Renowned for skydiving, luxury boutique hotels and expensive winter sports, Queenstown isn’t a destination normally associated with budget-friendly activities. But look hard enough, and we guarantee this New Zealand gem has a few cheap and cheerful tricks up its sleeve.
So if you’re wondering what to do in Queenstown that isn’t going to cost you a small fortune, prepare for a pleasant surprise. Here’s six of best things to do that don’t cost a thing.
Get an Adrenaline Rush at Kawarau River
If it’s a heart-pumping rush you’re after, chances are you can make it happen in Queenstown. But thrill seeking in the Adventure Capital of the World doesn’t come cheap. So what’s the next best thing? Looking on as other crazy people do it instead! Make your way down to the Kawarau River and Bridge and watch on in delight as adrenaline junkies (some a lot braver than others!) throw themselves off the 43-metre high bungee platform, or tackle the rapids on a white water raft or speed boat in the river below. It’s one of the most entertaining free things to do in Queenstown, and the scenery is pretty incredible too!
Play Disc Golf in the Queenstown Gardens
Forget joining the local cricket or rugby team, if you want to take part in a true Queenstown sporting tradition, simply grab a frisbee, a couple of friends or family members and head to Queenstown Gardens. There, amongst the roses, duck pond and greenery, awaits an 18-basket disc golf course. Also known as frisbee golf, it’s exactly the same as playing a round of golf, but with frisbees instead. The aim is to throw your frisbee into the metal baskets that are dotted around the gardens, and the person with the lowest ‘par’ wins. Loads of fun and completely free – you can’t beat that!
Head Into the Hills
Aside from playing host to a range of heart-racing outdoor pursuits, Queenstown is perhaps best known for a mind-blowing array of hiking trails. And top of everyone’s hiking to-do list is Queenstown Hill. Starting in the centre of town, this steep route snakes through dense forest before opening up to stunning panoramic views of the city and mountains beyond – tackling it is guaranteed to have you working up a sweat! Another well-frequented hike is the Tiki Trail, which ascends Bob’s Peak and also rewards hikers with unbeatable sky-high vantage points. If it’s a real physical challenge you’re after though, give the Ben Lomond Track a go – it’s a full-day hike through some of the most difficult terrain in the region, but it’s well worth the pain once you reach the summit.
Cycle the Queenstown Trail
Winding 120 kilometres through breathtaking valleys, across suspension bridges, past raging rivers and by wineries, galleries and historic landmarks, there’s no better way to explore the stunning New Zealand landscape than a cycle along the Queenstown Trail. Multiple routes of varying difficulty comprise the trail, with the most popular tracks including Arrow River Bridges (16km), the Countryside Ride (11.5km) and the challenging Jack’s Point Ride (12km) – which will have your legs burning. There’s also plenty of spots where you can refuel, regain some energy and even take part in a cheeky wine tasting. If you don’t have your own bike, they can be hired for a small fee from several Queenstown operators. (So while having to hire wheels doesn’t make this activity free, it certainly is budget-friendly!).
Creative Queenstown Arts and Crafts Market
Shopaholics, be warned! If you’re incapable of window-shopping then this could end up being quite a costly activity, but if you can happily spend an afternoon browsing stalls, shops and stands, then wandering the Creative Queenstown Arts and Crafts Market is one of the most enjoyable things to do in Queenstown. Held every Saturday in Earnslaw Park from 9am to 4:30pm, market-goers can peruse everything from handmade soaps to hand-carved woodwork, and jewellery, pottery and paintings. There’s live music and plenty of delicious goodies to chow down on, and it’s a great opportunity to mingle with many of the local producers, artists and growers.
Visit the Many Lakes of Queenstown
If it’s not the snow-capped mountains, the number one thing to see in Queenstown are the many spectacular lakes. Lake Wakatipu, which sits on the edge of the city centre, is often referred to as Queenstown’s very own beach. During the summer months locals flock to the shoreline to sunbathe and picnic, splash in the chilly waters and kayak or stand up paddle board. Just a 15-minute drive from town is another beloved destination, Lake Hayes. Calmer and quieter, this picturesque spot lures walkers, joggers and cyclists keen to do a lap of the lake, and photographers wanting to capture the mirror-like surface. And don’t forget Moke Lake, which is heaven on Earth for campers, and despite being only 30-minutes from Queenstown, makes you feel as though you’re in the middle of nowhere.