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Easy on the Pocket and Good for the Soul: The Affordable Guide to Incredible Queenstown

Photo credit QueenstownNZ

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There are endless free or cheap things to do in Queenstown. If you need a reason to put down your phone and get exploring, our guide will help you explore Queenstown, make the most of your trip and uncover all the best budget-friendly attractions in this beautiful South Island township. Whether it’s catching a stunning sunset, visiting historical sites, or taking a scenic bike ride around one of the many lakes, there are plenty of ways to spend your time here without spending a fortune and will warm your soul, even (especially) in winter! So, come take a look and plan your next adventure!

new zealand, lake wakatipu, lake

The main expenses will be accomodation and transport. We have a few suggestions here that will help you save money while still enjoying all the unique experiences Queenstown has to offer.

Where to Stay in Queenstown thats easy on the pocket

Queenstown has a wide range of accomodation options from hostels to camping sites to holiday homes. It pays to do some research and book in advance, as this can really save you money.

Easy on the pocket Transport

Best Car Rentals in Queenstown New Zealand

Snap rentals offer a range of vehicles to suit your needs including excellent eco friendly options. Located near Queenstown airport, they’re convenient to pick up once you hop off the plane or bus.

Bike Hire

There are loads of awesome bike hire options in Queenstown and Frankton. Between them, they offer everything you will want or need – excellent service, quality bikes, plus summer and winter bike hire packages which give you options of all the stunning local bike trails, including biking the wineries!

Not only is this a fun way to get some fresh air and pump those lungs, but its a great way to connect with friends and family, see the area from a new perspective and is a sustainable travel option.

    couple, romance, bike

    Remarkable places

    The Queenstown region has more to offer than just skiing, mountain biking, bungy jumping and jet boat rides for adrenaline junkies! Those who want to slow down, take in and experience the absolute beauty of the Queenstown area, well then you’ve found your guide.

    Here is a guide for what to pack for a day trip in New Zealand.

      new zealand, landscape, alps

      Lets start from the outskirts and work our way in!

      Visit Untouched Moke Lake

      Moke Lake is a true hidden gem – it’s close to the Queenstown township yet feels like you’ve escaped for miles, with only few visitors (or sometimes no others).

      Wholesome, peaceful activities

      You can explore the lake and its surroundings on foot with the easy-going lake loop track or take a kayak or SUP out and paddle around the shoreline, then jump in for a refreshing dip! Fishing is also a great idea here, just grab yourself a license first.

      If you’re wanting more wilderness walking, there are a few connecting trails to discover and enjoy, which will take you to some pretty excellent viewpoints. Just make sure to be prepared as the weather can change very quickly!

      • Moonlight Track

      • Lake Dispute Trail

      • Mt Crichton Loop

      Moke Lake Campground

      There is a DOC campsite here with unpowered sites which is a great option for those who are self-contained camping, and are wanting to do things a little easier on the pocket – $15 per night/adult. If you do stay here overnight, pray it is a clear night and check out the amazing night sky, a perfect spot for stargazing.

      moke lake, reflection, new zealand

      Ben Lomond Trail

      Ben Lomond is not for the faint hearted, but we think the walking trail is a seriously rewarding so here ‘he’ on the list! Ben has stunning views of lake Wakatipu and surrounding mountains at the top and you’re treated to spectacular 360 degree views that are second to none.

      Be very prepared for Ben Lomond

      The track is a steep gradient, with DOC stating “in winter you will need to carry and be able to use alpine equipment such as avalanche equipment, ice axe and crampons. The track may change between very slippery and muddy”.

      The track takes a full day return – it is 11km and takes around 6-8 hours depending on your fitness level; although you should consider yourself fit to take this one on! Ben is the perfect way to spend a day out in nature. Check out the Mountain Safety or Adventuresmart website to best prepare yourself.

        ben, lomond, mountain

        Perfect Paradise

        Paradise lives up to its name both literally and metaphorically!

        Paradise is a stunning rural area which sits beside the dart river, at the head of Lake Wakatipu.

        Head to Paradise for a day trip if you’re in need of some relaxation; bring a book, a picnic and some comfy pants and take a break from the city life and ‘things to do’. Find a spot where you can enjoy the views and relax a while. Also, don’t miss your photo op with the paradise sign – a must do!

        Paradise (aka Middle Earth) is home to many of the Lord of the Rings film locations – even if you’re not a huge fan, checking out the spots is fun! See what you recognise!

