A backpacker’s guide to Queenstown, New Zealand

One of New Zealand’s biggest charms as you travel through it, is how lowly populated it seems. Unlike a lot of places and cities i’ve travelled through, even the real big gems of NZ feel wonderfully untouched. You’ll arrive at lakes, mountains and trails, half of the time as the only one there. It’s magical, honestly. Like nowhere else i’ve been.

At the same time though, if you’re young and looking for a social injection or a whirl of nightlife, New Zealand can struggle to deliver at times.

They say you can’t have your cake and eat it…

Well, in Queenstown, you can. You most certainly can.

A backpacker's guide to Queenstown, New Zealand | Where's Mollie? A travel and adventure lifestyle blog

Queenstown is hands down one of my favourite locations in the WHOLE of New Zealand, if not the world.

In summer you have glorious hikes, lake sports, cocktails on the waterfront, bikes rides, picnics and bbq’s to enjoy. Come winter, you have some of the best skiing in the world (The Remarkables), gorgeous apres ski bars, snow-covered landscapes and sightings of the southern lights.

{tell me you knew about them? see here}

So basically, Queenstown is an all year round spectacle that will suck you in to feeling like you’re at home very quickly.

Within a couple of days and nights out crawling between the ski shack bars and waterfront cocktail hideouts, you will start noticing friendly faces left right and centre and you’ll be delaying your departure date from Queenstown at every opportunity.

Did I mention Queenstown is the adrenalin capital of the world with bungy swings, white water rafting, sky dives and thrill seeking activities coming out of its ears?

A backpacker's guide to Queenstown, New Zealand | Where's Mollie? A travel and adventure lifestyle blog

Oh and did I also mention Queenstown, as well as all of the above, is one of the most visually impressive landscapes i’ve ever witnessed. Take a look at these pictures. I speak no word of a lie.

A backpacker's guide to Queenstown, New Zealand | Where's Mollie? A travel and adventure lifestyle blog A backpacker's guide to Queenstown, New Zealand | Where's Mollie? A travel and adventure lifestyle blogA backpacker's guide to Queenstown, New Zealand | Where's Mollie? A travel and adventure lifestyle blog

Getting to Queenstown:

The cheapest way to get from Queenstown airport into the centre of Queenstown (unless you hitch hike) is to use the Connectabus which is a public bus. Taking the bus costs $12NZD one way, with departures every 15 min from right outside the airport. You can purchase your bus ticket in the airport terminal or when you board the bus, whichever you’d prefer. It takes 20 minutes (7km) and can drop you at various destinations within Queenstown.

See more information here.

Of course there are taxis too if you have a more luxurious backpacker budget or it may well be that you ride on into town on the Kiwi Experience.

See my complete guide to the Kiwi Experience here.

Where should you stay?

I’ve been to Queenstown twice and stayed at Nomads on both occasions. As a backpacker I honestly don’t think it gets much better. The location is right on the waterfront, it’s crawling distance from all the bars and the hostel has a fairy large capacity, meaning theres a high chance your new found friends will be staying there too. Add free dinner and breakfast included in your stay and you’re onto a winner.

The only reason I wouldn’t stay there upon my return would be if I was coming with a group of friends, in which case I’d split the cost of an Air bnb which would be more unique and probably cheaper too. Use this link to get £15 off your first Airbnb stay! If you’re looking for that backpacker experience though, Nomads is the one.

Other popular backpacker choices that consumed word on the street include: Base backpackers, Haka Lodge.

A backpacker's guide to Queenstown, New Zealand | Where's Mollie? A travel and adventure lifestyle blog

Where should you eat?

Cheapest thing to do in New Zealand is buy food from the supermarket and cook, unless there’s a backpacker meal deal at your hostel / local eatery or if you have dinner included in your stay.

Top tip: For the cheapest supermarket shop  in Queenstown (i think) and with the most variety, head a 10 minute walk outside of town to Fresh Choice on Gorge Read.

