Being the adventure capital of New Zealand, you can expect many activities in Queenstown to be quite pricey. Skydiving, bungee jumping and skiing are all popular choices, but they come with a hefty price tag.
So, what do you do if you’re on a budget? Budget travelers can’t miss out on the ultimate, must-see destination of New Zealand. So here in this article, you’ll find insider tips that won’t even make a dent in your bank account. Here are 15 completely free things to do in Queenstown, New Zealand that you do not want to miss.
15 Free Things to do in Queenstown, New Zealand
1. Stroll Through Queenstown Gardens
You can find Queenstown Gardens right in the heart of Queenstown city on the edge of Lake Wakatipu. This beautiful, botanic garden contains a large variety of native and exotic plants.
As an added bonus, one of the few free car parks in the city is located on the street bordering the gardens.
Throughout the park can be found disc-golf goals. If you bring along a frisbee you can participate in a friendly game of disc golf.
This was provided for free use by the council and the game is similar to real golf. You simply stand at one point and throw your disc into the goal.
In the end, you tally how many throws each player took and the winner is the player with the lowest number.
2. Go Wine tasting
The Central Otago region in New Zealand (where Queenstown is located) is home to some of the best wineries in the entire world.
Most wineries in Queenstown don’t charge a fee for tasting their wines – hence their inclusion on this list.
Instead, they give you the opportunity to donate a small amount to a local charity if you enjoy the tasting.
Make sure to taste the Pinot Noir in particular as this is what the region is most renowned for. The Rieslings, Sauvignon Blancs, and Chardonnays are also great.
3. Walk up Queenstown Hill
Queenstown Hill is one of the hikes in Queenstown with the best view to effort ratios. It takes 2 ½ hours to walk to the top and back at a leisurely pace.
At the top, you will get to enjoy spectacular views looking out over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.
For some great photos, consider heading to the top for sunset – but pack a headlamp for the walk back to your car.
4. Window Shop Through the Town
The central town in Queenstown is a lovely place to relax and walk around any time of the day.
Consider walking around and checking out the shops. Many sell locally-made products and are of very high quality.
It’s not necessary to purchase anything – it can be great to just go for a walk and see what is on offer.
5. Watch the Sunrise at Lake Moke
Lake Moke is a relatively unknown lake not far outside of Queenstown. It takes less than 30-minutes to drive right to the start of the track on the edge of the lake.
The walk is great, but the views from near the start are the best. The lake itself is a mirror lake.
This means it reflects the mountains surrounding it making for some stunning photos and views.
In addition to this, Lake Moke has a unique horseshoe shape with a hill right in the center of the lake. Standing opposite the middle of the lake will give you views down both sides.
6. Taste Fudge at The Remarkables Sweet Shop
The Remarkables Sweet Shop is a popular chain of sweet shops in Queenstown. You can find one at the airport, in Arrowtown or right in the center of Queenstown’s main city.
It’s easy to spend up big here, but for those of you on a budget (and with a lot of self-restraint), you can pop in just to try the fudge.
It’s made locally by them and tastes amazing. Tastings are free so it’s definitely worth it, especially if you are walking past.
7. Visit Wanaka
Wanaka is technically a separate town, but it’s close enough to Queenstown to visit in a day. It’s a 1-hour, scenic drive to Wanaka if you’re staying in Queenstown.
The drive itself is spectacular and deserves its own spot on this list. At Wanaka, you will want to make sure to check out Lake Wanaka and ‘That Wanaka Tree’ which sits in the lake itself.
This is a popular spot for photographers and draws in a crowd every day of the week. Rippon Vineyard is a short drive from Wanaka township and offers free wine tastings.
If you take a walk around the vineyard you’ll find views over the vines, backdropped by Lake Wanaka and the mountains behind it.
8. Hike Ben Lomond
Ben Lomond is a popular hike from Queenstown itself. It’s a demanding track and takes a full day as you climb over 1,400m.
On a clear day, you will be rewarded with panoramic views over Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains. As hard as this hike is, it is well worth the effort.
9. Walk up Bob’s Peak
A slightly easier hike, walking up Bob’s Peak takes about 2-hours. Most visitors choose to take the gondola up, but walking is free and much more rewarding.
Most of the images taken of Queenstown are from the Skyline viewing platform at Bob’s Peak.
It’s free to visit even if you hike up. If you go a bit further you’ll find even better views that are unobstructed by buildings.
10. Relax at the Beach
A great spot to relax is along one of the beaches on the edge of Lake Wakatipu. They can be found right around, but a great spot is known as One Mile Car Park.
It’s within walking distance of Queenstown. Consider packing a picnic and enjoying the sunset.
The photos come out amazing as the sun shines orange rays on the mountains on the opposite side of the lake.
11. Take a Short Drive to Arrowtown
Arrowtown is a quaint town found just a 30-minute drive from Queenstown. It’s the perfect place to visit to spend a morning. Along the main street, you will find shops and eateries.
The cafes here are great for brunch and there are heaps of things to do in Arrowtown. Arrowtown is historically a gold mining village where people gathered to mine for gold in the hopes of riches.
Today, you can still pan for gold – though your odds of getting rich are very slim. Our favorite spot is the old police barracks found by the river.
It is a great spot to take photos, especially in Autumn when the leaves change color.
12. Watch the Sunset at Lake Wakatipu
One of the best, free ways to spend an evening in Queenstown is to enjoy a meal and a glass of wine whilst watching the sunset over Lake Wakatipu.
Our favorite spots are right beside Queenstown Gardens and further along near One Mile Carpark.
The former has large rocks you can sit on, whilst the latter is a beach that looks out over the lake.
13. Listen to the Buskers in Queenstown waterfront
All throughout the year, buskers flock to the Queenstown waterfront. Right in the middle of town, you can expect to have live performances throughout most of the day and well into the evening.
We’ve found the quality of the performances to be amazing. Sitting on the grass by the water as buskers perform is a great way to while away an evening.
Bring a bottle of wine and some food and you’ll be set for hours.
14. Watch the Bungy Jumpers
Bungy jumping at the AJ Hackett Bungy Centre is one of the top things to do in Queenstown – it is the adventure capital of NZ after all.
That said, it’s ridiculously expensive and for some of us, throwing ourselves off a bridge seems like an odd way to spend a few hundred dollars.
A free alternative is to head on over to the Bungy center and watch a few fellow travelers jump.
The views here are great and look out over the Shotover River and watching people jump is surprisingly entertaining.
Glenorchy is one of our favorite places near Queenstown. It’s a 45-minute drive from the city center and is absolutely worth it.
If you can handle getting up early, we highly recommend leaving an hour before sunrise. You can grab breakfast at Ferg Baker then head on over to Glenorchy Wharf.
The views here at sunrise are magnificent. The sun rises over the mountains behind you, illuminating the mountains that backdrop the lake.
Chances are, you won’t find another soul here with you – a stark contrast to the same wharf later in the day.
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