Queenstown really has it all.
One of New Zealand’s biggest charms as you travel through it, is how sparsely 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 visit lakes, mountains and trails and be the only one there half the time. 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.
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 BBQs 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 (If you didn’t know about these, check them out 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 adrenaline capital of the world with bungee swings, white water rafting, sky dives and thrill seeking activities coming out of its ears?
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.
Here’s my backpacker’s guide to Queenstown, New Zealand…
How do you get to Queenstown?
Queenstown airport (ZQN) is an international airport and so many of you will be able to fly straight there! If not, it’s easy enough to fly to Auckland and then get a domestic flight over to Queenstown.
The cheapest way to get from Queenstown airport into the centre of Queenstown (unless you hitch hike) is to use the Orbus which is a public bus. Taking the bus costs $10NZD 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 shuttles and taxis too if you have a more luxurious backpacker budget.
If you are coming from elsewhere in New Zealand, there is lots of public transport towards Queensland. Or, it may well be that you ride on into town on the Kiwi Experience. See my complete guide to the Kiwi Experience here.
How much money will I need for Queenstown?
Honestly, it completely depends on how frugal you are, what experiences you want during your trip, and your general lifestyle.
To help you out, I’ve put together two money-related posts about New Zealand
How much time should I spend in Queenstown?
You’ll love it more than you think you will! I’d go for 4-7 days, depending on how long your trip to New Zealand is.
Where should you stay in Queenstown?
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 there’s 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 AirBnb 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.
Where should I eat in Queenstown?
If you have a few dollars to spare, here are some of my favourite places to eat in Queenstown:
- Ferg burger (because that’s 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, so I’d avoid it at main meal times!
- 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!)
- Little Blackwood for the BEST cheese and meat platters with even better cocktails and wine.
- Pita Pit for no other reason than I love a fresh wrap to go.
- Happy hour at Cookie time (2 for 1 on cookies between 6-7pm daily).
However, the cheapest way to eat in New Zealand is buy food from the supermarket and cook, unless there’s a backpacker meal deal at your hostel or local eatery, or if you have dinner included in your stay.
What are the best things to do in Queenstown?
Hike up Queenstown Hill to the basket of dreams.
Hike up to the top of the gondola and have a drink or dinner at the top.
You can use the gondola if you don’t want to hike. Once you’re at the top, there’s some awesome activities including luging (meant to be super fun!) and bungee jumping off and over the surreal view at the top.
Do an adrenaline-rushing activity
It doesn’t matter which, but you gotta do something!
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
Watch the sunset on the lake front with some beers (everyone goes!)
Partake in a water activity, be it the shotover jet, fly boarding or kayaking.
Take a morning run or 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 minutes from QT) and you’ll pass some cafes right on the lake front to grab a hot beverage or lunch in!
Take the bus or drive to Lake Wanaka.
Looking for more tips for backpacking in New Zealand? Check out this video…
Have you been to Queenstown?
What were your favourite things to do in Queenstown? I’d love to know!
Love as always and happy adventuring,
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