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Contrary to what you might think, there are actually many free and cheap things to do in Queenstown, New Zealand! After living in Queenstown myself, I’ve written this blog about my absolute favorite things to do in Queenstown – and they can all be done without breaking the bank!
Let’s face it, Queenstown isn’t the cheapest place to visit. In fact, it seems ridiculously expensive! Almost all tours start from $150 NZD which makes the idea of actually doing anything exciting in Queenstown on a budget seem impossible, right?
After having lived in Queenstown myself, I have discovered that while many activities in Queenstown are not cheap, there are actually a lot of free or cheap things to do in Queenstown – you just have to know where to look!
Lucky for you, today I am sharing my ultimate list of free or cheap things to in Queenstown. And to me, most of these things to do in Queenstown are actually the best activities anyway!
*Tip: make sure you read until the bottom as I have included my general money-saving tips for Queenstown as well! These tips are also useful in other parts of New Zealand and have seriously saved my bank account!
FREE Things to do in Queenstown, New Zealand
Let’s start with the best FREE things to do in Queenstown! All of the below activities can be done without spending a single dollar.
1. Hike Queenstown Hill
Queenstown Hill is easily one of the best hikes in Queenstown with the most rewarding views. The trail starts from pretty much right in the town center (location is on Google Maps), so if you don’t have a car then hiking Queenstown Hill is still super convenient.
The hike to the viewpoint is all uphill but only takes around an hour and the views from the top are absolutely breathtaking! If you can work up the motivation, hiking up there for sunrise is just magical. Otherwise, sunset is also really amazing.
Queenstown Hill is also one of the few hikes in the area that is accessible all year round. This means that even in the middle of winter it is safe to hike! Just watch out for some ice on the trails and wear good footwear and you’ll be just fine!
Learn More: We wrote an entire blog about hiking Queenstown Hill including tips for what to bring and when to go!
2. Self-Driven Lord of the Rings Tour
Did you know that many of the Lord of the Rings filming locations were very close to Queenstown? Well, you can go on many different Lord of the Rings organized tours to see these locations. While I do highly recommend these tours, they aren’t cheap. So, if you want to stay on budget, simply organize your own self-driven Lord of the Rings tour!
Go to the DOC website to map out your route and then create your own scavenger hunt to find the locations. You can actually get GPS coordinates right from the website as well as detailed descriptions of each location and what scenes were filmed. This website works for LOTR film locations all around New Zealand too!
You will need a car for this activity (you can rent one for cheap if needed) but it is sure to be a fun adventure and worthy of a day!
Some of the places you definitely need to make sure you visit include:
- Lothlorien – Forest in Mount Aspiring National Park
- Isengard – Paradise
- Ithilien Camp – 12-Mile Delta
- The Argonath on the Anduin River – Kawarau Suspension Bridge
- Ford of Bruinen – Skippers Canyon
- Dimrill Dale – Lake Alta
Related read: Want to go on a guided tour instead? Read our blog about what it’s like to join a LOTR tour in Queenstown!
3. Hike Ben Lomond
Ben Lomond is a somewhat difficult hike that will take you all day or about 6-8 hours depending on your fitness level to reach the summit. It’s an incredible mountain to climb though with 360-degree panoramic views. If you are up for the challenge, go for it!
If you are looking for the best hike in Queenstown, this would be it!
For many, the summit is too daunting to attempt. That’s perfectly fine, just hike to the saddle instead. It’s much easier and will shave a few hours off your hike time. Also in the winter, it can be dangerous to reach the summit because of snow and ice, but in the summer it’s completely safe.
To make the hike even easier, ride the Queenstown gondola to Bob’s Peak and start the hike from there. This saves you having to walk the Tikki Trail from Queenstown (which connects with Ben Lomond Track) and makes reaching the Ben Lomond Saddle super quick!
Learn More: You can read all about this hike on our Ben Lomond Track blog. Here you can read about the shortcut, what to bring, and more!
4. Enjoy a Sunset on the Shore of Lake Wakatipu
Lake Wakatipu is the perfect place to relax at sunset and enjoy a drink by the water. The colorful sunset reflects off the calm lake, and with the mountains as its backdrop, this is a winning view!
