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Queenstown is known to be an expensive place to visit. To be honest, it’s true. I found this out myself when I first arrived long before I decided to call Queenstown home. When you add up hotels, tours, meals, and transport you can quickly find yourself spending quite a lot of money! However, that doesn’t mean you can’t visit Queenstown on a budget. In fact, there are actually lots of cheap things to do in Queenstown!
These activities and attractions cost a fraction of most of the things to do in Queenstown but are just as fun, exciting, and adventurous. From road trips to scenic cruises, this list includes the 18 best cheap things to do in Queenstown!
Cheap Things to do in Queenstown
1. Eat Fergburger
Fergburger is the most iconic burger joint in New Zealand. Trying one of their famous burgers is easily one of the best cheap things to do in Queenstown. Fergburger is so popular that there’s often a line out the door and getting a burger can sometimes take an hour. However, I can confirm that it’s really worth the wait!
You can get the “Classic Ferg” burger for $13.90 NZD but they have a huge variety of burgers including chicken, vegetarian, fish, venison, lamb, and pork. There are around 20 burgers on the menu and although I haven’t tried them all, I haven’t tried one I didn’t love.
Seriously, Fergburger really is that good so don’t miss it!
2. Visit a Craft Brewery
I love craft beer! And in Queenstown, there’s no shortage of breweries and pubs to try some of New Zeeland’s best craft beer. In town, there are lots of pubs that specialize in craft beer. The three best are Beech Tree, Atlas Beer Cafe, and Smiths Craft Beer House. All of these pubs have a huge range of New Zealand craft beer as well as taps from local breweries.
But if you want to visit the actual breweries for yourself (which I highly recommend) then you’ll need to head out of town. One of the closest is Altitude Brewing which is conveniently located along the edge of Lake Wakatipu in Frankton. Another is Searchlight Brewery which’s located in the industrial complex just off Gorge Road. Both breweries are outstanding, and it’s hard to pick a favorite, so why not just visit both?
The third brewery located in Queenstown is Canyon Brewing located at Arthurs Point overlooking the Shotover Canyon. It’s the largest of the three and is also in the most beautiful location. There is also a fourth brewery out in the Gibbston Valley around 30 minutes from Queenstown called Cargo Brewery. It’s actually attached to a winery so if your partner or friends love wine, it’s a popular choice.
Visiting a craft brewery is one of the best indoor activities in Queenstown. The best part is, craft beer in Queenstown is relatively cheap and a large beer will only cost around $9 NZD. Also, if craft beer is something you love as much as I do then consider joining a craft beer tour in Queenstown. The tour is a great introduction to the breweries and you get to actually see how the beer is made.
3. Have a BBQ at St Omar Park
St Omar Park is the large park along Lake Esplanade Road on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. The park itself is beautiful and every visitor should at least take a short walk through it to enjoy the spectacular views. However, what many people don’t realize is there are actually lots of free BBQs you can use in the park to enjoy a meal by the lake.
On a hot summer’s day, you could head to a supermarket in Queenstown to pick up some food and then head down for a free BBQ under the sun. If you’re brave enough you can even go for a swim (but it’s freezing!)
There are only a few BBQs at St Omar Park and they are often pretty busy on nice days. Of course, they are for everyone to use so most people have no problem sharing. However, if you can’t get a spot there’s also a BBQ at Fernhill Reserve that’s rarely used and is actually a hidden gem in Queenstown.
4. Play frisbee golf in the Queenstown gardens
The Queenstown Gardens are a must-visit, especially for those looking for an easy hike in Queenstown. However, if you have a little money to spend you can actually head over to the Queenstown Ice Arena in the gardens and rent a frisbee to play frisbee golf (also known as disc golf.) Frisbee rental only costs $5 NZD for the day and the frisbee golf course is completely free to use.
For those who haven’t played frisbee golf before it’s really easy. Most courses have 9 “holes” and just like golf, you’ll have to try and land your frisbee on a target with the least amount of throws as possible – exactly like golf. Although frisbee golf can be hard at first, it’s fun, and for $5 NZD it’s a really cheap activity – so give it a go!
5. Enjoy a barista-made coffee
We all need downtime, especially when on holiday. So, why not enjoy my favorite cheap thing to do in Queenstown and something I likely do a little too much… go for a coffee!
There are lots of cafes in Queenstown to choose from and to be honest, it can be a little overwhelming. Luckily, there are a few that stand out. The first is Vudu Café and it’s my favorite. As a local, it’s my go-to for a morning coffee in Queenstown.
