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Queenstown looks like something from a fairytale, so it’s no surprise then that it’s considered by many travelers as the most beautiful place to explore on the South Island. On account of its popularity over the last decade, Queenstown is booming and excellent hotels and hostels have been popping up on every corner. Seriously! The choice of where to stay in Queenstown is so overwhelming!
From luxury stays with magnificent views to fun and exciting hostels, Queenstown literally has it all. But with so much choice how can one decide where to stay in Queenstown? Some might want to escape the hustle and bustle of town for a more relaxing retreat whereas others want to hear and feel Queenstown’s pulse.
To be honest, there’s no right or wrong place to stay in Queenstown – it simply comes down to your personal preference. As a Queenstown local I know every area extremely well, and as such, am one of the best people to answer the question “where to stay in Queenstown?”
In this blog, I detail everything you need to know before deciding where to stay in Queenstown including a description of all of the neighborhoods, as well as the best hostels and hotels to suit every budget! Choosing the right place to stay for your Queenstown itinerary is important, so don’t leave it up to chance!
Choosing the Best Area to Stay in Queenstown
The map above shows the different areas to stay in Queenstown and the surrounding area.
Even though Queenstown itself is tiny, there are loads of excellent accommodation options for every budget. Seriously, there are almost more hotels than houses!
Where you stay in Queenstown depends on what you want to get out of your vacation here. For example, if you’re on a budget you may choose to stay in one of the fantastically priced hotels in Frankton – just a 15-minute drive from downtown. If you want somewhere cute, historic, and quiet to stay then I recommend Arrowtown. If you want to be near the ski field then Arthurs Point is a perfect choice, or if you’re after great views then Fernhill is ideal. And of course, if you want to feel that epic nightlife and varied restaurant options then downtown Queenstown is the best choice for you!
Thankfully, public transport in Queenstown is both reliable and reasonable. Making staying out of town all the more appealing – especially if you want to save money. The bus in Queenstown runs often and for as little as $2 NZD per ride all around the suburbs mentioned below. Plus, if you have a rental car, free parking is on offer at most of the properties outside of central Queenstown.
Below I’ve written a little bit about each neighborhood including the pros and cons to each area and the best places to stay there. I hope it will make choosing where to stay in Queenstown a little easier for you.
The best areas to stay in Queenstown at a glance:
- Best area for nightlife: Central Queenstown is where all of the action is when it comes to partying in Queenstown.
- Best area for skiing: Arthurs Point for Coronet Peak and Frankton for The Remarkables. Both are great options for a ski holiday in Queenstown.
- Best area for families: Anywhere! Any area in Queenstown is family-friendly.
- Closest to the airport: Frankton. The Queenstown International Airport is located in Frankton
- Most scenic views: Fernhill offers spectacular views of Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables mountain range.
- Most relaxing area: Arrowtown is quieter and more relaxed than Queenstown.
1. Central Queenstown
Central Queenstown is conveniently located right on the shores of the stunning Lake Wakatipu and it’s just a 15-20 minute drive from the International Airport. Visiting Queenstown is one of the most popular things to do in New Zealand and for good reason, there is so much to see and do there. By staying in the center of Queenstown you’ll have a ton of activities such as bungee jumping, amazing hikes, water sports, and more all on offer within a stone’s throw of your hotel.
As if the above wasn’t enough to entice you to stay in central Queenstown, there are tons of great restaurants and bars here too. As well as plenty of shopping, a cinema, amazing local cafes, and even two supermarkets. You can walk off your dinner at the gorgeous Queenstown Gardens or even participate in the fun sport of disc golf. Without a car, you can literally enjoy some of the best activities Queenstown has to offer right from your hotel.
Pros to staying in Central Queenstown:
Staying in central Queenstown is great for those who want everything at their doorstep. You can walk to the bars, restaurants, and activities so you don’t need to rely on public transport or a rental car to get around. There are also more accommodation choices in central Queenstown and if you’re on a budget, this is where the majority of cheap hostels are located. You’ll also be able to live and breathe the amazing atmosphere in Queenstown and see exactly why locals love this beautiful town.
Cons to staying in Central Queenstown:
As is the case with many busy towns, Queenstown can get loud – especially in the evening. In some hotels, you can even hear this noise from your hotel room. Parking is also limited in Queenstown or charged at a very high price in a lot of the central Queenstown hotels. Not to mention, the traffic can be overwhelming! If you have a rental car this may not be ideal for you.
The price for a room is also typically higher for the centrally located options, especially if you want to stay in an upper market hotel.
Where to stay in central Queenstown:
$$ – QT Hotel – is a boutique-style hotel located on Brunswick Street. The rooms here are stylish and a little quirky and most have fantastic views of The Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu. The onsite restaurant Bazaar is beloved by locals and mixes locally sourced food with foreign cuisine. QT Hotel is especially popular with couples looking for a romantic Queenstown getaway. Worth noting is valet parking is charged at $30 per day.
