Scour Queenstown Trading and the Lakes Weekly Bulletin, but you’ll never see the phrase "wow! Queenstown is just SO CHEAP!" The exorbitant cost of living is a common complaint among backpackers, and it’s easy to feel as if you’re missing out on the good stuff as entire paychecks are spent on rent and groceries.
Queenstown is a hot tourist destination and mecca for adventure junkies willing to pay a pretty penny to get their adrenaline fix, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. After living and working here for 7 months, I've found some fun things to do that are cheap or free and would love to share them with you!
1. Ever wondered what's swimming under the surface of Lake Wakatipu? Visit the Queenstown Underwater Observatory to get up close and personal with the eels, giant trout, and my personal favourite—the diving ducks. Start a feeding frenzy with a coin-operated fish food machine. The Underwater Observatory is free with the purchase of a KJet ride, or $10 on its own.
2. Think biking and watersports don’t go together? Think again! Hire an Aqua Bike from WaterSports Queenstown for a unique experience on the water. A 20-minute pedal is $15.
3. Bundle up and go for a spin on the ice at Queenstown Ice Arena for just $19. For an even better deal, hit the ice disco Fridays from 6-9:30 for just $15 including skate rentals.
4. Practice your putt by playing mini golf at CaddyShack City for $19.50. It's an impressive 18-hole course that's one of the most fun I've ever played on. The holes are locally and historically themed with a ski lift, gondola and a spaceship launch.
5. Grab a couple friends and take a pedal boat out on the lake. A 20-minute rental is $20 from WaterSports Queenstown.
6. A boat ride doesn’t have to break the bank! Get out on Lake Wakatipu with Queenstown Water Taxi and take a ride from the Steamer Wharf to the Hilton. It's about 30 minutes round trip for $20. Hang out at the Hilton for pizza and a beer at Stacks Pub or watch the paddle boarders from the dock while you're on the other side.
7. Enjoy the scenery (and an awesome core workout) with a Stand Up Paddle board rental. A 45-minute rental is $25 from Watersports Queenstown.
8. Experience 400 movements per second as you ride a roller coaster through the canyons of the American West or jet powered flying cars through the desert at XD-Theatre. This 6D movie ride simulator is $25 per ride.
9. Rent a bike from KiwiSports Queenstown and take the trail around Lake Wakatipu for beautiful views and some exercise in the fresh air. A 2-hour rental is $25.
10. Odyssey Sensory Maze is a-maze-ing (pun definitely intended!). It's a delight for all the senses as you make your way through room after room of surprises. At $29.50, you'll want to take your time to fully experience the sights, smells, sounds and sensations of each room. It’s difficult to choose a favourite, though, there were so many unique sensory experiences!
11. XD makes the list again with the Dark Ride. Compete against your friends as you shoot zombies, robots or Gigamon monsters in this interactive motion ride. It's $30/ game, but the bragging rights are worth so much more if you're the top scorer of the day.
12. Looking for a cool way to start a night on the town? Don your ice bar gear (coats and boots provided), and enter the icy world of Minus 5 for a drink. The whole experience is $30 and includes an arctic-themed cocktail.
13. Hike the Tiki Trail from the base of the Skyline Gondola to the top and enjoy three luge rides for $30. Feel like a kid again as you race your friends and catch some air on the luge track.
Looking for more affordable fun in Queenstown? Check out the full list of 30 things to do in Queenstown under $30.
Note: Some of the activities mentioned in this post were received free of charge. All opinions are my own, though, and I wouldn’t recommend anything to you that’s not awesome!
Brittany Kulick is a scuba diving ice cream aficionado and adrenaline junkie who left a career in marketing for an around-the-world trip in search of the best dessert and greatest adventures. New Zealand is her 46th country visited and she has no plans to stop travelling anytime soon. Check out her link below...