Queenstown, Tasmania is an easy place to dive through (we did!) without realising how many things there are to do.
On our trip to the west coast of Tasmania, we stayed in Strahan but having spent a couple of days exploring around Queenstown, we wish we’d actually stayed here!
Queenstown over-indexes on things to do for outdoor enthusiasts, with the mountain biking, whitewater rafting and hiking options all fantastic thanks to its location on the edge of some of Tasmania’s most pristine wilderness.
This post will give you our first-hand tips from the places we visited in and around Queenstown, and makes recommendations on others you could add to your Tasmanian bucket list.
1. Cruise the Gordon River
Taking a Gordon River Cruise was my main reason for coming to Tasmania in the first place, and one of the most famous things to do on Tasmania. I’m a UNESCO Heritage Site buff, and the cruise seemed like the most unique way to explore Tasmania’s wilderness area.
It didn’t disappoint.
The whisper-quiet boats are custom-built to keep the peace in this heavily protected area, and the tour explores Macquarie Bay and Sarah Island as well as the Gordon River. Whilst it’s technically in Strahan, it’s so close you can’t miss out.
My message is a simple one, if you’re in Queenstown you have to book a Gordon River Cruise, it is 100% worth it.
2. Explore the Mount Jukes Rainforest Walk
The Mount Jukes Trail leaves from Queenstown and is a tough 4.5 km route which finishes at 1,168 metres.
This one’s not for the faint-hearted, with the path often unmarked and a fair bit of scree-scrambling near the top.
3. Ride the West Coast Wilderness Railway
The West Coast Wilderness Railway is the second-best thing to do around Queenstown, behind the Gordon River Cruise. Unfortunately, it’s one we didn’t get to do, after some damage to the track earlier in the week led to them calling us to cancel our booking.
From Queenstown, you’ll likely book on the Rock & Gorge tour which is a five-hour trip through Tasmania’s ancient temperate rainforest You’ll disembark at Dubbil Barril where you’ll get a chance to walk through the forest while they turn then train, before heading back to Queenstown.
4. Discover the Mining History at Iron Blow Lookout
Iron Blow Lookout is a spectacular view over what once was Tasmania’s largest copper mine, and the first on Mount Lyell.
Iron Blow Lookout itself will only occupy you for ten minutes or so, but it is definitely worth a visit. The view from the metal walkway out over the old mining pit is stunning.
5. Experience Whitewater Rafting on the King River
Whitewater rafting on the King River is suitable for both beginners and experienced rafters, with the route rated as a Class III-IV, which means it offers a moderate to difficult level of difficulty, with rapids that are exciting and challenging, but not overly dangerous.
The tour takes approximately 4-5 hours to complete, which includes a safety briefing, equipment fitting, and a shuttle ride to the starting point. Along the way, you’ll encounter stunning scenery, including dense forests, rugged cliffs, and crystal-clear water.
King River Rafting offer guided rafting tours on the river and provide all the necessary equipment and experienced guides to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
6. Take a Scenic Drive along the Lyell Highway
The Lyell Highway, which heads east out of Queentown, is a thing to do in its own right.
Home of the famous 99 Bends Road which is used as part of the Targa Rally, it is a road that needs some real concentration to drive. There aren’t actually 99 bends, but all I can say is, if you get car sickness, then don’t sit in the back! I captured the very top of the road in the photo below, but this doesn’t even begin to do it justice.
7. Visit the Galley Museum
The Galley Museum is in the unmistakable building of the Imperial Hotel, which was built in 1897.
It has 30 rooms of photos, objects and stories relating to the people who first settled here and preserves west coast history for future generations.
8. Marvel at Nelson Falls in the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park
Around half an hour by car along the Lyell Highway, you’ll find Nelson Falls.
This was the first place we stopped on the drive over from Hobart, and also the first place we got to witness first hand how magnificent the Tasmanian wilderness is.
