If you’re traveling in New Zealand, EVERYONE is going to tell you to go to Queenstown. They’ll tell you that it’s the coolest place in the country, that it’s so much fun, it’s a great place for backpackers and tourists…after you hear someone spout off about Queenstown, you’ll start to believe it’s truly the best place in the entire world.
I’m not going to disagree completely, but I am going to have an unpopular opinion. I didn’t really like Queenstown.
Queenstown is the adrenaline capital of New Zealand. It’s a playground for adults—definitely a place for the more active traveler. You can go bungy-jumping and jet boating, both of which cost a fortune. It’s also a great place for socializing, meeting other travelers, and going out. It’s a real party town.
Based on those two things, I realized Queenstown isn’t for me. Yes, I do like to stay fairly active when traveling, and I love spending time outside. However, I’m not really into the crazy, adrenaline activities that are popular with backpackers. I’m also not a big fan of partying and drinking, which seemed to be the only other thing people I met wanted to do. I kind of felt out of place in Queenstown, which is a shame because it had so much potential.
So even though I didn’t love it there, why do I recommend going to Queenstown anyways? Well, it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been! Before arriving, I didn’t imagine Queenstown to be so scenic. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised when I first caught a glimpse of the lake and surrounding mountains.
I turned into a ball of anxiety every time I walked into the town center, and there wasn’t much I wanted to do in Queenstown. But anytime I was able to spend time outside on my own, I could see why people love it so much. I went on a couple of short hikes, and most of my time was spent just walking back and forth around Lake Wakatipu. I also went on a lake cruise one afternoon, which was a fun way to see the area.
I stayed at the lakefront YHA, which is about 5-10 minutes from town. It was an ideal location for me, away from the crowds. I loved sitting near the lake for hours, reading my book under the willowy trees.
I was in Queenstown for 5 days, which was definitely more time than I needed. I took a day trip to Wanaka, but other than that I got quite bored. If you’re going to stay that long, spend at least 2 days exploring the area outside of Queenstown. It’s a good hub for day trips to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, Milford Sound, or Arrowtown and Glenorchy.
Of course there is more to Queenstown than my simplified version. I know a lot of people find it to be the ideal vacation spot, and I have yet to meet another backpacker that held the same sentiments as me. And I wouldn’t go as far as to say don’t go there–but maybe one day passing through is enough if (like me) you’re not going to indulge in the activities and nightlife.
I guess my point here is to say that as a traveler, you’re not going to like every place you visit. Even the beautiful places sometimes just don’t click. But you’ll never know unless you go.