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Things to do in Central Otago

Our most recommended things to do in Central Otago

Queenstown: Spirit of Queenstown Lake Wakatipu Scenic Cruise

1. Queenstown: Spirit of Queenstown Lake Wakatipu Scenic Cruise

Cruise farther and see more on this 1.5-hour Queenstown scenic cruise. Sit back, relax and enjoy spectacular views of the Remarkables, Bob’s Cove, Cecil Peak and Mt. Earnslaw from the comfort of the Spirit of Queenstown – an environmentally friendly and luxurious cruise boat. Take in panoramic views from the open top deck. Enjoy refreshments, snacks and lunch served in the café on board. Cruise across spectacular Lake Wakatipu as you enjoy entertaining commentary provided by the local skipper.

Shotover River: Extreme Jet Boat Experience

2. Shotover River: Extreme Jet Boat Experience

Take on the ultimate jet boat experience on the Shotover River for a breathtaking ride through dramatic and narrow canyons, located less than a 10-minutes drive from Queenstown. A short drive from Queenstown will have you at the shores of the Shotover River. Meet your experienced guide and gear up for your high-speed jet boat ride. Hold on tight as the driver expertly navigates the jet boat over white-water rapids and squeezes through the narrow walls of the Shotover Canyon. Speed past rocky outcrops, skim around boulders, and zip through the dramatic and narrow canyons as its walls tower above you. After 25 thrilling minutes, return to the jet base and relax on the shuttle transfer back to Queenstown.

From Queenstown: Lord Of The Rings Tour to Glenorchy

3. From Queenstown: Lord Of The Rings Tour to Glenorchy

Enjoy a small-group tour of the most iconic Lord of the Rings filming locations in New Zealand, specially designed for fans of the films. Within minutes of leaving Queenstown, reach the Glenorchy Road, which follows the edges of the Great Lake Wakatipu, and has been voted  one of the top 10 drives in the world. Admire snowcapped mountains that arise around every corner of the journey. Your first stop will be the 12 Mile Delta. Here, enjoy a short nature walk over the 12 Mile canyon footbridge and spot trout and salmon in the crystal-clear water below. Learn about the local flora and fauna and visit the locations, where scenes from the films were shot. Next, refuel with a delicious morning or afternoon tea picnic near the famous Glenorchy red shed and wharf. Once you have eaten enough to satisfy a Hobbit, adventure further into the World Heritage Mt. Aspiring National Park, home of Lothlorien Forest, where you will have the opportunity to snap some photographs dressed as your favorite Lord of the Rings character with replica swords from the trilogy. Next, head up the Dart Valley through "Paradise" to Isengard for some time to enjoy this amazing location in this spectacular glacier-carved valley. Stories and behind-the-scenes secrets will be shared by your passionate local guides on the way back to Queenstown.

Queenstown Half-Day 4WD Lord Of the Rings Discovery Tour

4. Queenstown Half-Day 4WD Lord Of the Rings Discovery Tour

Embark on an adventure safari packed with breathtaking scenery, thrilling 4WD action, and LOTR filming locations. Visit the filming locations of Minas Tirith, Misty Mountains, the Pillars of the Kings (Argonath), Gladden Fields, the Ford of Bruinen, and more.  After pick-up from your hotel, journey around the Wakatipu Basin to see The Remarkables, which were used as various mountains throughout the three movies. Travel part way up Queenstown Hill for a bird's-eye view onto Deer Park Heights, which was used for the refugees of Rohan and the Battle of the Wargs scenes. From the viewpoint, head to Kawarau Gorge where the filming took place for the Argonath - 'Pillars of the Kings'. After Kawarau Gorge, travel to Arrowtown where the loss of The One Ring scene at Gladden Fields was shot. Near Arrowtown, you will experience a true off-road adventure. Following a historic gold mining road up the Arrow River, cross the river many times to get to the Ford of Bruinen. Here you can indulge in a refreshing afternoon tea and try your hand at a spot of gold panning. From Arrowtown, travel to the entrance of Skippers Canyon for spectacular panoramic views of the Wakatipu Basin and into the Canyon.

Otago Winery Tour with Gourmet Wine & Food-Paired Lunch

5. Otago Winery Tour with Gourmet Wine & Food-Paired Lunch

Make the most of your stay in Queenstown with this half-day wine and food experience for an unforgettable taste of Central Otago’s wine region. Enjoy a winery lunch consisting of several tasting dishes each perfectly matched by the Chief Winemaker and Head Chef, using estate wines and fresh local produce. Indulge in wine tasting and presentations at 3 wineries, visiting one larger well-known winery and two boutique style wineries. The tour also includes a wine cave tour and tasting, providing you with an insight into the local great wines and the Central Otago wine industry.

From Queenstown: Mount Cook and Hooker Valley Day Trip

6. From Queenstown: Mount Cook and Hooker Valley Day Trip

Visit breathtaking locations in Queenstown as you make your way to Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. Travel with a reliable tour guide who will share stories and rich background knowledge on Queenstown and the Mount Cook area. Start your tour in the stunning city of Queenstown. Drive through the Kawarau Suspension Bridge and marvel at the scenery the Kawarau Gorge has to offer. Stop at the Roaring Meg Lookout to take photos of your stunning view. Then, enter the region of Cromwell, famous for fruits and wine and where you can see huge fields of vines. Next, traverse the majestic Lindis Pass which lies between two valleys against a backdrop of a bright blue sky. This stretch of highway is one of the only three Alpine roads through the otherwise impassable Southern Alps. After taking photos at the top of the pass, drive through the Mackenzie District and visit the township of Omarama. Turning west, you'll enter Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, and Lake Pukaki will emerge in front of you. Proceed to the start of the Hooker Valley Track and depart on a 3-hour self-guided hike with amazing views of Hooker Lake, Hooker Glacier, and Mount Cook. Finish your tour by visiting High Country Salmon as you make your way back to Queenstown.

