November 02, 2023
Guide to Queenstown
The endless winter begins in the Southern Hemisphere.
The Sherwood Hotel, Queenstown New Zealand
The endless winter is a skier’s travel paradise. Jetsetting to world-class mountain ranges, like the U.S. Rockies & Sierra Nevadas, the Italian Dolomites, and the Swiss Alps, for a never-ending ski season is the ultimate dream.
But a little island in the south-west middle of the Pacific Ocean holds some of the most spectacular winter sports and stunning mountain views in the world. Introducing, the South Island of New Zealand, home to a little mountain city called Queenstown, immersed in the mountains towering above lakes and the surrounding sea.
Queenstown, New Zealand is a premier destination for ski and snowboarding. It’s where the skiers spend their summers – in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons are opposite from the Northern. Come August, in the middle of the hottest summer on record, Queenstown was the ideal place to cool off, catch laps, and for the Halfdays team to shoot their Alpine Racing collection. Introducing our Guide to Queenstown, New Zealand, a travel destination for snow sports that most definitely should make your ultimate ski bucket list.
Destination: Southern Hemisphere
It took us 3 (for some, 4) flights to reach Queenstown, an entire day and a half of travel from the U.S., and 10 bags of ski wear and ski gear (traveling light is for the boys). Upon exiting the airport, towering mountain ranges on all sides greeted us, some snow topped and others an alarming shade of green, reminding us that we had landed on an island, after all.
The people of New Zealand are friendly and welcoming, and the New Zealand accent shrouded our experience in the spirit of lighthearted travel. Odd and unexpected cultural differences and idiosyncrasies lended themselves to the novelty of Queenstown – instead of exit signs, “WAY OUT” or “WAY BACK” was printed, and deliberating if “yeah nah” meant “yes”, “no”, or some combination of the two. Other than the fact that New Zealand traffic is on the left side of the road, traveling in this country was not too unfamiliar and didn’t take long to adjust to.
On set of the Halfdays campaign photoshoot in Queenstown New Zealand
Where to Sleep (and Après!)
The Sherwood Queenstown was our boarding of choice for the trip: a boutique hotel not far from the main drag of Queenstown, and our homey home base for the campaign. The smell of cedar smoke and sharp orange invited us in, and with the white-topped Remarkables towering far off behind peach-colored A-frame rooms, the birds chirping and fire-smoke curling through the air from the courtyard, it felt more like a crisp spring day than the middle of winter in New Zealand. It was going to be a hard job to drag us away from such pleasant sleeping arrangements, even with the world’s premier snow sport travel destination at our fingertips.
The Sherwood Patio
The Sherwood Restaurant & Cafe
The Sherwood has plenty of amenities to aid and support our travel in Queenstown. Daily movement classes, a sauna, and massages are sure to help recover and unwind after a long day on the slopes. The common areas were less hotel lobby and more outdoor wooded oasis’s, true community centers with a roster of event programming, several large firepit areas to socialize, après, and eat at, and a lively deck area outside the restaurant where we enjoyed one-too-many drinks after a long day of shooting. The Sherwood was hosting a “Boards without borders” art exhibit while we were there, with recycled snowboards that had been upcycled into stunning pieces of art on display, and on-sale to raise funds for local organizations.
The Sherwood Restaurant had some of the best dining and cocktails from our whole time in Queenstown, from fresh herbs on cheesy flatbread, to breakfast scrambles and pastries, to evening cuts of lamb and espresso martinis – we enjoyed the cozy and luxurious atmosphere of the restaurant to eat, socialize, and work from, around the clock.
The rooms were spacious, rustic yet modern, and the definition of a cozy ski stay. Pool-style sliding glass doors served as the front doors to each room, all exiting into a common thoroughfare that aided itself to the community-style living. The Sherwood would definitely be perfect for a large group trip, for this reason, a romantic getaway, or a family trip!
Where to Ski: Powder, Backcountry, Classics, and everything in between.
It would be a crime to visit Queenstown without a snow expedition of some sort. Four major ski resorts are located not far from the city, including Treble Cone, Coronet Peak, Cardrona Alpine Resort, and the Remarkables. What Colorado has on a long ski season, Queenstown has on the most epic mountain views.
View from the Sherwood Hotel
Driving up into the mountains from the low altitude city of Queenstown begins with rolling green hills of sheep and livestock, quaint old mountain towns with antique shops and cafes, and escalates into heart-attack roads with dropping cliffs on either side, giving way to gargantuan mountain ranges topped with snow. Ascending into the mountains from Queenstwon is like ascending into a different season and time zone altogether, with the bottom feeling like a spring day and the top like a bluebird winter afternoon.
