Ah… free stuff, how we love you.
Spent up big on Queenstown’s adrenaline activities, nights out, and putting fuel in the car? Your aching wallet may be in need of some free options to ease the pain. The good news is that there are plenty of awesome free things to do in Queenstown. Being tight doesn’t have to mean being boring.
If you’re looking for ultra-budget or free activities, here are 7 of the best budget busters around.
1) Al fresco dining
One of the best things to do on a long summer evening is to grab your (home-cooked) dinner and head to the lake and enjoy a waterfront meal. Find yourself a spot on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and soak in the entertaining sights of this busy, little town. As the sun sets, enjoy striking views across the lake, perfectly framed by Walter Peak and Cecil Peak as the TSS Earnslaw cruises majestically into her berth and the jet boats roar out across the lake. At sunset, the views are unbeatable. Expect to be joined by the odd seagull looking for a snack.
With jaw-dropping scenery in every direction, it’s no surprise that the Queenstown landscape brings out the budding photographer in all of us. Whether you are a complete novice or a professional photographer, Queenstown will deliver the goods for those on the hunt for beautiful vistas. And the bonus is that searching for the perfect picture is a great way to walk, drive or hike through the pristine landscapes around the district.
3) The colours
It’s not just the lake and mountains that put on a show around here. Queenstown’s foliage is also world-famous. In autumn, Queenstown puts on a show that sends photographers and artists into a flap. The deciduous trees that flank the hills put on a spectacular final flourish of colour before dropping their leaves for the chilly winter ahead. As the leaves change colour, the hillsides turn an unbelievable array of oranges, browns, yellows and golds. Another show occurs in spring when the cherry blossoms burst into colour. Just make sure you’re quick; the delicate blossoms don’t last long.
3) Lake Walks
Stretch the legs and walk off the indulgences of the night before with a lakeside walk. There are plenty of options to promenade Lake Wakatipu and one of our favourites is the Kelvin Peninsula Lake Walk. This 1-hour walk around Kelvin Height’s Frankton Arm is one of the most scenic local walks and gives a peek into the stunning homes and gardens of Kelvin Heights. Start the walk at Kawarau Falls or Jardine’s Park.
4) Hill Walks
Looking for something a little more strenuous? Pick a hill and walk up it. Just take a look around and you’ll see there’s no shortage of hill walks to work up a sweat. One of the best is the Queenstown Hill Time Walk. The walk takes around 1½ - 2 hours and is uphill most of the way through the pine forest before reaching the cleared hilltop of Queenstown Hill. At the top, rest at The Basket of Dreams sculpture and soak up the 360 degrees of jaw-dropping lake and mountain beauty.
5) Frisbee Golf in Queenstown Gardens
Frisbee Golf is one of the best ways to spend an hour or two in the sunshine in Queenstown’s beautiful botanical gardens. Frisbee Golf roughly follows the rules of golf but is nowhere near as serious. The aim is to throw a frisbee into a target basket in as few shots as possible. There are 18 baskets around Queenstown Gardens and as long as you can score a frisbee from someone, this activity will cost you zip.
6) Chinese settlement in Arrowtown
Take the drive out to the charming historic gold town of Arrowtown and take a stroll down to the Arrow River to uncover a fascinating insight into the life of the Chinese gold miners. Chinese miners arrived on the Arrow River in the 19th century and were forced to establish their homes separate to the rest of the settlement. But the industrious Chinese turned the settlement into a hive of activity, establishing stores and becoming integral to the workings of the township. The Chinese settlement has been preserved with many dwellings left untouched, giving a stark insight into a tough life by the river in the gold rush days.
If things are really tight, you can always fill up on tasters and samples from Queenstown’s many food shops. The Remarkables Sweet Shop in the Queenstown Mall offers free samples of its world-famous fudge. Mrs Ferg's and Patagonia are Queenstown’s best ice-cream outlets are usually happy to offer a taster. It may also pay to hang out at Cookie Time on Camp Street, as the friendly staff often have tasters to give away.