From Queenstown: 4-Hour Afternoon Boutique Wine Tour

7. From Queenstown: 4-Hour Afternoon Boutique Wine Tour

On this 4-hour afternoon, boutique wine tour, have the chance to explore the Central Otago region and try its exquisite wines. Meet your guide and depart from the Queenstown Station Building at 2:00 PM. From here you'll visit three boutique wineries in the Central Otago wine region. As a small group, have an intimate experience learning about the wine region. Delish in a delectable cheese platter while trying up to 15 different types of wine. Enjoy a relaxed afternoon among the spectacular scenery of Central Otago.

Glenorchy & Paradise Scenic Half-Day Tour from Queenstown

8. Glenorchy & Paradise Scenic Half-Day Tour from Queenstown

Just 45 minutes from Queenstown, Glenorchy is nestled on the northern shores of Lake Whakatipu and is home to what many say is New Zealand's best scenery and a slice of Middle-Earth magic. View stunning scenery and alpine vistas as you are guided in style aboard a premium Mercedes van. Enjoy an overload of sightseeing and views packed into a fun half-day adventure to Glenorchy and beyond. Upon arrival in Glenorchy, you will be awe struck as you gaze at the mountain ranges and native beech forest which set the backdrop for this rustic town. You will have some time to check out the town's local sites and hidden gems, while also learning about Glenorchy and its fascinating Maori history. After Glenorchy, visit Paradise, view Diamond Lake, and explore the surrounding areas. There’s endless natural beauty and scenic stops along the way, ensuring you’ll go home with some postcard-worthy photos. View multiple Lord of the Rings movie locations, such as Twelve Mile Delta, where the first fight between Faramir's Rangers and the Giant Oliphaunts took place. In a location called "Paradise," you will also get to see the famous locations of Isengard and Saruman's Tower. Costumes are available, so you can re-create scenes and dress as a character from the movie. Whether you are a Lord of the Ring’s fan or not, you will be impressed with the stunning scenery surrounding these locations. Taste a kiwi-style morning or afternoon tea with a spectacular back drop. Your guide will set up the ultimate picnic in one of a number of picturesque locations, consisting of classic, kiwi delights. With a stunning natural backdrop comprised of majestic mountain ranges and native beech forest, Glenorchy is sure to leave you speechless.

Queenstown: Mount Cook Premium Guided Day Tour

9. Queenstown: Mount Cook Premium Guided Day Tour

The day begins with early morning pickup from your accommodation in Queenstown and heads through the heart of the South Island towards New Zealand’s tallest peak, Aoraki Mount Cook. Along the way, soak up unforgettable scenic views and stop at the Cromwell Fruit Bowl, Lindis Pass, Omarama, and Lake Pukaki. As you travel, listen to your guide’s fascinating commentary about the local scenery, history, and culture. Arrive at Mount Cook Village and spend 3.5 hours exploring. Choose to take a walk to the impressive Lake Mueller for a close-up look at Mount Sefton’s glaciers, or experience the incredible activities on offer at Mount Cook. On the return journey to Queenstown, enjoy a stop at the Twizel Salmon Farm, before arriving back to the city in the early evening.

Queenstown: White Water Surfing Along the Kawarau River

10. Queenstown: White Water Surfing Along the Kawarau River

Bodyboard up to 12km down the iconic Kawarau River. You’ll enjoy riding white water rapids and even get a chance to try surfing on standing waves, riding whirlpools as well as catching some underwater currents if you are brave enough. The fast Kawarau River bursts with energy, and this trip will challenge your nerves from start to finish. About 1-1.5 hours will be spent in the river.  The bodyboards are light and highly maneuverable, allowing you to be more active in the water. It's the perfect choice for someone looking for the ultimate adventure. You can even choose your own board depending on how much adrenaline you can handle. River surfing is best suited for people who want the full white water experience. You'll get the opportunity to also enjoy some of New Zealand's spectacular scenery on the more gentle parts of the river, and you can also stop for a jump from the cliffs along the river.

Other Sightseeing Options in Central Otago

Want to discover all there is to do in Central Otago? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about Central Otago

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 466 reviews

Really fun wine tour with Angus. The drive to the wineries was informative Re: scenery and history. The wineries chosen were varied enough. Lunch was light but excellent and included pairings. We learned a lot from the guides at each vineyard but also Angus has a wealth of knowledge from living in France as well. Really great day - and a nice relaxing activity to do while in Queenstown-Wakatipu!

I loved this day trip and would 100% recommend it to people without car. The only thing I would change is the time to di the track. 3 hours is just enough to rush to the end and come back, without long breaks to enjoy the view or eat. Personnally, I would remove the stop we did at a salmon farm and add the allocated time to do the track.

It was a really great tour by Susana! The organization was perfect and we had a lot of fun. Also the tastings were very nice. From our perspective, the price is very high for the amount of wine & food provided, but this seems to be the case in NZ…

Very friendly staff and good service. The view was stunning. This adventure is a must if you are in Queenstown

Amazing day. Fortunately we had great weather. Wonderful hike. Ana, our guide and driver, did her job well.