Updated: Jul 5, 2019
Queenstown (or New Zealand in general) isn't exactly known for being a budget friendly place to travel. The cost of food and fuel are significantly higher than what many international visitors will be used to in their homelands. Also, being the adventure capital there are so many exciting activities for visitors to try, but they all seem to come with a relatively high price tag (however, would you want to do that really cheap bungy or skydive....?). If you look a little closer though there are many awesome activities and adventures to be had without spending an absolute fortune. So here is a little inspiration on what you can do for free/cheap in Queenstown!
It will come as no surprise that Queenstown has heaps of great day and multiday hikes in close proximity. Most trails are well marked and maintained by the department of conservation, and all are free to use. Make sure to check the DOC website for trail grades and times as well as being aware of the weather forecast.
Tip: Always take appropriate safety precautions before tackling any hike.
Rent yourself a disc from one of the many booking agents or sports shops in town and try your hand a frisbee golf in the Queenstown gardens. Discs are cheap to rent (approx. $7 for the day) bring along some food, drinks and a few friends and you got a banger of a way to spend a warm day under the shade some ginormous trees.
The Queenstown gardens are the perfect spot to relax, offering plenty of spots to chill out, picnic, nap, read or stroll the walking trails with epic views of Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding peaks.
Visit the Bungy Bridge
Queenstown is famous for being the birthplace of commercial bungy jumping but the adrenaline activity is not always suited to everyone's taste or budget. Good news is that if you are curious to watch others throw themselves off the original bungy bridge, then that is 100% free! Head out to the Kawarau Bridge in the Gibbston Valley (20mins drive from Queenstown) and see some crazy tourists free fall almost 45 meters to the glacial river below.
Spend the day lazing by the lakeside on Queenstown beach. During the warmer months there is always plenty going on to keep you entertained. From people watching and buskers to slack-liners and acro-yoga (both of which you can always take part in if you wish) making the beach a hub for activity and excitement that won't cost a penny to get involved in. Also, if you are feeling brave enough take a plunge in the glacial fed waters of Lake Wakatipu. The temp usually floats around a fresh 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit).
Take a journey back in time to before Queenstown was the tourism mecca it is today and follow in the footsteps of the areas original settlers who came in search of their fortune. Dudley's cottage in Arrowtown (near the Chinese Village) offers panning tutorials, after which you can rent some gear and venture out to the Arrow River to try strike it rich on your own. Who knows, if you are lucky enough to find something you might just be able to stop looking for articles like this one.
Explore the lake by ferry
Want to get out on the water but don't have the spare cash to throw on a jet boat or lake cruise. The Queenstown Ferry will take you from the wharf in the town center, up the Frankton Arm (stopping off at a number of locations) and finishing at the Hilton Resort and Spa before returning the same route for $15 (return trip). For the price, it's a great way to get out onto the water without breaking the bank.
Tip: Hop off at Bayview (first stop) to walk around the Kelvin Peninsular track OR Queenstown Marina and Hilton offer a number of cafés, bars and eateries to check out.
This is just a few examples for you to get started. Get in touch directly if you want more suggestions specific to dates or the time of year you are visiting. We're always happy to help fellow wanderers. Cheers