Queenstown – Guide for Backpackers
A Guide to the “Adventure Capital of New Zealand”.
Situated on the side of Lake Wakatipu with a backdrop of magnificent mountains, Queenstown is one of those places that is so beautiful it doesn’t look real – more like something painted in a picture. The town itself is a resort town made up of eateries, bars and accommodation.
The buzzing atmosphere is more prominent in the winter season, due to the opening of the nearby ski fields, and in the summer with the super long sunny days. Backpackers and working holidaymakers alike flock here for adrenaline activities, excellent hiking opportunities and the social scene.
Queenstown is a place where you’ll be happy to do a free activity once in a while (trust us!), for this reason, check out 15 Free or Cheap Things to do in Queenstown.
Things you can’t miss in Queenstown
- Do one or many of the adrenaline activities – whatever takes your fancy
- Hike up a mountain to appreciate the scenery
- Shred some pow in winter or slush in spring
- Make like a drunken mooncat and party!
- Try one of the town’s famous eats like a Fergburger or a deep-fried kiwifruit at Erik’s Fish and Chips
Adrenaline Activities in Queenstown
Queenstown is the “Adrenaline Capital of the World” and for good reason. This town has it all! Just outside of Queenstown was the first-ever commercial bungy jump and it is home to NZ’s highest bungy jump. Check out more on 7 Epic Places to Bungy Jump in New Zealand
Just to list a few activities, you can do include skydiving, jet boating, white water rafting, canyon swing, climbing, canyoning and paragliding. We list our favourites in 10 Queenstown Must-Dos.
A popular activity in spring and summer is mountain biking. You can hire a bike and take the Skyline Gondola to some quality biking trails or go to Rabbit Ridge Bike Resort.
Walks and hikes in Queenstown
Take a steady lakeside stroll through Queenstown Gardens and along the Frankton Track. There are a number of day hikes in order to get a panoramic view such as the scramble up the Tiki Trail to the top of the Skyline Gondola. Other popular hikes are Queenstown Hill and Ben Lomond. We’ll go through some of the most popular:
Queenstown Hill (2-3 hour return)
Starting from Belfast Street, Queenstown Hill is a steady climb through pine forest to a gorgeous lookout over the town.
Frankton Track (1-1h30min one way)
Walk or bike along the lakeshore of Lake Wakatipu on the Frankton Track. Locals use this as a commuter route but it is a great easy grade track for visitors too. If you can’t be bothered walking back, the 11 Bus can bring you back to Queenstown.
Tiki Trail (1-hour return)
Starting from the base of the gondola, the Tiki Trail is the alternative way to get up to Bob’s Peak and to the start of the Ben Lomond Track. Walk through pine forest on this constant uphill climb.
Ben Lomond (4-6 hour return from the bottom of the Tiki Trail)
For a full-day excursion, check out the Ben Lomond Track rewarding those who hike it with stunning views over Lake Wakatipu. Try to avoid doing the hike in winter if you do not have the right equipment to tackle snow and ice.
Queenstown is also the gateway to New Zealand’s Great Walks, the Routeburn Track and the Milford Track. Transport companies operating from Queenstown can transport you to and from these multi-day hikes in Fiordland National Park.
Winter season in Queenstown
Kicking the winter season off with the Winter Festival, Queenstown loves the cold primarily for the snowsports.
The Remarkables and Coronet Peak are the closet ski fields to Queenstown, with Cardrona and Treble Cone taking little over an hour to get to but still worth the trip.
The best skiing and riding is from mid-season to spring to really take advantage of all the trails in the mountains. Treble Cone and Coronet Peak are ideal for building on the vertical metres, whereas The Remarkables and Cardrona are a snowsports playground with heaps of features in the terrain parks. Plus, SITE Trampoline in the Remarkables Park Town Centre is an all-weather venue for practising your freestyle tricks year-round.
Find out more about the winter season in our articles Ski Season in New Zealand, The 24 Ski Fields in New Zealand, and What it is Like to Work on a New Zealand Ski Field.
Nightlife in Queenstown
As one of New Zealand’s top resort towns, there are a variety of bars and clubs in Queenstown.
Check out what other bars we think are awesome in Queenstown.
With a mall and streets compact with clothes, souvenirs, outdoor gear and rentals, there is no lack of shopping opportunities in Queenstown. However, the majority of these can cause serious damage to the backpacker’s budget! Especially for food shopping, where your best bet is Fresh Choice located just outside of town. Alternatively, there is The Remarkables Park for New World and The Warehouse, amongst other retail stores.
Like all New Zealand towns, the centre of Queenstown is small enough to navigate on foot. It’s only when travelling to suburbs such as Frankton and Arthur’s Point that other transportation is favourable. The bus service in Queenstown is Connectabus taking passengers to outer suburbs and the nearby Arrowtown and Wanaka.
For many of the activities situated outside of Queenstown, transportation is often included from town. Buses to Milford Sound can be booked through Real Journeys, Jucy Cruise, and Southern Discoveries. To get to the ski fields, the main operators are NZ Ski and Kiwi Discovery.
Car rental companies can be found near the airport, for those self-organised adventures.
For more information, check out Public Transport in Queenstown.
- Queenstown Winter Festival – June
- Winter Games – August
- Gay Ski Week – August
- Queenstown International Jazz and Blues Festival – October
- SummerDaze Festival – January
- Glenorchy Races – January
- Arrowtown Autumn Festival – April
- Queenstown Bike Festival – March
- Warbirds Over Wanaka – April
If you have extra time in Queenstown…
- Visit the scenic Glenorchy with The Lord of the Rings filming locations
- Visit the historic Arrowtown for the unique stores and cinema
- Taste some fudge at The Remarkables Sweet Shop
- Try out all these free or cheap activities.
Where to stay in Queenstown?
- Nomads Queenstown
- Hippo Lodge
- Flaming Kiwi Backpackers
- Pinewood Lodge
- Black Sheep Backpackers
- Haka Lodge
- The Last Resort
- Tahuna Backpackers
- Southern Laughter Backpackers
- Bumbles Backpackers
- Adventure Q2
- Adventure Queenstown
- Absoloot Value Accommodation
- YHA Lakefront
- YHA Central
- Base Queenstown
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