Drinking and Bars in Queenstown: A Definitive Guide

Known as the adventure capital of New Zealand (the Pacific? the Southern Hemisphere? the World?) Queenstown is a “must see” place in New Zealand. Aside from Bungy jumping, rafting, canyoning and jetboating it also has a pretty awesome bar and boozing culture. In fact, a lot of kiwis from all over make the trek down south purely for the party. Now, before you turn you away thinking it’s not for you, let me assure you there is something here for everyone.

There is basically 3 types of drinking establishment in Queenstown, Bars, Pubs and backpacker bars. That doesn’t sound like much but there is over 70 liquor licenses in the central business area and probably 30 of those are dedicated to drinking. If you can check out them all in a weekend then Monday morning would definitely be a struggle – infact Monday mornings in Queenstown are nearly always a struggle.

Pubs

The pubs in Queenstown are the places that you go to when you want to kick back, have a sneaky pint or 3, and enjoy the scenery and the weather. Wether it’s by accident or design they are all positioned perfectly to get hours and hours of afternoon and evening sun during summer. The Pig & Whistle, Monty’s and Dux de Lux are the pick of the pubs and all are well worth the time, they all sell cheap pints and decent pub food. It’s worth mentioning that Dux de Lux brews all their own beer on the premises and it is very good. Personally I’m a fan of the Alpine Ale, but there is a flavour for everyone.

If you want a bit more of a “local” experience, try the Frankton Arm Tavern (in Frankton) or the Wakatipu Tavern. Both of them sell cheap grub, beer and feel exactly like your local.

Backpacker Bars

Calling these bars “Backpacker Bars” doesn’t really do them the justice they deserve. If you want to party, Winnies, Frasers, Altitude, Buffalo Club and the World Bar are the places to go. They are all huge places, sell cheap drinks, play cool music and all the tour buses full of people that just want to get loose. It’s best to not leave it too late in the evening to get there. Altitude and Buffalo Club are usually pumping around 10:30, World Bar doesn’t really start hitting it’s straps till midnight.

If you are planning on heading out to these places and you should, then there are always people wandering around town in the evening giving out 2 for 1 vouchers, hit them up for a few. It wouldn’t be a night out in Queenstown without some cheap jaegar bombs at Frasers, some horizontal bungy at Altitude, standing by the fire at the Buff and a teapot from the World. Teapot? It’s a tasty tasty cocktails served in a teapot with a few shot glasses, not really worth the money, but it’s a must do, you will be asked about it.

Bars

While people mainly think of Queenstown for the big party venues, in my mind it’s the tiny bars that make it. At 3am when the World Bar kicks everyone out on the street there are still places to drink and drink you will. Walking around during the day it’s easy to miss the multitude of tiny establishments but if you look hard enough they are everywhere. Bardeaux, Minibar, Barmuda and Bar-up are all down Searle Lane. They all have a massive range of beer, spirits or wine and will charge you a fortune for the pleasure. That’s not going to stop you though when it’s 4:30am, you are parched and they are the only places open.

Debajo and Tardis are both on Cow Lane and Skybar is just around the corner of Camp and Cow. Skybar is a swanky cocktail bar, where the staff are always friendly and will be happy to have a chat and a drink. Debajo is a tiki-style bar that always plays funky dance music. Tardis is the only place in town where you’ll hear good hip-hop maybe with the possibility of a live MC. If you are in town in May, make sure you checkout the Sugardaddy competition, it just might make your winter, or break your wallet.

The rest of the bars are scattered around the place, The Boiler Room and Minus 5 are in the wharf, Eichardts is on the water-front on Marine Parade, Sub-culture is underneath Montys and Harry’s Pool Bar is near Buffalo Club. Each of these places has it’s own attraction, Boiler Room plays the cheesiest of the 80s and 90s on the weekends, the locals love it so it’s usually pretty busy. Minus 5 is an ice bar, it’s pretty expensive but worth a look. Subculture is the closest to Queenstown’s only dance club, and the drum and bass pumps until the wee hours of the morning and Harry’s is the only place in town with more than a couple of pool tables. Finally, Eichardts is the house bar of an extremely exclusive hotel but the bar is open to all comers. The cocktail list is extensive, varied and made with the freshest of ingredients. Eichardts is my favourite bar in Queenstown, regardless of it being more expensive, closed after 11 and super-pretentious.

Food

Come the end of the night you are going to be stumbling the streets looking for some sort of actual sustenance, something big, something greasy and something fast. There are 2 options, Fergburger and the Night and Day (the locals call it the 2-4.) Fergburger is an amazing gourmet burger place that sells expensive hamburgers which taste amazing and you will inhale with glee in a drunken stupor but, I recommend saving the Ferg until you are sober you will enjoy it more. The 2-4 sells all you need, deep fried lasagne, cordon bleu (whatever that is,) nachos, wedges and my personal favourite lamb shanks

That’s pretty much all there is to say about Queenstown, except for 1 bar. I’m not really sure where to classify it and even less sure what to say about it, but Chicos is a Queenstown institution. It’s been there as far as I can tell it’s been there forever and it wouldn’t surprise me if the same reggae/dub cover band has been playing for just as long. I’ve been going there for a year and a half and they haven’t changed their set. If you are in town, Chicos is upstairs on the mall and it’s the sort of place that you just might well stumble into having an awesome night at. Last time I checked they sold $2 beers between 10:30 and 11:30 every night, it’s definitely worth stopping in for one.

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