While Queenstown is the home of adventure, adrenaline, and amusement, we understand holidays can become expensive. But it is possible to find incredible Queenstown activities on a budget. In fact, you’ll find there’s a whole host of completely free or cheap things to do in Queenstown!
If heart-pumping activities in Queenstown aren’t on your bucket list, some of the best things to do are low key yet still fun - visit wineries, discover incredible views, play frisbee golf or get your shop on!
Read on to discover how to find some fantastic cheap and free things to do in Queenstown, New Zealand.
Here are the top 5 free and affordable things to do in Queenstown:
Located just a short walk from the town centre on Belfast Terrace is one of the most popular hiking trails in Queenstown. This 3-hour hike will take you through aromatic pine forests to the peak of Te Tapu-nui, where you’ll experience spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and Queenstown below.
The Ben Lomond Track is one of the harder Queenstown trails, and takes between 6 to 8 hours return time. You’ll enjoy jaw-dropping panoramic views over Lake Whakatipu, the Remarkables mountain range, and Cecil and Walter Peaks at the summit.
Price: Free (excluding Gondola prices) Location: Option 1: Take the Skyline Gondola up to Bob’s Peak to reduce your hiking time by up to an hour (and save your knees on the way back down!). Option 2: start at the bottom of the Gondola and reach the peak via the Tiki Trail. Option 3: you can take the Skyline Access Road from Lomond Crescent, which leads you halfway up Bob’s Peak and across to the Ben Lomond Saddle before intersecting with a Gondola trail. For an in-depth look at this walk click here.
Moke Lake Loop Track:
This picturesque walk and cycle track takes you right around the edge of Moke Lake, surrounded by mountains and grassland. A short but steep climb at the start of the trail provides you with breathtaking views over the lake. The 6km loop takes 2-3 hours to complete, and the smooth terrain makes it an easy and popular hike.
Price: Free Location: Take the turnoff to Moke Lake Road from Glenorchy-Queenstown Road. Drive for around 8km until you reach Moke Lake Reserve, where the start of the track is located.
Explore the Queenstown Gardens
Queenstown Garden Trail:
The Queenstown Garden Trail starts on Park Street and is one of the shortest and most popular trails, taking you to the beautiful botanical gardens with plenty of benches for resting or taking in the scenery. Along the way, marvel at views across the stunning Lake Wakatipu and out to the Kelvin Peninsula.
Price: Free Location: Start on Park Street off Queenstown Bay Beach and take the Te Araroa trail to the Queenstown Gardens.
Frisbee and Disc Golf:
Frisbee or Disc Golf is one of the funnest things to do in Queenstown for free! Played around the Lake Wakatipu area for decades, the game is an integral part of Queenstown’s history and is something the whole family will enjoy. The Queenstown Gardens course was the first permanently marked out course in New Zealand.
Price: Free to play (hire discs and scorecards for a small fee from the Queenstown Ice Arena or Small Planet in town) Location: Find the ice arena and the first tee near the Gardens entrance at 29 Park Street.
Go on a Segway Tour:
If you’re looking for a uniquely fun way to see Queenstown, this is a must-do! Get comfortable with a quick training session before you embark on a segway tour around Queenstown foreshore, offering stunning lakeside views as your friendly guide shares their knowledge about the area. You’ll explore St. Omar Park and Earnslaw Park before cruising through the Queenstown Gardens. Those who love extra thrills can experience a higher speed setting on the way back!
Price: $89 for an adult; $79 for a child (one-hour duration) - 2022 prices Location: Typically the Queenstown lakefront (clarified upon booking)
Take a Day Trip to Glenorchy
Lord of the Rings Filming Locations:
If you’re a huge LOTR fan, you won’t want to miss visiting these Middle-earth locations around Queenstown:
From the northern end of Lake Wakatipu, you can see Mount Earnslaw from The Two Towers. From there, you can visit Lothlórien - the beech forest on the road to Paradise.
In Arrowtown, you can walk to the Ford of Bruinen on the Arrow River. Then, you can walk to where the Gladden Fields scenes were filmed at Wilcox Green.
Take a scenic drive to the summit of the Crown Range. You’ll see the River Anduin and the Pillars of the Argonath on the left (or go to Chard Farm Winery), and directly ahead is the Dimrill Dale. In the distance, you’ll spot Amon Hen on the shore of Nen Hithoel.
