We visited Queenstown two years ago and loved it, despite the huge number of tourists. However we did actually stay in Glenorchy, which is a 45 minute drive out of the town so we had an escape from the crowds.
Friends of ours had recommended Wanaka as a quieter version of Queenstown. So we made a decision to include it in our trip and we are very glad that we did.
The little town is busy but incredible friendly and welcoming. We hired bikes and cycled around the lake and managed to fit in some swimming.
The main town area was incredibly windy and it felt too cold for a dip in the lake. However if you drive two minutes around the corner from the centre of town, under the trees are some lovely sheltered bays, perfect for swimming.
It looks like a mediterranean climate. I think its all the trees and arid hills.
Just outside Wanaka is a lavender farm which is open to the public and has a gorgeous cafe and gardens attached. We spent a glorious couple of hours wandering around enjoying the sunshine.
The farm also had some bee hives and the lavender was clearly attracting lots of bees.
About half an hour outside Wanaka is the abandoned gold mine village Bendigo. You can only reach it by driving up some very steep gravel roads but you are rewarded by some fantastic views and a haunting abandoned village to explore.
The village has a fascinating history and was only abandoned in the 1940s. If you want to read more here is a link Bendigo area .