There are a few restaurants on the shore of Lake Wakatipu that are perfect for catching the sunset. Some of the most popular include Little Blackwoods, Public Kitchen and Bar, and Pub on the Warf. Perky’s Floating Bar only serves drinks (no food) but offers arguably the best seat in the house for a sunset view in Queenstown (and one of the most Instagrammable spots in Queenstown!)
The Beach in town is another great spot to enjoy a sunset next to Lake Wakatipu – for free! This area is actually alcohol friendly until 10 pm so you can bring your own beers or even wine if you want! On a warm summer’s day, the atmosphere here is really vibrant and fun. Expect to see families, groups of friends, and maybe even live music or street performers!
Although it sounds simple, this is truly one of the best relaxing activities in Queenstown that is completely free!
5. Wander the Saturday Markets
On Saturdays, the Queenstown Markets set up at the marina in town right in front of Earnslaw Park. They run from 9 am to 4:30 pm all year round on Saturdays, but sometimes have extra days during peak seasons too!
At the Queenstown Markets you can buy souvenirs and all other sorts of goodies, but if you want, you can just wander around for free and enjoy the live music put on by local artists.
You’ll find everything from artwork to handmade jewelry to soap to food here – they really have it all at the Queenstown Markets!
6. Hike to Bob’s Peak (Top of the Gondola)
A gondola ride to Bob’s Peak costs $44 NZD for adults and $26 for kids. But, if you want to save the money you can actually walk up for free on the Tiki Trail! Although somewhat steep, this trail is well marked and easy to find. The hike only takes about 1-2 hours to reach the top.
The Tiki Trail doesn’t offer much for views along the way, but it is through the forest and you’ll find yourself standing next to some seriously tall pine trees!
The Tiki Trail starts right in Queenstown at the bottom of the gondola (the location is on Google maps.) At the end of the trail, you’ll find yourself at the Skyline building at the top of Bob’s Peak. From here, the views of Queenstown are incredible!
Once at the top, you can just enjoy the views or choose from a variety of other fun activities such as the Luge, continuing to hike to the Ben Lomond summit, ziplining, or even having a bite to eat and drink at the restaurant!
Learn More: If you want to know more details about all of the fun things to do at the top of Bob’s Peak, check out our blog all about Skyline Queenstown!
7. Try Your Luck at a Quiz Night
If you have a lot of random knowledge, then why not try your luck at winning something by attending one of the many quiz nights in town! Many different places have quiz nights such as Tuesdays at Rhinos, Sundays at Loco, or Mondays at Lucy’s.
But besides quizzes, lots of local budget bars offer other fun games nights like bingo too! These games are of course free to join, but you will likely be tempted to buy a drink (or 3!) Don’t worry though, most places have happy hour deals and you can find a beer for under $7 NZD.
For a complete updated schedule of everything that’s on in the Queenstown bar scene just pick up one of the free copies of the Lakes Weekly (a local magazine for finding out what’s happening in Queenstown!), there are often lots of sweet deals advertised in there too!
8. Drive to Glenorchy
If you have a car, then you can take one of the most scenic drives in all of New Zealand – the drive to Glenorchy. The drive is gorgeous at every turn and only takes around 1 hour each way. To me, this is definitely one of the best things on this list of cheap things to do in Queenstown!
At the end of the drive, you will finish in the small town of Glenorchy. Glenorchy is just as picturesque as the drive itself and some even say it’s even more beautiful than Queenstown! Spending a day here is a great idea as it is easily one of the best day trips from Queenstown.
Some of the best things you can do in Glenorchy on your day trip from Queenstown include:
- Take a short walk through Mirror Lakes at the Glenorchy Walkway
- Visit the Glenorchy Animal Farm
- Shop at Mrs. Woolly’s General Store
- Hike a portion of the Routeburn Track
- Walk the Glenorchy Jetty
If you don’t have a car then consider joining this tour. It’s definitely not as cheap as driving yourself, but you really don’t want to miss out on one of New Zealand’s most beautiful drives! Alternatively, you can usually pick up a rental car for the day for cheap.
9. Walk to Sam Summers Hut
Sam Summers Hut is actually an old house from the ’30s. There is a lot of history behind the family who lived here, and you can read all about it when you visit.
But today, this little historical house is actually a Department of Conservation Hut. Huts are low-cost or free places for hikers to spend the night. So if you want, bring a sleeping bag, some food, and have a little camping adventure! There are plenty of amazing huts in New Zealand worth checking out.