It took us 15 minutes from the car park to reach the falls, along picturesque boardwalks that cut through the forest. It is a flat and easy walk, though a bit slippery underfoot. Keep your eyes peeled for the striking pink robin which breed here, We weren’t lucky enough to spot one.
9. Try Your Luck at Gold Panning in the Queen River
Alongside Victoria on the mainland, Tasmania was part of the Australia gold rushes that happened in the 1800s, and were the catalyst that grew the diverse population of the country.
There is actually still a good chance to find gold in the area, with this prospecting website saying he’s found nuggets in the 1g-3g range in the Queen River, and giving examples of where to start.
10. Look Down Over Queenstown from Horsetail Falls
Horsetail Falls is on the 99 Bends Road out of Queenstown, directly opposite Iron Blow Lookout.
We were drawn to it in part for the falls themselves, but also because of the incredible feat of engineering it took to attach this boardwalk to the mountainside.
The walk up and back took us around twenty minutes, and on a clear day like we had allowed us to see right the way back down into the valley.
11. Capture Stunning Views from Spion Kop Lookout
Spion Kop (or kopf) lookout is named after a battle in the Boer War and is located on a small but steep hill. The walk is a 300-metre round trip and takes around 15 minutes, but you should allow more time to soak in the views.
You can depart from a small car park at the end of Latrobe Street, which is a short drive from the town centre. The walkway is short but steep, and there are some mining and heritage exhibits along the way, as well as interpretation information at the top to help you learn the names of key landmarks.
Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with fantastic 360-degree views of Queenstown.
12. Explore the Wilderness of Lake Burbury
Lake Burbury is a serene and picturesque spot to relax and enjoy some water activities, one that was on our list, but we didn’t have time to get to
The lake is surrounded by stunning mountains and is perfect for trout fishing, boating, kayaking, and swimming. You can also take a leisurely stroll along the shore or have a picnic with your family and friends.
It takes around 20 minutes to get to Lake Burbury from Queenstown by car, and the drive itself is scenic and enjoyable. Once you arrive, you’ll be able to spend a few hours or even a whole day exploring the lake and its surroundings. It’s a great spot to unwind and appreciate the natural beauty of Tasmania.
13. Mountain Biking on Mount Owen Trails
I didn’t realise how big mountain biking there was to do in Queenstown until I saw this huge sign in the town centre.
Close to town, there looks to be some easy trails that anyone could take on, but the further out (and up!) you get, the more difficult the routes become.
The one that caught my eye was the ominously named ‘natural selection’ which is described as ‘having large and unavoidable obstacles, with some sections easier to walk’.
14. Wander Through a 1930s ‘Grand Talkie Theatre’
The Paragon Theatre was built in 1933 and still stands today. It currently only has one regular show ‘Franklin’ which tells the stores of how the Tasmanian wilderness area was saved from the building of a dam and turned into the most highly scored UNESCO site in the world.
You can also take a self-guided tour through the old building, which starts at 10am daily.
15. Take an Underground Mine Tour
Queenstown Heritage Tours offer a tour of the local Mount Lyell copper mine, which is a rare opportunity to tour a working mine.
You will venture around 9 km into the main tunnel with a guide describing everything that’s involved in mining. All safety equipment is provided and they operate seven days a week.
Is it worth visiting Queenstown, Tasmania?
Yes, it is worth visiting Queenstown. It is especially perfect for the outdoors enthusiast, with waterfalls, UNESCO wilderness hikes and world-class mountain bike trails. It is also home to West Coast steam railway and less than an hour from the Gordon River Cruise.
How many days in Queenstown Tasmania?
I would say three would be enough, with one day to do the Gordon River Cruise, one to do the West Coast Wilderness Railway and one to explore the other attractions such as Iron Blow Lookout. If you are a mountain biker you may want to stay longer to complete more of the trails.
How long does it take to drive from Queenstown to Hobart?
It took us just under four hours to drive the 261 km from Queenstown to Hobart Airport. There are some great stop offs on the route such as Nelson Falls, so plan extra time if you are going to see these.
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