Updated: Aug 4, 2019
The short answer is no. Bike, bus, boat as well as other public and private transport options make getting around Queenstown without a car easy as! In fact you may actually have a better holiday without the car. We'll also talk about some activities you can do without needing a car.
Many people coming to Queenstown are here for a matter of days and in that time will probably have a few tours booked and a few days on the mountain enjoying the ski on offer during the season.
With this kind of itinerary we wouldn't expect you to need a car for very much. For example,
many tour operators will provide transport options for you to and from their activities,
there are many airport bus and shuttle services to get to and fro the airport, and
there are buses to get you up the most common mountains to ski.
With these kinds of things in mind you will realistically only have a day or two where you will even contemplate needing a car. With the prevalence of public transport options in Queenstown getting into town from your accommodation for a Luge ride and a few beverages while out at dinner are no problem at all for the public transport options or indeed a taxi and/or Uber when its 1am and the buses have stopped running.
Let's look at some of the best ways of making your travel around Queenstown as easy and enjoyable as possible.
Orbus is Queenstown's public bus system and one of the cheapest ways to get around the area with flat-rate fares of just $2 with a GoCard or $5 if paying by cash. It covers the wider Queenstown area including Fernhill, Arthurs Point, Arrowtown, Jacks Point and Frankton.
Tip: You can get a GoCard from your bus driver, at Queenstown Airport or at the O’Connell’s Mall kiosk for $5. The minimum top up for a GoCard is $10.
Areas serviced: Orbus has got you covered for almost anyplace you may be staying in or around Queenstown. It has routes which service Frankton (near The Remarkables ski field), Central Queenstown, Arthurs Point (near Coronet Peak ski field) and FernHill. This kind of service means that wherever your accommodation is near Queenstown it's got you covered.
Pros: cheap, can travel with bikes, free wifi, great if you are enjoying the famous nightlife in Queenstown to avoid any drink driving issues.
Queenstown Ferries is the latest updated public transport service for both tourists and locals. With one way rates as little as $4.90 with a 10 trip concession card ($49), commuting around Queenstown has never been so scenic.
It seems like a no-brainer... you have a whole lake to work with, why not use it in a more efficient way for transporting people around the area! Arguably Queenstown water taxi (now Queenstown Ferries) had been doing this for years, but with a new timetable and more stops the service is more efficient and affordable than ever.
Pros: cheap, easy to use, scenic, fast, and the scenery is amazing.
Areas Serviced: Frankton, Central Queenstown, Bayview, Hilton, Marina, The Reece - more or less anywhere within the Frankton Arm of the Wakatipu River.
Queenstown Bike Trail
Ditch the engines for pedal power and utilise The Queenstown Trail!
A well-maintained network of bike trails that weave their way throughout the Queenstown landscape. This is one of the most scenic and rewarding ways to move about, and undoubtedly the slowest (not that that's a bad thing!).
Areas Serviced: Sunshine Bay, Frankton, Jacks Point, Dalefield, Arrowtown and the Gibston Valley wine region, the Queenstown Trail is a personal favourite for getting around.
Tip: You can hire bikes from a large number of outlets around Queenstown including mountain and e-bikes.
Pros: free, covers a large area, scenic.
Taxis or Uber:
Of course Taxi travel and more increasingly Uber are good ways to get around Queenstown if perhaps you are outside of a scheduled bus service or you're in a place which isn't serviced by buses or other public transport options. These are plentiful in the central area of Queenstown and obviously easily bookable from your cell phone.
Bespoke private transport services:
We ourselves offer bespoke transport services in and around Queenstown. We offer,
Local Food, Wine & Craft Beer Experiences
Queenstown Ski Resort Transport
Private Transfers Around The South Island
Private Guided Tours From Queenstown
We are especially useful if you'd like to have transport between ski fields on a particular day. While there is transport to and fro Coronet Peak and The Remarkables ski fields, getting between them can be a little time consuming without private transport.
Tours you've already booked:
Often if you have booked a tour or activity they will have transport options specifically for their tour or activity which may be a private pick up or shuttle service. Either way, if you are thinking of needing a car to get to and fro activities then it's not really necessary.
Even if you are spending some time up the mountain then Coronet Peak and The Remarkables ski fields both offer bus services to enjoy their snow action!
Pros: a much larger range of service, flexible, personal, ideal for couples and small groups.
Activities to do that are easy to get to and from without a car:
Tiki Trail --> Ben Lomond:
From Queenstown Central you can access more than enough activities and trails in order to 'fill yer boots'!
Our favourite hike from Queenstown Central is super flexible depending on how far you want to go. From base of the the gondola building (check this map here - 5 minute walk from town) you can start walking the 40 minute hike called the Tiki Trail.
The Tiki Trail will wind you through pine trees to the Luge site. From here, you can partake in the activities, grab a coffee/beer or meal before jumping on the gondola to return your tired legs to town.
Alternative route: For those who are looking for more exercise and who have a little more time you can continue from The Tiki Trail all the way up to Ben Lomond which, is 1800 m high and about 1500 m above Queenstown Central itself.
Either hike you choose, amazing views can be had from both the Tiki Trail or Ben Lomond. These are also a great and less well known alternative to the Queenstown Hill hike for you alternative hiking enthusiasts!
What we like about this is that the Luge and other activities are some of the more famous (especially for families) in Queenstown and are super accessible from this hike.
Consider Ben Lomond a day trip in terms of time and you should pack both food and water for approximately 8 hours (less if you are used to hiking and physical activities and fitness is not a factor) in order to ascend and return.
You should also pack several layers, even in summer, as at altitude the weather changes a lot more rapidly and you will be higher where the cold and wind are more dangerous. Plan to bring several layers and a rain coat just in case. Hiking shoes recommended.