Most of the Department of Conservation huts along hiking trails cost money, but Sam Summers Hut near Queenstown doesn’t! Keep in mind, because the hut is free it isn’t maintained very regularly (dare I say a little dirty) and is very small with only three beds. The beds are first come, first serve.
The hut is really cool to check out even if you don’t plan on spending the night! Also, there is a beautiful waterfall next to the hut as well as an old gold mining tunnel to explore too!
10. Explore Bob’s Cove
Bob’s Cove is a popular local hangout. Go for a short walk to the lookout, sit by the lake, or take advantage of one of the public BBQs.
Bob’s Cove is only accessible by car and about a 15-20 minute drive outside of Queenstown along the road to Glenorchy (the location can be found on Google maps.) This small bay is worth the drive, so much so that Peter Jackson (the director of Lord of the Rings) has a house there!
Bob’s Cove lookout hike is one of the most popular trails around Queenstown. It is short and easy taking most people only 20-30 minutes each way. From the top, you’ll have views of the bluest part of Lake Wakatipu!
In the summer months, you could cool off from the hike with a swim in the lake!
No matter what you choose to do though, visiting Bob’s Cove is one of the best free things to do in Queenstown – and when you go for yourself, you’ll see why!
11. Go Hiking at Moke Lake
Moke Lake is probably one of my favorite places near Queenstown! It’s only about a 30-minute drive and is simply breathtaking! You can camp at the lake, walk one of the many trails, join a SUP or kayaking tour, or just enjoy the view of Moke Lake and the surrounding mountains. I find it to be such a peaceful area.
The most popular hiking trail in the area is the Moke Lake Loop Track. This trail takes you around the perimeter of the lake. The entire loop takes about 2-3 hours to complete. While it is a beautiful hike, the picture above is not taken from there and I think that there is an even nicer hike (that most people don’t know about!)
If you want to hike to the viewpoint pictured above, you’ll have to read our blog about the Moke Lake Viewpoint trail. This trail is unmarked and only known to locals, so you will need exact instructions to be able to find it!
12. Enjoy Lake Hayes
Lake Hayes is another stunning lake near Queenstown. The lake is about a 15-minute drive out of town but can actually be reached by public bus as well.
At the lake, there is a walking trail going right around the lake. Personally, my favorite thing to do at Lake Hayes is to watch the sunset and just relax! Some people love swimming here especially in the summer months.
For information on the bus, check out the Queenstown journey planner.
Cheap Things to do in Queenstown (under $20 NZD)
$20 NZD is not very much money, so finding cheap things to do in Queenstown under $20 is not always the easiest task. Below are the best cheap things to do in Queenstown, New Zealand!
13. Glenorchy Animal Experience
Glenorchy is a small town only a short 45-minute drive away from Queenstown. Here, you will find a cute little farm that offers the Glenorchy Animal Experience.
Believe me, the Glenorchy Animal Experience is totally worth the drive! It’s essentially a farm petting zoo where you can interact with the animals. Feed the alpacas, sheep, lambs, pigs, donkeys, and more! When I went, there were so many little baby lambs running around (and they were adorable!)
They also offer a daily sheep shearing demonstration at 2:30 pm which is no extra cost to watch.
The entrance fee to the Glenorchy Animal Experience is $20 NZD for an adult (with discounts for children) and you just pay once you arrive. It is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm in the summer (October 1 to April 30) and from 10 am to 4 pm in the winter (May to September.)
This is one of my favorites out of all of the cheap things to do in Queenstown – I just loved hanging out with the animals! Not to mention, visiting a local farm is one of those “must-do” things to do in New Zealand!
Learn More: For what to expect and more info about visiting, check out our blog about the Glenorchy Animal Experience!
14. Eat Fergburger
You would think that a place like this would be expensive, but it isn’t! A Classic Fergburger will only cost you $13 NZD and they are pretty big, one fills me up! If you want anything fancier you can add extra cheese, patties, or go with something different like a venison burger and spend more, but it’ll still come in under the $20 mark!
They have a large selection to choose from, but my personal recommendation is the Classic Ferg with blue cheese, it’s delicious!
15. Drink at Queenstown Bay Beach
One of the most popular places to be in Queenstown in the summer is at the beach. Right in town, there is a small rocky beach called Queenstown Bay Beach. It fills with people on a hot day all hanging out and drinking.
