This summer is like no other here in New Zealand. With no international tourists, it’s time for us all to take our turn at being tourists. Whether that’s visiting local destinations within a short drive of your home or taking a flight to a new destination right here in New Zealand, let’s get out there and support local businesses this summer all around the country.

Whilst it’s important to go out and support local businesses, we also know that not everyone has bottomless pockets. For most people on holiday, it’s a case of balancing the books and picking two or three ‘must do’ activities and then unearthing some free hidden gems.

Nowhere is this more true than Queenstown. For families, the cost of activities and eating out, not to mention flights and accommodation can soon add up. Whilst it would be amazing to do everything – bungy, jet boating, luging, wine tasting, cruise, gondola, mountain biking – the reality is, most families need to pick one of two activities and then find some awesome ways to have fun without breaking the bank.

That’s why we wanted to pull together a list of some of the best free activities in Queenstown – the things you can do in Queenstown on the cheap which are still absolutely amazing. We’ve written extensively about the best activities in Queenstown – from winter skiing to indoor activities to adrenaline-fuelled adventures – Queenstown has it all. You can also find out more about places to stay, where to eat and things to do in our comprehensive Queenstown Guide.

This post, however, is all about the free stuff. Gratis. Nothing to pay.

You’ll be surprised how much you can squeeze into a day without spending a single cent. That means you can treat yourself to a nice dinner out, a delicious ice cream, or maybe a glass or two of Central Otago vino.

Let’s get into it – 10 of the best free activities in Queenstown – GO!

1.      Queenstown Gardens


Located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, the Queenstown Gardens are a great place to get lost for a couple of hours. Queenstown itself can be pretty full on – even with no international tourists – so if you’re looking for a break from the hustle and bustle, head for a relaxing stroll in the gardens. There are a number of paths through the gardens, from a lakeside trail to one that will take you through the heart of the gardens which look stunning in full bloom during the summer months.

2.      Frisbee Golf


Whilst you’re in the Queenstown Gardens, why not give frisbee golf a try. For those who have never tried it before, frisbee golf is a series of ‘baskets’ and ‘tees’ and the goal is to get your frisbee from the tee into the basket in as few throws as possible. The only thing you will need is a frisbee (there are special ones for golf but you can use a regular one too) and you can bring your own – the course itself is completely free to play.

3.      Queenstown Cycle Trail


This one is a big favourite with the GO team based down in Queenstown as there are so many options. Whilst many choose to cycle the trail, you can walk and run on the trail too and it will take you out to some beautiful parts of Queenstown. The trail is 120 kilometres and traverses Queenstown, Arrowtown, and Gibbston.  You can also head out to Kelvin Heights along the trail and all the way up to Jacks Point so you have some great options.

4.      Skyline Gondola


The Skyline Gondola dominates the Queenstown skyline. The 450m high gondola is the Southern Hemisphere’s steepest cable car and takes you high above Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu with stunning views of Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Walter and Cecil Peak, and Queenstown itself. There is, of course, a cost to riding the gondola, however for those looking to get out and stretch the legs, there is a walking trail that will also take you to the top where you can experience the same views and grab a coffee. Maybe use the cash you saved on the gondola to give luging a try – a super-popular Queenstown activity.

5.      Arrowtown


If you fancy getting out of Queenstown for a few hours and hitting the road, then Arrowtown is the perfect destination. Located a short 20-minute drive from Queenstown, Arrowtown is a quaint village which dates back to the gold rush. The buildings are reminiscent of the wild west and there is plenty to keep you busy including the Chinese Settlement, a free attraction that’s a historic reminder of the role Chinese settlers played during the gold rush era. There’s also a great little museum, some lovely walking trails and an amazing pie shop.

6.      Lake Hayes

 

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If you’re heading out to Arrowtown, you have got to make a stop off at Lake Hayes. Located approximately halfway between Queenstown and Arrowtown, Lake Hayes is a stunning lake which offers up spectacular reflections of the surrounding mountains. It’s a great spot for a picnic and there is a trail that can be walked or biked that will take you all the way around the lake which will take 2-3 hours on foot. If you’re down there this summer, it’s also a great place to take a dip to cool off.

7.      Glenorchy


If you have rented a car from our Queenstown branch, one of the best places to take it for a test drive is the road to Glenorchy. Arguably, one of New Zealand’s most scenic drives, the road to Glenorchy will take you along the shores of Lake Wakatipu with spectacular views at every turn. Glenorchy itself is simply spectacular. Surrounded by the jaw-dropping Humboldt and Richardson mountain ranges, Glenorchy is the gateway to explore Fiordland and Mt Aspiring National Parks. There are also some great tramping tracks for casual and serious walkers located all around Glenorchy so make a day of it and enjoy this magical South Island destination.

8.      Ben Lomond Track


One of the most popular walking tracks in and around Queenstown is the Ben Lomond Track. The track begins from the top of the Skyline Gondola station so we would perhaps not recommend walking to the top of the Gondola first. The tramp to the Ben Lomond Summit will take 6-8 hours return from the Gondola station and is not for the faint-hearted. Those who do make it to the summit will be rewarded with even more spectacular views than those on offer at the Gondola Station as well as the satisfaction of completing the challenging hike.

9.      Queenstown Markets


Depending on when you are visiting, Queenstown has a good range of craft and farmers’ markets throughout the year. Saturday morning is prime time for perusing the markets and they are usually accompanied by buskers and other performers. Whilst we have listed this under ‘free things to do in Queenstown’, you will find it difficult to resist temptation, either from the local crafts or the delicious and tasty treats and artisan goodies.

10. Bungy Watching

 

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Rather than bungy jumping, you could try bungy watching. All of Queenstown’s bungy locations are spectacular but one of the best to go out and watch people bungying is the Kawarau River Bungy Centre. This is New Zealand’s first ever bungy location and it’s quite a site to watch people jumping off the bridge that spans the Kawarau Gorge with nothing but a bungy rope tied to their legs. There is a spectator gallery which is perfect for watching the reaction of people as they build up the courage to take the plunge. You never know, you might get tempted yourself.

Summary

If you are heading down to Queenstown this summer, be sure to go local and support as many local businesses as you can. Hopefully our list of free activities in Queenstown will help you to make your dollars go further when you are on holiday as well as giving you some great ideas for alternative activities when you’re in Queenstown.

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