Queenstown has a reputation as New Zealand’s adventure capital, but head a couple of hours out of the city and you’ll be rewarded with some of the South Island’s most photo-worthy landscapes. Here are your options for day trips from Queenstown.
Mount Cook — 158 miles (254 km) northeast of Queenstown
Travel through the historic gold-mining districts of the Kawarau Gorge, enjoy dazzling views over the Southern Alps and Lake Wakatipu, and explore the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park on a day trip to New Zealand’s highest mountain, Mount Cook. For the full experience, add a delicious lunch at the renowned Hermitage Hotel in Mount Cook Village.
Doubtful Sound — 170 miles (273 km) southwest of Queenstown
The equally beautiful but less crowded neighbor to Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound is reachable only by boat from Manapouri. Set sail on a scenic cruise across Manapouri Lake, stopping to admire the Te Anau Glowworm cave, Dusky Sound, and the Wilmot Pass en route.
Milford Sound — 178 miles (287 km) northwest of Queenstown
The dramatic fjords, glacial valleys, and waterfalls of Milford Sound are among New Zealand’s most spectacular natural wonders, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site makes for an unforgettable day trip. Soak up the scenery on the 3.5-hour drive through Fiordland National Park, soar overhead on a helicopter or small plane, or spot dolphins, seals, and penguins on a Milford Sound cruise.
Christchurch — 300 miles (485 km) northeast of Queenstown
The journey from Queenstown to Christchurch takes you right through the heart of the South Island, so why not make a day of it? Along the way, pass through the mountains and vineyards of Central Otago, cross Lindis Pass to Mount Cook Village, and stop to take in the views at Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki, the Mackenzie Basin, and the Canterbury Plains.