Instead of spending money drinking at a pub, grab a six-pack from the bottle shop (liquor store) down the road and then head to the beach! Here you can swim, relax, listen to live music (if it’s around), and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere that is Queenstown!
In Queenstown, it is actually legal to drink at the beach until 10 pm!
16. Go Tobogganing
In the winter in Queenstown, go tobogganing! You can drive up to one of the ski fields such as Coronet Peak or the Remarkables and slide down the snow for free. You only need to pay to use the chairlifts at these ski resorts. So, just walk up the hills a bit with your sled and give it a go!
You can slide down on your bottom, a garbage bag, or buy a sled from Kmart for about $10! In winter, this should definitely be on your list of cheap things to do in Queenstown!
If you’re lucky enough to be in Queenstown on a day it snows in town (not just on the mountains) there are a few hills around town to toboggan at! This is a popular activity among locals in Queenstown.
17. BBQ at the Lakefront
There are various free public BBQs scattered around Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown. You will find several in Saint Omer Park only a 5-minute walk from town center. There are also some in Fernhill too at the Fernhill Reserve.
So, get some food from the grocery store and some friends and have a BBQ with a view for only the cost of your groceries!
This is definitely one of the cheapest options for things to do in Queenstown for a meal!
Tip: Public BBQs in Queenstown are available on a first-cover first-serve basis. During peak times (lunch and dinner) on nice days, they are often all being used. So, get there early to snag one!
18. Visit the Queenstown Underwater Observatory
The Underwater Observatory is a small room a few meters under the surface of Lake Wakatipu. There are glass walls so you can watch the fish and anything else swimming in the lake. When I went, there was actually an eel swimming right up against the glass which was very cool!
You’ll find the entrance to the Underwater Observatory at the lakefront near the KJet jetty next to Perky’s Floating Bar. If you can’t find it, just ask anybody who works near the lake, they will point you in the right direction.
Of course, this activity would be very boring if you didn’t see anything, but hey, it’s only $10 NZD!
Update: The Queenstown Underwater Observatory is currently closed due to maintenance. It is set to reopen in the near future.
19. Eat out for Lunch or an Early Dinner
If you want a nice meal out without ruining your budget then you need to eat either at lunchtime or have an early dinner. Many places in Queenstown have lunch specials for $20 or less, or early bird dinner deals. The dinner deals usually end at 6:30-7 pm so you need to go out early!
There is also a website called First Table, that offers 50% off restaurant bookings if you book in early. It is my favorite website to use for going out for dinner!
Other times you will find deals just by walking the streets around 5:30 pm or check out advertisements in the Lakes Weekly magazine.
Tip: We LOVE food! So, during our 7 months in Queenstown, we ate almost everywhere, and have written about what we think is the absolute BEST food in Queenstown as well as where you can find the best restaurants in Queenstown too!
20. Enjoy $4 Drinks
While some bars in Queenstown will cost upwards of $12 NZD for a pint, other bars charge as little as $4 during happy hours!
One pub, in particular, that is famous among locals for cheap drinks is called 1876. During Happy Hour, they offer $4 tap beer or cider as well as the house wine. Don’t fret when Happy Hour is over though because they offer $5 drinks all day every day!
There are lots of great bars in Queenstown, and s few other places that offer some great drink specials include Rhinos, Loco, and Surreal. However, you will find lots of drink specials advertised on signs as you walk around town too!
Queenstown is a town full of young “locals” from all over the world living in Queenstown on a working holiday or temporary work visa. Combine them with thousands of tourists and you have a big drinking culture that makes for a vibrant night out. This is why experiencing the fun nightlife and pubs is a must-do while in Queenstown!
21. Join a Pub Crawl
Want to party? Well, Queenstown is a great place to do so! If you are looking to meet a few new people then an organized pub crawl is the perfect option.
The names of the companies in town that do the pub crawls are Big Night Out, and Kiwi Crawl. The regular price is about $20 NZD per person and you can book this one pub crawl online in advance!
These pub crawls typically meet in town and then walk to 3-4 different pubs/clubs around Queenstown as a group led by a guide. At each location there are often organized games or free shots. And since you’ll be hanging with the same group of people all night, you’re sure to make some friends and have a few laughs.
There is a new tour in Queenstown that is a hop-on-hop-off beer tour. It is a little classier than a pub crawl but involves just as much (if not more) alcohol! You should book online in advance to avoid missing out!
