Summer Road Trip Series: Kingston

The South Islands Best Kept Secret

Not far from Queenstown, on a spectacularly beautiful scenic 47km, 45 minute drive is the sleepy little hamlet township of Kingston. 


Located at the bottom of lake Wakatipu, it played a pivotal role in the colonisation of Queenstown as a trade and supplies route, but was quickly overlooked as a destination in favour of its more open and glamorous northern counterpart.

Today, it’s a great place to escape the sometimes over touristed townships of Queenstown and Arrowtown, while still being immersed in the epic beauty that is Central Otago.  In fact, it’s often overlooked in lieu of its more dazzling tourism neighbours.

But, if you appreciate a different set of views, and are open to a different perspective of the region, then  we highly recommend Kingston as a day trip.  You won’t find much more than a quite bay, a few hikes & cycle routes, the old and currently decommissioned steam train the Kingston Flyer and a small but very local café…. But the locals are wonderful people and the drive down and the sites there are breath-taking.  Worth the effort in our books!


A few points of interest to keep you occupied:

Shirt Tail Track

A 1hr30min hike up above the bay past waterfalls and onto a great vista of Lake Wakatipu, Kingston and across the waters to the Devils Staircase. 

“ The Shirt Tail Track starts at the Te Kere Haka reserve carpark. It follows the Shirt Tail Stream up to the bushline for a spectacular view of Lake Wakatipu and Kingston township.

The track up to the waterfall is well marked. Beyond here the track is very steep, unmarked and not maintained. It features red beech forest and subalpine shrublands.

This track is also known as Shirtfront Trac” (

‘The Te Kere Haka Reserve is at the far end of the township past the railway station” (

Around the Mountains Cycle Trail

Kingston is the suggested start of  the Around the Mountains Cycle Trail – a super fun trail around the Eyre Mountain ranges.  A lot of the walking and cycling trails can be ridden or walked in a ‘return’ fashion for a great day out

The Kingston Flyer

" The once grand, and soon to be restored Kingston Flyer can be found at the ‘end of the road’ in Kingston.  Restored to her glory days, the train was decommissioned as a tourist attraction in 2013, but we are expecting her to be ‘back on track’ and giving tourists a ride soon!  Still, it’s worth the visit to see her in all her stately splendour.  Visit the café too and scrummage around the yard for some great photos of the carriages!

“The Kingston Flyer is New Zealand's famous vintage steam train set in the spectacular mountain scenery of the Queenstown Lakes District. When gold was discovered in the Wakatipu district in 1862 the need to connect the district by steamships and steam trains became apparent. The railway line at last reached Kingston on July 10, 1878 and a public holiday was declared by Queenstown Borough and Lake County Councils.

The express passenger steam train known as "The Flyer" serviced Kingston-Gore on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and Kingston-Invercargill on Tuesdays and Thursdays from the 1890's. During peak holiday periods she also carried passengers from Dunedin to Kingston to meet up with Lake Wakatipu steamboats connecting with the popular holiday destination of Queenstown”


Don’t forget to get your photo taken and the end of the wharf, have a round of golf, enjoy a more relaxed day of water sports and generally find space while not sacrificing an inch of the great views. 


Kingston has to be one of the best kept secrets of the South!