Summer in Queenstown is epic. Think long days, warm temperatures, BBQs and rivers and lakes to swim in; it’s the perfect recipe for putting a big smile on everyone’s face. Throw in a healthy dose of bike riding, and you’ll soon see how awesome the Queenstown Trail network is and you are likely to discover something new about this incredible place we live in.
With so many trails on our doorstep, you’d be hard to find one that doesn’t run near to where you live, or is only a short drive away. We’ve put together some of the best trails for whatever sort of summer mood you’re in or activity you’re after. You’ll be surprised by how accessible and inclusive the trails are, ranging from easy peasy to longer intermediate trails.
The Queenstown Trail is one of New Zealand’s most popular Great Rides and offers up over 130kms of off road trails, providing an ideal way to access awe-inspiring scenery, tranquil picnic spots, historical points of interest, crystal clear rivers and lakes, plus fantastic local food and wine.
Check out our story below on the best of the best of the Queenstown Trail network for some summer inspiration.
The Queenstown Trails Trust has a vision for a happier, healthier and cleaner Queenstown, all because more people have the opportunity to walk and cycle. We want people of all ages and abilities to utilise the network of trails safely, easily and enjoyably around the Wakatipu. If everyone who used the trails regularly donated as little as $30 per year we’d be safeguarding the future of the trails. Help us achieve our vision and support us by becoming a Friend of the Trust.
Best trails for all the family
Lake Hayes Trail / Wai Whaka Ata
Level: Intermediate (Grade 3)
An easy 8km loop, this is a stunning scenic trail around Lake Hayes/Wai Whaka Ata, perfect for all the family and dog friendly. Nicely protected from the wind, on a blue sky, clear day you can see the Remarkables and surrounding mountains reflected perfectly in the lake. A great trail for both cyclists and walkers, it’s the perfect option for an early morning stroll or post lunch leg stretcher if you’ve got an hour or two to spare.
Tucker Beach Trail
Time: 1.5hr return from Lower Shotover Bridge
Level: Easy / Grade 2
Distance: 3.34km (6.7km return)
Tucked away just beyond the old Lower Shotover Bridge is a trail that passes through Tucker Beach Wildlife Reserve, the trail was gifted to the community in 2018 by Queenstown Rotary and is home to a number of threatened bird species. It is a wonderfully scenic trail, with lots of wildlife and incredible views to take in, before ending at the historic Tucker Beach. Pack a picnic (and your togs if it’s a hot day) and find a spot by the river to while away the afternoon with the whole family.
Best trails for eating and drinking
Gibbston River Wine Trail
Time: 2-2.5 hrs
Level: Easy (Grade 2)
The only trail you’ll need to know about if you’re heading for a pint or a pinot noir in the valley of the vines. A perfect way to spend an afternoon, this 8.7km easy trail starts at the Kawarau Suspension Bridge and weaves around the Gibbston vineyards, with plenty of cellar doors to stop and soak up some of Central Otago’s finest pinot noir. The trail ends at Mt Rosa Wines, so make sure you’ve saved enough room for a glass and enough energy for the way back. Alternatively, a great idea is to organise a bike taxi to take you home.
Here are some of our favourite places to stop:
Kinross Cellar Door and Cottages – taste and buy some delicious wines and food, with the added bonus of live music on the weekend. They also have beautiful accommodation if you’re looking to stay the night.
Gibbston Winery – a perfect mid-way stop, offering tastings and snacks if you’re after a light bite, a restaurant for a more hearty meal or their cheesery and deli if you’re looking to pack a picnic!
Gibbston Tavern – if pizza and beer is more your thing, then make a pit stop here and lounge in their sunny beer garden.
Cargo at Waitiri – housed inside an old, relocated church, Cargo offer tastings and sell their own craft beer and Bald Hills wine, as well some delicious pizzas and platters. With a huge garden and fun games for all the family and friends, you could head straight here for the afternoon.
Arrowtown Millennium Trail
Time: Less than 1hr
Level: Easy (Grade 2)
A must-do walk/ride when visiting Arrowtown, this super easy and beautiful riverside trail starts on Ramshaw Lane and continues on to Tobins Bridge - we find its best done with an divine ice cream from Patagonia in hand (great bribery if you’ve got kids). On a hot summer’s day the Arrow River provides the ultimate spot for a refreshing dip to cool off.
The trail is a stone’s throw from the main street in Arrowtown, so for some taste bud tantaliizng food and wine be sure to stop in at one of the many eateries and bars. Our top pick is historic Postmasters on Buckingham Street. They offer fantastic food, coffee and sweet treats! Or if you’re after a post ride pint, check out the craft beer selection at the Fork & Tap. They have a big beer garden and the best hot chips.
Best trails for burning some summer holiday calories
Queenstown to Gibbston
Level: Intermediate (Grades 2-3)
If you’re looking to move a bit more than from the sofa to the fridge, then try this epic day trip. A 40km easy/intermediate trail with a few punchy up hills and fun down hills thrown in, it takes in some of the best bits of the Queenstown Trail and is a ride that has everything. Historic bridges, rivers, a bungy bridge (bungy optional, but encouraged) and of course, food and wine!