        Iconic LOTR places to find are:

        • Isengard Lookout

        • Amon Hen (Closeburn)

        • Lothlorien Forest (Glenorchy) you can see all the way to Mount Earnslaw, from there you can discover Lothlorien and the Pillar of Kings

        • Ithilien (Twelve Mile Delta)

          lake wakatipu, dart river, paradise, nature

          Quiet Kinloch

          Kinloch is a quiet and stunning lakeside village on the north-western side of Lake Wakatipu, right at the mouth of the Dart River and across the lake from Glenorchy. This little best-kept secret is magnificent; surrounded by waters and mountains, it is a true getaway with no hurrying required.

            kinloch, waterfront

            Unwind by the lakefront taking in the surroundings. Keep an eye out for birds and other wildlife that call this area home. By night, Kinloch transforms into yet another of New Zealands incredible stargazing spots, and if you’re lucky you might even get a show from the Aurora Australis.

            Kinloch night sky, milky way, aurora australis

            Dramatic Arthurs Point

            Arthurs Point is often overlooked unless heading that way to jump on the start of the Shotover Jet. However, is little spot is only minutes from Queenstown’s main centre and the surroundings there shouldn’t be missed; Grand stone cliffs that dramatically fall into the gorgeous (if it hasn’t been raining!) turquoise-blue waters of the rushy Shotover River. The landscape almost feels exaggerated! Its fun place to see and experience.

            queentown, shotover river, river

            Oxenbridge Tunnel Track

            Take a walk along one of Arthurs Points short scenic trails, that takes you to a lookout over the Shotover river.

            Capture the Edith Cavell bridge

            Either in your heart or on your phone! The extremely photogenic Edith Cavell Bridge is a hertiage listed bridge, over 100 years old. It is named after a famous nurse, who was a British war hero of WW1.

            Take walks along one of Arthurs Points scenic trails. Cool off by taking a refreshing dip in one of its natural pools.

            new zealand, landscape, alps

            A little sandy beach getaway

            The Morningstar Beach is an unpopulated little pocket of Arthurs Point which is at the end of a (approx) 15 min walk. A place to take in the special surroundings and have a break from the day for awhile.

            Glorious Gibbston Valley

            Gibbston Valley is famous, for its vineyards and wineries as its fantastic biking and hiking trails. Located in a deep, walled valley between Queenstown and Cromwell, it houses some of New Zealand’s most famous and anticipated cellar doors and cycles trails.

            You can explore the valley by participating in wine tasting tours either by car or bike. Take a picnic with you or splash out on an amazing cheese platter.

            Gibbston Valley offers a delightful experience for those seeking a tranquil afternoon adventure. It boasts some of New Zealands must beautiful bike trails, including the renowned Queenstown Trail. Take advantage of the supremely gorgeous (my vote is on an autumn ride for the stunning golden glow) bike path, following the river and discover all the things this place has to offer. This is an excellent way to spend an afternoon.

            Photo credit QueenstownNZ

            Biking Gibbston Valley – Photo credit QueenstownNZ

            Visit Queenstown Wineries

            You have a range of options when it comes to exploring cellar doors and participating in wine tastings and tours. Self tour, or join a guided tour! Gibbston Valley is the most well-known, however there are also several must-see wineries between Arrow Junction and The Shotover Bridge on the way to Queenstown. While you’re exploring in your own way, you can also opt for one of the wine and food pairing experiences, instead of just the vino!

            Lake Hayes

            Nestled on the edge Queenstown, Lake Hayes is truly a gem worth discovering. With its waters and magnificent mountain vistas visitors can engage in activities such, as swimming, kayaking, fishing or simply taking a walk or cycle around the lake and followed by a picnic on the generous gentle, grassy slope down to the lake.

            The 8km track provides access to various lookout spots that offer views of nearby mountains and takes 2-3hours to complete. Whether you seek an adventure or a peaceful stroll Lake Hayes caters to all types of travellers.

            Lake Hayes is truly a gem of the Greater Queenstown area. Make sure not to miss it! The views here are unforgettable and with plenty of space, Lake Hayes is an ideal destination for a day out with loved ones or just to relax away from everything. So grab your picnic basket. Get ready to explore one of New Zealands picturesque and peaceful locations!

            Picturesque Arrowtown

            Take a drive East outside of downtown Queenstown, and you’ll arrive at the charming village of Arrowtown. I recommended taking the Arrowtown-Lake Hayes Rd, which is picture-perfect. This town has beautifully preserved its buildings from the gold rush era making it an intriguing, historic place to explore. Take some time to wander through the streets visit one of the art galleries or cosy cafes or simply relish in strolling around this picturesque old fashioned town.

            famous, popular, historic

            Play Golf one of Arrowtowns Courses

            For those who love golf Arrowtown is a destination! With a selection of four courses to choose from there’s something for every player. Whether you’re just starting out or an experienced pro these stunning courses will offer plenty of challenges.

