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Winter transforms Queenstown into one of the Southern Hemisphere’s premier snow sports destinations, with the ski and snow sports season lasting from early-mid June through early October.
Queenstown is a unique winter destination and the best thing is its as much about the scenery, activities and nightlife as it is the ski resorts. The town is located about 300m above sea level, so although the snow level rarely reaches Queenstown township, when it does the town is transformed into a winter wonderland.
Queenstown Ski Resorts
The closest ski field is Coronet Peak, located about a 20 minute drive from Queenstown. The Wakatipu Valley is also home to The Remarkables ski resort, just a 45 minute drive from town and north facing for some beautiful clear sunny days. If you cross over the Crowne Range you will find Cardrona Alpine Resort approximately 60 minutes from Queenstown and known for it's family friendly slopes & world class terrain park. Keep heading further near Wanaka to find the regions steepest and largest ski resort of Treble Cone.
Harris Mountains Heliski
For ski & snowboard enthusiasts, there is no better break from the ski field than a day (or 4!) Heli Skiing with Harris Mountains Heliski. Imagine being flown by helicopter to untracked backcountry slopes in the beautiful Southern Alps! Easy rolling terrain for powder first timers, wide open bowls and challenging chutes with steep valleys for the more experienced. You’ll be part of a group of four led by a guide who is committed to your safety. This is a full day excursion and intermediate ski or snowboard skills are required. Packages start from $825 per person.
Winter Holiday in Queenstown
However, if snow sports are not really your thing or your want a day off the slopes then Queenstown "The adventure capital of the World" has a HUGE selection of non-snow activities to choose from.
These are our tips for your winter holiday to Queenstown when you want a break from the ski fields and chair lifts:
Challenge Rafting offers rafting trips year round on the Shotover & Kawarau Rivers near Queenstown. Rafting in winter may sound cold, but Challenge Rafting provides full wet suits to keep you nice and warm on the water. The trip finishes off at their base with hot showers and a sauna available as well!
In the winter months of June - September the Shotover River Rafting is only accessible by helicopter. An exciting flight through Skippers Canyon drops you on a beach by the Shotover River – a very unique, remote experience. The Shotover River boasts exciting Class 3-5 Rapids with no experience necessary.
Winter is a stunning time to go rafting in Queenstown. Most of the time the river is crystal clear, and if you’re lucky you may see some beautiful ice formations. Heli-Rafting costs $279 per person. The Kawarau River (Class 2-3 Rapids) can be accessed year round by bus, prices starting at $195.
Queenstown Activity & Adventure Combos
Queenstown Combos is a one stop shop for adrenaline junkies. They create packages combining local activities offered at discounted rates – a great way to save yourself time & money. If you are only taking 1 day off the ski fields, Queenstown Combos can help you experience as many activities as possible – make the most of your holiday! Options include – Helicopter, Jet Boat, Rafting, Bungy Jumping, Canyon Swinging, Skydiving, & Skyline Gondola and Luge.
Milford Sound - the 8th Wonder of the World
Described by Rudyard Kipling as the eighth Wonder of the World, Milford Sound is considered a must do. Milford Sound is accessible from Queenstown by Bus, Fixed Wing Plane, or Helicopter.
By Bus: The drive to Milford Sound is about 4.5 hours each way and it is absolutely stunning, taking in New Zealand farmland and Fiordland National Park. Mitre Peak Cruises operates a return trip to Milford Sound travelling by bus (scenic stops included) & offering an extended, intimate cruise on a smaller more personal boat in Milford Sound. This tour requires a full day!
By Plane: Take to the air for a Milford Sound flyover or Fly-Cruise-Fly. This is a great way to get the birds eye view the spectacular snow capped Southern Alps & Fiordland coastline. This is also perfect for those who don't have a full day as the Milford Sound Scenic Flights tour, including cruise, takes just 4 hours from Queenstown.
By Helicopter: The ultimate way to reach Milford Sound! The helicopter flight includes a high alpine or glacier landings so you don't just get the birds eye view but get to touch the tops of the mountains. You can choose to do the Heli-Cruise-Heli tour or plenty of other Milford Sound flightseeing options are available.
Hot Pools: Onsen Hot Pools offers Queenstown's only private indoor / outdoor hot pools. Located high on the cliffs overlooking the Shotover River canyon, there is no better way to unwind and warm up.
Golf: Queenstown boasts 4 world class golf courses within a 20 minute drive. Open year round, why not ski in the morning, followed by 9 holes in the afternoon?
Wine: The Central Otago region is famous for its stunning Pinot Noir and the vineyards of the Gibbston Valley are just 25 minutes drive from Queenstown.
Beauty & Spa: Relax and unwind with a massage, facial or whatever treatment you fancy at one of the many beauty spas dotted around Queenstown.
With so many activities available in Queenstown away from the ski resorts, the possibilities really are endless. So is it time to book your Queenstown winter getaway?
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