10 Fun Free Things to Do in Queenstown, New Zealand
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This list of free things to do in Queenstown New Zealand will keep you exploring and enjoying, even after the funds run out!
Queenstown is one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand, and the perfect base to stay as you explore the wider South Island.
As the adventure capital of New Zealand, with a booming tourism market, there’s plenty of ways to burn through your cash in Queenstown. A single Bungy jump costs upwards of $200 NZD for a five-second thrill.
This has earned the region a reputation as an expensive destination for tourists – which is potentially off-putting for those on a backpackers budget! The fortunate truth is, the best things to do in Queenstown are mostly free.
Queenstown is home to some of the best hikes in the world, impressive look-outs, and stunning lakes. Nestled amongst mountains and placed to the side of Lake Wakatipu, everywhere you look is a breathtaking view.
The perfect period of time to stay in Queenstown is about five days, so check out our perfect five-day Queenstown itinerary for an affordable and memorable trip.
We’ve put together a list of 10 fun free things to do in Queenstown that we think should be at the top of your bucket list!
Play Disc Golf in Queenstown Gardens
Taking a leisurely stroll through the beautiful Queenstown Gardens is a great way to spend a couple of hours in central Queenstown. Entry is free and parking can be found on the aptly named ‘Park Street’ adjacent to the garden’s entrance.
If, like us, your attention span wanes quickly, then consider playing a game of disc golf. Goals have been intentionally placed around the Gardens. You can bring your own Frisbee (the free option!) or it’s ridiculously cheap to hire one from the nearby Cafes. The game is simple: try to throw the frisbee in the goals and tally up how many attempts it takes. The winner is the person with the lowest score.
Climb Queenstown Hill
Queenstown Hill is one of our favourite walks in Queenstown, plus it’s conveniently located right in the middle of town.
Take a short drive to the start and park your car, before beginning a 90-minute ascent to the top (plan for about an hour back down). Along the way, you will most definitely be stopping to take some epic Instagram shots. You’ll also get to walk through towering forests and native bush.
The view from the top is one of the best you will find in Queenstown – if you aren’t afraid of the dark, see if you can try to make it for sunrise or sunset.
Photograph #ThatWanakaTree and Walk Around the Lake
Wanaka is a scenic one-hour drive from Queenstown through a high mountain range. Here you will find another little town along the side of a lake.
Lake Wanaka is home to one of the world’s most photographed trees, named That Wanaka Tree. It dominates Instagram with the hashtag #ThatWanakaTree.
Quite frankly, the tree is pretty unimpressive – it’s growing out of a fencepost in the lake. But due to its social media infamy, it has grown to become an incredibly popular destination for photographers and tourists alike. You’re sure to find a hoard of tourists standing on the beach in the cold.
No trip to Wanaka would be complete without it, so make sure you stop off for a picture and take a walk along the edge of the lake. There are heaps of things to do in Wanaka, so check out these articles for 23 things to do in Wanaka or 11 free and cheap things to do in Wanaka.
Visit Bennett’s Bluff Lookout Point
Bennett’s Bluff Lookout is located on the drive towards Glenorchy along the edge of Lake Wakatipu. This makes it the perfect spot to stop off at either in the morning, on your way to Glenorchy, or in the evening on your way back to Queenstown.
The views here are expansive, looking out more than 180 degrees over Lake Wakatipu. It offers one of the best lookout points in Queenstown, plus it’s easily accessible by car.
You can jump the barrier (carefully!) and set up with a wide-angle lens for some awe-inspiring photography.
Take a Photo at Glenorchy Wharf
Possibly our favourite spot to photograph in Queenstown is the Glenorchy Wharf. It’s a one-hour drive, but it’s a great idea to get up extremely early to catch the sunrise here.
As the sun rises, it shines over the mountains behind you casting a glowing outline on the mountains opposite the wharf. As great as sunset is here, sunrise is at a whole different level.
