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Skiing the South Island: Queenstown’s 8 Best Winter Escapes

Known as one of the adventure capitals of the world, Queenstown is a true winter wonderland for extreme sports aficionados. However, it’s not all black runs and bungy jumps. The South Island of New Zealand is packed full of natural wonders that will amaze you regardless of the season – and Queenstown is the gateway to it all. Pick up a luxury car rental in Queenstown and explore the cinematic landscape in style.

Skiing in and around Queenstown

Skiing at Remarkables

Dotted with impossibly blue glacial lakes and snow-capped mountains, Queenstown is the perfect natural playground for families, groups and couples alike. There are three great resorts within the Queenstown area, the closest being the aptly-named Remarkables – just a 20-minute drive from the centre of town – where kids under 10 ski for free. For a more challenging run, try the Cardrona or Treble Cone ski resorts, both located around an hour’s drive north of Queenstown in the Lake Wanaka region.

Take a leap at the Nevis Bungy

Nevis Bungy

By Will Ellis (originally posted to Flickr as CIMG2392) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Full of adrenaline after a few days of skiing? It’s time to see what you’re really made of at the Nevis Bungy jump. Situated a whopping 134 metres above the Nevis River, this jump is the third highest in the world, featuring a hair-raising 8.5 second free fall.

Not keen on the idea of propelling yourself off a suspended cable car? How about being pushed on a giant swing? The Nevis Swing is the bungy jump’s little sister, involving an equally terrifying free-fall, curving into an (arguably) relaxing swing. Located around 45 minutes out of Queenstown, head there early in the morning to blow away the cobwebs from the night before.

Revel in the silence of Milford Sound

Milford Sound

A trip to the South Island would be incomplete without experiencing the eerie stillness and shifting landscapes of the Fiordlands. A true wonder of the natural world, Milford Sound is a land of cascading waterfalls, pristine waters and abundant sea life. It’s nearly a four hour drive from Queenstown, so if you have time to spare, stay in the area for an overnight cruise and experience the humbling silence of the Sounds. Visiting in winter is ideal for penguin, seal and dolphin watching, but be sure to pack a raincoat – this is the one of the wettest places on earth, with an average of 6,412mm of rain every year!

Explore the Te Anau Glowworm Caves

Te Anau Glowworm Caves

On your way back from Milford Sound, be sure to stop at the glowworm caves in Te Anau, just two hours south-west of Queenstown. Carved thousands of years ago by a powerful river, this limestone cave system is now home to a small galaxy of iridescent glowworms. With whirlpools and underground waterfalls lying in wait, this is an awe-inspiring adventure for everyone to enjoy – as long as you’re not too claustrophobic.

Walk with giants at Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers

Franz Josef Glacier

Get up close and personal with the ice giants responsible for creating the dramatic landscapes of the South Island. The Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier are both real life remnants of the Ice Age that carved up New Zealand’s valleys, creating its spectacular lofty peaks and blue lakes. Both glaciers can be explored on various hikes, guided tours and even helicopter rides that drop you on the ice itself. The glacial West Coast region is located around six hours from Queenstown, so you may want to spend a night or two in town.

Enjoy the tranquillity of Mount Aspiring National Park

Mount Aspiring National Park

Extending along the West Coast from the wilderness of the Haast region to the edge of the Fiordlands, Mount Aspiring National Park is home to some of the most beautiful treks, beaches and sights in New Zealand. Winter makes the park a little trickier to navigate, with many of the treks being closed to all but serious trampers, so know your limits before you go. Alternatively, take a guided tour to ensure your safety and learn more about the region as you explore.

Drink in the colour of Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

You won’t believe your eyes when you see the turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo. Situated less than four hours from Queenstown, this glacial lake is surrounded by ski fields, snowy treks and a winter park that’s perfect for families. Throw yourself into the centre of all the frosty fun with an ice-skating rink and 100-metre snow tubing slope, before warming up in the temperature-controlled hot springs. Tekapo is worth the trip in itself, or is alternatively a perfect half-way pit stop between Queenstown and Christchurch.

Soak up the culture of Dunedin

Larnach Castle

Once you’ve had your fill of untouched wilderness, brave the cold and head south to beautiful Dunedin for a spot of Old World culture combined with the vibrancy of a university town. See stunning man-made sights such as Larnach Castle (known as New Zealand’s only castle), Otago Museum and the postcard perfect Dunedin Railway Station. And nature lovers needn’t worry – there is still plenty to see, including sea lions sunning themselves on the rocks and the views from the beautiful Otago Peninsula.

Feeling inspired to explore? Rent a car in Queenstown today and enjoy the untouched beauty of New Zealand’s South Island with complete freedom.



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