Anybody who has heard anything about New Zealand’s South Island would have heard amazing praise about a little town called Queenstown. Queenstown is a tourist hotspot! Before coming to Queenstown I knew it was going to be beautiful with Lake Wakatipu and mountains everywhere, but what I didn’t expect was how well the town actually caters to backpackers.
Don’t get me wrong, Queenstown can be expensive. Rent prices are inflated and fuel for your car is at least 50cents/liter more than the North Island. A hotel will cost over $250 a night and many tours start at $100. However, I have been in Queenstown for 6 weeks now and have discovered that it is actually the perfect place for budget backpackers – you just need to know some of best things to do in Queenstown and all of the money saving tricks!
I’ll outline why Queenstown is not just for rich tourists, and is actually an ideal spot for backpackers to check out!
1. Queenstown is the Adventure Capital of New Zealand
(maybe even the world!)
Backpackers = thrill seekers. Queenstown is the best place in New Zealand for anyone looking for an adrenaline rush. Home to where bungy jumping first became famous as well as many other adventure activities such as white water rafting, paragliding, jet boating, skiing and snowboarding, and skydiving. Queenstown is sure to get the heart racing!
Budget Saving Tip: During less busy times most companies have really great deals up to 50% off! In Queenstown the low seasons are usually before winter in April and May, as well as before summer in October and November. Companies will also give you a deal if you book more than one activity with them so practice those negotiating skills or talk to the travel agent at your hostel who will know about all the latest deals!
2. A Worldwide Community
Queenstown in the most diverse place I have ever been! The town is literally full of people from all over the world. Some are tourists just passing through over a matter of days, some are backpackers setting up for a few months, and some are expats who have called Queenstown home for a number of years.
This diverse community makes Queenstown welcoming and friendly. If you are a solo backpacker looking to meet people then Queenstown is the place to do so!
3. Tons of Free Activities
While those adventure activities can be costly, there are actually many other things to do in Queenstown that are totally free!
The most obvious of all is the hiking! There are an endless amount of trails to explore near Queenstown. Some of my personal favorites would be hiking to the top of Queenstown Hill for sunrise or the Ben Lomond Hike. The Tiki Trail takes you up to the same lookout as the Skyline Gondola but doesn’t cost anything. The DOC office in Queenstown can give you free maps and information about all of the different places to check out nearby.
Queenstown also does an awesome job at putting on free events for the community. In winter you have the Winter Festival which includes tons of free concerts and even fireworks! Some other free events in Queenstown are the annual LUMA lightshow, beer festivals, and sporting events.
4. The Best Nightlife
There is no question that backpackers like to party. Well, Queenstown is perfect because it has an amazing nightlife! Literally, any night of the week you can find yourself a great place to party in Queenstown. Choose from dozens of different pubs all within a 500m radius and you will be set until 4am! For such a small town, Queenstown nightlife is incredible and rivals that of large cities.
Every week there is a free magazine published called the Lakes Weekly, in there they have a calendar of events and specials at bars and restaurants for the week ahead. This is a great source of information for picking a place to party or even just go out for a meal!
Budget saving tips – Some bars are very expensive in Queenstown, but some are very cheap. For the backpacker scene, stick to the cheaper varieties. Some of the popular spots are 1876 which offers $5 drinks all day every day, Cowboys, or Loco.
If you are looking for somewhere to eat before having a big night out, firsttable.com offers dozens of restaurants at 50% off if you book for earlier on in the evening. I use this website whenever I want to go out for dinner, it is a brilliant deal!
5. An Easy Place to Live Short Term
For backpackers on a working holiday visa, Queenstown is an easy place to get long term accommodation and find a job. There are endless possibilities for job opportunities in hospitality. Since people come and go from Queenstown so frequently most managers only expect you to stay for a couple of months.
Many hostels offer long term accommodation and even special rates! Within a week of arriving in Queenstown you will likely have a place to stay and a job!
Overall, Queenstown is a magical place. Don’t be scared off by its reputation of being “expensive.” Queenstown is the perfect place for backpackers, the sense of community is great and the adventure activities just add to the overall vibe.
So what are you waiting for? Pack your hiking boots and head to Queenstown!
Author: Bailey is a Canadian who left Canada four years ago to travel the world. Along with her boyfriend, Bailey travels the world in search for her next adventure. You can follow Bailey’s journey on her travel blog. Destinationless Travel, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!
Images: All images are authors own