Queenstown is much more than a place for snowsports, great food and luxury accommodation. Brook Sabin goes in search of the region's best hidden gems you probably haven't heard of.
Almost all students are able to foil during their first Fliteschool Queenstown lesson. Photo: Destination Queenstown
Most people assume a 'flying' holiday in Queenstown will involve a scenic plane or helicopter trip. However, one of the region's newest attractions sees you fly on water.
Fliteschool Queenstown will teach you how to use an e-foil; it's essentially an electric surfboard with a propeller that foils above water.
A one-and-a-half-hour lesson will provide you with everything you need to know to foil, and it's said to be easier than kiteboarding, snowboarding, or skiing to learn.
Around 95 per cent of students are able to foil in their first lesson.
Fliteschool is the first authorised place to teach people to use Fliteboards in New Zealand, and framed against the mountains, it's quite possibly the most beautiful place on earth to learn.
A day at the beach
A beach holiday in the mountains! Photo: Brook Sabin/Stuff Travel
Many don't realise Queenstown has a sandy beach just a few steps from town, on the shores of Lake Wakatipu.
If you want to spend a day enjoying a slower pace, arrive early to secure your spot, then relax at the beach with a book and mountain views. When you're hungry, just pop into town for lunch, then cool off in the lake with an afternoon swim or ice cream.
Funyaks are easy to learn to use. Photo: Destination Queenstown
What do you get when you cross rafting and kayaking? It's a thing called Funyaks, and they can be found floating among World Heritage-listed scenery.
This trip is based out of Glenorchy and starts with a fast-paced ride up the Dart River in a jet boat.
After heading deep into Mt Aspiring National Park, you'll jump in your inflatable kayak to float back downstream with your guide.
On the way, you'll explore dramatic chasms, rock pools and side streams – all the while floating on dreamy-blue glacial waters.
You'll eventually reach a community called Paradise, where an off-road bus will take you on a backcountry tour of Lord of the Rings locations as you head home to Glenorchy.
NZ's most beautiful seat
While in Glenorchy, one of the top-rated things to do is the Glenorchy Walkway. Few realise the leisurely hour-long stroll is also home to what could be the country's most beautiful seat.
Along the boardwalk portion of the track is a little chair perfectly framed by the trees with a view of the mountains. Don't miss a photo; in the years ahead, this location could be flooded by people looking to fill their social feeds. For now, you'll likely have the place blissfully to yourself.
Try a Yooner
A Yooner is easier to learn than skiing or snowboarding. Photo: Destination Queenstown
A new craze is hitting Queenstown's slopes, and it's a blessing for those of us who don't know how to ski or snowboard. It's called a Yooner.
At first, this slightly mysterious French invention looks like you're riding an elaborate broomstick down a mountain. But if you take a closer look, this contraption is nothing but genius.
At the start of the last century, French kids in the Manigod Valley would ride a primitive wooden invention down snow-covered roads to get to school. It was called a 'paret' and looked a little like a sled crossed with a single ski.
Fast-forward a hundred years, and a French company has brought the design into the 21st century, adding shock absorbers and a braking system. Now the fast-growing craze has hit New Zealand.
Yooners are available at Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Cardrona, which means you get instant access to the slopes without going through the sometimes tricky process of getting confident on skis.
Hot tub heaven
Kamana Lakehouse has hot tubs bookable by the hour. Photo: Destination Queenstown
Queenstown's hot tub scene has long been dominated by the famous Onsen Hot Pools, where you can soak in privacy among the mountains.
But there's a new kid on the block, and this one can be found closer to town.
The new boutique hotel, Kāmana Lakehouse, has three bookable tubs overlooking Lake Wakatipu and the mountains. The private pools are only available to hotel guests and are cheaper than those offered by Onsen.
The giant pizzas at Fat Badgers will feed an entire family, or one very hungry couple. Photo: Brook Sabin/Stuff Travel
What has more than 70 slices of pepperoni on it and will feed a family?
Fat Badgers Pizza serves enormous 20-inch New York-style pizzas, and they cure more than just hunger; many have used them as medicine after a big night.
Every one of their 23 pizzas can be super-sized or design your own gigantic creation.
Pizza with a view
You need to ski or snowboard to get to Captain's Pizzeria. Photo: Supplied
If you prefer your margarita with a view, head to Cardrona. While it's one of the most recognisable ski fields in the country, few realise it's also home to one of the most spectacular pizza parlours.
It's known as Captain's Pizzeria, but there's a catch. The only way to get there is by snowboarding or skiing down an intermediate-level trail. Essentially, you need to earn the right to eat there. It's worth the effort, with one of the best pizza views in the world.
Ride the Orc Chasm
The course takes you close to the rapids. Photo: Brook Sabin/Stuff Travel
On the lower slopes of a mountain near Glenorchy is New Zealand's most beautiful zipline course.
It crisscrosses a deep valley that's home to the Oxburn Stream, with views of Mt Aspiring National Park.
The course will get your heart racing; it starts with a zipline over an enormous cliff and then descends the valley into the "Orc Chasm".
The wire is in the centre of a fast-flowing river encased in native bush. It's as if you've entered a tree tunnel, and you'll zoom down the rapids just a few metres above the water. The trees, boulders and riverbank are all so close, it feels like a roller coaster.
Cheese and wine in Arrowtown is a great afternoon out. Photo: Supplied
You don't really need an excuse to visit the historic village of Arrowtown, but if you are looking for one – let it be cheese.
The picturesque town is home to the Gibbston Valley Cheese Café, which offers a delicious selection of cheese dishes. Don't go past the fresh baguette, warmed and stuffed with cheese, chorizo and local chutney. Or the double cream brie, oven-baked with caramelised onion and served with fresh bread.
Afterwards, head to The Winery just down the road, where you can taste more than 80 wines.
Staying there: A night at Kamana Lakehouse starts from $164, with a private hot tub an additional $100 for three people for a one-hour session. See: kamana.co.nz
Fliteschool Queenstown starts from $199 for a group of three or $249 for a single rider. See: fliteschoolqueenstown.com
Yooners can be found at Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Cardrona. Minimum age is seven. Cost is $50 for a day hire or $99 for hire and lessons. Forward booking essential. See: yooner.co.nz
A Funyak adventure includes the jetboat, Funyak and off-road bus tour from $319 per adult, $229 per child and $867 per family. See: dartriver.co.nz
Fat Badgers giant pizzas from $31. See: fatbadgerspizza.com
Paradise Ziplines $179 per person. See: paradiseziplines.com
Carbon footprint: Flying generates carbon emissions. To offset your carbon emissions head to airnewzealand.co.nz/sustainability-customer-carbon-offset
Staying safe: New Zealand is currently under Covid-19 restrictions. Follow the instructions at covid19.govt.nz.
Prices quoted are in NZD.