With that said, as a visitor, you may want something with a better view. That’s why The Bathhouse is perfect. This slightly touristic café is located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu near Queenstown Beach. On a warm day, you can sit on their outdoor deck and enjoy the beautiful views and sunshine all with a barista-made coffee in hand!
A coffee costs less than $5 NZD in Queenstown so it’s an activity even the most budget travelers can afford.
6. Enjoy a road trip to Glenorchy
There are lots of road trips you can do from Queenstown, but very few are as scenic as the drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy. Along this 46-kilometer (29 miles) journey, you’ll get to enjoy epic views of Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains. However, most of my favorite stops are some of the best hikes in Queenstown such as Bob’s Cove Track and Mt Crichton Loop.
Another beautiful stop that should be on everyone’s Queenstown itinerary is Moke Lake. This small secluded lake is famous for epic reflections and there are actually lots of cool things to do at Moke Lake such as hike the Moke Lake Loop and Moke Lake Viewpoint. Both hikes are relatively short but really beautiful.
The best part about this road trip is that it ends in Glenorchy. The small town of just over 200 people is surrounded by beauty. There are also a ton of awesome things to do in Glenorchy that don’t cost a thing such as hiking the Routeburn Track or Glenorchy Walkway.
Although there are tours to Glenorchy, for those on a budget, you’ll need to have your own car. If you don’t have one you can rent one in Queenstown for pretty cheap, especially if you split it between a few people!
If you want to see Moke Lake without having to drive you can also easily get there with this 4-hour kayak experience tour from Queenstown! You will be provided will all equipment, round-trip transport, and tips for paddling the lake. You will not have to follow a guide out on the lake so it’s perfect for more independent travelers who like going at their own direction and pace.
7. Glenorchy Animal Experience
Another really cool thing to do in Glenorchy is the Glenorchy Animal Experience. The self-guided tour is located on a real New Zealand farm! On the tour, you’ll get to walk around and feed lots of animals including lambs, sheep, ducks, chickens, pigs, llamas, and horses. They also do sheep shearing demonstrations and you can play with the farm dogs.
It’s surprisingly fun and although really fun for kids, I loved it too! The tour costs only $20 NZD for adults and $10 NZD for children. Although not technically in Queenstown, it’s one of the cheapest tours you can do and it’s perfect for families.
8. Get the best ice cream in town at Patagonia Chocolates
There are a few famous places around Queenstown to get ice cream, but I don’t think any of them come close to Patagonia Chocolates. Although not the cheapest in town, it’s seriously so good! I take all my friends and family here when they visit for an ice cream by the water.
Patagonia Chocolates also sell chocolate (if you didn’t realize already) and you have to option to get your cone covered in it! An ice cream with all the extras will cost around 10 NZD but honestly, you could share one because they’re huge!
9. Go out for happy hour drinks
What surprised me the most about living in Queenstown is how cheap you can get drinks out in town. To be honest, I expected it to be really expensive but after a few months of living here, I found so many great places with drink specials and happy hours that made having drinks out a cheap activity.
One of my favorite bars is 1876. This backpacker bar has $5 NZD drinks all day and night, and during happy hour, you can enjoy them for $4 NZD. Crazy right!? Another cool bar is The World Bar. Their happy hour specials include $7 NZD house beers and $6 NZD spirits. Although more expensive, The World Bar is trendy and known as the hip place to party in Queenstown.
10. Road trip to Wanaka
You didn’t think there would only be one road trip on this list, did you? The beautiful drive from Queenstown to Wanaka is my second favorite short road trip in Queenstown. The journey takes you past Lake Hayes and onto New Zealand’s highest main highway Crown Range Road. From there, you can stop at viewpoints, visit the famous Bradrona, have a beer at the Cardrona Hotel, and much more.
What most people don’t realize though, is you can actually take two different routes to Wanaka with both offering their own unique views. In my Queenstown to Wanaka road trip guide, I explain both routes and the best places to stop along the way. Personally though, I think you should do both!
11. Race down the Luge Track
You might be surprised to know that The Luge go-kart track is a cheap thing to do in Queenstown. Prices have gone up in recent times however, you can still get the two rides plus the gondola to the top for just $64 NZD but when it comes to value for money, 5 rides for $72 NZD is the best choice.
