Destination Showcase: Queenstown, New Zealand

Dec 16, 2021 at 2:25
by Jay French  

Queenstown, New Zealand
Home of Adventure

Photography & Words: Jay French
Riders: Louise Ferguson, Emma Olofsson, and Conor Macfarlane


Situated on the northeastern shore of Lake Whakatipu, you'll find Queenstown, New Zealand's home of adventure, known around the world by mountain bikers, skiers, snowboarders, and adventure seekers alike. Queenstown, or Tāhuna as it's known in Māori, has long been the key destination in New Zealand for those looking to do something exciting. The township itself is more resort-like than small-town, with hotels restaurants, and bars in abundance. From five-star boutique to casual and cosy, there's something to appeal to everyone. Built around Queenstown Bay, on New Zealand's longest lake, the town is surrounded by impressive mountains such as the Remarkables, Cecil Peak, Walter Peak and Ben Lomond. There is natural beauty and awe-inspiring vistas everywhere you look.

The beauty of Queenstown not only lies within the landscape, but the abundance of opportunities it provides. It's the town where you can bungy jump, go jet-boating, skydive and luge in the morning, then cruise around the lake on the TSS Earnslaw, go to a vineyard and treat yourself to an exquisite meal in the evening. Go beyond these main attractions, and you'll find many hidden gems and the possibilities for adventure are endless.

In mountain biking circles, Queenstown is world-renowned. There's riding to suit every level and type of rider. Lakeside e-bike trails, to massive jump lines, lift-accessed downhill tracks to dirt jumps parks. If you like riding bikes, you'll like Queenstown. In recent years it's been the summer home for many pro-riders, Kiwi's and internationals, spending the Northern Hemisphere off-season living the dream every day, riding, training, and enjoying the vibrant nightlife. It's pretty hard to do the town justice with only a few days. There are so many iconic tracks and riding spots, you could stay busy for days without repeating a trail. Having an international airport set up to deal with bikes makes it super convenient to get to if you're not driving. Queenstown is also a great place to base yourself to travel further on from, with access to five of New Zealand's Great Rides, Cardrona right on the doorstep, and multi-day options headed into Central Otago, and Southland.


Coronet Peak and Arrowtown


Coronet Peak is the closest ski mountain to Queenstown, only 25mins away from the town centre, situated on the southern slopes of the 1,649-metre peak which shares its name. It gets amazing sunrises to the east towards the Kawarau Gorge and Cromwell and is the starting place of some of Queenstown's most loved trails. The infamous 'Rude Rock' starts here. You can make your way down to 'Zoot track' or join 'Hot Rod' which takes riders to the valley floor, or during the summer months, you can ride the lift here and access the trails on the ski field itself, the XC, DH trails and the new Grade 4 Upper Rude Rock trails are a good time. With fast lifts that prioritise mountain bikers, you could link three absolute banger trails into one run and have yourself 1200m of descending. If your legs are feeling fresh enough, there is the option to get a shuttle back up to the Coronet Peak base building from the bottom of Hot Rod. Once you've worked up an appetite or found your thirst, head to Cargo at Gantleys. Originally built in 1865 for the gold rush, Cargo has been delightfully refreshed since then, with a superb outdoor area to enjoy a drink in, relax on a bean bag with a coffee, or sit around a picnic table for a meal with your crew. It's situated at the bottom of Coronet Peak road, so it would be kind of crazy not to visit.

The XC trail winds it way down the mountain with plenty of fun features to keep you smiling.
The XC trail winds its way down the mountain with plenty of fun features to keep you smiling.

Beautiful golden lights spills over onto the southern side of Coronet Peak.
Beautiful golden lights spills over onto the southern side of Coronet Peak.

Riding Queenstown classic Rude Rock as the rest of the town is only waking up.
Riding Queenstown classic 'Rude Rock' as the rest of the town is only waking up.