Before jetting off to the top, we got our gear outfitted in town. We stopped by the Snowboard Workshop to get our custom Halfdays skinned United Shapes board all set up and tuned for a day in the backcountry, as well as the Outside Sports Ski Shop for boot and ski rentals for our crew. The teams at both shops were welcoming, knowledgeable, and very helpful – they got us waxed, primed and prepped like Thanksgiving turkeys, and we were on our way.
You’ve heard that the people of New Zealand are very friendly and welcoming, but what you wouldn’t believe is the general, unspoken rule of safety and trust that permeates the communities of New Zealand. Upon arriving to our first ski day on the slopes of Treble Cone, we were shocked to find that the lockers were not only lockless, but skiers and guests of the mountain simply left their bags, wallets, and personal belongings out in piles at tables and benches. It was like a code of morality hung in the air – no one was worried about theft or debauchery! “Kia Ora,” as New Zealanders say.
Treble Cone Ski Area
Best Verticals & Views: Treble Cone
For the best verticals and views, Treble Cone Ski Area was our favorite of the bunch. The drive up to the top boasts breathtaking views of Lake Wanaka and the peaks and valleys driven through on the way there. The resort itself is very easy to navigate, parking is a breeze that takes you straight to the base where rentals, a bar and restaurant, and bathrooms are located.
Treble Cone gets its iconic reputation from the stark contrast in views: skiing on expansive, vertical white cliffs, with everything around and beyond the hills a deep blue-green valley of peaks and lakes. It’s truly a sight hard to describe, and made for the most epic backdrop for Halfdays ski wear.
Treble Cone is the largest ski area on the South Island, with the longest vertical rise of any mountain, making this our favorite for the more adventurous and experienced skiers. 45% of their trails are advanced terrain, while another 45% are intermediate. Overall, Treble Cone is our top pick for an accessible ski experience not far from Queenstown, with heaps and miles of long, vertical trails to explore and catch turns on.
You’ll even spot several (if not a flock) of the New Zealand Great Spotted Kiwi bird, a thin, long beaked bird with bright red wings and a tendency to pluck french fries directly from your plates at après - so watch your lunch accordingly!
Best for Night Skiing: Coronet Peak, a.k.a “Cardies”
For our night skiing fans, Coronet Peak, also known from the locals as “Cardies,” is an epic afternoon to evening destination. From 4 pm to 9 pm every evening, you can après ski the Queenstown way by catching some nighttime turns on floodlit trails. Driving up to Coronet Peak or a night ski sesh is also a gorgeous view – watch twinkling lights up on the mountain sparkle and move as you ascend closer to the mountain.
Getting there is simple – there’s a Queenstown bus that takes you directly to the base of the mountain and back down to town. However, make sure to book ahead of time, as the bus is appointment-only and does reach capacity during the busy seasons.
Coronet Peak Night Skiing
Best for the Whole Family: Cardrona Alpine Resort
Cardrona is another classic ski resort destination for a trip to Queenstown – surrounded by breathtaking alpine scenery and a short bus ride from town. With an express 6-8 seater gondola from the base to the top, 465 hectares of terrain, a ski & snowboard school, kids club, and a calendar with yearround events, it’s the ideal mountain for the family or a group trip of all ski levels.
Halfdays Tip: If you’re looking for some sweet New Zealand merch to take home, check out Cardrona’s gift shops – they have the best merchandise!
Best for Park & Freeride: The Remarkables
The Remarkables gets its name for a reason – the top of the mountain is littered with sunny chutes, untouched powder, and dropping cliffs. It’s the big mountain skiers’ ultimate dream.
The Remarkables is home to seven terrain parks, so if you’re looking to hit laps at the park, this is the mountain for you. With 468M of vertical drops, it’s ideal for the adrenaline seekers. However, the Remarkables is one of the smaller mountains, with only 4 chair lifts and conveyor belts.
This mountain is actually outfitted well for first-time skiers as well, despite the frightening verticals at the very top. Take a ski or snowboard lesson in their massive learning area, equipped with 3 conveyor belts for easy practice laps and careful attention from trained instructors.
Best for Backcountry: Snow Moto New Zealand
Founded by a team of professional snowbike and snowmobile enthusiasts with expert training and certifications in avalanche safety, Snow Moto provides halfday to fullday pricing for a full tour of the backcountry.
Hitch a ride in their snowcats up into the rolling, untouched powder hills of the Southern Alps, check out their backcountry yurts (outfitted for overnight stays, too!) and take a rip on one of their many snowmobile or snow bike vehicles. You can also bring your ski or snowboard gear, and have them take you up huge backcountry peaks for untouched lines. The views from the Southern Alps are jaw-dropping, overlooking the massive Lake Wanaka with blue and green topped mountains all around.
This was truly one of our favorite experiences of our trip, and the backdrop of our W23 campaign shoot.
Where to Eat (more than just cheese rolls!)
