Queenstown-hill-walk

The Queenstown Hill walk is one of the short but steep hikes in Queenstown, South Island of New Zealand. With stunning views over Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountain peaks, the Queenstown Hill walk is well rewarding. With a total incline of 500 meter over 2,5 kilometre one way you will definitely get sweaty and feel your heart pumping. But it’s worth it as you will be rewarded with amazing 360 views over Queenstown lake and the surrounding mountains. In this ultimate guide I’ll share with you the exact navigation for the walking track, photo spots and other things you need to know before you go. 

How to get to the trailhead of Queenstown hill walk 

The trailhead of Queenstown Hill walk is at Belfast terrace, just a few minutes away from Queenstown’s city centre. While getting closer to the trailhead you will see signs making it very easy to find the car park. However, there aren’t much parking spots available because the car park is tiny. So if it’s already full with cars you can safely park along the road, but keep in mind that this is a residential street, so respect the local traffic that might have to go through. 

Another option is to walk to the trailhead from Queenstown centre which adds another 15 minutes and about 200 meters incline to your hike. This is a great option if you’re staying in Queenstown centre and is a great warming up for the hike! 

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Queenstown hill walk key facts 

Let’s have a look at some key facts before we get into detail about the Queenstown hill walk.

Hike distance and duration: The total distance of Queenstown hill walk is 5 km return. You will first hike to the Basket of Dreams sculpture which is an incredible viewpoint and only 2 km away from the start point. An additional 0,5 km brings you to the summit of Queenstown Hill with 360 views and a satisfied feeling of reaching the end of this trail. The total time walking will take you anywhere between 1,5 – 2,5 hours depending on your speed and how much time you take to enjoy the viewpoints. 

Difficulty and incline: Despite the Queenstown hill hike is one of the short walks in Queenstown, it’s not a super easy ‘walk in the park’. The elevation gain is 500 meters from the trailhead, getting you to the summit on 900 meters above sea level. Right from the start you will begin the incline and there aren’t any flat or downhill sections along the way up. So you can imagine that it will definitely feel like a workout, but isn’t that the whole point of hiking? The views are totally worth it and it is very easy to navigate to the summit as you just follow the well maintained wide gravel hiking path. 

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Best time to do the Queenstown hill walk 

The Queenstown Hill trail is open year round and can easily be done in any season. However, in the winter months there are chances of snow around the summit. So to be prepared for that I highly recommend to wear waterproof hiking boots. Also, with freezing temperatures at night you can expect some parts of the trail to be icy and slippery. Hiking in New Zealand in winter requires some extra preparation, and having experience in snow will definitely help you as well. 

Regarding best time of the day to hike the Queenstown Hill you can’t go wrong at any time of the day. However, if you are keen to see nice golden light of the first sun rays of the day, then you have to go for sunrise! You can see the sunrise on your left side from the summit.

There is no sunset view from the summit, however, the sunset light reflects beautifully on the peaks. And if there is still snow on the peaks opposite of Lake Wakatipu you will see the white snow turning into pastel colours while the sun sets. So if you are in for photography you can either pick sunrise or sunset. But to just enjoy the walk and views, any time of the day is great! 

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What to expect during the Queenstown hill walk 

Be prepared to get your legs burning! Right from the start of the trailhead you will follow the steep path through the forest without any flat parts. The trees give shelter to the path so there aren’t many lookout points until you get almost at the summit. While the smell of forest and silence of nature will get stronger and stronger, your legs will start to burn and breath will be heavier. But luckily there are some fun stops along the way to catch your breath.

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Fairies Meeting Place

After about 15 minutes hiking from the start you will see a super cute Fairy meeting place. A few of the trees here have a small fairy door and if you look closely you can see some Goblins as well. It’s something we’ve never seen before during a hike, but we definitely appreciate the creativity and imagination that went with it.

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The intersection 

When you’ve nearly reached the summit, you’ll see a sign and fork in the trail. The sign says ‘Queenstown Hill walking track’ with an arrow to the left and ‘Loop track’ with an arrow pointing you to go straight and follow the path. We choose to turn left as we didn’t want to loose time while clouds were slowly covering the mountain peaks. This path brings you straight to the summit but is pretty steep. The path going straight on the other hand is a bit longer but more gradual. So it’s totally up to you which trail you choose. But don’t worry, it’s a loop anyway so in the end it doesn’t matter which trail you take. 