Don t like pedalling Coronet has you covered.
Don't like pedalling? Coronet Peak has you covered.

Don t be fooled by the patch of snow it s well and truly summer
Don't be fooled by the patch of snow, it's well and truly summer!
Conor with a table whilst the Remarkables and lift line watch on.
Conor with a table whilst The Remarkables and lift line watch on.

Good banter with the crew as we make our way down Coronet.
Good banter with the crew as we make our way down Coronet Peak.

Cargo at Gantleys is a lovely spot for chilling outside post-ride.
Cargo at Gantleys is a lovely spot for chilling outside post-ride.
Round one milkshakes and smoothies as we wait for our breakfast to come out.
Round one, milkshakes and smoothies as we wait for our breakfast to come out.


From Coronet Peak you can also make your way to the more challenging 'Slip Saddle' trail, which heads straight down, giving you panoramic views of the Whakatipu Basin and The Remarkables. From here, you can connect with the freshly rebuilt 'Bush Creek' trail which will spit you out in Arrowtown. The perfect place to finish your ride. Arrowtown is a charming little ex-gold mining town, nestled beside the Arrow River only 20km from the centre of Queenstown. The main street takes you back in time, and the tree-lined avenues are stunning in Autumn. It's a lovely sunny haven in the late afternoon, sheltered from wind and catching the evening rays. There's no better spot to finish up your ride than The Fork and Tap, sporting nearly 20 beer taps of local and imported beers, satisfying post-ride food choices, ample bike parking and many spots where you can sit and relax inside or outside, to share tales and relive your ride.


Get the adrenaline pumping with a ride down Slip Saddle big views over the Wakatipu Basin as you descend.
Get the adrenaline pumping with a ride down Slip Saddle, big views over the Whakatipu Basin as you descend.

Louise makes light work of a pretty janky rock section.
Louise makes light work of a pretty janky rock section.

Conor appears into a spotlight deep in the bush.
Conor appears into a spotlight deep in the bush.

The newly refreshed Bush Creek trail would make for an epic e-bike ride.
The newly refreshed Bush Creek trail would make for an epic e-bike ride.

On the late afternoon apres vibe at Fork and Tap as we wait for dinner to be served.
On the late afternoon après vibe at The Fork and Tap as we wait for dinner to be served.
Always a great selection of beers at the Fork and Tap if you don t know what you feel like just ask for a recommendation.
Always a great selection of beers at The Fork and Tap, if you don't know what you feel like, just ask for a recommendation.


Coronet Peak Ski & Mountain Bike Park mountain biking trails


Queenstown Bike Park, Wynyard and 7-Mile.


Queenstown Bike Park is the most popular of all the options on offer, a staple of the local scene. From what started as a network of pirate trails created by some visionaries way back, the park has exploded in popularity in recent years, with over 30 trails totalling over 30kms of track. There is all matter of tracks here, for all types of riders. If you're new, Hammy's has you covered. Classic trails like 'Vertigo' have had a bit of a freshen up and run sweet, but if you're here to send, then trails like 'Huck Yeah' and 'Original' will satisfy your desires. There is all matter of trails in between too. Flow trails, downhill trails, tech, rocks, roots, you name it, you'll find it in the Queenstown Bike Park. Affectionately known as "gondy" to locals, you'll be able to lap until you can't hang on any more thanks to the enclosed Skyline gondolas taking care of the ascending for you. If going bigger is something you're capable of, then you can head to Wynyard to ride 'Dream Track' or progress your way up at 'Mini-Dream'. When it's time to recharge the batteries, visit Bespoke Kitchen just down the road from the Skyline Gondola. Great coffee, a fantastic range of fresh and unprocessed cabinet food, casual seating and one of the best smoothie bowls out there, a personal favourite. Hang your bike out front and cruise on in.


Super early starts before a scenic pedal.
Super early starts before a scenic pedal.

