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Queenstown is New Zealand’s adventure central

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Surrounded by razor-sharp mountains and the deepest of deep blue lakes, Queenstown is the stunning alpine gateway to the country’s southern wilderness. It’s also the undisputed shiniest jewel in New Zealand’s crown.

There’s an energy to this picturesque town that’s hard to describe. It’s outdoorsy, adventurous, fun and a perfect year-round destination. With four ski fields all within an hour’s drive, it’s also a serious winter playground. Skiing, shopping, wining, dining, hiking, mountain biking, golfing and chilling in a scenic wonderland makes this a New Zealand must-do. And the sky is literally the limit for finding your adrenaline fix.

Where to eat

Image: Isabella Rubie Photography

Aosta

In the heart of Arrowtown, you’ll be whisked away on a culinary journey to the beautiful village of Aosta in the Italian Alps where award-winning chef Ben Bayly fell in love with the local cuisine. For Ben, Italian food is simple, delicious, ingredient driven and easy to understand. Bringing the flavours of Northern Italy to Central Otago, the chef-restaurateur and his team have exquisitely blended locally sourced produce and wines into a creative Italian-inspired menu, and his customers are loving it.

Joe's Garage

This Queenstown institution has been brewing up some of Queenstown’s best coffee and food since 2000. Now dotted throughout New Zealand, the original Joe’s Garage still serves up killer feeds with a chilled Queenstown vibe. Don’t miss Joe’s famous savoury mince on toast – it’s a kiwi thing.

Rātā

Inventive, adventurous and delicious New Zealand-inspired cuisine is what brings Queenstown locals back to Rātā time and again. Michelin-starred chef and co-owner Josh Emett has fun with flavours and local ingredients to create spellbinding dining experiences. One diner sums it up perfectly: "Every time I go to Rata it tastes like New Zealand."

Where to shop

Image: SLOW Store

SLOW Store

SLOW is an experiential showroom and concept store with a range of brands chosen for their core values of sustainability and beauty. In contrast to the adrenalin-packed action and adventure of Queenstown, SLOW offers a different-paced connection to the natural environment. SLOW eatery also serves coffee and beautiful counter food.

Smith & Western

Proudly 100% New Zealand made, this locally owned designer store is located in Arrowtown. Raw crystal jewellery and oversized clay rosaries sit happily alongside leather cowboy boots and merino–silk cardigans. You know how there’s always that one shop? Smith & Western is it.

Vesta

Set in a teeny preserved historic cottage on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, every nook and cranny is bursting with kiwi-inspired collectable goodies – from contemporary art to designer jewellery and homewares. Look out for the time-warped wooden floors and original wallpapers for a step back in time.

Where to stay

Image: Luke Foley-Martin

Sherwood

Voted in Expedia’s top 10 sustainable hotels in the world, Sherwood is enjoying an inspired incarnation as an eco-friendly hipster haven with sublime views over Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables. The restaurant is the heart of Sherwood with seasonal produce picked fresh from a flourishing kitchen garden. Serving only local, natural wines, locally brewed craft beer and a delicious menu, Sherwood is a regular for those in the know. Think wholesome, think community, think Sherwood.

STAY of Queenstown

STAY is a boutique collection of eight sophisticated, beautifully designed, self-contained suites, located close to town with sweeping views over Lake Wakatipu. Privacy, luxury and first-class customer service in the heart of paradise. What more do you need?

The Rees Hotel

The Rees Hotel Queenstown is a multi-award-winning five-star hotel sitting on the shores of Lake Wakatipu complete with private jetty and beach. Quiet, sumptuous and sophisticated, The Rees has thought of every whim a guest may have. For a step up in bespoke luxury, head to the oversized villas of The Rees Lakeside Residences.

See & drink

Late arvo sundowners Queenstown style

Regardless of time of year, you can’t leave Queenstown without cosying up in a boutique bar in the late afternoon to sip on something local and delicious. Our picks are Little Blackwood, Eichardt’s Bar and The Lodge Bar – think late afternoon light, hunting lodge decor, rich buttery leather lounges, thick woollen blankets and a deep glass of Central Otago pinot noir with the promise of an evening to come.