22. Drink at an Ice bar
An ice bar is exactly what the name suggests – a bar made out of ice! Expect a freezing room, ice sculptures including a physical bar carved from ice, and even drinks and shots served in ice glasses! Don’t worry about dressing for the cold either because they will provide you with warm clothing.
There are two different ice bars in town, Minus 5 and Below Zero Ice Bar. If you want to try out the novelty of an ice bar then Queenstown is your place to do it!
These ice bars in Queenstown are open all year round from about 2 pm until late. These aren’t the type of bars you chill at (no pun intended) for a few hours, instead, you will typically only spend 15-30 minutes in there enjoying one or two drinks.
Non-alcoholic drinks are also available and minors are allowed in the ice bars too!
Entrance is about $20 NZD, but if you watch for specials you can sometimes get free entrance with the purchase of a drink!
23. Bus to the Remarkables Ski Field
During the winter in Queenstown, you can get a bus up and back to the Remarkables ski field for $20 NZD.
Even if you don’t want to ski or snowboard, there is an amazing view up there and it’s fun to play in the snow! You don’t need to have ski or snowboard passes to hang out at the ski fields, the passes are just for using the chairlifts. So play in the snow, climb the hills, and slide down the slopes as you please!
You can also drive yourself up to the Remarkables. Just be cautious that in the winter that you may need to have snow chains. You can hire snow chains in Queenstown for the day for $20 from ski and snowboard rental shops.
24. Visit local Wineries and Vineyards
You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a wine tour to check out some of the incredible wineries near Queenstown. Central Otago is world-famous for incredible Pinot Noir, so visiting a couple of the wineries in the area is a must for any wine lover!
Most of the wineries around Queenstown offer tastings for around $10-15 a person allowing you to try several different wines. Some of my personal favorite wineries are Mt Rosa, Gibbston Valley, and Akarua.
Of course, visiting the wineries on your own requires you to have your own transport. If you don’t, you can book the hop on hop off wine tour bus which is only a fraction of the price of an actual guided wine tour!
Tour Alternative: You can visit the wineries on your own and just pay the tasting fees, or if you really want an in-depth wine experience, then you should book a wine tour! This tour is our personal recommendation and you’re guaranteed to have a fantastic time!
25. Aqua Bike Ride
An Aqua Bike is a huge bike that floats on water. You peddle the same as you would on a normal bike but this giant bike allows you to float on the surface!
At the lakefront at the beach, you can rent one of these Aqua Bikes from Paddle Queenstown for 20 mins for $30. This is for two people, so $15 each!
Budget Things to do in Queenstown ($20-70 NZD)
These next few activities in Queenstown are a little pricier than the last, but they are still cheap in comparison to most! Here are the best things you can do in Queenstown, New Zealand for only $20-70 per person!
26. Visit the Kiwi Birdlife Park
Right in town is a bird conservation center that is open for visitors called the Kiwi Birdlife Park! Here, you can watch Kiwi birds (and several other rare NZ species of birds) get fed or learn about their conservation efforts. Exploring this park is the perfect activity for families in Queenstown!
Kiwi Birdlife Park operates kind of like a zoo in the sense that you can just walk around on your own and check out the birds. They also offer scheduled shows such as their “Kiwi Encounter” and “Conservation Show.” The dates and times of all shows are listed on their website.
Admission for an adult is $60 NZD but includes all of the shows. You can also get special family passes, or sometimes discounted tickets when you purchase online in advance.
Kiwi Birdlife Park is open every day (except for Christmas) all year round from 9 am to 5 pm.
27. Go on a Scenic Cruise
Many people don’t know this, but you can jump a scenic boat cruise of Lake Wakatipu for cheap.
There is a great company that offers an awesome cruise for as little as $49! The cruise lasts about 2 hours and takes you for a tour of the most scenic places out on the lake. The catamaran departs from Queenstown center a few times daily making this a convenient activity to squeeze into your already busy Queenstown itinerary.
For an awesome view of Queenstown and the surrounding area from the lake, a cruise is perfect! You can also buy food and drinks on board making it a nice place to hang out for a couple of hours.
Dan and I have done this cruise on a few different occasions. When we lived in Queenstown, it was an activity we always took friends and family who visited us to do. It is one of those things that everybody will enjoy and it’s really affordable too!
