Queenstown is such an extraordinary place, when you compare the size of it to a city, it is tiny but it’s popularity and its character is huge. Like many, I fell head over heels for the place and decided to call it home for a year. In that time I got to explore and do many Queenstown fun activities. There is an activity to suit every budget type. As I am a “budget traveller” I also have a few techniques of how we can bring those more expensive prices down.
Free Queenstown Activities:
Have you ever heard of this activity before? They have literally combined the two. In Queenstown Garden there is a 18 basket course. Frisbee golf is similar to regular golf, each player takes it in turns to throw the frisbee as close to the basket as they can and then when everyone has thrown, you assume your position to where it landed and try and get it into the basket with the least amount of throws.
Of course most people don’t carry a frisbee around with them travelling, so you will need to hire one. Don’t worry it is free!
If you go into any tourism shop in Queenstown and ask to borrow a frisbee you wont be looked at strangely. Happy Travels for example asks for a $20 deposit that is given back when you return the frisbee.
Why not ask some fellow hostel goers if they want to play too!
Queenstown Hill was my favourite hike. It is a 2 – 3 hour trek with spectacular views overlooking Lake Wakatipu, the mountains and the town centre.
The walk is moderate with steep parts in areas but overall ok. The path is well maintained and easy to follow. Make a note that when you get to “the basket of dreams” that is not the top. If you continue 10 more minutes you will get there and it is well worth it, I promise. Head over to my day hikes from Queenstown post to hear about the other hikes and this beautiful walk in more detail.
CHILL AT THE LAKE
Queenstown Lake is the perfect spot if you want a relaxing day. Lake Wakatipu is so inviting but be warned it is glacial water so it is freezing! The lake is next to the gardens that have public toilets and there is Patagonia’s on the corner if you want to treat yourself to Ice cream. The lake is also the perfect spot for watching the sunset. As the sun goes down over the water sometimes you are treated with Paraglider doing tricks before landing on the beach. In Queenstown you are allowed to consume alcohol in public until 8pm so why not take some hostel friends down there. But remember to stay hydrated in warmer weather.
HAPPY TRAVELS BAR CRAWL
Happy travels bar crawls happen all over New Zealand. They entice you in with free pizza and free shots (who would say no to that!?) This is a great way to get to know other travellers and have a laugh. The travel team take you to around 4 bars and get you to join in on games. As a result you can win prizes which are usually experiences. That’s right I have seen people win trips to Fiji! My friend won a trip on the Kjet Jetboat and I won a trip to Tamaki Maori Village (I won this when I did a bar crawl in Rotorua playing Simon Say’s).
Home to the Frisbee golf these 36.4 acres of garden hold a variety of different trees, plants and flowers. Each year the gardens host a variety of events; Reggae in the Gardens (February), Luma Light Project (June), Winter Festival (July), Winter Pride (September). I highly recommend checking out what events are on around the time you visit. These gardens are a great place to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city life.
The markets next to the lake are a perfect place to find some locally crafted souvenir’s. My friend brought me a Paua shell ring for my birthday from one of the stalls and I wear it everyday. The markets are open every Thursday 4pm – 8.30pm and Saturday 9.30am – 2pm. They also host live music which makes for a great atmosphere.
THE REMARKABLES SWEET SHOP
This is only a 10 minute activity but it is worth a mention! This sweet shop offers free fudge tasting. there are tons of different flavours to choose from. I always liked the cookies and cream and the caramel. Obviously you are not obligated to buy anything but sometimes you can feel guilty for eating a chunk of fudge and walking out. The staff are really friendly in there and happy for you to take your time, deciding if you want to purchase or not.
Paid Queenstown Activities
Before we start this list, let’s quickly talk about discount websites. Before booking any activities, check out sites like Book Me and Grabone for deals around the time you are there. I will include a rough price guide, but these are dependant on packages and where you book from (currency NZ dollars).
You can’t go to New Zealand without visiting the Fjords. This is one of the Island’s biggest tourist attractions and needs to be on your Queenstown activities list. Milford is home to 1000’s of waters falls, the two permeant ones being Lady Bowen and Stirling Falls. It rains 75% of the time so be prepared. People argue it is at its peak of beauty when it rains as you get to see all the waterfalls. I have been fortunate to visit both in the rain and sun. I personally preferred the sunnier warmer weather. When booking your trip to Milford there are some points you need to consider.
- If you book the cheapest cruise be warned it starts at 9am and is the cruise only. The drive from Queenstown takes 5 hours. I do not recommend getting the early cruise unless you are staying in Te Anau.
- If you are driving there, are you a confident driver? These roads can be very dangerous especially in the winter.
- A bus tour is a full day trip, starting at 7am and ending at 7pm. 5 hours to get there, 2 hour cruise and then another 5 hours back. Be sure to pack food.
On the journey, the bus drivers will give you some history about Milford Sound, they will stop in several places along the way as the drive is so beautiful and scenic. They may even introduce you to the intelligent Kia Bird.