Wine tasting at Gibbston

Head out to the ‘Valley of the Vines’ and try some of the world’s best pinot noir. There’s a range of different wineries, restaurants and tasting sheds throughout Gibbston, which makes for a fantastic day out. While every vineyard has something special to offer, Amisfield, Peregrine and Wet Jacket are among our faves. And to really get amongst it, see Gibbston by bike on The Queenstown Trail, which runs through the valley.

Visit historic Arrowtown

Arrowtown is a pretty, historic gold-rush village that’s an easy 20-minute drive from Queenstown. Many of the original buildings still stand, home to boutiques in a thriving little high street. But there’s more to Arrowtown; wander down ‘the back’ to the river to skim stones or put on the walking shoes and hit one of its trails. And if you’re here in autumn, you just struck gold – you’ll see why.

Queue for a Fergburger

Nothing is more Queenstown than queuing for an iconic and world-famous Fergburger. Maybe it’s the queues at literally any time of day (which move surprisingly smoothly) or the young and fun crowd vibe or the drip of tomato sauce as you stand eating your burger on the street, but Fergburger is Queenstown. Hot tip – mix it up with a Ferg pie from Fergbaker next door.

In the know: Chris and Hayley Scott, Sherwood

This amazing husband and wife duo joyfully live and breathe the ethos of Sherwood with Hayley as General Manager of Marketing and Operations and Chris as Executive Chef.

Image: Luke Foley-Martin

What do you like to do on your days off?

Our perfect day off is doing something outside as a family. In winter, we ski, and summer is for mountain biking, hiking or kayaking. Of course, we love great food, so we’ll usually have a barbecue or meal and wine with friends!

What is Queenstown’s best-kept secret?

Summer is the best-kept secret in Queenstown – the daylight hours are incredible. It stays light until 10pm, which gives you so much time to get out there and enjoy the beautiful surrounds.

Your favourite foodie spots?

We love eating Japanese and Kappa is a favourite spot right in town. It’s tucked away upstairs and is super fresh and authentic. Aosta in Arrowtown is great Italian, handmade pasta and has a fantastic wine list.

Day tripping from Queenstown?

There are so many awesome day trips and walks. Kinloch is fabulous out through Glenorchy, as is Paradise, which is exactly that – paradise! If you don’t feel like travelling far, then Wanaka is a great day out.

Don’t leave Queenstown without seeing or doing what?

Heading up The Remarkables. The views are fabulous and the Lake Alta walk in summer is awesome. Visiting some natural wineries – Mt Edward in Gibbston is a favourite of ours. Go for a walk – the track out to Jack’s Point from Kelvin Heights is spectacular – and, of course, come to Sherwood for dinner!

In the know: Ben Bayly, Aosta

Multi-award-winning executive chef and two-time Cuisine Magazine NZ Chef of the Year Ben Bayly loves cooking Italian food, so it made perfect sense to create an Italy-inspired restaurant in Central Otago.

Image: Ben Bayley

What do you like to do on your days off?

An early ski or hike followed by a visit to a world-class vineyard, then a bar for an early drink, dinner at a fabulous restaurant and finishing up at another bar for live music. Queenstown really is the most perfect place it the world.

What is Queenstown’s best-kept secret?

In winter, head to Soho Basin, a private ski field with no queues, only a small number of guests and fresh powder. In summer, take a 4WD into Macetown, an abandoned goldmining town in the high country for a leisurely lunch.

Your favourite foodie spots?

Sherwood for amazing vege-driven food cooked straight from their garden. Amisfield for world-class fine dining where my good mate Vaughan Mabee is the best chef in New Zealand. And, of course, Aosta!

Day tripping from Queenstown?

Drive over the Crown Range, New Zealand’s highest highway, to Wanaka where you can visit the biodynamic Rippon winery, voted the most beautiful vineyard in the world, then drive on towards the West Coast to the Blue Pools for a walk or swim.

Don’t leave Queenstown without seeing or doing what?

A helicopter ride with Choppy from Over the Top Helicopters. She’s a beautiful lady and a Queenstown icon. This truly is an unbelievable experience.

Feature image: Miles Holden

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