“The adventure awaits” is a commonly used phrase by travel websites and blogs when encouraging people to travel to Queenstown, New Zealand. It’s true, too–Queenstown is one of the world’s premier adventure towns because there are few places that produce as much excitement and adrenaline. In Queenstown, there’s incredible nightlife, bungee jumping, downhill luge, ziplining, tight turning jet boat rides, paragliding, hang gliding, skydiving, snowboarding, and much more.
Because of all the simulating activities to do in Queenstown, it is the perfect place for any extreme sports fanatic or thrill seeker, but there’s just one problem: Queenstown is really expensive. If you go there on a budget or as someone who’s been carefully putting money away, then you may find it difficult to enjoy yourself.
Of course, you shouldn’t let your finances become a restrictive chain that prevents you from enjoying life, but at the same time, you shouldn’t be irresponsible with your money either.
Luckily, there are also a lot of amazing free things to do in Queenstown, they’re just not advertised like the expensive activities are. As someone who lived in Queenstown for nearly a year, I have discovered several of the free things to do, such as frisbee golf (or disc golf to Americans), hiking, and a few other thrilling activities.
One of Queenstown’s hidden gems for adrenaline junkies is Little Thailand, a secret cliff diving spot that only locals know about. Little Thailand is hidden along Glenorchy-Queenstown Road and is 4.6 km from Queenstown centre. That comes out to about a 40-minute walk or a 6-minute car ride. The lake is cold year-round, so try to go in the morning, when the sun is shining on Little Thailand.
Once there, you’ll need to climb through some bushes and small trees in order to get to the cliffs, which of vary in height, ranging from about 5 to 16 meters. Personally, I was only interested in jumping off of the tallest cliff, but it’s nice to have the shorter cliffs available in case you wanted to work your way up.
When standing at the edge of the 16-meter cliff, looking down, you will see that the water is crystal clear, which is both comforting and nerve-racking. Comforting because you can see that there are no rock beneath the surface of the water, but nerve-racking because you can see the bottom of the lake.
However, there’s nothing to worry about, the bottom is much deeper than it appears.
From there, all you have to do is jump out a few feet, hit the water like a pencil, and be prepared to start swimming to the rope that you’ll use to climb out of the water.
Slacklining is a great activity. It passes the time while saving you money. However, having to purchase a slackline certainly wouldn’t be free, but luckily during the summer in Queenstown, you won’t have to. Anytime the sun is shining, someone will be slacklining in Queenstown. So all you’ll have to do is ask a friendly local if you can join them. A request they will certainly say yes to.
Some of the post popular slacklining locations in town are in Queenstown park or right along the beach.
Don’t worry if you’ve never slacklined before. Many of my slacklining friends in Queenstown had no experience when they first arrived, and they were able to pick it up quickly. All you need to do is give it a try from a low height and be willing to ask some competent slackliners for tips.
Between having to pay guides, purchase permits, and rent huts hiking in New Zealand is often very expensive. One of the best things about being in Queenstown is that there are several great day hikes that cost nothing. The hikes near Queenstown can take anywhere from 1 to 8 hours to complete.
The longest hike in Queenstown is Ben Lomond, which takes about 8 hours to hike from Queenstown Centre to the top and back. This may sound exhausting, but it’s worth it. The summit of Ben Lomond provides an incredible view of the town, as well as a landscape of never-ending mountains.
Jack’s Point is another hike that provides breathtaking views but only takes 4 hours to hike. However, to get there you have to travel about 20 minutes out of town.
Queenstown Hill provides the best view of Queenstown and is also an excellent place to see the Southern Light, which are visible during winter. It’s about a 3-hour hike, but if you’re hustling you can do it in closer to 2 hours.
Lastly, the Tiki Trail is an excellent hike that can be done in just under an hour. It provides excellent views of Queenstown and ends at the Skyline Queenstown, which consists of a restaurant, several shops, and a downhill luge track.
A great part of living in Queenstown are all of the free parks, fields, and courts available to the public –each within walking distance from Queenstown Centre.
The main athletic field is the Queenstown Recreation Ground, which is practically in the centre of town. It’s a large, open field that is frequently used by locals and backpackers. It’s also used for rugby matches, skydiving landings, and other small sporting events but those are infrequent.
A couple of the other fields and courts in Queenstown are at the Queenstown Primary School and Wakatipu High School. Both should be avoided when school is in session, but when the kids are out of school, both are acceptable to use. Queenstown Primary school includes a very large open field and two medium sized football goals. Wakatipu High School has a full basketball court and a tennis court.
There a few other free places in Queenstown that are great for friendly, athletic competitions, but the ones I’ve listed should be sufficient for whenever you feel like breaking a sweat.
My favourite free activity to do in of Queenstown is frisbee golf. Throughout Queenstown Park is an eighteen hole frisbee golf course that runs through beautiful old trees and along Wakatipu Lake.
The park is very close to close to town–only about a 3-minute walk from its centre. There is a special type of frisbee used for frisbee golf. These only cost about $10-$15 a piece. However, free frisbees can be obtained by speaking to the front desks at a couple of hostels. For example, Southern Laughter on Isle street is a hostel close to town that that only requires a $5-$10 deposit to rent frisbees.
Outside of Queenstown Park, there are a few other free frisbee golf courses in or near town. They aren’t as convenient to get to, but they’re there in case you ever want to challenge yourself with a different course.
In addition to free activities, there are also ways to do the luge for free, as well as discount days for locals, where expensive activities such as the Legendary Nevis Bungy Jump and Shotover Jet are significantly cheaper. So it’s still possible to do some of Queenstown’s most popular activities without breaking the bank, but it’s still nice to know that there’s stuff to do without even having to touch the bank.