Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand, is worth a visit during any day of the year. Whatever you are into there is most likely something to do in Queenstown that will suit your desires! But perhaps you are reading this because you want to enjoy this vibrant place in the Otago region without the price tag. Well, my friend, this is the article for you! Below you will find 17 of the best FREE things to do in Queenstown.
17 Free things to do in Queenstown
In no particular order…
1. Queenstown Hill walk
If you don’t like walking up hills skip this blurb! But if you don’t mind a wee climb to some of the most panoramic views in the entire country then keep reading.
Queenstown Hill walkway is a short 45 min- 2-hour return walk in the heart of Queenstown. When you are in the CBD just look up at the hills and you will see houses running halfway up it! (It is not the one with the gondola).
The walk is rather beautiful through a pine forest with various lookout points. There are lots of stops along the way at little benches.
The basket of dreams is a nice lookout point but isn’t the actual top although it is a good place to aim for. If you want to get better photos and go for a longer walk then just keep following the track as high up as you want!
The best time to do the Queenstown Hill walk is at SUNRISE! Especially when there is still snow on the Remarkable Mountain Range. The soft pastel colours bounce off the snow and make for good photos.
Access the hike off Belfast street. There are only 5 spots for parking directly outside the sign but there is plenty of off-street parking.
2. Disc Golf
If you have no idea what I’m talking about go and watch this video. It is a game of golf but played with discs. It is highly addictive even if you suck at sports!
Queenstown has an awesome 18-hole course located in the gardens. To learn about the course and where to go download the UDisc app on your phone.
You can hire discs from the Queenstown Ice Arena at 29 Park Street for $5.
3. Ben Lomond Summit
Ben Lomond hike Queenstown is an epic day hike (6-8 hours return) and one of the BEST free things to do in Queenstown. Enjoy exceptional views of the surrounding mountain peaks and of course Lake Wakatipu. The hike has a 1438m elevation gain so it is a bit of a slog! However, you can hike to the saddle and this is shorter at 3-4 hours return.
Start the hike at the top of the gondola or for a slightly longer hike take the Tiki Trail at the bottom of the gondola on Brecon Street.
Check out more information on the Department of Conservation website here.
4. Wilsons Bay
10km along the Queenstown Glenorchy Road is a beautiful place to stop for a photo, a picnic and a swim! Wilsons Bay is extremely picturesque with a stony beach, clear water and dramatic mountain views. There are lots of spots to park your car. Try hiking the 7 mile track as it starts/ends from here.
5. 12 Mile Delta
12 Mile Delta is a great place to park yourself up for a night or take a picnic and a stroll surrounded by regenerating forest and Lake Wakatipu. The little beaches along the walkway are great sunbathing spots but I warn you lake Wakatipu is notoriously COLD and I mean FREEZING cold. But it’s worth jumping in to see for yourself.
The Delta connects to Bobs Cove, described below as one of the BEST short walks in Queenstown for the clear blue water and peaceful surroundings.
If you have a campervan I highly suggest staying here! Details in the accommodation section.
6. Bobs Cove
Bobs Cove Queenstown is one of the best short walks close to the town. It is only 20 minutes one way and it is DOG FRIENDLY! The walk is in dense native forest and opens up to picnic areas and a beautiful shore/cove! The walk goes all the way to 12 Mile Delta if you want it to. But the short option is to the Jetty. The astonishingly clear blue water might just take your breath away!
Access the walk at the Bobs Cove carpark 14 km down Glenorchy- Queenstown Road. Keep your eyes peeled for the sign!
Learn more about Bobs Cove from the Department of Conservation website here.
7. People watch
Okay, I can already hear you saying LAMEEE. How dare you include this in a list of free things to do in Queenstown!
Queenstown is the best place to people watch! If you are into that kind of thing.
I recommend heading down to the wharf and taking a stroll around or sitting at one of the side seats facing the water. Then you can see people take off in a shark boat, the Earnslaw, water taxi, even see the parasailers and also people partying on a party boat. For the best views head into the BYO boat where you can bring your own food and sit and enjoy a mulled wine or your food.
8. Queenstown Gardens
Another gentle walking option in the heart of the city. Take a stroll around the waterfront into the gardens to enjoy the various trees, rose garden and memorials. You can play disc golf in the gardens (mentioned above).
Located next to the town just wander down the waterfront and walk the opposite way from the shops and you will see them!
9. Queenstown Markets
Only on a Saturday.
The Queenstown Markets are located on the waterfront and are an awesome place to stroll around and look at all the interesting and unique things on offer. As well as listen to local music and soak up the vibrant town. One of the best free things to do in Queenstown at the weekend!
