12 fantastically free things to do in Queenstown

Discover the best free things to do in Queenstown. Let us help you stick to your holiday budget!

Queenstown is a resort town that attracts people from all over the world and it’s not hard to see why. Boasting epic mountain landscapes, stunning lake views, and a variety of awesome activities, there’s something for everyone.

Luckily, there are plenty of free things to do in Queenstown so your visit doesn’t have to break the bank either!

This guide will share our favourite free Queenstown activities, so let’s dive right in…

The Best Free Things to Do in Queenstown

1. Hike up Queenstown Hill

First up on this list of epic Queenstown freebies is a walk that arguably offers some of the best views in the area. For this reason, Queenstown Hill isn’t a hike that you want to miss. In fact, it’s one of our favourite walks in town.

The walk is around 5 km (3.2 miles) long and takes between 2 and 3 hours depending on your fitness. You’ll also want to account for the amount of photo stops you take along the way!

From the top of Queenstown Hill, you’ll get breathtaking views of Queenstown, Lake Whakatipu and the surrounding mountains. We suggest you allow some extra time at the top to take it all in.

The starting point for the walk is a small car park off Belfast Terrace which is just back from the centre of town.

Breathtaking scenery of Queenstown, Lake Whakatipu and the Mountain ranges.
You’ll find amazing views even part way up Queenstown Hill! Photo: Trey Ratcliff.

2. Visit Queenstown Gardens

You’ll find Queenstown Gardens just a short walk from the town centre. This is the perfect place to escape from Queenstown’s hustle and bustle.

As it’s a popular resort town, Queenstown can be very busy. Honestly, sometimes you just need somewhere to relax in peace.

At Queenstown Gardens you can simply admire the variety of trees and flowers, sit down for a picnic or enjoy the scenic views.

You can also enjoy a game of disc golf if you wish. While this isn’t technically free (as you have to hire the equipment), it’s still a very affordable activity.

If you’ve got some spare time in Queenstown we recommend you book in some relaxation time here.

The serene and relaxing Queenstown Gardens.
Queenstown is beautiful in the autumn.

3. Relax Lakeside at Queenstown Bay Beach

Surprisingly, heading to the beach is one of the best free things to do in Queenstown!

Although the town isn’t located on the coast, it’s situated right on the shores of Lake Wakatipu so there are plenty of ‘beach areas’.

If you head to the waterfront you’ll come across Queenstown Bay Beach where you can simply relax and admire the views – best done with a Patagonia ice cream in hand.

This spot is beautiful at any time of day, but for the best experience spend some time here during the late afternoon. Then you’ll have time to stay for sunset.

The colours in the sky are pretty incredible and there are plenty of great takeout places in the area too so you can grab a bite to eat… we recommend Fergburger for the best burgers in Aotearoa!

Two kids running towards a lake in Queenstown for a swim.
Children enjoying Lake Wakatipu. Photo: Miles Holden.

4. Wander along Lake Whakatipu

Lake Whakatipu (or Lake Wakatipu, as it was mistakenly named years ago) is one of the most beautiful lakes on the South Island as it’s surrounded by the towering mountain peaks of the Remarkables.

It’s actually the third-largest lake in the country and is shaped like a lightning bolt.

The best way to experience this lake is by walking along one of the trails, and there are plenty to choose from. Some of the best options include Sunshine Bay Track, Jack’s Point Trail, and Bob’s Cove Track.

However, one of the most popular trail options is the Frankton Walkway (or Frankton Track as it’s often known).

A couple walk along Lake Whakatipu under the autumn leaves.
It’s not hard to see why a walk along Lake Whakatipu is a popular free choice in town. Photo: Destination Queenstown.

5. Get Free Fudge Samples at the Remarkables Sweet Shop

A visit to the Remarkables Sweet Shop is for sure the sweetest freebie in Queenstown (and neighbouring Arrowtown)!

This sweet shop offers the largest selection of confectionary in the country. Plus there’s one in town, at the airport, and, as we mentioned, in Arrowtown.

Offering everything you could think of from lollies (sweets/candies, to our international readers) to chocolate, there’s something for everyone here. However, it’s the fudge that attracts so many people – and as this is an article about the best free things to do in Queenstown, of course, the tastings are free.

With flavours such as malteser, salted caramel, and creme brulee, this isn’t an experience you want to miss.

Why not treat yourself to some goodies to take home too?

The shop in town: 23 Beach Street, Queenstown 9300

Items displayed through a glass window of the Remarkables Sweet Shop.
We love the Remarkable Sweet Shop – be sure to swing by one of the three local stores.

6. Visit the Lord of the Rings Filming Locations

If you’re heading to Queenstown in a car or you’re planning to hire a vehicle whilst you’re there then this may be the perfect option for you!

It’s no secret that New Zealand is home to plenty of filming locations. However, it’s the Lord of the Rings locations that often steal the spotlight.

Luckily, many of these places are located near Queenstown.

They include:

  • Lake Wakatipu itself
  • the Remarkables Mountain Range (which you can see from town)
  • Skippers Canyon
  • Kawarau River & Gorge.
  • Lake Alta
  • Twelve Mile Delta
  • Earnslaw Burn
  • Deer Park Heights.

