A lot of what the South Island has to offer is very remote and hard to reach without your own vehicle (or even with one). And then you have Queenstown. This town that captures the essence of the beauty of New Zealand’s South Island, and hands it to you in an accessible way. There are so many beautiful places in and around Queenstown where you can get to completely free. Jaw-dropping, stunning places that you can just walk to – you don’t even need a car. I’ve already talked about how to visit Queenstown on a budget, so today I’ll focus on the best walks you can do from a Queenstown base, no vehicles necessary. There are so many walks in Queenstown to suit every level of fitness. And they really are the perfect way to experience the beauty of the South Island for free.
1. Queenstown Hill
Distance from central Queenstown to start: 1km (20 minutes)
Distance of hike: 2.5km (3 hours return)
How to get there: Follow Ballarat St up past Stanley St. Turn right onto Hallenstein St and then left on Edgar St. From there you will find some steps to follow up Kerry Drive. Your walk starts from around 59 Belfast Terrace.
Queenstown Hill is an awesome peak because it is a pretty easy walk and there are views at so many different points of so many different angles. And it’s Queenstown, so of course they are all stunning! Take some water and use the bathroom before you leave the town, because even though it’s a popular track, there’s nothing there but nature!
2. Frankton Arm walk (Lake Wakatipu)
Distance from central Queenstown: 0km
Distance of hike: 10-15km (2-3 hours)
How to get there: Head to the lakefront in central Queenstown, turn left, and start walking!
Often overlooked, this lake walk is gorgeous and as you keep walking, the view keeps changing. It’s also a very easy walk with almost no elevation all the way along. You can stop at cafes and beachfronts along the way so there’s plenty to do. It’s really worth it to have a stroll around at least part of the lake that lines Queenstown. What I did is walk all the way around to the Hilton Queenstown, which took me about 3 hours at a very leisurely pace. From there I took a ferry back to central Queenstown, which cost around $9. You could also get the bus back from Frankton which costs about $5.
Another option is to rent a bike so you can go all the way around the arm and back in a day.
If you want to do the whole thing on foot, I would turn around once you reach Frankton and start walking back to ensure you have enough time before dark.
3. Hammy’s Track to Skyline
Distance from central Queenstown to start: 1.5km (30 minutes)
Distance of hike: 2.5km (50 minutes)
How to get there: Facing away from the lake, head left on Camp St until you reach the roundabout. Turn left from there onto Man St and follow it all the way along to Thompson St. Turn right when you get to Glasgow St and then follow the street along until you see signs for Hammy’s Track. The walking track is to the left.
The address of the starting point is around 12 Lomond Crescent.
If you don’t want to pay over $30 for the gondola ride up and down, but you still want to see the amazing views at the top, just walk up! It looks high up but it is totally doable in under an hour. If you still feel like doing more walking once you reach the top, there are a lot of great walks leaving from just past the Skyline building. Keep reading for examples of these.
4. skyline Loop track
Distance of hike: 2.5km (30 minutes)
How to get to starting point: From the Skyline building, walk up the path toward the luge tracks. You will see a sign pointing to the loop track.
An easy one to do with kids or just if you’re not too keen on long hikes. This is a nice walk through native New Zealand bush. You also get treated to some awesome views of Queenstown and the gondolas toward the end.
5. Ben Lomond Summit
Distance of hike: 14km (6 hours return)
How to get to starting point: From the Skyline building, walk up the path toward the luge tracks. You will see a sign pointing out the Ben Lomond track.
The Ben Lomond Track is one of my favourite hikes I have done in my life. At 1748m altitude, it leads you to one of the highest peaks in Queenstown. In winter, it is covered in snow towards the end of the track so tread carefully and make sure you bring appropriate clothing and footwear. It’s not easy to get to the summit without the correct gear, and it’s also not worth the risk of attempting it. This is a long walk so make sure you go to the bathroom before you begin, and take enough water and food with you for the day.
There are a number of other walks you can do from the Queenstown Skyline, which you can check out on their website.
Generally for multi-day hikes, you need to go further afield to get to the staring point. For this reason, they aren’t really accessible by foot from Queenstown, like the other walks I have mentioned in this article. However, I thought I’d briefly let you know what the options are, in case you are interested in a longer hike.
There are nine “Great Walks” in New Zealand – the 3-4 day hikes that are considered to be the most stunning of the country. Three of these are within close proximity of Queenstown (the Milford Track, the Kepler Track, and the Routeburn Track). Because the walks are so popular, the Department of Conservation limits the number of visitors who can stay in the campsites along the way. For this reason, you have to book to camp or stay in huts very far in advance.
If you miss out on those, a good option is the Rees Dart Track. This is a 4 day hike with a mix of bush, mountains and plains. The best part is it is very secluded with nowhere near as many hikers as any of the Great Walks. It is also cheaper to stay in the huts on this track. However, this one is quite hard going in some parts and should only be attempted by experienced hikers. It’s also better to do it in the summer months due to the high risk of avalanches in the winter period.
I hope I helped give you some ideas of good places to walk in Queenstown! Leave a comment if you know of other awesome walks in Queenstown that can be accessed by foot from the town. I’m sure there are many more – these are just the ones I have done!
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