Alternative Activity: You can actually do a historic cruise on Lake Wakatipu combined with a gourmet BBQ lunch for a longer half-experience.
28. Go Cycling
Renting a bicycle in Queenstown costs only about $40 for the day. With a bike, you can explore many of the different cycling trails around Queenstown. Ride out to the Frankton Arm, Jacks Point, or even to Lake Hayes! When you rent bikes, ask the rental shop for a map and some trail recommendations – there are way too many to list here!
This is a great way to get around Queenstown if you don’t have a car or even just a fun day activity!
If you don’t want to have to peddle so hard, you can also rent E-bikes for the day. This way, you’ll cover more ground and not have to work too much! It’s a win-win!
29. Stand-Up Paddleboarding
The calm waters of Lake Wakatipu make for the perfect place to test your balance on a paddleboard!
You can rent paddleboards right at Queenstown Bay Beach during the summer months from a company called Paddle Queenstown. Expect to pay $25 NZD for 45-minutes.
Just beware…it looks easier than it is (especially when the jet-boats speed by creating wake!)
30. Kayaking on Lake Wakatipu
If stand-up paddleboarding isn’t your thing then kayaking might be the better option. For the same price, $25 for 45 minutes, you can take a kayak out exploring!
This is a great little adventure and a budget option when compared to going on a guided kayaking tour.
Paddle Queenstown rents our kayaks at Queenstown Bay Beach. There is also another company that rents out kayaks from the One Mile carpark along the road to Fernhill.
You can only go kayaking during the summer months in Queenstown (October to May typically) and need to bring the kayaks back well before sunset.
31. Ride the Gondola and Luge
If hiking the Tiki Trail to Bob’s Peak sounded like too much effort then the gondola is a great alternative! The gondola in Queenstown takes you up the side of a mountain to Bob’s Peak high above Queenstown. Let me tell you, it is one very scenic gondola ride!
At the top of the gondola, you’ll find the Luge. The Luge is a fun go-cart like experience, except the cars are only powered by gravity and you control your speed with a break as you race downhill! I know it doesn’t sound thrilling, but it actually is. Everybody who rides the Luge loves it and you can get some serious speed if you want.
But the top of Bob’s Peak isn’t just about the Luge, the views from up there are amazing! I recommend staying up for sunset and after it gets dark to check out the stars! The gondola operates until late so you don’t have to worry about catching a ride back down.
You can get a return pass for the gondola for only $44. I highly recommend combining it with the Luge for the best deal, you can get a gondola and Luge pass for less than $65 NZD!
32. Gibbston Valley Wine Tasting and Cave Tour
The Gibbston Valley Winery was the first winery in the area around Queenstown. They’re also the only winery that has a wine cave (that is actually the largest wine cave in all of New Zealand!) For only $39 NZD you can get a tour of the winery, wine cave, and wine tastings!
They will also provide transport from Queenstown round trip for $13 extra, but you can also always drive yourself. It is about a 30-minute drive and a gorgeous one at that!
You should book your tour and tasting online in advance as they have a limited number of spaces. The winery and cave tour operates daily at 12 pm and 4 pm. However, there are a number of different experiences you can book including “prestigious” tastings or tours including lunch.
Tip: If you’re a real wine lover (like me!) then you should probably just spoil yourself and do a complete guided wine tour of the region. I’ve personally done this specific wine tour and absolutely loved it. The tour visits the Gibbston Valley Winery and includes the cave tour, but also stops at some of the lesser-known boutique wineries in the area!
33. Jet Boating
Last on my list of cheap things to do in Queenstown, New Zealand is Jet Boating! Jet boating is one of the most popular adventure activities in Queenstown. You cruise along the lake or rivers at high speeds doing 360-degree spins and sharp turns!
Jet Boating in Queenstown is super popular, and for good reason. It is one of the only adventure activities in the area that is suitable for families and pretty much all ages. Plus, it is also way more affordable than other adventure tours!
And I have to admit, when you aren’t busy screaming and laughing because of the thrill, you’ll notice that the views are pretty amazing from our on the water too!
For $99 you can do this hour-long ride with KJet and ride on Lake Wakatipu, Kawarau River, and Shotover River. Otherwise, if you want the cheaper option, this Go Orange jet boat experience offers a 30-minute ride for $69.