$ – YHA Queenstown Lakefront – a fantastic budget option in central Queenstown. The YHA Lakefront is located on Lake Esplanade with Lake Wakatipu on your doorstep. There are lots of room options available here – from dorm rooms to private ensuite hotel-style rooms. It’s also a very social hostel, so, if you’re a solo traveler this is a great option. There is limited free parking available here, if it’s full then the free 7-Mile car park is just across the road.
$$$ – Sofitel Queenstown Hotel and Spa – this is a great choice for a romantic getaway. It is located on Duke Street (famed Fergburger is just across the road) and the Skyline Gondola is just a few minutes walk away. The rooms here are super luxurious with fluffy bathrobes, a marble bathroom featuring a double spa bath, and a separate rain shower. Left Bank is the onsite restaurant and it’s a real treat. The So Spa is award-winning which makes the Sofitel the perfect choice for a relaxing vacation in Queenstown. Valet parking is charged at $50 per day.
The neighborhood of Fernhill is an outer Queenstown neighborhood. At around a 15-minute walk to the center of town, it is a great area to stay in Queenstown. Fernhill is located at the top of a steep hill so the views from up here are astounding. Thankfully, there is a regular bus route from town to Fernhill so you don’t need to walk up the steep hill to get to your accommodation. In Fernhill, there’s a small store and an excellent Fish & Chip shop. If you’re an avid mountain biker then Fernhill Bike Park is highly recommended and is very popular with locals.
Also in the area is the Sunshine Bay Track a lakeside walking track that starts at Sunshine Bay Beach and takes you into Queenstown in under 30 minutes. You can also access the famed Ben Lomond Track here.
Pros to staying in Fernhill:
It’s super quiet up in Fernhill. I lived in Fernhill for a long time and enjoyed being on the quieter side of town. That, combined with the fact it’s a close neighborhood to the center of town means it’s a very popular choice for where to stay in Queenstown. You have the best seat in the house for views of The Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu. A regular bus service (the number 1 bus) operates to Fernhill so, you can easily get safely home after a late night in Queenstown.
Cons to staying in Fernhill:
If you miss the bus or plan on being out until after midnight it’s a steep walk up to your accommodation (unless you pay for a $20 taxi.) There are limited restaurant options in Fernhill, so, you will need to go into Queenstown for most meals. In the winter, Fernhill receives very little sunshine which was one of the worst things about living there. In my opinion, Fernhill is a great place to stay in Queenstown in the summer (also, one of the best times of year to visit Queenstown in general.)
Where to stay in Fernhill:
$$ – Mercure Queenstown Resort – the Mercure is a very popular choice with families as it has a large outdoor pool – ideal for those hot summer days. It also has a small gym and restaurant with huge glass windows to take in the stunning scenery. Worth noting is the closest bus stop is a few minutes walk uphill. There’s a large car park which is complimentary for all guests. This is a very large property with 148 rooms.
$$ – Heritage Queenstown – its cozy interior is reminiscent of a ski lodge and it’s a popular option with tour groups. The Heritage also has a small outdoor pool and gym. There’s a bus stop right outside to get you conveniently into Queenstown. They have numerous room options as well as suites that contain kitchenettes. Underground parking is complimentary but it is limited.
$$ – Kamana Lakehouse – the newly renovated Kamana Lakehouse has perhaps the best views of any hotel in Queenstown. One of the best features is the private outdoor hot tub which can be booked for $100 per hour for Instagram-worthy views. On-site is a gorgeous restaurant with huge glass windows to take in the views. Plus, one of Queenstown’s best-kept secrets – Chur Fish & Chip Shop is just across the road.
3. Arthurs Point
If you’re coming to Queenstown in Winter, Arthurs Point is a great area to base yourself in due to its proximity to Coronet Peak Ski Resort. Arthurs Point is only a short drive from Arrowtown too which puts it smack bang in the middle of both Queenstown and Arrowtown. Also, in the area is the very popular Onsen Hot Pools (one of the most romantic things to do in Queenstown,) and the world-famous Shotover Jet.
Arthurs Point is a 10-minute drive from Queenstown. It’s mostly a residential area but there are a few hotels as well as the Top 10 Holiday Park (ideal if you have a self-contained vehicle or are keen to camp).
There are a number of hiking tracks in the area including the Morningstar Track and the longer Moonlight Track. Also worth checking out is Canyon Brewing (next to Shotover Jet) for some amazing Queenstown craft beer.
Pros to staying in Arthurs Point:
There’s a regular bus service here so it’s pretty convenient despite it being over a 10-minute drive from downtown. The hotels here are very reasonably priced and all the hotels listed below offer free parking to guests. The scenery in Arthurs Point is gorgeous and it’s very quiet and relaxing. Despite being a drive from Queenstown, you’re close to Arrowtown and all of the exciting things to do and see in Arrowtown!