Such a beautiful spot to see the sun come up before a heart racing descent to the top of the bike park.
Such a beautiful spot to see the sun come up, before a heart racing descent to the top of the bike park.

On the way down with a full day of riding still ahead.
On the way down with a full day of riding still ahead.

Heading up to ride gondy as it is affectionately known by locals.
Heading up to ride "gondy" as it is affectionately known by locals.
Looks like it would be a great day out on the lake as well.
Looks like it would be a great day out on the lake as well.

Squid run out of the trees in Queenstown Bike Park.
Squid Run out of the trees in Queenstown Bike Park.

Riding some of the more tech-ish trails in the park
Riding some of the more tech-ish trails in the park
Into the green room on the Fernhill side of the park.
Into the green room on the Fernhill side of the park.

Classic bike park berms.
Classic bike park berms.

Beautiful evening for a ride.
Beautiful evening for a ride.
New works of art coming together in the park.
New works of art coming together in the park.

Finding tweaks amongst the trees.
Finding tweaks amongst the trees.

Home of the best smoothie bowl in Queenstown Bespoke Kitchen.
Home of the best smoothie bowl in Queenstown; Bespoke Kitchen.


If you're looking to get some pedal laps in, make your way towards Glenorchy, along the lakeside to the 7 Mile riding area. Beautiful views make this pedal or drive pleasant, and it's only a few minutes from town. Once you get there, park at the lakefront and get on your bike to play amongst the rabbit warren of trails on offer here. The 'What's Up' climbing trail takes the sting out of the ascent and makes lapping easy. Once there, you can hit the progressive jump trail Kachoong, or play in the North-Shore inspired 'Buckland' named after builder Glen Buckland which is a real labour of love, and a lot of craft. After lapping here, jump in the lake to cool off, and then a trip to Atlas is a must. A quirky, cosy and integral part of the Queenstown scene, Atlas is a wonderful little pub. You'll find Kelly McGarry's bike hanging from the roof above the huge range of beers they have on tap, and outside you can have your pick of tables - there's a 99% chance you'll bump into someone you know.


Named after its creator Glen Buckland
Named after its creator Glen Buckland
Skinnies hand crafted with love in 7-Mile.
Skinnies hand crafted with love in 7-Mile.

Emma showing the crew how to skim stones all was going well until she hit Louise with one.
Emma showing the crew how to skim stones, all was going well until she hit Louise with one.

Conor cruises mini-dream as a warm up to the real thing.
Conor cruises Mini-Dream as a warm up to the real thing.
There s plenty of progression available in Wynyard with jumps gradually getting bigger and bigger it s the perfect place to build your confidence.
There's plenty of progression available in Wynyard, with jumps gradually getting bigger and bigger, it's the perfect place to build your confidence.

The crew pushing up for a session at Dream.
The crew pushing up for a session at Dream.

Conor with a big Nac on Dream
Conor with a big Nac on Dream,

Pan shot super-can. Dream is world class.
Pan shot super-can. Dream is world class.

Inside Atlas one of the coolest places in Queenstown. Note Kelly McGarry s bike hanging from the ceiling.
Inside Atlas, one of the coolest places in Queenstown. Note Kelly McGarry's bike hanging from the ceiling.


Evening plans are taken care of south of town as well. Park up and pedal along to 'Phoenix' which is an awesome little loop from the Wilsons Bay parking area, it quickly gives you a taste of everything and drops you back at your car. You can chill out on the lakefront, have a swim and watch the sunset, go and session 'McNearly Gnarly' a couple of times or head into town for some dinner. The World Bar is another local favourite. Friendly staff, heaps of tables, great feeds and it turns into a bit of a nightspot later in the evening.


Sunny evening apres at the World Bar.
Sunny evening après at the World Bar.
Conor telling the best jokes at dinner.
Conor telling the best jokes at dinner.

The crew making their way up to Phoenix with the stunning backdrop behind them.
The crew making their way up to Phoenix, with the stunning backdrop behind them.

