So, you’ve finally done it, you’ve managed to get yourself to one of the top-rated travel destinations in the world! Yes, Queenstown, New Zealand! As your plane flew in you marveled at the majestic views over the Southern Alps and wowed as you came in for a landing in a lake filled valley. You’ve stepped off the plane and been bombarded with adventure advertisements. You ask yourself, “how did they manage to fit all these ads in this tiny airport, and how do people afford to do all this?”
As it turns out, the flights to Queenstown are quite inexpensive, but once you’re there, everybody wants you to open up your wallet and cough up your money for pricey tours and activities. Luckily for you, we’ve scoped out a few budget-friendly days for you and your travel partners to enjoy. We’ll also include some dining and activity booking tips that will keep that hard earned cash in your pocket!
Now, the first (and most expensive) thing you’ll have to do is get yourself a car. It is, however, very important that you have your own set of wheels. While mildly expensive up front, the savings will really help you keep this trip budget-friendly. Taxis and buses in this area can quickly add up, and having your own freedom to explore the city and its outlying areas will be unforgettable.
A little savings tip on fuel; fill up at a Mobil Petrol station. If you spend more than $40 they discount the fuel by 6 cents per liter, making this your cheapest and easiest option for fuel savings.
The second thing that we would highly recommend checking out, is a little website called FirstTable. This restaurant booking website will save you 50% off your food bill, and only cost you a $10 booking fee. It is your ticket to budget-friendly fine dining in Queenstown and should be used at least once during your visit. There is a catch though, the bookings are only opened 7 days before the date you desire. The week before the night you’d like to book, we recommend the first thing you do is jump on their page, and book. The only downside is you have to eat a little earlier than normal (hence the name FirstTable), but we’re sure after an afternoon walking Queenstown Hill your growling stomach will be fine with the early dinner reservation.
Let’s get into it! The big question “How should I spend my long weekend in Queenstown?” You can mix and match these days around in any order to suit your personal preferences. Also, these will be merely suggested itineraries, and we will not be offended if you add/subtract/ or modify anything from the list!
It goes without saying that Queenstown itself should be explored! There are tons of shops, restaurants, bars, and some amazing views to be had.
After breakfast, head to the end of Belfast street and start the Queenstown Hill Walk. It is a 2-3 hour return walk up to a summit 500 meters above Queenstown. During the walk, you are treated to several signs that provide information on the area. Upon reaching the summit, you are rewarded with a stunning 360-degree view of the region.
After returning back to your car, go grab some well-deserved lunch! We would highly recommend Ferg Burger for lunch. It is Queenstown’s world-famous restaurant, and you would not get the full Queenstown experience without eating at least one meal there. It also happens to be one of the most budget-friendly restaurants in town with burgers ranging from $12.50 to $18.00, and boy are they good!
If you have the energy for it, drive your car up to the start of the gondola at the end of Brecon Street. Now, you have two options here; make the walk up to the top of the hill or take the gondola. The walk will take you about an hour and a half one way, and it is steep. The gondola is a nice and easy return journey, and if you book on bookme.com you can save quite a bit of money!
Try and make sure that you return to the bottom of the gondola a little before 4 pm. If you do, head over to the Kiwi Wildlife Park to catch the last feeding time for their kiwi birds. Often times, going at 4 pm, the staff there will offer you half off of the entry price and you will get to see the very rare kiwi bird!
This is the evening we would recommend using your FirstTable booking. After the Kiwi Wildlife Park, you will have just enough time to go get changed and make your early dinner reservation. The best value we have found on FirstTable is for a restaurant called Bazaar. It sits on the top floor of the Rydges Hotel, so during your excellent all-you-can-eat buffet you are rewarded with beautiful views over the town and lake!
On this day you will definitely need the car you rented! Start by heading southwest out of town towards Glenorchy. It’s only a 45-minute drive, but with all the stops along the way, this will take you most of the day. We would recommend packing a lunch for this day, however, in town there are a few restaurants, although they are all rather expensive.
For the drive out to Glenorchy, we’ve highlighted some stops on the map that you should definitely explore. Each stop has many great photo opportunities, and should not be missed. Exploring all of these stops could easily take you the majority of your morning.