Cons to staying in Arthurs Point:
There are no stores here so you will need to go to Queenstown for the closest supermarket. The last bus from Queenstown is at 9:55 pm so you may need to get a taxi if you plan on staying out later. Some hotels offer free shuttles but they don’t run late.
Where to stay in Arthurs Point:
$$ – Nugget Point – a 4-star hotel with fantastic spa facilities including private hot tubs, a sauna, steam room, and roman bath. Some of the rooms feature gorgeous views over the Shotover River (see if you can spot the famed Shotover Jet speeding down the river from your balcony). The on-site restaurant serves up great locally inspired dishes & has fantastic views!
$ – Swiss Belresort – a great budget-friendly option in Arthurs Point. The rooms here have recently undergone a renovation and are quiet and comfortable. There’s an onsite bowling alley and a bar/restaurant area if you don’t fancy venturing back into Queenstown in the evening. It’s a large property with 75 rooms and is in fact the closest hotel to the Coronet Peak ski area, which is just a 12-minute drive away.
$ – Shotover Lodge – all rooms here feature a private balcony or patio area as well as a little kitchenette. There’s also a communal kitchen and laundry facilities – ideal if you’re on a long trip and keen to save some money. Worth noting is the hotel has three floors and doesn’t have an elevator.
Arrowtown is probably my favorite little town in all of New Zealand – it’s cute, very photogenic, and historic. It was at the center of the gold mining rush of the late 1800s. In fact, you can explore its historic past at the Arrowtown Chinese Settlement – you can even pan for gold here. The town’s main street called Buckingham Street is filled with lots of great cafes and restaurants including Bella Cucina, Aosta, and The Chop House. Would you believe there are approximately 30 restaurants in this small town!?
There are lots of walking and biking tracks in the area including Sawpit Gully and Tobins Track. Other must-do activities in the area include the very cute Dorothy Brown’s Cinema and a visit to the Lake District Museum and Art Gallery. Seriously, there is so much to do in Arrowtown!
Pros to staying in Arrowtown:
Arrowtown is a unique little town and it’s so pretty especially in the fall when the town explodes into bright red and yellow fall foliage. There is regular public transport into Queenstown but, in my opinion, there’s so much to see and do in Arrowtown that you won’t need to venture into Queenstown too often. There’s even a small supermarket here to get any needed supplies.
Cons to staying in Arrowtown:
There’s not much nightlife here and lots of the bars and restaurants close earlier than in Queenstown. The bus service to Arrowtown operates every 30 minutes but the last bus of the day is at 9:55 pm. So, if you have a late-night in Queenstown a taxi can be quite costly because Arrowtown is over a 20-minute drive from central Queenstown.
Where to stay in Arrowtown:
$$$ – Millbrook Resort – is the most luxurious option in Arrowtown. The resort is situated on a stunning 650 acres of Central Otago countryside. It also features an award-winning golf course. As well as three outdoor hot pools, an indoor pool, a fitness center, two restaurants, and a café. It seems you may never have to leave the resort if you stay here!
$$ – The Arrow Hotel – the rooms here are modern and spacious and it’s just a 5-minute walk into the center of Arrowtown. The reception area is located within a cute 100-year-old stone cottage and each room has air conditioning. They offer complimentary kayaks for you to kayak on nearby Lake Hayes – but they are subject to availability.
$ – Arrowtown Motel – each room has a patio to admire the stunning views. It’s just under 1 km into Arrowtown and is easily walkable. Plus free onsite parking and guest laundry facilities are a bonus. It is an affordable option for a great place to stay in Arrowtown.
Frankton is where the International Airport is located as well as the majority of the supermarkets and other superstores such as The Warehouse and K-Mart. If you need to do some shopping this is the area for you – there’s every type of store you can imagine in Frankton. It’s where most locals in Queenstown hang out and there are lots of excellent food options scattered between Queenstown Central and The Remarkables retail parks.
Also in the area is the Frankton Walking Track a lakeside track that takes you into Queenstown via an easy trail – it’s flat and popular also with cyclists. Walking the trail will likely take you just over 2 hours each way. Definitely stop at the gorgeous Boatshed Café for refreshments en route. Frankton beach is a popular swimming spot with locals and is also a great photo spot.
For these reasons, Frankton is where many people choose during their stay in Queenstown. Next to central Queenstown, Frankton is likely the most popular choice.
