The view of Lake Hayes from the Remarkables.
Things to do

10 free things to do in Queenstown

Guide by Olivia McDonald

Last Updated 5 January 2024

Travelling to Queenstown on a budget? Here are some free - and fun - things to do while you're in town.

As you may know, Queenstown offers an incredible array of activities for thrill-seekers and nature enthusiasts alike. But what if you're travelling on a budget or simply looking for free things to do in Queenstown? Then you’ve come to the right place!

While some attractions in Queenstown may come at a cost, especially adrenaline-pumping activities like sky diving and bungy jumping, you can enjoy plenty of free things during your visit. Despite what you may think, it is possible to explore the town's natural wonders and charm without spending a cent.

From serene lakeside picnics to insane mountain views after a rewarding hike, here are 10 incredible experiences in Queenstown for solo travellers, couples and friends and families that will leave you in awe and your wallet intact.

Explore Queenstown Gardens

Queenstown Gardens on a sunny, spring day.

If you're looking for a chill and totally free activity in Queenstown, don't miss out on strolling through the Queenstown Gardens, located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu.

It's like a little slice of paradise right in the middle of town! You can take your time wandering along the paths, surrounded by lush greenery and beautiful flowers. It's the ultimate spot to kick back, relax, and enjoy a slower pace... and, of course, the views are absolutely killer!

If you're after a bit more activity, bring a frisbee - there's an 18-hole frisbee golf course in the gardens, which is free to play. The first tee is next to the large Disc Golf sign, in the middle of the grass area on the lake side of the pond.

If you don't have a frisbee on hand, you can hire one at the ice rink in the gardens or at the sports shops around town. The baskets are reasonably easy to spot, but you can buy scorecards /course maps for $3.50 if you like.

So grab a friend, your camera, your frisbee or even a good book and soak up the free and fabulous vibes of the Queenstown Gardens.

Enjoy a picnic by Lake Wakatipu

Picnic tables overlooking Lake Wakatipu in Drift Bay, near Queenstown.

Whilst you’re in the area, head over to the beautiful Lake Wakatipu for a picnic. The only thing better than a visit to Lake Wakatipu is a visit with wine and cheese!

Relax on the shores on a picnic rug, dip your toes in the water, and take a walk along the lakefront. You can simply head over to the main beach near the town centre, or drive a little bit further around the lake to Frankton Beach or Drift Bay for picnic areas with tables and wonderful views.

Another lovely option is Bob's Cove Track, a short walk through native bush, which opens out onto a lovely grassy area by the lake - perfect for a picnic. The views are spectacular, and the start of the walk is only 15-minutes' drive from Queenstown, on the road to Glenorchy.

Don't forget to take some photos along the way - the stunning mountain backdrop provides an incredible backdrop.

Hike up Ben Lomond

Walking along the Ben Lomond trail.

For an affordable adventure, try tackling the Ben Lomond Track.

This challenging, but very rewarding trail offers breathtaking panoramic views of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu, and the surrounding mountains.

The trail starts near the Skyline Gondola and takes you through a range of landscapes, from forests to alpine meadows, and eventually leads you to the summit of Ben Lomond.

So lace up your hiking boots, pack some snacks, and embark on the unforgettable adventure of hiking the Ben Lomond Track in Queenstown.

Conquer Bob's Peak before dawn

The view of Queenstown and the luge track from Bob's Peak at sunrise.

Want to see the view from the Queenstown Gondola, but without the price tag? Well, picture this: an epic hiking adventure up Bob's Peak, but with a twist!

How about we tackle this bad boy before the crack of dawn?

That's right, we're talking about an early morning hike to catch the most jaw-dropping sunrise you've ever seen. It's a bit of a challenge, but trust me, it's worth the effort.

Making your way up the Tiki Trail bright and early will ensure a quiet and peaceful experience. There’s nothing like feeling the cool mountain air and the first ray of sunshine.

But it’s not until you reach Bob's Peak that the magic happens. Watch the sunrise and enjoy the colourful hues of the sky. And, of course, take in all the scenery Queenstown boasts, from the Remarkables to views of the town.

Get to bed early the night before, set that alarm, grab a torch, and get ready for an unforgettable hiking adventure to catch the sunrise from the top of Bob's Peak. Trust me; it's a bucket-list experience you didn’t even know you wanted to experience.

Discover Arrowtown

The main street of Arrowtown

Have you heard about Arrowtown? It's this adorable little town near Queenstown, around 20 minutes away, and it’s like stepping into a time machine.

Think old-fashioned buildings, cobblestone streets, and a cosy vibe that'll make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Take a walka around the town and explore the nooks and crannies of this historic place.

Oh, and don't forget to check out the Chinese Settlement, where you can dive into the gold rush history.

But here's the real kicker — while the town can get busy, down by the river, the atmosphere is so chill. It's the perfect spot to escape the crowds, hustle and bustle of city living and just enjoy life in the slow lane.

Admire the Gibbston Valley Wineries

A vineyard in Gibbston Valley with snow on the surrounding mountains.

