A great way to save some money while in Queenstown is to stay at a hostel. With rooms ranging from $27-$35 a night, it’s a very cost-efficient way to make your trip last longer. Of course there are some other things to factor in when looking at the price, for example, wifi, breakfast, and laundry costs. Wifi being the most important aspect for me. Some places do have free wifi, but others charge as much as $5 for 50MB of data, which barely lasts half an hour on light browsing. So a bit of research before hand on their offerings is essential.
I chose to stay at the Southern Laughter, a unique brightly coloured hostel. The staff and owner are very friendly and helpful, and it definitely has a light-hearted feel, along with free wifi, which only works in common area.
If you’re going during busy season (Nov-March), definitely book ahead! It’s very common for places to be fully booked throughout New Zealand. I had a hard time finding accommodation one night, so I stayed in the nearby town of Te Anau instead.
If the hostel you’re staying at includes any sort of food, that’s a bonus. At the Southern Laughter they offer free vegetable soup every night, so it’s great to know that there’s always a tasty bowl of soup waiting for you around dinner time.
While I was there, I shopped at grocery stores and made my own breakfast, lunch and dinner. For about $20 a day, you can definitely have some healthy home-cooked meals that will even allow for some leftovers.
Although I didn’t try it, Fergburger seemed to be the place to go for a hamburger. I think it was about $12 or so for one, and there was always a line-up outside of that place, so it must be good! Another must is Patagonia Ice Cream by the lake. At $6 for one scoop, it was definitely worth it. Sitting on the Queenstown beach on a hot sunny afternoon with a Pantagonia ice cream in hand was definitely a relaxing moment I’ll always remember.
The Botanical Gardens are such a beautiful part of Queenstown. You can walk around the lakeside path in about half an hour, which then brings you to the gardens. I spent a while there just admiring the beauty of the area. Although it was raining when I started the walk, it cleared and the sun came out once I got to the gardens.
It’s great to just hang out at the beach harbour and people watch. You can hear people yelling with excitement on one of the jets, watch people paddle away on the lake, hear guitarists playing acoustic songs, and just admire the beautiful lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains. You can also just walk around the town, or grab a book and hang out in the grass reading in the sun.
Milford Sound definitely comes at a price, but it’s so worth it, as long as the weather is great. I would advise to wait until the day of to book the ticket. An even better option is to drive there and then decide whether or not you want to go once you get there. If the weather is rainy and foggy, it’s not really worth going. I learned that lesson the hard way. I pre-booked a ticket only to find out that was rainy once we got there. The next day I was on a bus tour that happened to go through there, and it was a beautiful sunny day, so I went on the cruise again. You can really see the difference in photos below! From what I gather, Go Orange and Juicy are probably the most cost-efficient tours, but I ended up going on Discovery Tours ($68) and Southern Discoveries ($78). Both offered free tea and coffee and were great tours. Another option is to stay in Te Anau the night before, which is what I did. There’s a great backpacker lodge right on the lake.
Gondola and Luge
(For those not into the extreme stuff)
To get up the hill, you can either take the gondola up or walk up. I thought I would walk up to get some exercise, but as soon as I started it was a lot steeper than I expected, so I took the gondola instead. I later found out that there’s a better place to walk up instead of the path from the gondola, so I just should’ve looked at a map. Either way, the gondola ride with a luge ride was $36 or $39 for 2 rides. I’d definitely recommend two rides! I only got one, and instantly regretted not buying two. Also, the view at the top is spectacular!
Queenstown is such an awesome place to visit. I would definitely recommend going with some extra money to spend on excursions, because there are a ton of activities there that look like a lot of fun!