Everyone loves Queenstown. Really, everyone — and it’s no surprise why! It’s a phenomenal city. It is surrounded by mountains, has an amazing lake, tiny pedestrian streets, great food, a cool nightlife, and is the focal point for dozens of adventure activities. There is such a great vibe and energy in this city. People usually end up spending more time here than originally intended. I planned for three days and ended up staying over one week. It’s a city that lives up to all the hype. It’s a very good base for the region and this guide will help you get the most from your stay!
Hostel prices – Hostel dorms cost between 25-40 NZD per night while private rooms begin at 80 NZD. Free WiFi is common, and a few hostels also include free breakfast. Only a few hostels in Queenstown have kitchens, so if you plan on cooking your own food be sure to choose a hostel with self-catering facilities. My favorite hostel in town is Nomads. I love the vibe, the common space, and the fact you can have alcohol here. For those traveling with a tent, campgrounds can be found outside the city. Expect to pay 13-40 NZD for a basic plot.
Budget hotel prices – Hotel rooms around Queenstown begin at 80 NZD per night for a double bed, although if you’re lucky you can find cheaper. Free WiFi is common, though free breakfast is rarely included. For those who require a kitchen, self-catering facilities are available but rare. For a budget hotel with a pool, expect to pay over 200 NZD per night. Airbnb is a great budget option here, with shared accommodation starting around 25 NZD per night (though there are limited options). For an entire home or apartment, expect to pay at least 100 NZD per night, however prices are often double that so be sure to book in advance!
Average cost of food – A typical restaurant meal will cost around 23 NZD (though you can certainly spend more). You can find sandwiches for around 8 NZD and fast food like McDonald’s or Burger King will cost around 11 NZD. There’s a lot of budget food options in the city so you’ll find plenty of ways to save, especially during lunch. If you choose to buy your groceries and cook your own food, plan to spend about 65-85 NZD per week.
Transportation costs – Queenstown is really small and you can walk anywhere easily; there’s no need to take the bus around the city. If you want to rent a bike, expect to pay around 35 NZD per day. For intercity travel, buses and flights will be your best bet. Flights to Christchurch, for example, will cost between 95-200 NZD while the bus can cost as little as 35 NZD.
Suggested daily budget – 70-100 NZD / 50-70 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out a little, cooking most of your meals, limiting your drinking and adventure sports, and using local transportation. You can really spend a lot of money here if you do lots of activities so keep prices in mind.)
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Money Saving Tips
- Walk – Queenstown has its own set of natural scenic beauty which can be had for free in a walk around town. But, if you prefer tour, you can purchase a guided bus tour for around 70 NZD.
- Buy fresh fruit – During the summer, cheap produce can be found at roadside stands as farmers bring in fruit and vegetables from the nearby towns.
- Cook your own food – If you’re on a budget you will want to consider cooking some of your own meals. It may not be fancy, but it will keep your budget intact! Most of the restaurants in this city aren’t that cheap.
Top Things to See and Do in Queenstown
- Sail the lake – A beautiful lake surrounding the town offers wonderful sailing, boating, swimming, and other activities. Just don’t go in the lake for too long — it’s very, very cold.
- Eat at Fergburger – A Queenstown tradition, this burger place is considered the best in New Zealand. They have amazing fries and gigantic, delicious burgers. You’ll have to brave a long line to get one but leaving without eating one is a crime. There’s a vegan burger too for those of you who don’t eat meat.
- Ride the Shotover Jet – This ultrafast speedboat whips around the local rivers at neck-breaking speed. Sometimes the water is so shallow you think you are going to crash — it’s quite the rush! Adults tickets are 145 NZD and child tickets are 75 NZD.
- Take a helicopter flight – Queenstown is set against a backdrop of The Remarkables mountain range and a flight takes you over secluded alpine lakes, lush rainforest, and past rugged mountain peaks. For a 20 minute ride you’ll pay around 240 NZD, while a 50-minute ride is 585 NZD (discounts are available for children).
- Go skiing – During the winter months, the mountains here provide some of the best skiing (or snowboarding) in New Zealand. The trails range from easy to difficult and there are many options here for experts. (Remember the New Zealand winter is during the North American summer!)
- Do the Nevis jump – If you’ve ever considered bungy jumping and haven’t done it, Queenstown is the place to do it! It’s home to the infamous 500 foot Nevis bungy jump, one of the highest in the world. Expect to pay around 275 NZD for a jump.
- Ride on a zip line – Ziplining is a new activity here and they are just beginning to extend the course. You can zip line on the mountain near the gondola and whiz through the forest as you look down upon the city and the lake. Prices will vary depending how many lines you ride, but expect to pay around 100 NZD.
- Explore the vineyards – With all of the wonderful wine that comes out of New Zealand, you’ll definitely want to include a wine tour and tasting on your trip. Queenstown is a premier wine region in New Zealand for white wines. If you plan to take an organized tour, prices will vary though you should expect to pay at least 80 NZD.
- See the underwater observatory – Set below water level with an arrangement of massive windows, this observatory is a live, interactive exhibit of the lake. There are many large fish to see, and for a mere dollar, you can feed the fish. Admission is 10 NZD for adults, 5 NZD for children.
- Visit the Kiwi Birdlife Park – This park is home to more than 10,000 native flora and fauna, various birds, and, more importantly, thousands of Kiwis. Beyond a pleasant walk around the sanctuary, there is a cultural show to see, put on by the Maori locals. Adult admission is 48 NZD, while children ages 5-15 pay only 23 NZD (children under 5 enter for free).
- Enter St. Peter’s Church – Originally built in 1863, this little historical treasure has since been upgraded from a wooden church to one with stone foundations. The major attraction here, beyond the beautiful detailing, is the carved Eagle Lectern, an addition made in 1874.
- Ride a horse – With so much beautiful scenery around, Queenstown makes for the perfect place to go trail riding. Half-day, full-day, and even multi-day tours are available, most of which take you through the rivers and lake area. Prices will vary depending on how long you go for, but you can find half-day rides for around 185 NZD per person.
- Go off-roading – There are a few tour operators in the area that offer half-day off-roading adventures in 4WD vehicles. These tours take you through the canyons and across the rivers, so prepare for a lot of fun and don’t worry if you get a bit wet. Expect to pay between 100-200 NZD.