Queenstown is a major tourist destination and with the crowds come steep prices. I’m sure a little tourist booth or hotel/hostel with provide you a range of options of things to do if you got the $$$ but if you are here on a budget here are a few recommendations to help you make the most out of your time in Queenstown on the cheap:
1: Go for a sunrise hike up Queenstown Hill
Queenstown Hill is the best spot in town to catch the sun coming up over the Remarkables mountain range. Allow 45 minutes for the walk up. There’s a few signs about the history in the area and around Queenstown. Almost at the top is the famous “Dream Basket” making the link into the future. The walking track starts and ends at the Belfast Terrace. This hill also offers some good mountain biking trails.
2. Hike up Ben Lomond peak for amazing views
This hike is for the more intrepid day hikers. It’s a three and a half hour walk uphill but expect to be rewarded with views of the Wakatipu Basin and Coronet Peak at the top. You might be lucky enough to see some Kea birds hanging out at the top. Mind that they don’t steal your snacks… Cheeky birds 😉
P.S. Take the Skyline Gondola up to miss out on the first hour of the hike. The entrance to the gondola and the trail head are a ten minute walk from the city centre.
Cost: Free to walk or take the gondola for $33 per person in 2017. http://www.skyline.co.nz/queenstown/gondola/
3. Chill out by Queenstown beach
Spend your time sunbathing on the beach, slack lining, rent an aqua boat or relax on a pool float on lake Wakatipu. It’s usually a nice crowd of people on the beach you can befriend and join in their activities. If you need some drinks for the beach I recommend Henry’s close to Four Square as the cheapest option. You can legally drink on the beach until 22 PM unless there is an alcohol ban like over x-mas etc.
Cost: Free to chill or rent an aquabike for $10 per person in 2017. Watersports Queenstown is located on the beach. Check out their website here: http://www.watersportsqueenstown.co.nz/
4. Play disc golf
Not far from the beach, in Queenstown Gardens, is a disc golf course that is free for the public. Don’t have a disc? You can purchase one in town for around $20 or rent them for $5 at Little Small Planet, Outside Sports or Torpedo 7.
Cost: Free – $5 or $20
5. Hike the Queens’ Drive “trail”
This is one of the lesser know walks in Queenstown that offers spectacular views. The trail starts at the Remarkables Ski field so you’ll need to have a car or arrange transport to the start of this hike driving up the scenic road to the ski area at 1943 metre. Looking up at the Remarkables mountain range from town, the beginning of the trail goes on the front face of the range and it’s a little bit of camber. If you have vertigo this might not be the walk for you.
The walk is about 6 km but allow a day for this mission as you will be walking on a narrow track. Shuffling your way through some rock gardens and descend steep lose chisel. Unless you have special equipment do not attempt this walk when snow is present, windy days or cold.
Okay, how do we find it?
From the parking area you want to walk up the Shadow Basin, The Shadow chair is the closest chair to the base building and is very steep at the start.I recommend you to take the maintenance road up there. Once at the top you can see a little trail going in the rocks towards the lookout. From the lookout you can follow the ridge line until you see a little gap where you can go to the front face of the range. From there just follow the track and watch your step.
At the end of the ridge you’ll find a great picnic place if you walk away from the ridge closer to the edge. The boulders in the rock garden has a lot of moving rocks.
From here’s no real track but you don’t want to stay to high or to low and the ridge line. You’ll get to a big lake where you can descend on the left to take a shortcut or keep right of the lake to walk around. Some people climb up over the ridge line on the right to avoid going down to the lake, I haven’t done it and I don’t recommend it unless you know where to go as the other side has some dead end cliff drops.
Once down at the lake you can follow the stream up and drink some, usually there’s a bit of snow here even in the middle of the summer and then you’ll find your way back to the top of the ridge and you can enter the ski area basin again. You should see lake Alta which is great for a refreshing swim at the end.
6. Go for a self guided Lord of the Rings scenic trip
Tick off two boxes at once by going on a combined scenic and Lord of the Rings scenery self guided tour from the comfort of your own car.. There are a plethora of scenic movie locations in and around Queenstown, and the close-by towns of Arrowtown and Glenorchy, and by the Kawarau river. Consult google and head off to see the scenery.
7. Book a dinner on First Table
This isn’t free but definitely a good one if your on a budget. Check out this booking website https://www.firsttable.co.nz/ to make a booking at a local restaurant and get half price off food!
Cost: $10 to make the booking plus 50% off food (drinks and certain foods may be excluded). Book for 4 and bring your friends and share the $10 booking fee!
8. Cliff jump at Little Thailand
I’m not sure where it got it’s name but this is a great way to cool off or awaken yourself after a night out in Queenstown. Throw yourself off the cliffs in the cooling Lake Wakatipu and swim for 10-20 meters to the rope where you can climb up again. There are several heights you can jump from where the highest is around 12 metres and lower sections from 5-8 metre. To get to the higher section you take left into the bushes right before the smaller section start. You’ll find it.
5 minutes drive outside Queenstown towards Glenorchy the road goes around a bluff with a large shoulder on the left where you can park. It’s quite usual there is a couple of cars already parked here. Go over the road fence and you’ll soon see a little overgrown path descending towards the cliff. This should help you find it
9. Book a discounted trip on bookme.co.nz
Find discounted tours online ranging from a $1 pub crawl to a $10 daily bike hire to a $25 zipride.
10. Canyoning at 12 Mile Delta
If you have a wetsuit and some shoes you don’t mind having wet for a few days I can recommend this, you have to have a lot of common sense venturing in to this canyon and it could be a good idea to bring a bag with abseiling gear if you don’t want to jump from some sections. If you stay for a couple of weeks you should be sure to come across someone that might take you, I don’t recommend going without someone that has done it before and is well knowledgeable about the area as this is highly dangerous if you don’t know where to jump and where there are hidden rocks.
You can get here by driving for 10-15 minutes towards Glenorchy and look for the turn off to the left saying 12 Mile Delta. Go towards the camp ground and follow the signs to Bobs Cove. Just after you cross the little bridge (that’s where you come out) turn up right and walk up the hill and follow the path along the canyon/river for some time until it calms down and you can begin your adventure!
There are commercial companies selling this tour too if you don’t have the knowledge.
11. Giant Rope Swing at Lake Hayes
About 10 -15 minutes outside Queenstown is Lake Hayes, a smaller and warmer lake. You can easily hitch there or befriend some locals with a car. You need to look out for the Lake Hayes Pavilions, they are on an open grass field area on your left and and the lake is just down from there. Check out this map to get a better idea.
Once you found the pavilion, facing the lake, walk down to the lake track and then go left, follow the track for a few minutes and you’ll find it.
Be safe and use common sense.
The sky is the limit when it comes to finding things to do in Queenstown. You are in the adventure capital of the world after all. Get amongst it!
Written by: Jackie & Mattias