            • Arrowtown Golf Course
            • Barley Station Golf Course
            • Hills Golf Club
            • Millbrook Resort and Country Club

            So take some time off. Indulge yourself with a round at one of Arrowtowns internationally renowned golf courses. You’ll be surrounded by breathtaking mountain views and captivating alpine scenery creating an experience.

            arrowtown, new zealand, mountains

            Explore Arrowtown on Two Wheels

            If you’re seeking an active way to explore Arrowtown why not opt for a bike? Cycling through the towns streets, not just the town centre, proves to be a means of seeing more than your average visitor, the whole town is gorgeous. By the way it’s also environmentally friendly!

            Arrow River bike trail

            Arrowtown River trail – Photo credit QueenstownNZ

            Not sure where to begin? Why not explore one of the cycling trails? There are a variety of routes to choose from each offering views.

            Here are a few lovely paths to check out:

            • Arrowtown River trail – Tranquil and refreshing as you following the Arrow Rivers lead
              4km loop

            • Countryside Trail – this is a stunning section of the Queenstown Trail Great Ride network
              14km one way

            • Arrowtown Lake Hayes Loop (via Millbrook) – ride past the mining village, then towards Millbrook, this path will blow your mind with breath taking scenery and local workmanship.
              18km loop

            Experience gold panning at the Arrow River

            Transport yourself back in time. Give gold panning a go! With the guidance of an expert, or just hire a pan, you’ll learn how to use a gold pan in your search for precious nuggets. This ancient mining technique provides an opportunity to immerse yourself in what prospectors experienced over 100 years ago.

            Historic miners town

            Immerse yourself in the history of the miners, from the late 1800s by visiting the captivating historic Chinese village. Step into the buildings, touch and feel how they lived their lives. Delve into the culture, customs and traditions of those who resided here more than a century ago. It’s an experience that combines education with entertainment.

            Indulge in fudge at the Remarkable Sweet Shop

            Treat yourself to some taste-tester fudge – it’s the perfect sweet treat! The Remarkable Sweet Shop generously offers samples of their made fudge. From flavours like rocky road, cookies n cream and snickery to unique New Zealand faves, such as hokey pokey and jelly tip, there’s something that will tickle everyones taste buds (theres even vegan options too!)

            Find locally made souvenirs while shopping in Arrowtown

            Before bidding farewell, make sure you explore the range of distinctive souvenirs available. Discover a range of handcrafted treasures, including artisan crafts, handmade jewellery and artworks catering to all budgets and tastes. Take a stroll through the shops. Find something special that will serve as a fond reminder of your time spent in Arrowtown.

            new zealand, arrowtown, lakes district museum

            Queenstown Township

            No visit to Queenstown is complete without exploring its township. Uncover hidden gems at specialty boutiques and stores offering unique kiwi items. Immerse yourself in the local art galleries, museums and other local and cultural attractions that makes Queenstown unique.

            • Te Atamira – A multiple purpose Arts and Cultural space in Frankton

            • The Lakes District Museum

            • And, a whole raft of amazing, talented artists studios to make sure to see

            • Queenstown Gardens – this Garden is hugged by Lake Wakatipu as it reaches out on its very own peninsula. There is heaps to check out here, or just pull up some grass and catch some rays.

            • Visit the Queenstown market – open every Saturday from 9am to 4pm on the waterfront, by Earnslaw Park, which includes a disc golf course.

            lake wakatipu, queenstown, bobs peak

            Savour Exquisite Local Cuisine at Markets and Food Festivals

            Queenstowns gastronomy is a must try experience.

            1. Remarkables Market – open every Saturday from October to April – 9am-2pm
              Arts and crafts along with local fresh produce growers and local food trucks grace this bustling market
            2. Comb the streets for the inevitable food trucks! Street food from all over the world can be found with ease and as kiwis love it, so theres heaps of em’, and they’re great value for money.
            3. Get in early for something more restauranty – Check out firsttable.co.nz, QT is the where idea for this website was born!

            Throughout the year various festivals showcase mouthwatering dishes prepared by chefs from, around the globe.

            Experience the Magic of a Sunset by the Shores of Lake Wakatipu

            One of the ways to end a day in Queenstown is by witnessing the enchanting sunset from the tranquil shores of Lake Wakatipu. The combination of the stunning lake wakatipu, its waters and majestic mountains creates a breathtaking sight that will leave you awe inspired and relaxed. Simply sit back, unwind and relish an evening filled with serenity!

            new zealand, queenstown, lake

            Discover Kiwi Park Wildlife Sanctuary

            For wildlife enthusiasts a visit to Kiwi Birdlife Park is a must. This park serves as a sanctuary for bird species found in New Zealand, affording you the opportunity to observe them within their natural habitats.