The Luge is a gravity-fed go-kart track located up above Queenstown where the gondola leads to. Although I originally thought the luge in Queenstown was an activity only for kids, I was wrong. The go-kart track is actually really fun, and you go so fast (if you want to.) In order to make this activity cheap, you do need to hike up the Tiki Trail to the Luge as opposed to taking the gondola which costs $46 NZD for adults.
My number one recommendation is to make sure you do more than one Luge ride. On the first go, you must ride on the slow track and you’ll just be getting used to the kart. On the second, third, and fourth go, you can hit the fast track and that’s when the real fun begins.
12. Join a pub crawl
If enjoying happy hour drinks isn’t enough of a party, then consider joining one of Queenstown’s pub crawls. There are actually two tour companies in Queenstown that run pub crawls. They are Big Night Out and Kiwi Crawl.
Big Night Out runs pub crawls every night of the week except Sunday and Monday and the best part is, they run all year round. Every night of the week there is a different theme to the pub crawl and people dress for the occasion. On a typical pub crawl, you’ll visit four bars, enjoy discounted drinks, free pizza, and photos of the night. All that only costs $25 NZD per person.
Kiwi Crawl offers pretty much the same tour and operates on the exact same nights. However, Kiwi Crawl also does a pub crawl that visits an ice bar in Queenstown on Tuesdays and Saturdays. They also offer custom parties like their Lake Wakatipu party cruise!
13. Go camping at Moke Lake
Moke Lake is one of my recommended stops on the road between Queenstown and Glenorchy. However, Moke Lake is also the perfect place to stay in Queenstown on a budget. At the lake, there is a DOC-run campground, and for only $15 NZD a night per person, you can camp or stay in your campervan/motorhome for the night.
What I love so much about camping at Moke Lake are the stars. Because of the mountains around you, there is little light pollution from Queenstown. That means you’ll see the stars like never before, and if you’re visiting Queenstown in winter, you may even see the Southern Lights if you’re lucky!
14. Hike Lake Alta Track
Lake Alta Track made this list of cheap things to do I Queenstown for a few reasons. For one, it’s a beautiful hike to the remote alpine lake that I personally love. However, the other reason is hiking the trail isn’t technically free.
Although most hikes in Queenstown cost nothing at all, in order to access the Lake Alta track on The Remarkables Ski Field, you need to pay a $10 NZD fee in the summer per vehicle. Despite this, it’s a great activity you can do for only a few dollars per person. On top of that, you’ll get to enjoy the scenic drive up to the ski field. From the road, the views are breathtaking.
The trail to Lake Alta is only 1.75 kilometers (1 mile) each way and only takes 1 to 2 hours to complete with plenty of time to relax at the lake. Lake Alta is also the Dimrill Dale film location in the Lord of the Rings movies where the fellowship escapes the Mines of Moria!
15. Go on a scenic cruise
A scenic cruise is an iconic activity in Queenstown that many people don’t know can be done on a budget. In fact, the Spirit of Queenstown scenic cruise starts at only $59 NZD. On the cruise, you’ll take a trip up towards Mt Nicholas Station stopping at Bob’s Cove along the way all while the captain explains the history of Queenstown and the legend of Lake Wakatipu.
The cruises last for 90 minutes and onboard, you can enjoy a coffee, snacks, and even a glass of wine or beer if you want. For $59 NZD it’s really a well-priced tour in Queenstown and you’ll get to see the surrounding landscapes from a whole new perspective!
If you have a little bit more to spend, another cruise option is the historic TSS Earnslaw Steamship. This coal-powered ship is almost 100 years old, and it is so much fun to explore! Although a little pricier than the Spirit of Queenstown, it is a fun tour! You can also upgrade it to include a gourmet BBQ lunch or the Walter Peak Farm tour (which kids love!). A visit to Walter Peak Farm involves meeting lots of animals and cool demos like sheep shearing!
16. Have a drink at an ice bar
Ice bars have been around for a long time and Queenstown’s actually home to not one, but two! They are Minus 5° ICE BAR and below Zero Ice Bar. There’s not much difference between to two and prices are also very similar. Expect to pay around $35 NZD for entry into the ice bar and a cocktail.
I’ve personally been to a few different ice bars all over the world and recommend it to anyone who hasn’t done it before. I’ll be honest though, it’s the type of activity that once you’ve done it, you don’t need to do it again. To save some money I would recommend buying the ice bar crawl ticket that includes 5 shots and stops at one of the ice bars for just $40 NZD!
