Four nearby ski fields, heaps of backpackers, skiers and riders, and more bars and clubs for apres ski, no wonder Queenstown gets excited for winter!
To celebrate the start of winter, the town hosts the annual Queenstown Winter Festival. Over the 10 days mid-June, the entertainment ranges from the classic onstage music to the bizarre competitions like riding suitcases down the slopes! Night or day, there is always something to do at the Winter Festival, so take a look at our guide on what to expect from the biggest event on the Queenstown calendar.
Fear not! There are heaps of places to stay in Queenstown on a budget. Make sure you book well in advance for your accommodation during the Winter Festival. If it isn’t the swarms of people here for the festival, it’s those looking for jobs for the winter. Here are just a few of the options for affordable Queenstown accommodation:
Party like it’s the start of winter! Oh wait, it is!
This is the busiest you’ll see the town on Lake Wakatipu. The gathering in Earnslaw Park kicks off with live entertainment, food and beverage stalls, and the fireworks! If you like bustling nightlife, then stick around for the after party in Queenstown’s many clubs and bars.
From 5pm, Saturday to Saturday, enjoy some live music at the stage in Earnslaw Park. There’s heaters and mulled wine to keep you toasty.
Day on the Bay
Watch people launch their homemade inventions into Lake Wakatipu in the Birdman competition. Then, there are plenty of whacky races and dance battles to keep you entertained, whether you watch or get involved.
Winter Quiz Nights
Make sure to book your place for these free quiz nights at the SKYCITY Casino.
Mid-week brings on the annual event day of craziness. Competitions include: who can melt the ice the fastest, the hospitality race (fast bed making and running waiters; that sort of thing), and the famous Drag Race! This means drag queens taking on an obstacle course.
The crazy competitions continue into the mountains on this day of fun. Highlights include sliding on a suitcase in the Suitcase Race and the Dash for Cash – something every backpacker needs, right?
Free to watch, or get involved yourself for a small fee, there are heaps of competitions throughout the 10 days. Most of these competitions show the true Kiwi sense of humour!
Annual competitions include:
Dog Derby – come to Coronet Peak to watch the dogs and their owners slide their way down the slopes. As backpackers, we might not have our dogs with us (hopefully) but the event is free to watch!
Dog Barking – dogs and their owners, again, enter this competition where their dog must bark on cue… if not, then the owner must bark. Either way, it’s hilarious to watch.
Mountain Bikes on Snow – watch or enter the mountain bike challenge on Coronet Peak.
Slopestyle Invitational – this is a freestyle competition in The Remarkables terrain park, in which you will need a lift pass to access the park to either watch or participate.
Frisbee Golf – frisbee golf is a favourite past-time in the Queenstown Gardens, so join in on the fun in this competition.
Golden Mile – run around the streets of Queenstown with the fastest feet or the craziest costumes to win prizes.
Queenstown is known for its epic nightlife, so of course there are plenty of things to keep you busy on the nights of the festival.
Those seeking laughs will be served at the comedy events, whether it’s a comedy debate or stand-up comedy night. Venues for these tend to be SKYCITY and Queesntown Memorial Centre. Make sure to book your place at the comedy nights and pay the fee.
Strap on your skis or board and head up to Coronet Peak for the opening of the night skiing. There’s sure to be an apres ski vibe with a DJ set and competitions. You can either enjoy the entertainment from the base or you’ll need a lift pass to join in on the slopes.
More night entertainment that varies from year-to-year involve theatre performances, special DJ events in the clubs, silent disco, or fine-dining events in the SKYCITY Casino.
WOrkshops and seminars
It’s not all about partying in the Queenstown Winter Festival. You have to learn something too!
The workshops and seminars are like a survival kit for the winter. For example, in the past there have been seminars on avalanche awareness, how to tune your skis and snowboard, smartphone tech tips, and host your own winter party.
All good things must come to an end, yes, even the Queenstown Winter Festival. See off the festival with the Community Carnival, which celebrates the multicultural communities living in Queenstown. Expect diverse food, a wide range of performances, and live music onstage.
Although the festival has come to an end, at least it means one thing: winter is here! Now, where are my skis.
What else there is to do in Queenstown
Staying a while in the adrenalin capital?
We know a thing or two about Queenstown, so take a look at our other articles to make sure your itinerary is full during your trip there.