraglide in Queenstown and where to book it?
GForce Paragliding is one of the most established paragliding companies in New Zealand. Their early-bird flights start at NZ$ 249 and can be booked directly through their site.
Hiking is a free activity that is very popular in Queenstown. There are plenty of different hikes depending on whether you want to do a 30-minute stroll around Bob’s Cove or a 12-hour cruise hike up Cecil Peak.
I’ve gone into much more detail in a post solely dedicated to hiking in the Queenstown area.
Along with hiking, Queenstown and photography go hand in hand. There are several locations either directly in Queenstown or a short drive away, some which require hiking, some that you can see from the window of your vehicle.
I’ve created a separate post on the top photography spots in Queenstown.
What’s the best way to book adventure activities in New Zealand?
The most vital piece of information in this post is about the website called Get You Guide.
It’s a search engine for tours and activities offered in the towns you will visit. The advantage of using this site is keeping all your bookings in one place without the need to remember them all! Prices are the same as booking directly!
You could easily spend over a week doing all the activities in Queenstown and there are loads more than the 9 I have enlisted. If you’re on a budget and can only afford 1 activity then make sure you do a good amount of research beforehand.
Top accommodation options in Queenstown
If you plan on visiting Queenstown in the summer, make sure to book your accommodation as far in advance as possible. Queenstown is a popular place and it tends to book out in the summer!