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How To Visit Queenstown on a Budget

Waking up to a view of the spectacular lakefront, eating fancy cheeses, drinking local wine and experiencing the thrill of the adventure capital all sounds pretty good but how much does it cost?

South Island


If you’re after a taste of the good life while visiting this small town but aren’t so keen on the big price tags? Then let us tell you how to wake up with a lakeview, eat the pinot-soaked cheddar and see all Queenstown has to offer when your budget doesn't match your appetite!

How to get there?

Grab a Seat Flights

Cheap flights from one of the major centres such as Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch are best spotted on Air New Zealand’s Grab a Seat. To score some cheap tickets, download their app and set a notification alert so that when a flight for your preferred route such as Auckland to Queenstown becomes available for the right price, you’ll be told about it.

Intercity Buses

Intercity run buses up and down the country for some of the lowest prices in New Zealand. They give you the option of buying one off trips for single holidays or Flexi Passes which give you between 10 and 80 hours of travelling over a 12 month period, allowing you to hop on and hop off buses if you are doing a bit more travel.
Bonus tip: YHA members also receive a discount on selected fares and passes!


What to do?

Queenstown Hill

Get those trainers on and head up Queenstown’s most popular walking track that guarantees a rewarding view (disclaimer: on a clear day…) with the opportunity for a good photo. Pics or it didn’t happen right? The track is two hours return and is suitable for those with a moderate to active fitness level.

Wine & cheese without the winery

You don’t need a winery to enjoy the delicate flavours of Otago, just head to the bottle store! We’re serious. Grab a bottle of choice from a local Otago supplier and pop past the Fresh Choice supermarket to pick up a selection of cheeses. (If you’re organised you could even order cheese directly from Gibbston Valley over in Arrowtown before Wednesdays for free delivery to the hostel on a Thursday). Lounge outside at YHA Queenstown Lakefront's barbeque area with your homemade cheese platter that’s sporting a divine pinot-soaked cheddar with a glass of red and you and your wallet are golden.


While Skyline does offer a fantastic stargazing experience for $99, the stars are out and putting on a show that’s out of this world every single night. Find a spot outside of town like Moke Lake where the light pollution is limited and take the time to observe the beauty of our solar system. If you’re wanting a simple video on how to find North and South with the stars, click here!

Disc Golf in the Queenstown Gardens

Grab a frisbee from either of our hostels, $5 for all day hire and tackle the 18 hole disc golf course if you're down for a bit of "friendly" competition between yourselves. The gardens themselves are a quiet haven away from the busyness of Queenstown for those that would like some downtime.

Invest in an Experience

Okay, we’re not suggesting a trip to see Mr Vuitton down on the lakefront but since you’ve come all this way you might as well do one thing that costs a little bit more! Some of our top recommendations include jet-boating, the Skyline gondola and luge, ziplining, skydiving, bungy jumping or a trip to Milford Sound with Real Journeys. Bonus tip: We've got a bunch of deals for these types of activities for YHA members!

Moke Lake Picnic

If you’ve got access to a car then Moke Lake is only 21 minutes away so why not head back to that local Foursquare and pack a picnic lunch then spend an afternoon all to yourselves by the water. Maybe even take a dip if you’ve got courage or your wetsuit handy... either will work!

Tiki Walking Track

Not wanting to pay for the gondola but still want the postcard worthy views? The Tiki Trail starts at the base of the gondola and zig-zags up the mountain to the Skyline landing where you can access the viewing deck. The track is an hour each way and is a moderate to difficult hike with steady uphill walking and some uneven areas.


Visit the Lakes District Museum, grab an award-winning cone from Patagonia Chocolates or explore the Chinese Village of original miner huts. To get there hitch a ride on the local number 2 Orbus which leaves to and from Queenstown every 30 minutes.


For a scenic getaway from the Otago big smoke, Glenorchy is 45 minutes away on the northern banks of Lake Wakatipu. This famous town featured in The Lord of the Rings among others and is truly a little slice of heaven for nature lovers who love a perfect tranquil backdrop. Get a lift over with Glenorchy Journeys for $25 each way or if you have a car we have a hostel in Kinloch which is a short 20 minute drive! Bonus tip: The hostel has a hot tub!

Sunshine Bay

Head out to the left of YHA Queenstown Lakefront and enjoy the views across the lake to Cecil and Walter Peaks with the Earnslaw steaming her way across the water. Continue through the native bush past the view point to reach the jetty, which is a perfect spot to read a book, watch a sunset or take a dip!

Where to stay?

With us of course! If you're looking for cheap accommodation with a lakeview in Queenstown, we have two spots on offer!

YHA Queenstown Central: Formerly one of Queenstown’s first hotels, YHA Queenstown Central offers ensuite bathrooms with every stay whether it’s a dorm bunk room or a double bed private room. Soak up the view of the waterfront from the living room balcony with your breakfast and take advantage of the central location with everything, literally on your doorstep. Queenstown Central is perfect for families with smaller children, solo travellers and small groups of friends wanting affordable accommodation right in the heart of all the action.

YHA Queenstown Lakefront: Our modern lakefront property sits peacefully on the esplanade, just an arm’s reach (aka an 8-minute walk) from the bustling streets of Queenstown. With a knowledgeable front desk, spacious kitchen for cooking up a storm and multiple comfy lounges for relaxing in this will be your affordable retreat with that lakeview you were longing for. One of the dorm rooms and two of the private rooms have balconies’ if you're after your own personal outdoor view of Lake Wakatipu!


There’s no shame in stretching your budget, it just means you get to travel for longer but you do want to make sure you enjoy yourself when visiting new places and that’s why we are here! We're masters of it ourselves!

In fact that's one of our driving principles for YHA New Zealand, helping people experience more of this beautiful country for a low price in a style of travel that allows you to meet like-minded people!

Thanks to QueenstownNZ for use of their imagery.

Matt Foubister

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