Starting in Queenstown Gardens, you head out along the Frankton Track and make your way towards the Kawarau River. The trail then turns into the Twin Rivers Trail which starts bending left towards the Shotover River/Kimiākau. You’ll cross the historic old Lower Shotover Bridge before winding back towards the Kawarau River. Beautiful, quiet country lanes, crystal clear water and incredible views are all that awaits you on this trail. Once you reach Morven Ferry Road follow the sign for Gibbston. Soon after, you’ll pass over the 80m long Edgar Suspension Bridge and eventually the Kawarau Suspension Bridge. We’d recommend stopping at the café at the Bungy Centre or making your end destination the Gibbston Tavern for a well-earned beer and pizza.
This is around a 6-8 hour ride so make sure you pack enough water and snacks if you get hangry, this is one of the more remote sections of the trail – on a hot day, you’ll need it!
Queenstown to Jack’s Point
Time: Allow 4-5 hours
Level: Advanced (Grades 2-4)
This trail is a ride of two halves, and not for the fainthearted! At 26km and a range of easy to advanced grades there are certainly a lot of ups and downs to this trail.
Starting in Queenstown Gardens and following the lake along the Frankton Track towards the Frankton Arm it’s very smooth and easy going. Following the signs for the historic Kawarau Falls Bridge you cross over and start making your way along the Kelvin Heights Peninsula. It’s well worth a stop at the bridge, just to see the clear water and look back at where you’ve come from. Alternatively stop in at the Hilton Hotel at Kelvin Heights for a rest and re-fuel for the section to come.
You’ll continue on the trail, passing lovely gardens and homes and small piers and swimming spots, before you head into the trees with views of Queenstown Bay, Walter Peak and the Frankton Arm. Shortly after, you’ll join the Kelvin Heights Sculpture Trail, where you’ll find a number of stunning works of art positioned around the Peninsula, including the powerful and compelling Wakatipu KuiKui, and the famous Kelvin Peninsula Goats.
From the south side of the Queenstown Golf Club you’ll see signs for Jardine Park and Jack’s Point Trail – here’s where it gets interesting! The trail meanders around, up, and down, riding past an abundance of wild tussocks and natural schist, you’ll feel like you have the place to yourself. The hardest part is the last 3kms which are particularly steep and technical, but once you’re at the top you can enjoy expansive views across Lake Wakatipu, and feel pretty pleased with yourself. Head down to Jack’s Point Golf Club for a well-earned beverage. Short on time? Definitely hire yourself an e-bike!
Best trails for a refreshing dip
Twin Rivers Trail
Time: 2-3 hrs
Level: Intermediate (Grade 3)
This trail hugs two of New Zealand’s most iconic and picturesque rivers. The beauty and remoteness of this section of the Queenstown Trail really sets it apart. Starting at the Kawarau Falls Bridge the trail winds along the banks of the Kawarau and Shotover/Kimiākau River, with sweeping views up to the Remarkables and down river to the gorge. The aquamarine colours of the river makes it even more tempting to stop off for a refreshing dip, and there are plenty of places to stop and get in. The perfect way to spend a summers day, we recommend packing a picnic, your togs and taking the whole family along and making a day of it.
Arrow River Bridges Trail
Level: Easy (Grade 2)
An easy trail that follows the Arrow River, you’ll be spoilt for refreshing dip choices. Popular with families, this trail starts in Arrowtown and follows the willow-lined banks of the Arrow River out to Gibbston. The river ebbs and flows with more tranquil, calm sections followed by faster flowing, rocky sections, so choose your swimming hole wisely. Together with some very picturesque picnic spots, bucket loads of history, as well as some fantastic eateries nearby once the sun goes down, this is the ideal place to walk or bike to and while away a hot summers day.
Best trails for exploring
Frankton Track & Kelvin Peninsula Trail
Time: 2-3 hrs
Level: Easy (Grade 2)
This easy 16.4km trail starts at the Queenstown Gardens, there is so much to see and explore on this trail. Take your time to smell the roses in the gardens or even catch a Frisbee golf tournament in play. As you head out to Frankton, there are views for days along the track, with lots of benches and spots to pull over and take it all in. The historic Boat Shed café and Altitude Brewing are on your way out to the Frankton Arm, so make sure you stop here for some refreshments. Carry on towards the Kawarau Falls Bridge and onto the Kelvin Peninsula Trail. Secret beaches and coves await you as you head towards to the end of the peninsula and onto the best bit, the sculptures! The Kelvin Heights Sculpture Trail is a wonderful 4km trail that skirts around the golf course. The sculptures are a series of works by nationally renowned artists, each one donated by an anonymous benefactor. Take your time and explore this magical trail and see how many you can find, some are harder to spot than others. Return the way you came and perhaps stop off again for another bevvy!
Coronet Face Water Race Trail
Time: 1.5/2 hours
Level: Easy/Intermediate (Grade 2/3)
Distance: 6km one way
This beautiful trail accessed via Coronet Peak Road (or if you’ve got the legs, via the climb up Dan O’ Connells track) really captures the beauty of the Wakatipu Basin as it follows a reclaimed historic water race across Coronet.
With the opening of Hot Rod trail in 2020 (a collaboration between QMTBC and Queenstown Trails Trust), the first section of the Water Race trail has seen a few more riders along its way. However, once past the start of Hot Rod, the trail carries on and you’ll soon feel like you have the trail to yourself.
All of these trails and more can be found in our Maps & Section HERE
If you love our trails and want to help us build more, please consider becoming a Friend of the Trust HERE
If you've cycled or walked any part of the Queenstown Trail in the last 12 months please take 5 to complete our trail survey HERE