Queenstown is the most visited place in all of New Zealand, and for good reason. But with a booming tourism industry unfortunately comes a hefty price tag. Queenstown is not a cheap destination to holiday at by anyone’s standards. If you are going to Queenstown on a tight budget, you might quickly feel frustrated at all the awesome activities you have to miss out on (like my paragliding post might suggest). But to be honest, with a good attitude and the right amount of planning, you can have an awesome time in Queenstown on a budget.

If you don’t have a huge budget, don’t let that put you off visiting Queenstown. It is such a spectacular place that even just being there feels magical. This is how I would spend 3 days in Queenstown on a budget.


This might sound a little bit lame, but in all honesty this lakeside stroll has to be one of the most beautiful walks I have ever done. Every few meters that you walk, the view changes and you see the mountains from different angles. Look at these photos I took on my way around and you will understand why.

Day 1 of 3 Days in Queenstown: Frankston Arm

Day 1 of 3 Days in Queenstown: Frankston Arm Day 1 of 3 Days in Queenstown: Frankston Arm

 How to get there: From Queenstown central, go to the lake front and just turn left to begin to follow the path around the lake. If you want to cover more, a good idea is to hire a bike and cycle around the lake and then turn around and come back. The other option is to walk over to the other side, which will take 3-5 hours depending on your fitness level (and how many times you stop to marvel at the scenery).

What to know: OK, so technically there’s no way to walk all the way around Lake Wakatipu, and it’s so large that you wouldn’t be able to in a day anyway. The part that you’d walk around is called Frankston Arm, and is a tiny section that juts out of the actual giant lake.


  • walk around & boat back, $10
  • bike hire for a day: $30-$50


Whether you’re a fitness freak or not, you really need to go for a walk amongst the mountain tops. If you’re keen for a long hike, I recommend the Ben Lomond hike. Allow around 7 hours return for this, and dress appropriately – you are going to be scaling a snowy mountain. This hike is challenging but by far among the best scenery I have experienced.

There’s also the loop track and one mile hike which are much shorter and easier walks, but still boast spectacular landscapes.  For more ideas on hikes in Queenstown, click here.

How to get there: If you are really after a good work out and strict on your budget, you can walk up the mountain from Queenstown central. Otherwise, take the Gondola and start from where that leaves you.

What to know: stick to the trail and try not to venture off the beaten path because you could get lost or stuck. Bring plenty of food and water if doing the Ben Lomond as it is a full day hike.

Cost: Gondola is $35 return


If you choose to do both activities, this could become your most expensive day in Queenstown at around $50.00. In saying that, you could easily choose one or the other and still fill most of your day.

Lake cruise: For a cruise that takes you around one of the most beautiful lakes in the world and lets you see Queenstown’s mountains in all their glory, this is actually a bargain. It takes about 2 hours and because it is a slow cruise (not like the water taxi from day 1), it makes sure you get a sight of all the good stuff there is to see.

Frisbee golf: As the name suggests, this is a unique concept whereby you play golf with frisbees instead of a ball. The stunning backdrop of the Queenstown gardens (you might have noticed a recurring theme in this post!) makes this the perfect fun, budget-friendly day out.

Cost: Lake Cruise: $40

Frisbee golf: disc hire $7, entry: free

Where to stay in Queenstown on a budget

I stayed at AQ Hostel which is located right in the city centre. For its location and comfort in such a popular location, it offers a great price, starting from NZD $32 per night. You can find even cheaper accommodation as well, with the cheapest hostels starting at around $20 per night.

Food in Queenstown on a budget

Queenstown is renowned for some of the best cuisine in New Zealand, so you might want to work eating out at least one or two nights into your budget. Assuming you buy the essentials from a supermarket and pack your own lunch, you could spend $100 for food over 3 days in Queenstown. If you are really committed to doing Queenstown on budget and you’re not interested in eating out at all, you could do it for around $50.

Famous places to eat include Fergburger and the Cookie Bar – both located in Queenstown central. But there are many other creative and delicious food outlets to try as well!

Queenstown Budget Breakdown:


If you have more time and resources to spend, you could also try a Doubtful Sound overnight wilderness cruise.

> I hope this post helps those of you deciding whether it is worth it to go to Queenstown on a budget. Let me know in the comments if you have any doubts or questions!

3 days in queenstown on a budget

Queenstown Itinerary for budget travellers



  1. This couldn’t have come at a more perfect time! We are heading to New Zealand and arriving in Queenstown from Sydney in November for a road trip around both the North and South Island! We’ve heard many stories of how expensive it is! So having a budget itinerary for Queenstown is great! Will definitely be saving this post for when we go! Thanks 🙂

  2. This is perfect timing, my friend and i are looking at going to Queenstown for a weekend soon and I’m all about the budget traveling!! Really great tips! Love your photos as well, amazing. Thanks for sharing

  3. You’re totally right! You can do Queenstown on a budget… there are lots of ways to enjoy the scenery without spending a fortune

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