Tips for Visiting Queenstown
Queenstown is its own little bubble. The buzzing tourist town sits on the edge of the grand Lake Wakatipu surrounded by majestic mountains and harbouring an array of exciting activities. It has its set of quirks and trends unlike anywhere else in New Zealand. With that in mind, we’ve put together this list of Queenstown travel tips for first-timers, that will be useful for international and local visitors alike.
If you need more general travel tips in your life, be sure to check out the 31 Tips for Travelling in New Zealand. Oh, and you might want to bookmark The Complete Travel Guide to Queenstown – that will be handy.
1. There’s More to Queenstown than Bungy Jumping
Queenstown might have a name for itself being the “adventure capital”, but many first-timers don’t realise just how much there is to do in this town. Wine tours, lake cruises, hiking trails, helicopter flights, golf courses, bike trails, snowsports, nightlife, day trips to national parks, white water rafting, jet boating and paragliding are all on the activity menu here, and that’s barely the half of it. Take a look at some of our Queenstown articles to see what’s really available to do in Queenstown. That way, you’ll leave with no regrets. Good places to start include the 20 Epic Adventure Activities in Queenstown and 45 Best Things to Do in Queenstown.
2. Choose Your Accommodation Wisely
The accommodation offering in Queenstown is extensive and can be a little overwhelming. There are accommodation options from luxury hotels to backpacker joints; from the town centre to a lengthy bus ride away from the town centre. We’ve made your research a little easier by compiling our top Queenstown accommodation picks into different travel styles. Check out these listicles to find the perfect accommodation for you:
- The 50 Best Accommodations in Queenstown
- 10 Best Hotels in Queenstown
- 10 Best Budget Accommodation in Queenstown
- 10 Best Luxury Accommodation in Queenstown
- 10 Best Family Accommodation in Queenstown
- 10 Best Romantic Accommodation in Queenstown
- 10 Best Accommodation in Queenstown for Foodies
- Where to Camp in Queenstown
- 5 Free Camping Spots in Queenstown
3. Book Your Accommodation as Soon as Possible
Speaking of accommodation, make sure you book your accommodation as soon as possible! Even with the huge amount of accommodations available, the town can get booked up quickly especially in summer, during the school holidays, and for the Queenstown Winter Festival.
4. Freedom Camping is a No-No
For those that are road-tripping around New Zealand in a campervan, campercar or motorhome, be aware of the strict freedom camping rules in Queenstown. You cannot park up and camp for free for the night anywhere in Queenstown. In fact, even if you park your campervan in a public car park on an evening and are not sleeping in it, you’re still likely to receive a fine. For camping in Queenstown, you can either stay in a holiday park or return your rental campervan to a Queenstown depot while staying in the town.
See rental companies with Queenstown depots in The Best Campervan Rental Companies in Queenstown, as well as safe places to camp in Where to Camp in Queenstown.
5. Don’t Visit Too Early for the Ski Season
For those seeking some snow, Queenstown has an epic ski season. But a mistake that first-timers make is booking a ski holiday too early in the season. While ski fields may be open from mid-June/early July, that doesn’t mean that all the trails are open. You’ll be paying full price for a lift pass to use only a fraction of the ski field. We recommend waiting until August to get the best conditions for a ski holiday. Find out more in The Ultimate Guide to the Queenstown Ski Season.
6. Know How to Get Around
Queenstown might have a small town centre, but its suburbs are spread far and wide, as are its activities. The first mistake that first-timers make is that they think they will have to find their way to most activities. This is not the case, as most activity providers provide pick-ups or have a central Queenstown transport to their activity for free (usually at the Station Building on the corner of Duke and Shotover Street). Second, if you’re staying outside of the town centre, then know that some suburbs are up to 1-2 hours walk away. Bus services and taxis are available, so take a look at Public Transport in Queenstown for more tips.
7. Pack a Jacket
Needless to say that you will need to pack warm clothing for Queenstown in the winter season (June-August). However, even in summer (December-February), it’s smart to have some warm layers, like a jacket, with you. While Queenstown experiences warm and long sunny days during summer, it can get pretty chilly when the sun goes down or is stuck behind a cloud all day.
Get more packing tips in What Clothes to Pack to Travel in New Zealand, as well as the right weather expectations from Queenstown Weather & Climate: What is the Weather Like in Queenstown?
8. Keep an Eye on Your Budget
Queenstown is one of the most expensive towns in New Zealand. Your budget can easily spiral out of control if you do a paid activity every day. We recommend filling out some of your time with some of the free and cheap activities to do in Queenstown. See our recommendations in 30 Free or Cheap Things to do in Queenstown, as well as more money-saving tips in The Travel Guide to Queenstown on a Budget.
9. Don’t Queue for a Fergburger
Ah, the famous Fergburger. Everyone knows about this burger joint with its oversized burgers, but first-timers tend to not know that you don’t have to join the hour-long queue to order your burger. Just have a look at the menu outside of the burger takeaway, place your order at 03 441 1232 and pick your burger up later. Alternatively, Devil Burger also does outstanding oversized burgers. See more recommendations in The Top Cheap Eats in Queenstown.
10. Rent a Car for at Least Part of Your Stay
If Queenstown is your main base for your holiday in New Zealand, then we fully recommend taking the time to get out of its little bubble and see some of the real New Zealand. Rent a car or a campervan and do a road trip to Milford Sound (over a couple of days – if you want to do it in one day, take one of the 10 Best Milford Sound Tours from Queenstown instead). Take a day trip to historic Arrowtown or scenic Wanaka. Take a trip down the Kawarau Gorge and the Gibbston Valley to stop at some wineries. The list goes on!
Take a look at some of The Best Car Rental Companies in Queenstown or The Best Campervan Rental Companies in Queenstown, as well as places to visit in The Best Day Trips from Queenstown.
More About Queenstown
And that’s just a concise list of our Queenstown travel tips! See the following guides for more advice for first-timers:
- The Complete Travel Guide to Queenstown
- The Food Guide to Queenstown: Places to Eat & Food Tours
- The Travel Guide to Queenstown for Families
- The Travel Guide to Queenstown on a Budget
- The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Queenstown
- The Luxury Travel Guide to Queenstown
- Queenstown – Guide for Backpackers
Finally, plan the rest of your travels around the South Island using the South Island in Two Weeks: Road Trip Itinerary and South Island in One Week: Road Trip Itinerary.