Pros to staying in Frankton:
If you choose to stay in Frankton you’ll be spoiled for choice with restaurants. Some of my favorites include Taco Medic and Bollywood both at Queenstown Central Retail Park. There’s a ton of buses operating to Frankton so it’s very easily accessible. It’s also the closest area to the airport and most likely if you have light luggage you can walk from the airport to your accommodation (although a taxi will be cheap.) The biggest stores are also located in Frankton includes the cheapest grocery store in Queenstown, Pak’nSave.
Cons to staying in Frankton:
Frankton is quite industrial and built up so, in my opinion, it’s not as pretty as some of the other areas listed. As I mentioned, it’s where the majority of large shops and supermarkets are located, so it can kind of feel like a concrete jungle at times. To enjoy Frankton the most, stay down towards the lake away from the airport and shopping malls.
Where to stay in Frankton:
$$ – The Hilton – this is just a short drive from Frankton on the edge of the Kelvin Heights neighborhood. This is the largest resort in Queenstown with a few onsite restaurants, an award-winning spa, and lots of rooms to choose from. You can also catch the ferry service from the pier into Queenstown (this costs $10 per person (return) or ride the complimentary shuttle. There’s a lovely cycle track from the hotel along the lake and you can rent bikes from the hotel. I have stayed here before and it was absolutely lovely – their breakfast menu and buffet is so delicious!
$ – Ramada Remarkables Park– a budget-friendly option with modern rooms, some rooms come with a kitchenette and laundry facilities. It’s just a 2-minute drive from the airport and the rooms here are apartment-style with fully equipped kitchens. Ideal if you plan on cooking some evenings. Despite the hotel being located in quite an industrial area, the views of The Remarkables are gorgeous.
$$ – The Sherwood – is an eco-friendly hotel located on Frankton Road – it’s about halfway between Queenstown and Frankton. It’s quirky and cozy and has an excellent onsite restaurant which is very popular with locals. The recently refurbished rooms contain lots of recycled materials and there’s an onsite vegetable garden. The bar/restaurant area often plays host to some great live musical acts.
Important Things to Consider Before Booking a Place to Stay in Queenstown
Booking in Advance – During the peak seasons, it is essential that you book your hotel in Queenstown well in advance. The best hotels always book fully, and you’d hate to miss out. During events, school holidays, and especially during December in Queenstown (Christmas and New Years) you really need to plan ahead!
Parking – is a sore point in many centrally located Queenstown hotels. At properties like the Sofitel, parking is expensive at $50 NZD per day for valet parking. However, you can find limited free parking at the Queenstown Gardens and One-Mile Car Park – but during school holidays and on weekends it can be very difficult to find an empty spot. The majority of accommodation options outside central Queenstown provide free parking to their guests.
Ease of access to central Queenstown – thankfully all of the neighborhoods listed here have regular bus services operating into Queenstown. Purchase a Bee Card from your bus driver for $5 and then each bus journey will cost you just $2 (you can use one card for your entire group.) If you don’t have a Bee Card then each journey will cost you $4. Worth noting is the last bus to Arrowtown and Arthurs Point is at 9:55 pm.
Cancellation policies – most of the properties here offer flexible cancellation policies given the current travel climate. However, it is always best to check the cancellation policy before booking. Often the cheapest available rate is non-refundable, so, make sure to check the fine print. If you want to guarantee you get the best price use Booking.com to book your stays. It’s the only platform for hotels I use and if you find your hotel (room, dates, and length of stay must be the same) cheaper at any point after booking they will match it.
Check the reviews – always make sure to check the property reviews on booking sites like Booking.com or HostelWorld. So that you don’t get any unpleasant surprises during your stay. Past guests often praise and complain about the same things so you will soon understand if a property is right for you before booking.
Amenities – if a swimming pool is important to you for example, always check to see if it will be in operation during your stay. Often hotels tend to do maintenance work in the off-season. It’s happened to me in the past and I don’t want you to get caught out the same way.
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 book 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 is what most budget backpackers get 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! You can easily compare campervans, prices, and book on the website Motorhome Republic.
- 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. Motorhome Republic is my suggested website for booking a motorhome in New Zealand simply because they are a reliable company and the website is super easy to use! For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!
Thanks for reading!
I’m sure you’ll agree there’s the perfect place to stay in Queenstown for every type of traveler. Whether you’re on a budget or are looking to splurge, are looking for peace and quiet or to be in the middle of the hustle and bustle – Queenstown will have a hotel or hostel for you. I hope this blog has helped you gain a better understanding of Queenstown and the surrounding neighborhoods. With so many choices, I’m sure you’ll find the perfect hotel for you!
Thanks so much for reading! It’s been a pleasure to show you around the different neighborhoods in Queenstown. I really hope this blog has helped narrow down the best place to stay in Queenstown for you. If it did, then be sure to browse around some more and check out blogs such as the best hotels in Queenstown, the best cheap hostels, and the best Airbnbs in Queenstown – and so much more. Seriously, there is so much to discover on My Queenstown Diary!