We were lucky enough to have a native New Zealander on a crew during this trip, and she bought loads of grocery snacks that she grew up on. If you want to try the locals favorites snack on your likely frequent drives up into the mountains, pick up Tim Tams, Squirgles, Shrewberrys, Sour Cream and Chives chips, and Poper Crispys.
Onto the “real” food – New Zealand is a fertile island with a large agriculture presence. Likewise, the cuisine in Queenstown is locally-sourced, fresh, and derived from land and sea! You can expect lots of farm-to-table herbs, fishes and shellfish, cheesy dishes, and Maori-inspired cusine.
Our “can’t miss” spots from Queenstown include a little bit of everything, from a fancy dinner out to a late-night burger:
Inspired by Central Otago wine and cuisine, Mora Wines is a stunning winery and restaurant located just outside of Queenstown in Arrowtown. Pinot Noir lovers unite – Mora Wines is located at the magical latitude for Pinot Noir grapes, and their reds did not disappoint. They serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, and desert, with a well-rounded menu of locally-sourced favorites, immaculty paired with their wines.
Mora Wines takes bookings-only, so be sure to schedule a time to visit and dine ahead of time for a relaxing winery experience.
The Sherwood’s Restaurant is luxurious, cozy, and the ideal atmosphere for a dinner out with friends, or a serene breakfast before a long ski day. Velvet curtain interiors, a wood-burning fireplace, pizza oven, and large full bar welcome you for a farm-to-table menu of local and sustainable New Zealand style dishes. Flatbreads, shellfish, meats and craft cocktails, you can’t go wrong at the Sherwood for a satisfying meal.
Located in a quaint side-suburb from Queenstown called Arrowtown, Little Aosta is tucked away into a little alley along a street of lively bars and restaurants. An Italian pizza and pasta joint and spritz bar, it’s clearly a favorite for Halfdays. We enjoyed the olives, fish pizzas, and variety of spritz’s they had on the menu.
If the night is not over after that third bottle of wine, just top by next door for karaoke!
White and Wongs
White and Wongs is located in downtown Queenstown-proper, and a lively spot for a large group dinner or a hankering for Chinese or Thai street-style foods. Enjoy flavorful massamn and red curry pastes made from scratch, oysters, sashimi, BBQ pork buns, whole Peking Ducks, and more.
No food recommendation is complete without a late-night spot, and Fergburger was our destination of choice after a long day of shooting and a few glasses of wine. Fergburger is somewhat famous in the town of Queenstown, rated the #1 bakery and bar year over year by locals. Enjoy their classic “Fergburger” or select a gourmet burger from their long list of curated dishes.
Thrills & Chills: for when you need a break from the ski boots.
Queenstown has a bit of reputation among the thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies, and not just because of the winter sports. There are a variety of cheap thrills to find around town (some cheaper than others) that will surely keep you entertained for a full day of fun.
The Shotover Jet
Some may call it a tourist trap, we say FUN. The Shotover is a high-speed jet boat that takes about 20 passengers zooming through the Shotover canyons – stunning, winding canyons carved out from the Awa River, and very reminiscent of the Colorado River.
Their drivers train for many years to guide these super-fast boats through the canyons, and you can enjoy a thrill, a scare, and quite a few laughs from the video footage afterwards.
If you’re looking for a real thrill ride, check out the bungee jumping options in Queenstown. The AJ Hackett Bungy is actually the oldest bungy jumping experience in the world. Take a leap of faith off the Kawarau bridge, a 43 meter drop that can take you all the way to the river water at the bottom, if that’s your thing.
Looking for a more unconventional view of the alpine scenery in Queenstown? Check out Heli Works, the premier helicopter tour company, run directly from the Queenstown Airport! We chartered Heli Works to take us to a private glacier for a portion of our shoot, and these were hands-down the most incredible views we’ve ever seen. Witness ice-blue glacier cliffs, 360 views of the Wanaka and Southern Alps mountain range, and see the entire Southern Island from high up.
Heli Works also does heli-skiing, if that’s more your jam for a snow sport expedition.
Après, like the Sport.
The Onsen Pools
Last but not least, no snow sport adventure is complete without a proper après. It’s what we’re really in business for. If you’re spent from all of the snow action and adventure that Queenstown has to offer, the most indulgent and relaxing experience is the Onsen Pools and Day Spa, located just outside of town.
Relax in one of their private cedar hot pools, perched high on a cliffside for tranquil view of the Shotover Canyon and River. The water is sourced naturally from surrounding mountain runoff, and is heated to a perfect 38 degrees celsius. This is perfect for couples or groups of 4, and you can enjoy poolside drinks and snacks, too.
More from The Halfdayer
Explore our collections
For heading to the mountain, out for a run, or straight to après ski.
Accessories Worn in Queenstown
Accessories Worn in Queenstown
Versatile, functional performance for every adventure on the trail.
Lightweight, layering-savvy jackets for cooler halfdays ahead.
Foundational pieces to keep you daydreaming and day-trekking.