Louise leads the way down Phoenix which has a little bit of everything on it.
Louise leads the way down Phoenix, which has a little bit of everything on it.

Queenstown Bike Park mountain biking trails


There's a reason why so many people want to come to Queenstown, and a reason why so many end up staying. The vibe is great, the riding is second to none, and the work being put in on maintaining trails, developing new areas, and building fresh trails keeps the riding fun and engaging. A few key locals and groups are investing in the area, and there's the Queenstown Mountain Bike Club (QMTBC), which has been around since 2003. It's thanks to them that Queenstown has a lot of the riding that it does. The passionate group of volunteers, and what they call "GSD-ers" have been instrumental in the development of so many of the popular trails and riding areas. Summer is a great time to visit Queenstown. Long days mean plenty of time for activities, temperatures between 20-30° which is perfect for après and cooling off in the lake. If you've been dreaming of a trip here, it won't let you down. If you haven't been back in a while, then what are you waiting for? Every time you ride here you remember how good these tracks really are. The riding is world class, the activities on offer are endless and the atmosphere is truly inviting.


Sunset with the lake to ourselves. Unreal.
Sunset, with the lake to ourselves. Unreal.

Last of the sun.
Last of the sun.



Local Knowledge


Getting Here:
 Queenstown is a resort town located in the South Island of New Zealand and is easily accessible with daily direct flights from all of New Zealand’s main centres. Queenstown Airport is an international airport and acts as the gateway to the lower South Island. The airport is also located an easy 15-minute drive from downtown Queenstown. Queenstown is also very accessible from Australia’s East Coast with multiple airlines offering a 3-hour direct flight.

If you’re flying to Queenstown, you can check-in your bike as luggage. Or if you prefer to travel light, you can rent a bike at one of our bike hire places.

The Climate & Wildlife: Queenstown has four distinct and unique seasons making it a favourite year-round destination with each season offering a different experience. Surrounded by lakes and mountains, Queenstown’s alpine scenery and landscapes provide one of the best backdrops for your riding adventure.

In summer, temperatures can reach 30°C and dusk doesn’t settle until 10pm, which means there’s tonnes of riding time, with a post-ride dip in the lake a must. ‘All-time fall time’ is a saying that rings very true in Queenstown during autumn with hero dirt, perfect riding temperatures and beautiful low light. In winter you’ll experience the stunning snow-capped mountains and a winter paradise for snow sport enthusiasts. A lot of Queenstown’s mountain bike trails sit in the trees, below the snowline, so there’s still some epic riding locations to send it during winter. When spring breaks and the days get warmer and longer, you can literally ski in the morning and mountain bike in the afternoon. Need we say more?

Local Mountain Biking Groups:
 The Queenstown Mountain Bike Club is the heart of Queenstown's MTB scene. The club's volunteers are a passionate bunch who build and maintain the trails that make Queenstown famous, and if you bump into a club member, they’re always happy to share some local tips or favourite trails with you.

Top tip: Download the QMTBC app for all the latest trail updates and some sweet local deals. Plus, you'll be supporting the growth of the bike park and trails you love to ride, giving you that extra feel-good factor.

Bike Shop & Repairs: Queenstown delivers an unbeatable biking experience with supporting amenities to truly make your trip memorable. There’s loads of local bike shops around the town centre which offer bike retail and bike hire to suit all styles, abilities and budgets. Most of them also specialise in servicing, repairs or workshops and the friendly crew (who are all passionate riders themselves) can hook you up with shuttle transport options and local knowledge on tracks and conditions.

Food & Drink:
 With over 150 barsrestaurants and cafés, there really is something for everyone. From gastro pubs to iconic burger joints or fine dining restaurants, you’ll be relishing the local flavours served up talented chefs. Post-dinner, we recommend experiencing Queenstown’s epic nightlife – the scene never fails to deliver.

