Queenstown on a budget: the best things to do

How to have a five-star holiday without breaking the bank in Queenstown.

Panoramic view of Queenstown, New Zealand, with Lake Wakatipu in the foreground and snow-covered mountains in the background.
  • Jetstar
  • April 2022

Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand, so you only have to step outside and check out the landscape for instant thrills and million-dollar views. The town is rich with affordable outdoor activities and sightseeing. Hit the cycling and hiking trails, the farmers markets and the iconic Fergburger for a champagne trip on a beer budget.

Cycle the Queenstown Trail

Get out amongst in by riding part (or all!) of the Queenstown Trail. The network of 130km of trails starts on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and winds along from Queenstown to Gibbston via historic Arrowtown. It takes in some of region’s most gorgeous scenery, from snow-capped mountains to undulating wineries. There are plenty of bike rental companies around if you don’t have your own wheels. And if you’re mountain biker, there are several tracks suited to all levels.

Cyclist on bike track in Queenstown Gardens with trees on either side and Lake Wakatipu to the right, Queenstown, New Zealand.
Get scenic on two wheels in Queenstown.

Explore Queenstown Gardens – and play disc golf

The lush Queenstown Gardens are one of Queenstown’s biggest attractions. They’re free to enter, and you can easily spend the afternoon strolling the lakeside grounds and having a lazy picnic. They also play host to various events and festivals you can dive into. But one thing you have to do is play a round of disc golf. There’s an 18-basket tournament course in the Gardens and it’s free to play if you have your own frisbees, or you can hire them and get a scorecard and map for a small fee.

A stone bridge over a lake in the Queenstown Gardens, New Zealand.
The Queenstown Gardens are the perfect place to chill out.

Take a daytrip to Arrowtown

A day trip to picturesque Arrowtown is an absolute must, and it’s just a 40-minute bus ride away. This fascinating gold-mining town is full of perfectly preserved buildings from the Otago Gold Rush and intriguing historic structures from the Chinese Settlement. Check out the cafes, take a riverside walk, visit the Lakes District Museum and the Sunday Farmers Market. Or try panning for gold in the Arrow River to up your budget quick.

External view of the Police Camp historical cottage surrounded by trees and autumn foliage, Arrowtown, New Zealand. Image credit: Destination Queenstown
Arrowtown is the perfect, easy daytrip destination.

Stroll or swim Lake Wakatipu

Lake Wakatipu is a jaw-dropping beauty. It’s New Zealand’s third-largest lake, shaped like a lightning bolt and flanked by stunning mountains. The best, and totally budget-friendly, way to make the most of it is by strolling the Frankton Walkway. The lake has beaches for summer swimming and, if the budget stretches, paddle boarding and kayaking. There are waterfront markets to explore and even some Lord of the Rings locations.

Rocks and clear water at Lake Wakatipu surrounded by trees, the Remarkables in the background, Queenstown, New Zealand.
Lake Wakatipu is one of Queenstown’s most cinematic destinations.

Walk the Tiki Trail to Bob’s Peak

It’s pretty obvious that Queenstown is one good-looking town, but if you want to catch the iconic, postcard view of it, head to Bob’s Peak, the highest in the city. You can take the Skyline Gondola to the top, but for a free, fresh-air alternative, hike the Tiki Trail to the top. It’s a couple of kilometres to the top and should take a person of reasonable fitness about an hour. The trail starts at the Gondola station on Brecon Street and treks up through forest to the rewarding summit view.

A panoramic view of Queenstown, the bay and snow-capped mountains, from Bob’s Peak. Image credit: Destination Queenstown
Hike to the peak for these million-dollar views. Image credit: Destination Queenstown