If you have a few dollars to spare, here are some of my favourite joints:

  • Ferg burger (because thats what everyone says and they are pretty good. They are also open 8.30am until 5AM so you can get a cheeky post-night out fix when the queue is shorter. Go in the day and you can wait up to an hour to get served and eat!)
  • Coyote Grill (the margaritas and fajitas are inSANE) See website and menu here
  • Rehab (for the best wholesome food and smoothies when your body is begging you for goodness)
  • Fat Badgers pizza (one for you and the squad to have a feast in!)
  • For the BEST cheese and meat platters with even better cocktails and wine – Little Blackwood
  • Pita Pit for no other reason than I love a fresh wrap to go.

A backpacker's guide to Queenstown, New Zealand | Where's Mollie? A travel and adventure lifestyle blog A backpacker's guide to Queenstown, New Zealand | Where's Mollie? A travel and adventure lifestyle blog

My top 10 things to do in Queenstown:

  • Hike up Queenstown Hill to the basket of dreams.

A backpacker's guide to Queenstown, New Zealand | Where's Mollie? A travel and adventure lifestyle blog

  • Hike up to the top of the goldola and have a drink / dinner at the top.

You can use the gondola if you don’t want to hike it. Once you’re at the top, there’s some awesome activities including luging (meant to be super fun!) and bungy jumping off and over the surreal view at the top.

A backpacker's guide to Queenstown, New Zealand | Where's Mollie? A travel and adventure lifestyle blog

  • Partake in an adrenalin activity

It doesn’t matter which, but you gotta do something!

  • Take the bus or drive to Lake Wanaka
  • Take a day trip over to Milford sounds
  • Hire a bike in town and cycle down to Sunshine bay or the other way to Franklin

A backpacker's guide to Queenstown, New Zealand | Where's Mollie? A travel and adventure lifestyle blog A backpacker's guide to Queenstown, New Zealand | Where's Mollie? A travel and adventure lifestyle blog

  • Watch the sunset on the lake front with some beers (everyone goes!)

A backpacker's guide to Queenstown, New Zealand | Where's Mollie? A travel and adventure lifestyle blog

  • Partake in a water activity be it the Shotover Jet, Fly Boarding or kayaking

See more about Flyboard Queenstown here

A backpacker's guide to Queenstown, New Zealand | Where's Mollie? A travel and adventure lifestyle blog

  • Take a morning run / walk around the waterfront path in Queenstown Gardens.

There are some benches plotted along the route for you to stop and soak up the incredible views. Continue walking around to Frankin (25 minute from QT) and you’ll pass some cafe’s right on the lake front to grab a hot beverage or lunch in!

A backpacker's guide to Queenstown, New Zealand | Where's Mollie? A travel and adventure lifestyle blog

My top tips for Queenstown, New Zealand…

  • You will LOVE it here, there’s not many people that don’t. So… leave time for it. I’d say 4-7 days if you’re backpacking.
  • Catch happy hour at Cookie time (2 for 1 on cookied between 6-7pm daily).
  • Use Book me / First Table / Grab One (all websites) to grab cheaper meals and tables in Queenstown (throughout New Zealand too).
  • Avoid Ferg Burger at main meal times. There will pretty much always be a queue and chances are when you set your sights on a fergy, you won’t want to be waiting long. Try going at times like 10am or 3pm or late night after a few drinks to avoid the masses!
  • Read my complete guide to budgeting for backpacking New Zealand here 

BOOM!

Have you been to Queenstown? What were your favourite spots?

I’d love to know!

Thank YOU guys for reading <3

Love as always + happy adventuring,

Mollie x

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A backpacker's guide to Queenstown, New Zealand | Where's Mollie? A travel and adventure lifestyle blog

  • stephaniestraveldiary

    Oh wow your articles make me want to visit Australia and New Zealand so bad 🙂 Queenstown looks so versatile and fun!
    x

  • I want to go to New Zealand! Wow that landscape…like I just can’t believe it! And in Southern California where you can’t throw a rock without hitting another person, it sounds heavenly to go some place so sparsely populated.

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