Wanaka vs Queenstown


Queenstown nz

Located just forty minutes from each other (depending on just how many beautiful landscape photos you decide to stop and take as you pass over the Cardrona, of which you will want to take a lot), these two small South Island towns are often likened and compared to each other. Both located in the Central Otago region, they both attract a large number of visitors during both the winter and summer months, and have become the tourism central of the South Island.

Queenstown is widely renowned as the “adventure capital” of New Zealand. With an urban population of just over 14,000 residents, this town usually accommodates 80,000 people at a time due to the large number of tourists and travellers it draws in. It has become one of the most expensive places to live because of this, with one of the lowest average incomes per capita as most of the work is in tourism. There is no real “low season” in Queenstown as it sees large numbers flocking to the area for hiking, swimming, water sports, jet boating and canyoning, and in winter it is a very popular ski and snowboard resort. New Zealand offers a whole plethora of weird, extreme, unusual and adrenaline pumping activities, and while they can be enjoyed all over the country, absolutely any activity you can do anywhere else, apart from Glacier tours, you can also do from Queenstown in one form or another.
Some of the more adverse activities in Queenstown include the luge - a downhill go-kart style activity, using only the power of gravity to power your cart as you admire the postcard perfect view from Bob's peak while trying not to fall off the road, and bungy-jumping, which was first commercially available from the historic Kawarau Bridge, just a short drive from the city centre, and there is an option to bungy-jump above the town itself at Bob's Peak from The Ledge Bungy.
Queenstown always has a vibrant and iridescent young crowd which drives the economy there. Because of this, there is the possibility to go out and party until 5.00am every single night of the week, with a large number of pubs, clubs and bars of every variety to accomodate for everybody. While there are a lot of hotels, there are also a lot of hostels to support the younger travelling community, and as a result it is a “city that never sleeps”.
One of the biggest draws to Wanaka over Queenstown is that it is so much more peaceful and quiet. While there is still a large party scene, most of the people who want to indulge in the carefree party lifestyle will opt for Queenstown, allowing the residents of Wanaka to have a more peaceful night's sleep. Wanaka also attracts a large number of visitors in every season and has access to some top quality ski and snowboard slopes, but has somewhat less adventure activities in summer as Queenstown takes the spotlight and the majority of the crowd with it.
While there are much less adventure activities, Wanaka is in a fantastic location for hiking and walking. Queenstown is also good, but Wanaka has such iconic spots as Roy's Peak (which appears on many New Zealand postcards and travel pages) and Mt Iron, and it doesn't take long to leave behind the city lights and immerse yourself in the countryside, even without a car. Accomodation can often be a little more expensive in Wanaka as the focus is on quality over quantity to adhere to the needs of the more mature crowd, and there are a number of high quality and luxurious restaurants all over the town.
Both towns are located next to big and beautiful lakes and amongst some jaw dropping Otago landscapes. If you're looking for the young crowds, the party life and the daring adventurous activities, Queenstown is probably the best option if you have to decide between the two locations. If you prefer a quieter, more relaxed and laid back stay with more hiking trails and less chance of a hangover, Wanaka is probably a better place for you, although both towns will surely accomodate your every need and desire, and as they are located so close to each other, there really is no need to choose at all.


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