I have very varied luck when it comes to the weather and travelling. Sometimes it goes well – like the fact that the March rain that always occurs in Queensland stopped for the one day of my birthday both of the years that I was in Australia, meaning that I could spend it on the beach – and sometimes I just seem to have the worst timing for my trips, like when I had one day to explore Krakow and it bucketed down relentlessly the whole time. Exploring New Zealand’s South Island at the very beginning of Spring, I knew that there were no guarantees when it came to the weather, and when I checked the forecast as I prepared to make the long bus trip down to Queenstown from Christchurch, it wasn’t looking too promising. In the end, however, I had a brilliant few days in the self-proclaimed adventure capital of New Zealand, despite frequent downpours. Here are a few of my suggestions for rainy day activities in Queenstown, should you find yourself in a similar situation.
Take a tour of Gibbston Valley Wine Cave
I found this trip on BookMe, a fantastic site for snapping up discounted places on last-minute tours and activities in Australia and New Zealand, when I was looking for something to do on a day with a particularly dire weather forecast. As a wine fan I’m always up for a trip to a winery for a bit of tasting, and I was particularly intrigued by the idea of a wine cave! A minibus picked myself and a few others up from the centre of town and took us the short distance out to the Gibbston Valley Winery. This area, Central Otago, is the southernmost wine-making region in the world, and it was really interesting to hear the story of how the visionary founder of this particular winery battled through the challenges of producing wine in a cold climate through a process of trial and error, until he had worked out which grapes would thrive, and how the wines produced here are now considered some of the best on the planet. He also had the idea of blasting out a cave into the nearby hill, to provide a storage facility for the wine with natural temperature control, creating the largest wine cave in New Zealand; it is a pretty impressive sight! The tour included some tasting and there was also time before the minibus returned to take us back to the city to have a glass or two and dry off by the fire in the cosy bar and restaurant.
Take a boat trip on Lake Wakatipu
One morning, in a torrential downpour where there was just no point in trying to take a walk along the shores of Lake Wakatipu, the vast body of water on which Queenstown sits, I decided to take one of the boat trips on offer. Even though the weather got in the way of some of the fantastic views of the ski-field mountain ranges of The Remarkables which we should have had from various vantage points out on the water, with plenty of indoor seating and an engaging and knowledgeable boat captain, it was a lovely way to stay warm and dry for a while and to learn about the history of the city and the ecology of the lake (plus, I got to pose at the wheel wearing the captain’s hat!).
Ride the Skyline Queenstown gondola
Even in the rain, floating up the hill on a gondola at Skyline Queenstown is an enjoyable experience. Even if it’s grey and cloudy, the views over Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the snow-capped mountains that can be seen along the way are beautiful. There’s a luge and a bungy jump at the entertainment centre at the top if you’re wanting a bit of adventure and don’t mind getting wet, or, like I did, you can choose to settle in at a window stool at the bar for a glass of wine or cup of coffee as you take in the landscapes below.
Visit Milford Sound
This is a popular, but very long, day trip from Queenstown, and one which I did on an overcast and drizzly day. Milford Sound sits within New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park and, as the name of its location suggests, it’s a world-renowned spot of natural beauty, with mountains, waterfalls and lakes, and was allegedly referred to by Rudyard Kipling as being the Eighth Wonder of the World. There are plenty of tour companies offering day packages from Queenstown if you don’t have a car – I went with Jucy Cruise – and the highlight of the trip is the boat cruise which takes you up close to the cliffs and waterfalls. Even with the weather not playing ball, the views were still stunning, and my experience was that Milford Sound is certainly something that is spectacular even in the rain.
Get out and about when you can!
Queenstown is one of the most picturesque places that I’ve visited so far on this planet, so in between rain showers, whenever you spot a slither of sun, I’d urge you to get out and make the most of it! There’s an easy walking path along Lake Wakatipu with some absolutely fantastic views, and you can always duck into one of the many bars and cafes in this tourist town (and even on the lake itself) when the downpours come. Alternatively, if you’re a bit of an adrenaline junkie, the many outdoor activities, from the famous AJ Hackett Bungy Jump to the Shotover Jet which races through the river canyons just outside of the city, continue to operate unless the weather is dangerously poor – if you’re going to get wet anyway, then why not?
Have you got any more tips for things to do on a rainy day in Queenstown? Feel free to share them in the comments!
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Wow what a gorgeous place! It’s nice to have rain back up plans. I always appreciate posts like this.
I’m sure it rains a fair amount in beautiful Queenstown and I love the idea of the wine cave! I’ve also heard Milford Sound can be really great in the rain with lots of waterfalls, mist and moody atmosphere.
It was a rainy day when I visited Milford Sound and honestly it was perfect! The waterfalls were all streaming, and there was a beautiful fog suspended between the cliffs. Great recommendation, and one I bet a lot of people wouldn’t think of.
It rained while I was there too! Still beautiful though. And you got some amazing photos of Milford Sound!! I didn’t get a single one, it was so bad hahaha. I’ve got to go back! (And YES bookme is fantastic!)
Ok, this is definitely the type of activities I wouldn’t consider first for rainy days – they are mostly outdoors! But it’s good to know you don’t just have to sit in a café or tour a museum when it rains, that even adventure activities are possible 😊
I still haven’t made it to New Zealand, but hope to do that sometime soon!
Btw. you’re looking good in that captain hat!
I haven’t been to New Zealand yet but it’s definitely high on my list, especially after reading this! The wine cave sounds amaaazing!
I haven’t been to New Zealand yet. But it’s in my bucket list since EVER! The landscapes in New Zeland are unparalleled. And your photos prove it.
Although I haven’t visited New Zeland yet, I am somewhat familiar with their wines. New Zealand wines are world-class. The Marlborough region produces some award-winning Sauvignon Blanc.
The idea of wine cave in New Zealand intrigues me too and the Gibbston Valley Winery looks appealing.
PS: You look great at the wheel wearing the captain’s hat!