Queenstown might have simply started out as a bit of land carved by moving lakes and glaciers, but it now stands as one of the world’s greatest adventure destinations. This is largely thanks to the ingenuity and creativity of adventurers and entrepreneurs who have seen the potential of the region. Kudos also has to be given to the New Zealand government for providing the framework and everything else necessary to make this all possible.
Daring and determined individuals have over the years moulded Queenstown into an easily accessible and diverse adventure playground. No matter where you are coming from in the world, you are guaranteed a good time. And the best part is there’s something for everyone, from adrenaline junkies to leisure seekers.
The first miners to settle in Queenstown frequently embarked on dangerous journeys over mountains and cliffs to search for quartz reefs. Farmers didn’t have it any easier as they had to hike up mountains to reach high country stations. But, in March 1882, Reverend W.S. Green tried to climb Mt Earnslaw and this led to the establishment of mountaineering as an adventure sport for the first time in Queenstown.
The first person to successfully climb Mt Earnslaw was Harry Birley, a well-known Glenorchy guide. After that, many more attempted and successfully conquered Mt Earnslaw’s peak, birthing a new generation of mountain climbers and thrill seekers
By the 20th century, New Zealand was gaining recognition as the best summer destination for adventure tourism. People pour into the country from all over the world on a yearly basis to test themselves against the valleys and hills of Milford, Hollyford, and others. Adventurers also come in the form of mountain bikers, cyclists, climbers, kayakers, and marathon runners.
By the 1950s, Queenstown was becoming a winter holiday destination. This was assisted by the country’s first commercial ski resort which was built by Sir Henry and Sir William (Bill) Hamilton in 1947.
Water adventures such as river surfing, sledging, kayaking, and white water rafting soon also became a thing. Bill Hamilton goes down in history again as the man who invented the jet boating adventure an activity which Queenstown is now world famous for. By 1960, tourists were flowing into Queenstown for jet boat rides up and down the Kawarau and Shotover rivers.
By 1974, commercial white water rafting was also highly sought after. Nowadays, you can see tourists enjoying water activities on Lake Wakatipu such as parasailing, kite skiing, and diving in the world’s first commercial Seabreachers.
But there’s more…
Queenstown hasn’t come to be recognised as the adventure Mecca of the world simply for the above reasons. The availability of a wide array of extreme activities is where New Zealand’s adventure tourism really begins to set itself apart. Take, for example, AJ Hackett Bungy Jumping off Kawarau Bridge. It can be described as nothing less than the original adventure for thrill-seekers.
Bungy jumping fast became an international phenomenon in Queenstown, and an essential passage of initiation for the thousands of tourists that visit yearly. Let’s just say a visit to Queenstown isn’t complete without jumping off a high structure with elastic rope tied to your feet.
Commercial bungy jumping launched in 1988 at Kawarau Bridge and in time gave birth to more world-first, gravity-defying adventures. There are zip rides and canyon swings too, just to name a few.
If you need more reasons why Queenstown is considered the adventure capital, then consider the fact that tandem paragliding was also born in Queenstown. It was launched commercially in 1990 and gave rise to freefall photography.
As earlier stated, New Zealand has something for everyone. So, if you are one of those who find the aforementioned original Queenstown adventures to be “too much”, there are more relaxing options such as the Skyline Gondola, which serves up grand views of Queenstown, that you can simply sit back in and enjoy. The Skyline Gondola is on record as the Southern Hemisphere’s steepest gondola ride. So, while the ride is easy, its steep incline offers enough of an adrenaline rush to keep you pumped up.
While many of Queenstown’s adventures are electrifying, they are also safe. This means you won’t have any trouble finding travel insurance that will comprehensively cover you for an adventure tour, such as from companies like Air New Zealand Insurance.
If you plan on visiting for an adventurous summer, there’s always mountain biking in Cardrona for those who have the skill. As to be expected from the world’s adventure capital, there are also options of exhilarating backcountry rides with 4×4 vehicles, quad biking, mountain biking, horseback rides, and even helicopter rides.
Right now, Queenstown stands as the Southern Hemisphere’s premier adventure hotspot, Four Season Lake and Alpine Resort. You should head on over to check it out for yourself. Just remember to travel with an itinerary because chances are the variety of adventure options may leave your head spinning.