            Meet the precious icon of this country, the Kiwi! Alongside the Kiwi encounters, there is also conservation shows, self-guided audio and private tours to book.

            Here you can meet:

            • Kaka

            • Kereru

            • Kiwi

            • Kākā

            • Whio/Blue Duck

            • Kea

            • Ruru/Morepork

            • Weka

            • And more

            So if you’re seeking an experience be sure to include this park in your travel plans!

            new zealand, kiwi, queenstown

            Explore the Queenstown Scenic Bike Trails

            If you prefer exploring on two wheels, Queenstown boasts some of the worlds best bike trails. With options ranging from easy to advanced there’s something, for everyone. The stunning vistas of Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains add a touch of enjoyment to these trails!

            Check out this website for all the information you could need to figure out where you want to go and what the options are.

            Regardless of your skill level you’ll find a trail that suits you perfectly. For an adventure embark on the historic Arrowtown Trail and discover one of New Zealands oldest settlements. Once you arrive there take some time to wander through the streets and appreciate the old world charm this town exudes.

            Take a Drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy

            No visit to Queenstown would be complete without exploring the awe inspiring scenery of Southern Alps. One of the ways to do so is by driving along the road, from Queenstown to Glenorchy. As you traverse this route prepare yourself for views that rank among New Zealands finest.

            During your journey you’ll have the opportunity to pause at points and fully appreciate the breathtaking beauty of this landscape. Along stretches of the road you’ll find yourself surrounded by rainforests teeming with an abundance of native birds. A show, just for you.

            Once you reach Glenorchy it’s highly likely that you won’t want to leave! This charming little town offers many fun activities to keep you occupied. Whether its kayaking, stand up paddleboarding or walking the wetlands, there’s something for everyone.. While you’re, in town make sure to explore the streets, local business’ and admire the historical buildings – such as the classic Glenorchy Red Shed!

            new zealand, queenstown, south island

            Dive into the Water

            With its many lakes and rivers, Queenstown offers an opportunity, for water-babies to scratch that itch! If you’re anything like me, its not really a holiday or weekend break away without having stripped off and jumped in some sort of body of water. For a a wonderful experience you can opt for swimming in Lake Wakatipu. Also check out LAWA if you’re unsure or concerned about the water quality.

            queenstown, beach, new zealand

            Take a Walk or Ride Along the Frankton Arm Walkway

            Immerse yourself in the breathtaking vistas of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu by taking a stroll or bike ride along the Frankton Arm Walkway. This amazing trail spans 10 kilometres and winds from central Queenstown to Frankton, around Lake Wakatipu, offering lookout points along the way. Keep an eye out for birdlife and beautiful flowers that adorn your path. There are bound to be some sights to behold.

            Enjoy a Picnic, at Queenstown Bay Beach

            Prepare a picnic and spend your day basking in the sunshine at Queenstown Bay Beach.

            This stunning beach offers breathtaking vistas looking north up the lake towards Kinloch and Glenorchy, both dwarfed by towering, snowy mountain ranges. This is the iconic Queenstown beach, the place for swimming, relaxing or playing with the kids on the awesome playgrounds. Or, kicking off your shoes and paddling in the refreshing, clear waters. I’m sure your family chat and/or instagram feed will be glad you visited!

            slackline, queenstown, beach

            Indulge in Patagonias Ice Cream and Chocolates

            Rude not to.

            Patagonia Chocolates and Ice Creams is definitely something to look forward to. Savour the favour of the artisan delicacies, as this is arguably the best ice cream in NZ. Here you can enjoy handcrafted gelato and chocolates that will surely tantalise your taste buds. This popular destination also has its own coffee rostery which you can buy the beans and take them home to continue your travels after they’re over! (Or they’d make a wonderful gift). What a way to conclude a day filled with exploration and adventure.

            Marvel at the Views from Bob’s Peak

            No visit to Queenstown would be complete without stopping by Bob’s Peak, home to the Skyline Gondola. From here you can take in views of Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding landscape while relishing a meal at one of the restaurants available. On days you may even catch a glimpse of the snow capped peaks of The Remarkables mountain range.

            lake wakatipu, queenstown, bobs peak

            In Queenstown there are complimentary activities that can truly uplift the spirit. Whether its immersing oneself in the beauty of nature engaging in pursuits visiting attractions, strolling along the waterfront or simply sharing a meal or game night with loved ones and friends. There’s an abundance of things to suit everyones preferences. These experiences not offer a chance to unwind and recharge but also create opportunities, for nurturing relationships and fostering a sense of belonging within our community.

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