First, head of of town on the Glenorchy-Queenstown Road. Take a right onto Moke Lake Road, and follow it until you reach a beautiful view of Moke Lake.
The second stop we recommend is Bob’s Cove. Drive back south on Moke Lake Road until you reach the Glenorchy-Queenstown Road. When you hit this road, take a right and continue on towards Glenorchy. Explore the beautiful cove by following the pathway through the trees to Lake Wakatipu.
Lastly is Bennets Bluff Lookout, a quick roadside stop with astounding views of the area. Many companies in Glenorchy use a photo from here for their advertisements, so make sure to have your camera ready!
After Bennets Bluff Lookout, head north and continue on to Glenorchy. Once here make your way to the wharf to enjoy the view and great photo opportunities. The historical red shed near the wharf will give you tons of information on the history of Glenorchy. Make sure to give it a read once you’re in there!
It will be very easy to spend an afternoon in the quaint little village of Glenorchy. The lagoon walk (which we’ve highlighted on the map below) will take about an hour to complete, and it will give you a beautiful look into some more of New Zealand’s varying landscapes.
For you Lord of the Ring fans, head north out of town to Paradise Estate. It is free to visit and you will be able to see many familiar landscapes from the Lord of the Rings films including where Boremir’s death scene was shot! For those of you with a little bit more cash, we would highly recommend booking a horseback riding tour with High Country Horses. If this interests you, make sure and jump onto bookme.com to save some money on your reservation!
After spending the afternoon exploring Glenorchy, head back to Queenstown for a nice New Zealand rump steak dinner at local favorite, Atlas Bar and Restaurant. This is one of Queenstown’s finest cheap eats, and at only $19.00 for a rump steak with chips and salad, it’s a hard deal to beat!
For any craft beer connoisseurs, check out Smith’s for the best craft beers New Zealand has to offer! After that, make your way over to Searle Lane at 10 pm for happy hour offering $5 beer and wine! The cheapest drop in town!
This day is a little more open-ended! Have yourself a sleep in, and then you are free to do this day in any order you choose! It is mostly a loop driving day so you can choose to go Queenstown, wineries, Arrowtown, back to Queenstown or Queenstown, Arrowtown, wineries, back to Queenstown.
Make sure and grab yourself some breakfast before heading out. My favorite breakfast spot is Yonder, a quirky little cafe bar that serves up a delicious brunch menu until 3 pm. Have a look at their beers and check out their concert schedule, just in case you’d like to come back later this evening. Also, take note of the bar next door, World Bar, as it is quite a nighttime hot spot! Having had your breakfast, head out of town towards the wineries or Arrowtown.
Now, there are full guides to Arrowtown so we won’t go into too much detail about it. We would recommend spending a few hours just exploring the little old mining village itself. It is a great place to grab a coffee or an ice cream. Arrowtown has one main street right in the middle of the town full of shops and restaurants. The main street is Buckingham Street, but you can find lots of parking on Ramshaw Lane.
Either before or after Arrowtown, depending on which way you decided to drive the loop, get ready for an easily self-guided winery tour! We do not condone drinking and driving, so prepare to spit most of the delicious wines. Wine tours are abundant in Queenstown, so if you would like to fully indulge in the drinking we would suggest you book yourself a tour. Now that we got that disclaimer out of the way, head towards the Gibbston Valley!
If you have decided to take the budget self-guided winery tour, driving along highway 6 you will see many well-signed wineries. Most of the tastings are very inexpensive or free (since they are trying to sell you their wines). Our favorite wineries are Gibbston Valley Winery and Amisfield Winery. There are 5 or 6 wineries that are open to the public every day, so if you see a sign go in and have a taste!
After tasting some wines, head back into Queenstown for a cheap meat pie from Kai Pies. From 5 pm to 6 pm every day they have buy one get one pies, so make sure and get there close to 5 pm for the best selection! As your trip is nearing the end, go grab yourself a well-deserved drink from another local favorite 1876 and pat yourself on the back for not breaking the bank while on holiday!
Article by Alex Earll