Cruise only – $30-$89 | Bus and cruise – $139 -$179
This one is for the adrenaline junkies! Out of all the Queenstown activities this is the number one for most tourists. Queenstown was the world’s first commercial public bungy site. Aj Hackett popularised the extreme sport by jumping off the Eiffel Tower. There are 3 jump spots around Queenstown to decide from:
- Nevis Bungy – This is the most popular one as it is the highest in New Zealand. The drop is 134m with 8.5 seconds of free fall. You receive free transport from Queenstown centre to the bungy site. Prices range from $237.50 to $275.00 (photo and video package $65 or $45 for photos or video).
- Kawarau Bungy – This is the original site where it all began! Jump from a place of history. The drop is 43m over the Kawarau river, with the option to dunk into the water and be put on a little raft rather than being pulled back up. There is also a tandem option. You will need to drive to this bungy site. Prices range from $174.050 – $200 (same photo package price as above).
- Ledge Bungy – This is by far the most scenic. The site location is at Bobs Peak. You will need to take the Skyline Gondola (which isn’t included in the price $44 return but they do offer combination tickets with the luge). The bungy is 47m and is a freestyle bungy meaning you have different options of how you jump. Unlike the Nevis and Kawarau which are the traditional style where you are bound by your ankles. At the moment this bungy is closed down (April 2022) with no future booking dates.
After your first jump, if you want to do it again, you can get a second for half price. They used to give you a free bungy jump if you did it naked.
And then there are the swings! If you combine your Nevis swing and bungy you will get a discount, only question is; are you feeling that brave?!
- Nevis Swing – This swing is world famous with 300m arc. You have the option to do it alone or with a friend. You also get the option to go forwards, backwards or upside down. Back in 2018 I went on this with a friend and o my wow I hated it! I am not an adrenaline junkie (I dont like rollercoasters) I could not believe how we just kept swinging. The staff are amazing but also horrible at the same time, they like to toy with your nerves and make jokes about safety (it is safe dont worry but they like to mess with people). They said they would give us a 3 second countdown and then released us on 1. Would I do it again: No. Am I glad I did it: Hell yes! Prices range from $192.50 – $230 the same photo and video package can be added to.
- Ledge Swing – This swing is very scenic with a 47m arc. The difference with this swing is, you have to pull the cord and release yourself. The ledge is temporary closed (April 2022 which no future opening date).
- Shotover Canyon Swing – This swing I think is the most original because of its crazy options. It is a 200m swing with 60m of freefall. There is a solo or tandem option and you can swing in so many different ways! You can do a flip off, jump off in a barrel, do a handstand off, get kicked off (FOR SPARTA!), ride off the edge on a trick, the list is endless. Prices range from $199 to $240 as a solo swinger. The photo and video add on package is $65.
For those of you that dont know, luging is a plastic cart like a toboggan with low handrails. Moving the hand rail backwards and forwards helps you go and slow down. The course is 900 metres over banked corners, through tunnels and over ramps. There are different courses to choose from, some routes are more scenic. When you get to the bottom there is a chairlift to take you back to the top and complete a different path.
To get to the luge course you will need to take the gondola or walk up the Tiki Trail. Skyline do combination packages to help you save money. I recommend luging 3 or more times as 1 is never enough. Gondola ride plus 3 luges = $67 (6 luges $74).
There are two luging sites here and Rotorua. If you can not add it to your Queenstown activities list then be sure to try it when you are up there.
SHOTOVER JET BOAT
Now in my personal opinion this is a lot of money for what it is, however it is the best jetboat in Queenstown. I have been lucky enough to compare all the boats and this one trumps the rest. What makes this boat so special is that you are skidding through the canyon dodging rocks, doing 360 spins and getting up to speeds of 90 kilometres per hour. The jet boat ride is only 25 minutes, I recommend going on discount sites to find a good deal. On Bookme they put a special out every so often for $1 rides but you need to be fast and flexible to snatch it up. The standard adult ticket price is $129.
WHITE WATER RAFTING
There are two rafting experiences to choose from.
Kawarau River Grade 2-3. I recommend this experience for beginners/family rides. The Kawarau river is very scenic and a fun day out. However it is not fast paced and adrenaline fuelled like the Shotover. There is a section of the trip where you can go cliff jumping. The Kawarau is home to the the longest commercially rafted wave in New Zealand and takes you under the bungy bridge so you can watch people fly over you. This excursion is open all year round and can be combined with a jetboat ride to the rafting base instead of the bus. Prices range from $59 to $149.
Shotover River Grade 3-5. These rapids can be real narly when there has been heavy rainfall and make for an exciting ride. In the summer you will take a coach trip through skippers canyon which is a thrilling ride on narrow roads and cliff edges. In the winter the only way to access the river is by helicopter. Prices range from $99 – $199.
PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE only go rafting if you can swim. I know you have a life jacket on but that can hinder you when you are trying to swim back to the boat if you have come out. When I worked for Go Orange (the company that facilitates the rafting) I was surprised how many people would sign up online and not be able to swim. The guides are super friendly, really experienced, very safety conscious and will be happy to support you with any concerns.
Again like luging if you haven’t got time to add rafting to your Queenstown activities list be sure to add it to your Rotorua trip.
There are so many other Queenstown activities to choose from, but these are the top to do’s.