10. Cycle some of the Queenstown trail
This is only free if you have your own bike! Otherwise, it is definitely one of the cheap things to do in Queenstown. There are so many scenic places to explore, take a look at this map here to see where it goes.
There is a heap of companies that hire bikes. Check out the same map here but filtered for bike hire options and see where the nearest spot to you is.
11. Hike Mt Crichton loop track
If you are looking for free stuff to do in Queenstown look no further than a panoramic hike.
This one is pretty central and not too challenging. It is a 2-4 hour beautiful loop hike that is also dog friendly. I remember this walk for the intense waterfalls and gold mining history. There is an iconic hut called Sam Summer’s hut that you can walk through (and stay in). It was a hut that Sam Summers lived in during the gold mining era and there are wee relics to admire.
There is also a great view from the top looking down on Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding area!
Location: 12km down Glenorchy-Queenstown Road, look for the sign!
Learn more from the Department of Conservation website here.
12. Moke Lake
Another walking option! Or a scenic spot to take photos and have a picnic only 20 minutes from Queenstown.
It is a beautiful spot to grab a photo of the mountains reflected in the water as well as enjoying a walk or mountain bike. There is also a tranquil Glam Camping ground to enjoy in the summer months! The best and easiest walking track to take is the loop track taking 2-3 hours, bordering the lake.
Access Moke Lake by driving down Glenorchy- Queenstown road for 6km and look for the sign. The road to the lake is 7km (unsealed).
13. Lake Alta
Another dog friendly walk! Over winter this is a spot accessed by skiers and snowboarders but during summer this is an epic Lord of The Rings scenery walk. It is located in the Remarkables Conservation area.
The walk takes 45 minutes – 1 hour 30 minutes to a picturesque glacier lake.
Start the hike from the Remarkables ski field buildings. Look for the ‘public walking access’ sign.
14. Self-drive to the Remarkables Lookout
The Remarkables are pretty remarkable… (I know… not funny) but seriously, they are some incredible spikey mountains! The drive is gravel and takes 45 minutes up to the ski field. I am sure you will be amazed looking down on Queenstown and the surrounding area!
Access Remarkables Road off SH6.
Be sure to head to Lake Alta while you are there!
15. Lake Hayes
Another quiet place to take a stroll or have a picnic. You can’t miss Lake Hayes when driving into Queenstown from the North (it is 15 minutes drive out of Queenstown). The lake is an awesome place to bike, run or walk around and take reflective views of the mountains in the lake on a good day.
Head to Lake Hayes Pavilion or Lake Hayes Scenic Reserve entrance and explore the area.
The entire walk takes 2-3 hours to get around.
20 minutes out of Queenstown is a beautiful small gold-mining settlement called Arrowtown. The main town centre is the perfect place to wander and take photos.
The best things to do in Arrowtown are taking a stroll down the town centre and walking to the old Chinese settlement where you can go inside old Chinese miners’ huts and learn about the gold mining history of the area.
While not exactly in Queenstown… it is a 45-minute drive that is well worth it and classed as one of the most scenic drives in the country.
Take a stroll along the waterfront and grab a photo with the iconic red shed. Then head to the lagoon walk for a 45-minute stroll. On a good day, you can see the reflection of mountains in the lagoon pools. Follow the signs off Mull Street near the main lake to reach the walk.
Cheap accommodation in Queenstown
While accommodation always has a price tag attached to it I thought I would include some of the cheapest accommodation on offer in Queenstown. If you have a campervan, self-contained or not then you are in for the cheapest deals, otherwise your next best bet is hostels!
Outlined below are some worth checking out.
As for camping… I highly recommend checking out the app CamperMate and checking out what is on offer.
12 Mile Delta– A scenic campground and a perfect place to base yourself to take one of the nearby walks. It is dog friendly! 100 non-powered sites. The cost is $15 per adult and you pay at an honesty box. Located 12km from Queenstown down Glenorchy Road.
Black Sheep Backpackers- Really clean, tidy, modern and close to town! They have a hot pool! Private or shared room options.
Base Backpackers- A popular option for party-goers! There is a bar right next door with discounted drinks for guests. Private or shared room options.
Lakeview holiday park – A central place to pitch your tent or park your van only 400m from the town centre. They also have cabins, motels, studios and flats.
YHA Queenstown Lakefront- My favourite budget accommodation in Queenstown because it is modern and located on the waterfront! They have shared and private options to choose from.
There you have it! Some of the BEST free things to do in Queenstown, Otago. I am sure you have found one or two activities to add to your itinerary. But to make sure this article doesn’t get lost in your browser be sure to…
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