All jet boat operators offer tours all year round during daylight hours. Most companies have hourly rides departing, but they can book up in advance so it is best to book. Both jet boat experiences mentioned above depart from right in Queenstown at the wharf, but there are other jet boat tours that operate on the outskirts of town such as Dart River Adventures.
Where to Stay in Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown is filled with amazing things to do but also awesome places to stay! One thing about Queenstown though, if you don’t book in advance you will miss out on the best places (and the cheapest ones at that!) Here’s our list of recommended hotels in Queenstown!
When booking hotels we always use Booking.com. The reason? They are honestly always cheaper (we have booked over 250 hotels with them) and if you find a better price they’ll match it guaranteed (even if it’s a special on their own website)!
The Flaming Kiwi Backpackers – This was the first place I ever stayed in Queenstown. It’s a great budget backpackers with a very social vibe. The building is kind of old but it’s great value and even has onsite parking for free! A dorm bed here will cost you around $28 NZD per night!
YHA Queenstown Lakefront – The YHA Lakefront is a more luxurious backpacker hostel that’s literally located 20m from the edge of Lake Wakatipu! A dorm bed here will cost you around $35 NZD pr night.
Melbourne Lodge – Another beautiful hotel located in the heart of Queenstown. What I love about this place is it sits on the end of Queenstown near the airport meaning that you never have to drive through town to visit the ski fields or many major attractions. It’ll save you time and all-round it’s a fantastic place to stay! Rooms here can be as little as $130 NZD per night!
Novotel Queenstown Lakeside -If you want to be close to town then you can’t pass on the Novatel. It’s literally right in the town center near the bustling beach and walking streets. Great hotel, great location, and all-around a great place to stay! Rooms start at $225 NZD.
Rydges – I haven’t actually stayed at the Rydges but my brother has. He recommends it as one fo the best places to stay in Queenstown for location, price, and amenities! Surprisingly, rooms start at only $150 NZD per night here.
Hilton Queenstown Spa & Resort – Bailey and I spent our anniversary at the Hilton and really loved our stay. It’s located a little out of town but they run a free shuttle every 30 minutes. The rooms are beautiful in classic Hilton-style and to me, it’s great value starting at $225 NZD per night.
There are lots of amazing Airbnbs in Queenstown too worth checking out! Personally, I like Airbnbs for longer stays or when I’m traveling with friends!
If you want more information on the different areas to stay in Queenstown and more options for hotels, then check out our blog about where to stay in Queenstown!
Tips for Saving $$$ in Queenstown, New Zealand
Knowing about the free and cheap things to do in Queenstown is great, but you will likely want to do a couple of the expensive things while you’re here too.
Here are a few of my tips for saving a little bit of money while in Queenstown (so you can save your dollars for a pricier adventure tour):
- Check out the websites Book Me and Grab One. Both of these websites offer discounted excursions, tours, activities, and restaurants! Many things on these websites are up to 50% off!
- Consider visiting in the shoulder seasons. Queenstown is busiest from June to September and then again from December to March. The other months are considered the shoulder seasons and that is when there is all of the specials and deals on things to do, see, and eat!
- Book things in combos. You can always get a better deal when you buy more. Ask any booking agency about discounted packages.
- ASK for a discount! You’d be surprised how many tours or bars will give you a discount if you just ask. Oftentimes places in Queenstown have a “locals” discount but they are really able to give it to anybody, especially if that means making the sale.
- Book restaurants using the website First Table. This website is just awesome as it saves you 50% off all the food you order! The catch is that you need to book in advance, often several days in advance.
If you follow these guidelines for saving money and stick to mostly the free and cheap things to do in Queenstown then your trip to Queenstown might not end up being nearly as expensive as you may have expected!
I hope this blog helps you enjoy Queenstown without putting too big of a dent in your wallet. Do you know of other free or cheap things to do in Queenstown that we haven’t mentioned? Tell us in the comments!
We’ve written a ton of informative blogs about traveling in New Zealand to help other travelers plan their trips (and have as much fun as we did!) Be sure to check out all of our New Zealand blogs, Queenstown blogs, or some of our favorites below:
- ULTIMATE Guide to Campervan Rental in New Zealand
- The BEST Beaches in New Zealand
- Guide to Choosing a Milford Sound Cruise (that’s right for you!)
- The BEST Places to Visit in the South Island