Whether you’re a massive fan of the books/movies, or just have a general interest in scenery, you’ll want to include some of these locations on your self-guided tour of Queenstown.

Standing on top of a rock near the lake while semi-tiptoed and hands outstretched.
Lake Alta was featured in Lord of the Rings. You’ll want to walk up there during the warmer seasons, when there’s no snow.

7. Walk the Tiki Trail up to Bob’s Peak

Whether you’re a keen walker or simply in Queenstown to admire the views then you’ll want to hike the Tiki Trail!

It’s one of the best free things to do in Queenstown, taking around an hour in total.

With a distance of 2.1 km (1.3 miles), it’s not a challenging hike and you’ll be treated to stunning views once you reach Bob’s Peak.

From here, you’ll get spectacular vistas of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu, and the Remarkables Mountain Range.

If you’re up for a full-day hike, then you can always extend this trail and hike the Ben Lomond Track which we’ll discuss in a minute!

Overlooking view of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu, and Bob's Peak slightly dipped with sunrise.
Winter scene in the snow, Queenstown. New Zealand.

8. Explore the Queenstown Market

The Queenstown Market is another great free option while you’re in town. It’s located on the waterfront and takes place every Saturday between 9 am – 4 pm.

At this market, you’ll get to appreciate a wide range of arts and crafts including pottery, wood artisans, and soap makers among other designers. You’ll also be in for a treat if you’re a fashion fan as this market attracts plenty of clothing designers too!

This is a great place to grab a souvenir or to simply wander around, soaking up the buzz.

Beach Street, Earnslaw Park Queenstown 9300

Greenstone carved into different shapes and sold in Queenstown Markets.
Pick up local trinkets at the Queenstown Market.

9. Visit Lake Hayes

Lake Hayes is just a 15-minute drive from Queenstown and is one of the most beautiful spots in the area. Although you’ll need a car to visit, we think a visit to this lake is one of the best freebies near Queenstown.

It attracts walkers, runners, and photographers, among others, and once you get here, you’ll completely understand why!

If you can time your visit on a clear day, then you’ll get to marvel at the stunning reflections that can be seen off the lake.

When you’re finished at Lake Hayes we also recommend heading to Arrowtown, as that’s just a short journey from the lake. A small, historic town, there’s plenty to see and do there too (much of which is also free).

Mirror-like waters of Lake Hayes in autumn.
Photo credit: Destination Queenstown.

10. Hike Ben Lomond

As we mentioned previously you can walk the Tiki Trail as a warm-up and then extend it to conquer Ben Lomond!

We’re going to give a fair warning here, the Ben Lomond Track isn’t for the faint-hearted with a return distance of around 11 km (6.8 miles). Luckily, you’ve got two options; Ben Lomond Saddle and Ben Lomond Summit.

You’re looking at a 3-4 hour return hike to reach the saddle but if you’d prefer to hike to the summit then prepare for a 6-8 hours hike!

With an elevation gain of around 1,438m (4,718 feet), muddy conditions, and steep terrain, this track is a challenge. However, the views from the top make it all worth it.

A couple posing to capture the majestic view of the maintain tops in Ben Lomond.
DQ Full Use: Shot by Miles Holden during our brand video shoot in summer 2019.

11. Drive the Scenic Road to Glenorchy

The drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy winds along Lake Whakatipu (also known as Lake Wakatipu) and takes around 45-minutes. However, if you’re not in a hurry, there are plenty of awesome destinations you can visit along the way – and more still when you arrive in Glenorchy.

Your first stop should be Sunshine Bay, before heading to the Seven Mile Point Track parking lot. Although you won’t be doing the trail, the views from the car park alone are breathtaking.

Other popular places to stop along this route include Wilson Bay, Bob’s Cove, Bennetts Bluff Lookout and Little Paradise Wharf.

Trees on a sloping growth beside a lake near the red barn of Glenorchy facing the green grass.
When you get to Glenorchy, be sure to stop at the iconic red shed!

12. Spend Some Time Stargazing

The South island is home to some of the best stargazing in Aotearoa, and though Queenstown isn’t exactly a dark sky reserve, the night skies can still be impressive if you head to the right location.

Bob’s Peak is one of the best spots in town for this, as you’ll be away from light pollution. From there, you can truly appreciate the starry night sky! If you’re lucky, you might even get to spot the Milky Way.

Pro Tip: Depending on the time of year you visit, Queenstown can get extremely chilly in the evenings. Make sure you take a blanket with you and a flask of hot chocolate if you’re heading up to Bob’s Peak during the winter.

The Milky Way Galaxy as seen on the night skies of of Queenstown.
Space Milky Way Stars Astronomy Universe Galaxy.

If you’re travelling through the South Island and you’re on a relatively tight budget then not to worry. There are plenty of free things to do in Queenstown so you won’t have to put a dent in your wallet – unless you want to, of course.

Whether you’re looking to hike some of the nearby trails or you’d prefer to relax in town, you won’t be short of options.

Have you ever been to Queenstown? If you have, what’s your favourite free activity?

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