Price: Free Location: All across Queenstown
Glenorchy Animal Experience:
Glenorchy Animal Experience is a family farm full of friendly lambs, horses, guinea pigs, and llamas waiting to be patted and fed. Experience authentic New Zealand farm life with knowledgeable and friendly staff to answer all your questions and even offer sheep-shearing demonstrations. Delight the kids and buy a food bag to feed the animals for just $5.
Price: $20 for an adult; $10 for a child; $50 for a family - 2022 prices Location: 225 Glenorchy-Paradise Road
Mirror Lakes Walk:
Stroll along Lake Wakatipu’s foreshore until you reach Glenorchy Lagoon, commonly referred to as Mirror Lake, because of how the perfectly still waters reflect the surrounding scenery. Officially named the Glenorchy Lagoon Walkway, this track is excellent if hiking isn’t your thing. At a 5km return distance, the walk is flat, easy, and takes 1-2 hours to complete. For wildlife lovers, this walk also features incredible birdlife.
Price: Free Location: Start at the main jetty in Glenorchy town.
Skyline Queenstown Stargazing Tours:
Stargazing is undoubtedly one of the most breathtaking cheap things to do in Queenstown. During winter, the core of the Milky Way and Southern Lights are often visible. Join a Skyline stargazing tour and follow the guides up to Bob’s Peak to a specially-constructed platform. Afterwards, enjoy a complimentary cup of hot chocolate or mulled wine in the Stratosfare Bar and Restaurant.
Price: $119 for an adult; $79 for a child and $5 for a Pre-Schooler - 2022 prices Location: At the top of the Skyline Gondola
Bennetts Bluff Lookout & Glenorchy:
Visiting Bennetts Bluff Lookout is one of the best free things to do, where you can capture some incredible snaps of the stars and the Milky Way over the Humboldt Mountains and the seemingly endless mountain ranges. Alternatively, head to Glenorchy and revel in the unobscured beauty of the night sky with much less light pollution than Queenstown.
Price: Free Location: Just under half an hour’s drive from the town centre along the Queenstown-Glenorchy Road.
Pack some snacks and blankets in your car and take a short drive out to one of the most ideal stargazing locations in Queenstown, where thousands of stars are visible. The mountains surrounding the lake block out light pollution coming from town, making for effortless viewing and amazingly clear astrophotography.
Price: Free Location: Fifteen-minute drive from the town centre along the Queenstown-Glenorchy Road.
Visit the Queenstown Markets
If you’re after a relaxed atmosphere and Queenstown things to do for free on the weekend, you’ll love these Saturday markets. Wander through arts and crafts stalls and fresh produce suppliers and enjoy live music with the breathtaking Remarkables in the background.
Price: Free Location: Hawthorne Drive, Frankton
Creative Queenstown Arts and Crafts Market:
Every Saturday, these Queenstown markets come to life in Earnslaw Park. Discover quality handmade arts and crafts from all over Otago. If you’re a keen creative, then this is one of the best Queenstown things to do free of charge.
Price: Free Location: Beach Street, Earnslaw Park
Wanaka Artisan Market
Held right beside the lake every Thursday from 3-6 pm, the Wanaka Farmers Market is one of only a handful of New Zealand markets that run all year round. A short drive from Queenstown rewards you with mouth-watering seasonal artisan produce, locally made arts and crafts, fresh bread and pastries, authentic regional wine, and more.
Price: Free Location: Ardmore Street, Wanaka
Discover More Free and Cheap Things to do in Queenstown
Go for a bike ride around Lake Hayes or a beautiful hike around Lake Alta.
Take a Spirit of Queenstown Scenic Cruise across Lake Wakatipu, then visit the Underwater Observatory.
Enjoy an arctic-themed cocktail at an ice bar.
Visit the Lakes District Museum & Gallery at Arrowtown.
Hire an aqua bike, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard.
Satisfy your sweet tooth at the Remarkables Sweet Shop on Beach Street.
Go jet boating on the Shotover River.
Try Devil Burger or Fergburger.
We hope our list of amazing things to do has inspired you to enjoy Queenstown, New Zealand, and we look forward to seeing you soon!