If you don’t want anymore heavy incline, then choosing the gradual path going straight is the best option. But if you want to get to the summit a bit faster and you don’t mind some more incline, then going left is the best option. 

From now on the epic views will start, so get ready! 

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Basket of Dreams viewpoint 

Once you’ve passed the tree line you will get to the open area of tussock grasslands. You will soon see the metal sculpture called ‘Basket of Dreams’ which is a cultural landmark in Queenstown. Created by the artist Caroline Robinson for the Time Walk, Queenstown’s Millenium project which combines art, landscape and heritage, the Basket of Dreams provides a meeting and dreaming space.

This is one of the first open viewpoints you will get on Lake Wakatipu, the Remarkables, Cecil Peak and Walter Peak. Definitely worth a stop before you head higher to the real summit of Queenstown Hill. 

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The incredible views from Queenstown Hill

From the Basket of Dreams, a short loop track takes you around the top of Queenstown Hill with stunning views. You will pass a few other unmarked viewpoints which are definitely worth a photo stop. There are also a few rocky areas where you can sit down and enjoy the views, your snacks and have a rest before you make your way down again. 

Hiking Queenstown Hill is one of the must do’s in Queenstown and is a great family and budget friendly activity.

After finishing the Queenstown Hill walk you definitely deserved some food and drinks! When in Queenstown, make sure to try the famous Ferg Burger and unique craft beer from Altitude Brewery! 

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More Queenstown hikes 

There are many more amazing hikes in Queenstown which we strongly recommend to add to your list. Our favourite Queenstown hike was the Ben Lomond Track with incredible views at the summit. However, this is a fairly steep and demanding hike, but if you’re fit enough to complete this one it is totally worth it!

Read here our complete guide to hike the Ben Lomond Track

Other great hikes in and near Queenstown are the following. 

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Must do tours in Queenstown 

Queenstown is the heart of adventure activities, wine tours and is a great base to explore some other places in the South Island. Here are some tours I strongly recommend doing while you’re based in Queenstown.

Option two is a scenic flight from Queenstown to Milford Sound, including the Milford Sound cruise and a different flight path back to Queenstown. This is the ultimate Milford Sound experience!

Where to stay in Queenstown 

As with everything in Queenstown, tours, restaurants and accommodations fill up fast. So to find a great place to stay in Queenstown it is highly recommended to book your preferred accommodation (far) in advance to secure your room. You can always cancel your reservation until a certain date, so don’t wait too long with booking your accommodation in Queenstown. 

There is a wide variety of options in Queenstown for every budget. From dorm rooms to super luxury hotels and self contained apartments. Here are our top recommendations. 

Luxury stay in Queenstown

The Carlin 

The Carlin Boutique Hotel is a 5 star accommodation with very luxury suites overlooking Lake Wakatipu. Some of the rooms even have a private hot tub! With a restaurant, free bikes, a fitness centre and bar you can fully immerse yourself in luxury and the incredible views of Queenstown, the lake and surrounding mountains. 

Book your stay at The Carlin Boutique Hotel in Queenstown here

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Mid Luxury stay in Queenstown

Kamana Lakehouse

Just a little bit out of the city centre you will find this stunning lakeview hotel. Each room features contemporary decor, premium beds and an outdoor seating area. Only a selection of rooms include unobstructed lake and mountain views. Accommodated in the hotel you will find The Nest restaurant which offers unique creations and delicious foraged herbs, seeds and wild ingredients. Even if you’re not staying at Kamana Lakehouse it is worth it to try their restaurant!

Book here your stay at Kamana Lakehouse Queenstown

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Budget stay in Queenstown

Queenstown Lakeview Holiday Park

The Queenstown Lakeview Holiday Park has studios with private bathrooms and self contained cabins with kitchenette. It is a family friendly property with kids playground and is close to everything you need in town!

Book here your stay at Queenstown Lakeview Holiday Park

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More New Zealand travel guides

I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about the Queenstown Hill walk. Make sure to put this hike on your list when you’re staying in Queenstown.

There are many amazing other things to do on the South Island of New Zealand, so if you’re looking for more inspiration and ideas, head over to our other New Zealand travel guides.

Queenstown 

Ben Lomond track – The Complete Guide

Moke Lake loop track & viewpoint – The Complete Guide

Bobs Cove nature walk – The Complete Guide

Glenorchy

Glenorchy walkway & Lagoon track – The Complete Guide