Planning your first trip to Queenstown? I’ve picked up plenty of tips in my travels to help you make the most of it from the moment that you get there.
Just before I get into Queenstown specifically, if you haven’t already seen it, I’ve also put together a fairly comprehensive guide of things you should know before you visit New Zealand with a lot of general information that covers phone/internet, money, getting around the whole country etc… that you might also find helpful.
Moving onto to Queenstown, did you know that it is an only town, not a city? A relatively large township by New Zealand’s standards but a town nonetheless. It’s only got a standing population of less the 16,000 people, but that swells dramatically with the roughly 22,000 international visitors arrive at its airport each month.
So as you could imagine Queenstown is a diverse and bustling tourist hub.
Where is Queenstown?
Located on New Zealand’s South Island, Queenstown is in the mountainous Otago region in the south-west of the island. On the shores of Lake Wakatipu.
Probably why it’s so popular for action sports like snowboarding, skiing, mountain biking, hiking and bungy jumping.
Where To Stay In Queenstown?
As you will have worked out by this point Queenstown is most definitely a tourist town. The only real issue you will have in finding a place to stay there is how much you are willing to spend.
Because of its high influx of tourists during both the Summer (December-February) and Winter (June-August), it can be a very expensive place to stay. However, if you’re not particularly fussed on going to the snow resorts and willing to be a little flexible there are deals to be found from September to November and March to May.
In terms of styles of accommodations, everything is catered for in Queenstown. There is a huge range choice when it comes to Hostels and Luxury Hotels. The only thing I’ve found with Queenstown is that the middle of the range style accommodation can a little bit hit and miss.
That said, I do have some recommendations, starting with the cheaper style hostel accommodation. Don’t disappear on me just yet… If are like me and have reached the point in your life where dorm-style accommodation isn’t all that fun any more, don’t fret these options all have private rooms with their own bathrooms and are better than some of the budget hotel options around.
- Nomads Queenstown Backpackers – Nice for a hostel, comfortable rooms and centrally located.
- Bumbles Backpackers – A couple of minutes walk from the center of town, but the view and the price make up for it.
- Base Queenstown – Also centrally located, on par with what you would expect from a cheap hotel with the communal hostel atmosphere as well.
If you are looking to have a bit more of your own space, particularly if you are planning on staying in Queenstown for a week or longer, then I suggest either St James Apartments or Lomond Lodge Motel & Apartments which are both good options with your own kitchenette facilities etc.
Or if you are really looking to splash out, both Crowne Plaza Queenstown and QT Queenstown offer really, really nice rooms that will have you waking up to views out over the lake. They also have their own fancy in house restaurants and everything else you’d expect with the price point.
Arriving At The Queenstown International Airport
Did you know that Queenstown Airport is the fourth busiest in New Zealand?
That said it’s still relatively small for an international airport, with less than 10 gates, so it won’t take you too long to get through immigration and customs. Especially if you have a Smart Passport.
Just keep in mind New Zealand is quite strict with their custom processes, as they are understandably quite protective of their local flora and fauna.
For more of the latest up to date information about New Zealand’s Visa, Immigration and Customs head on over to New Zealand’s official tourism website.
Pro Tip: The flight into Queenstown is absolutely stunning… Especially coming in over the mountains. I don’t usually recommend the window seat on long-haul flights, but flying into Queenstown I would definitely make an exception.
Getting To and From the Airport?
I’ve mentioned it a few times, but I highly recommend renting a car when you travel around New Zealand, especially Queenstown.
There is so much to see and do, that having your own transport just gives you a lot more flexibility to fit things into your own schedule.
While all the big rental car companies are a presence at Queenstown Airport, in New Zealand renting a car is considerably expensive for some reason.
You can save yourself a lot of money using rental car companies like Go Rental and Rent-A-Dent, both of which I’ve used in the past. They use slightly older cars (usually only a couple of years old) but it is a good way to have your own transport without breaking the bank. These two in particular offer pick up services from Queenstown Airport as well, which helps.
Otherwise, there are a few other options to get yourself to and from the airport, which is actually located in the neighbouring suburb of Frankton 10-15 minutes drive away, the regular public bus services being the cheapest.
Taxi’s and Uber (possibly other ridesharing services as well, but I’ve not used them) service the airport and will cost you about $25-$30NZD depending on where you are staying in Queenstown.
There are also a number of shuttle providers which you can find out more about here.
Getting Around Queenstown?
Again, coming back to the rental car point, obviously that is going to be the easiest way for you to get around.
A lot of Queenstown’s key attractions are around the outskirts of the town and up in the mountains. While some of them do offer shuttle bus services, it’s certainly not all. Trust me and just rent a car, even if it is only for a few days.
That said the only issue with having a rental car in Queenstown is that parking within the town can be quite expensive and free parking is quite limited.
Pro Tip: Just make sure your accommodation includes free parking as well and you won’t have any problems.
Queenstown itself is actually quite an easy town to walk around so once you’re there it’s really only a couple of minutes walk to anywhere in town. Then if you’d like to go beyond that, there is a limited public bus service that operates.
What Should You Do In Queenstown?
Lucky for you, I’ve already put together a fairly comprehensive post of things to do in Queenstown which you can check out here.
Where To Find Food/What To Do In The Evenings?
I’m just going to address this first, but you may or may not be aware that Fergburger is a Queenstown staple. Once you get there, you’ll see the crowds of people at all hours and realise what I mean.
Now this might be a controversial opinion, while Fergburger is very good (I can’t dispute that), there are a couple of other equally as good burger places in Queenstown (Devil Burger in particular) which don’t have anywhere near the same wait times. That said, if you happen to be going past Fergburger, and the wait times are reasonable, grab yourself a Ferg Deluxe with a side of fries with the aioli.
With that out of the way… Look, you’ll understand the importance when you arrive. Queenstown does cater really well to the tourist market with both food and evening entertainment.
Down by the waterfront, along Beach and Rees Streets is popular with a really good selection of cafes, bars and restaurants.
The mall (aptly named Mall Street on the map), Church Street and Camp Street also offer a good variety tastes and atmospheres from simple take out places to bars and sit down restaurants, all of which are often a bit cheaper than down by the Lake. While if you are looking for boutique style bars etc head to Searle Lane.
But to be honest, everything worthwhile is within a couple of blocks, just wander around until you find something that grabs your interest.
If you’d like to get some more information to help in planning your trip to New Zealand… I’ve got a whole series of blog posts with all sorts of tips and advice to you.
Feel free to share this post with your friends and if you’d like some more general travel tips, head on over to my travel tips page for plenty more advice.
And if you have a travel-related question you would like me to answer, head on over to my contact page to get in touch and let me know.