In addition to the lighting, when you get here there won’t be a soul in sight. This makes the entire atmosphere here magical. Even if you aren’t into photography, this is an amazing place for a picnic breakfast whilst you watch the sunrise.
Watch the Sunrise at Lake Moke
Lake Moke is a 30-minute drive outside of Queenstown. Get up an hour before sunrise, grab yourself some brekkie (our affordable go-to for most meals was Ferg Baker) then make your way down to Lake Moke. Alternatively, if you’re camping there is an awesome campground here where you can wake up beside the lake!
Lake Moke is a special kind of lake which creates stunning reflections on the surface of the water. There are quite a few lakes like this in Queenstown and they are generally called ‘mirror-lakes’.
The walk here is a 3-hour loop, but the best views are found from near the carpark as it looks out down the middle of the lake, capturing both sides of the lake (there are two sides, as it’s shaped like a horseshoe!).
If you’re the explorative type, follow the fenceline, off the track and up the hill. It will be a reasonably difficult climb (due to the lack of a track) but you will quickly reach the best lookout here – so good that we wouldn’t bother with the rest of the track.
Enjoy the Buskers in Central Queenstown
Central Queenstown is constantly teeming with activity thanks to the year-round tourist season. As a result, you will always find people running around and shops open with things to buy.
Our favourite place to hang out in Central Queenstown wasn’t one of the extremely pricy restaurants or bars. The waterfront is where things are most alive, with buskers performing almost every day.
You can find a nice grassy patch overlooking the lake to relax and enjoy the live performances. This is a great free thing to do in Queenstown, without even having to drive somewhere.
You can pack a picnic and a bottle of wine as well to turn it into an extremely affordable evening.
Explore the Old Mining Village in Arrowtown
Arrowtown used to be a Chinese settlement and popular mining town in the 20th Century. The main township still has a cool colonial-era style to it, but the buildings are now packed with hipstery and quaint cafes and shops.
It’s well worth taking a walk through the town, but at the end of the town, you can walk down to the river. This is where people used to pan for gold and you’re more than welcome to try today as well, but you probably won’t find much!
One of the best photography spots in this area is the old house located right beside the river. This used to be a police camp station with a prison cell nearby that you can go inside. The main house is found on a gravel car park, and if you get there early enough it makes for a great Instagram pic – just get in before the cars arrive.
Hike Roys Peak
Roy’s Peak is one of New Zealand’s most impressive day hikes, with breathtaking views over Lake Wanaka, Mount Aspiring and the surrounding peaks.
For 3 hours you’ll climb a steep mountain, weaving through dense tussock grasslands and alpine meadows. Good fitness is a must, and expect to be sore the next day – but the pain is well worth it.
If you can muster up the courage and brave the cold, then beginning in the middle of the night is recommended. Catching the sunset from atop Roys Peak will be one of the most memorable sights of your life.
It’s also a great time to avoid the crowds, as there’s often a queue for some of the more popular photograph spots.
Explore Queenstown’s Art Trail
Queenstown is a cultural hub for displaying fine art in the South Island of New Zealand. The central township is home to countless art galleries and studios which are all within walking distance of each other. Many are tucked away behind houses or down a dark alleyway – which all adds to the character.
If you look a bit further afield, you will find beautiful sculptures littered around the region. The Basket of Dreams sculpture is atop Queenstown Hill, built to commemorate the millennium by artist Caroline Robinson. Jack’s Point is a golf course where a number of sculptures are on display.
You can find the stunning ‘hole in the wall’ gallery in Arrowtown featuring artworks from some of New Zealand’s most renowned and influential artists. If you’re into culture and art, this is one of the best things to do in Queenstown for free.
We hope you found this list of free activities in Queenstown helpful! There’s so much more free stuff in Queenstown (and New Zealand for that matter) than the typical expensive tourist attractions would have you believe. All waiting for you to enjoy!
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