Listen up, budget-savvy adventurers! I've got a hot tip for you—Gibbston Valley isn’t just the place to be if you want to splurge on wine-tasting and delicious bites to eat.

This beautiful region near Queenstown is all about vineyards and wine, but you don't need to break the bank to enjoy it. It's the perfect opportunity for a mini road trip with your buddies or a romantic getaway with your special someone.

Take a scenic drive (under 30 minutes from Queenstown) through the valley and soak in the stunning vineyard landscapes. That’s half the experience after all.

While you might have to resist the urge to taste all the delicious wines on offer, you can still enjoy the surroundings without spending a dollar.

To make up for missing out, I would pop to the shops in Queenstown before you head to grab some cheese and crackers and a bottle of your favourite drop for a budget picnic in the vineyards.

Drive up the Remarkables

Driving up the Remarkables with Lake Hayes in the background.

Next on the list of free things to do in Queenstown is perfect for a chill day: visiting the Remarkables Lookout.

Known for being one of the best ski resorts near Queenstown, the Remarkables also offers mind-blowing views that'll make you go "Whoa!" On the way up, you can see Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu, Kelvin Heights, Lake Hayes, the Shotover Delta and Queenstown Airport.

The best part? If you visit in winter, you don’t need to spend a buck (there's a $10 fee to use the access road in summer). Just hop in the car and drive up to the lookout point - and remember to have chains for your car in case of icy roads.

Once you're there, you’ll be treated to gorgeous scenery. And if it’s during the wintertime, you can enjoy a snowy wonderland. It's the kind of view that makes you feel small in the grand scheme of things.

And I've got a delicious tip for you: once you're back in Queenstown, head over to the Remarkables Sweet Shop to treat yourself to some free fudge tasting. That's right —free fudge! Just don’t forget your self-control, you don’t want to leave with a bag filled with coconut ice and caramel fudge. We’ve all been there...

So go ahead and add the Remarkables to your Queenstown itinerary—your wallet will thank you, and your Instagram feed will be on fire!

Relax by the main beach in town

The main beach in Queenstown in summer.

Alright, this next free activity is great for beach bums! I've got the perfect spot for you to kick back and soak up some sun—Main Beach in Queenstown. Only a 5-minute walk from town, it’s the perfect spot to chill out on a hot day.

Relax on the soft sandy beach and get your daily dose of Vitamin D and bring a page-turner along to get some serious reading done. If it’s warm enough, pop on your swimsuit and take a dip.

If you have kids, they'll love digging in the shells, finding driftwood and chasing the resident ducks. There's also a great playground just a stone's throw away, with areas for different ages - from bouncy cars for toddlers to bigger slides for the older kids.

And let's not forget about the epic mountain backdrop. Seriously, it's like Mother Nature decided to show off and make your beach day extra Instagram-worthy. Grab some fish and chips just before the sunsets, a cosy blanket, and you’ve got yourself the perfect beach date.

Explore Glenorchy

View of Lake Wakatipu and its islands on the way to Glenorchy.

I've got the inside scoop on a cool place to check out—Glenorchy!

It’s a hidden treasure, tucked away near Queenstown. Trust me, this place is worth the visit.

The drive itself is a highlight - it takes about 45 minutes to get there from town and the route is really beautiful with mountains, lakes, and all that good stuff.

It's like stepping into a postcard or a movie set. And speaking of movies, you know what's even cooler?

Glenorchy was actually a filming location for the Lord of the Rings movies. You can practically imagine Frodo and the gang traipsing around!

But enough about the movies—let's talk about the real magic of Glenorchy. There are trails to hike, horses to ride, and all sorts of outdoor adventures to be had.

Take a day trip to Moke Lake

Reflections of the mountains in Moke Lake

Last but by no means least, just a short drive away from Queenstown, Moke Lake is an awesome secret getaway.

Now, I won't lie, the road there is a bit twisty and turny, but hold on tight cause it's worth it in the end.

When you arrive, you will be treated to a beautiful lake surrounded by massive mountains. It's like nature turned on its A-game just for you.

You can take a chill stroll along the shoreline, or if you're feeling all adventurous, there's a lovely hiking trail which loops around the lake, and several other hikes accessible from here including Moonlight Track, the Moke Lake viewpoint and Mt Crichton Loop Track.

Oh, and don't forget your snacks cause this place screams picnic time.

Moke Lake is where you go when you want to escape the craziness of Queenstown and just let nature do its thing.

Mark my words, you gotta check out this hidden gem. Just keep in mind that the dirt road to the lake is recommended for 4WD vehicles only during winter. You can often access it in a 2WD vehicle (take chains in case), however, insurance won't cover you if your rental car gets stuck.

Author: Olivia McDonald

Olivia is an accomplished Australian travel blogger and a Campaign Manager at Flight Centre Travel Group. She is currently based in Brisbane, where she balances her full-time career with her passion for travelling the world.

Olivia created her blog, Defining Decade, as a platform to empower young women to make the most of their 20s and build a fulfilling life through travel. She firmly believes that your 20s are the perfect time to explore, make unforgettable memories, and discover who you truly are, and what better way than through travel!