17. Eat candy at Remarkables Sweet Shop
For those with a sweet tooth like me, this is one stop you’ll have to make. Remarkables Sweet Shop sells a huge range of sweets with my favorite being their fudge! The great thing is you get to try the fudge for free before you buy! Seriously, there are so many flavors and it’s impossible to pick a favorite.
If you don’t like fudge, then browse the other sweets – there is so much inside to discover!
18. Go for a bike ride
Bike riding is one of the best ways to explore Queenstown in the summer. From town, you can venture out onto lots of different bike trails including the popular Frankton Track around to Kelvin Peninsula Trail.
This 16.2-kilometer (10 miles), mostly flat track takes around 2 hours to complete at a steady pace. The trail finishes in Jardine Park on Kelvin Peninsula, and after, you can either ride back to Queenstown or catch the bus. All the buses in Queenstown have bike racks so it’s no problem at all and a really common thing to do. Of course, there are lots of other trails, and rental companies such as Vertigo Bikes can show you where to go.
Bike rentals for a standard cross-country bike in Queenstown start at $40 NZD for 4 hours which isn’t bad considering how much more ground you can cover and what you’ll see. Or you can choose to go with an e-bike for $99 NZD a person if you don’t want to handle all of the hilly terrains. You will even get to use the bike for 8 hours and you can pick it up from their shop which is inside the Franklin Junction which is near all of the bike trails.
Where to Stay in Queenstown
Finding the right place to stay in Queenstown can be hard. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of awesome choices, but things book up fast! For that reason, I highly suggest booking your accommodation well in advance.
Honestly, during peak times, any of the best hotels in Queenstown will be fully booked several weeks in advance…you have been warned! To help you plan ahead, here are a few places I personally love and that would make an awesome place to stay in Queenstown.
Kamana Lakehouse – $$$
For a luxurious stay, I highly recommend Kamana Lakehouse. This hotel is located just on the outskirts of town. Although it’s super peaceful, it’s just a 5-minute drive into the center of town. The place overlooks both the lake and the mountains, and the onsite restaurant uses local, seasonal ingredients to create the freshest meals. To top it off, many of the rooms boast lake views, and some even have outdoor baths!
The trick will be snagging this for your dates (it’s a popular place!). Rooms start around the $400 NZD mark, and you can check availability and book online here.
La Quinta Queenstown – $$
If you’re looking for a mid-range hotel, then you should seriously consider La Quinta Queenstown. This beautiful hotel is right by the airport but still very quiet. Plus, the views are amazing (although you won’t find me recommending a place without great views!). The rooms are all studio or one-bedroom apartments, which is really handy if you want to cook or even just have breakfast in your room.
Prices start at $200 NZD and you can book online here.
Absoloot Hostel Queenstown – $
My top choice for budget travelers is the Absoloot Hostel Queenstown. This small hostel has dorm rooms and budget private rooms, and it’s really clean and comfortable. The location is in the heart of Queenstown – the window from the kitchen looks out over Lake Wakatipu!
Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand
Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!
You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:
- Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
- Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It’s what most budget travelers use for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.
- Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. My top choice for a motorhome company is Star RV because they have beautiful motorhomes at affordable prices. You can check prices and availability for Star RV motorhomes online here. Alternatively, you can use Motorhome Republic to search all motorhomes in NZ. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!
EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your JUCY or Star RV campervan or motorhome before the end of June 2024! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy! One thing to note is that this code is only valid for travel before Dec 21, 2024.
Travel Insurance Has Your Back!
Life can be unpredictable and when you’re traveling abroad, the last thing you want to worry about is getting sick or injured and having to pay out of pocket for treatment.
If this concerns you, SafetyWing can help! SafetyWing specializes in very affordable and comprehensive medical and travel insurance that is aimed at digital nomads, remote workers, and long-term travelers. It costs just $45 USD per 4 weeks!
To start coverage, you must purchase it after leaving your home country, so we usually buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
Since using SafetyWing we’ve been reimbursed thousands of dollars when we’ve gotten sick. During the pandemic, they’ve even gone as far as to pay for our last-minute flights back to Canada before the border closed!
Thanks for reading!
Queenstown can be an expensive place to visit but it doesn’t have to be. With this list, you can head out and explore 18 cheap things to do that almost all cost less than $40 NZD! If you do want to save even more money then check out my list of the best free activities in Queenstown. Together, you’ll not only have a great time but also give that wallet a rest!