Bespoke Kitchen is just a few paces down from the Skyline Gondola and starting from 7:30am, offers a varied menu that accommodates all tastes and preferences – ideal to fuel up before or after a few lift-assisted runs at Queenstown Bike Park.

Atlas Beer Cafe: Legendary and local. Share a craft beer with Queenstown’s local riders who eventually migrate here after an epic day's riding. 

Cargo at Gantleys: An absolute essential for any mountain bikers hitting Coronet Peak. Beautiful beer gardens, dog and rider friendly.

World Bar: Upbeat, bright and fun - if you fancy a post-ride boogie, be sure to check out World Bar.

Searchlight: A true locals spot, located beside the legendary Gorge Road Jump Park. Cute and astute independently owned brewery with over 18 beers on tap. 

Spots like Fergburger, Devil Burger and Taco Medic serve tasty takeaway food, perfect to enjoy on the lakeside.

Must-Dos: 
When you’re not in the saddle, you’re in the home of adventure with adventures of all tastes and tempos. There is no shortage of adventure activities for anyone looking to test their limits, from bungy jumping and skydiving, to river surfing or heli-biking. You can also get the heart pumping and immerse yourself in Queenstown’s natural surrounds with outdoor adventures from mountaineering and climbing, hiking, rafting and kayaking. If you’re looking for a slightly slower pace, there’s plenty of recreational activities including walking trails to explore, scenic flights or spa and wellness options to help ease the muscles after your riding adventures.







34 Comments

  • 19 0
 Im not really sure if Queenstown needs advertising...
  • 10 1
 All this advertising for NZ when you can't even go there!
  • 12 1
 Best place I've ever ridden.

Hop off the plane, 10 min drive to the town centre, bike park is in the CBD!

Run into Remy Morton, say hello, do a lap of Vertigo
Run into George Brannigan, say hello, do a lap of "bubba"
See Loic Bruni lining up for the lift.... nearly faint!

Few days later I do the epic ride into Arrowtown, who is there at the pub? Hans Rey! Say hello, he is the nicest guy I have ever met and we have a beer together.

Best trails I've ever ridden, I nearly cried riding rude rock on sunset lol

I'm waiting for these travel bans to end to get back there!
  • 9 3
 NZ for the third time this month...
  • 12 2
 Can you believe that there are 3 places to ride in NZ?
  • 6 0
 Its almost like NZ is a good place to rides bikes in their summer.
  • 11 1
 NZ for the 22nd time this month for me.
  • 1 4
 @VTwintips: It almost like there aren't any other places in the WORLD to ride other than an island that costs $3K and 30 hours to fly to. Oh wait this place is run by Outside, now. It makes total sense.
  • 1 0
 @tacolord: suggest 10 other spots remotely worthy of showcasing at this time of year.
  • 1 0
 @VTwintips: Are you kidding? Portugal, Spain, fkn Utah. Get with it, there are plenty of places AROUND THE WORLD and PB decides to cover NZ over and over again almost like paid advertising.
  • 1 0
 I'm not. I said 10 examples. And you gave 3, of which one is below freezing every night right now, statewide.
  • 5 0
 What, no link to the Vanzacs YouTube channel?
  • 5 0
 nice try Murray
  • 4 0
 I know this is paid advertising, but it's working on me.
  • 4 0
 Nac for days
  • 2 0
 THats a nacnacnac
  • 3 0
 Get some tea pots down ya at the world bar
  • 1 0
 Stayed in arrowtown a couple of years ago. Super nice and great access to rude rock! Laps on laps on laps.
  • 1 0
 How can you not go to George road jumps???
  • 1 0
 best place on the planet
  • 1 0
 Gorgeous for sure!
  • 4 5
 There's no h in Wakatipu
  • 7 1
 Māori scholars disagree with you.
  • 3 3
 Oh they are doing their best to add one. Seems a bit late to me too
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