Written by Kelsey Powell
This three-day itinerary is aimed to help those on a tight schedule and tight budget. Your experience in Queenstown doesn’t have to be a lavish one to enjoy its amazing features and activities.
Queenstown, although an international tourist hub, also serves as a landing place for backpackers traveling on a shoestring.
If you’re trying to make the most of your short visit and stretch your dollar, this itinerary is chock-full of tips to help you do lots while spending little.
Before you do anything: book yourself a “First Table” for Day 3. It’s an excellent way to save 50% when you are dining around Queenstown.
Plus, tables can book up fast, so get yourself in before the crowds do! It’ll also be an awesome, inexpensive way to end your three action-packed days.
Start by grabbing yourself a $1 coffee at Cookie Time, served from 8 – 9 am, and take your first stroll through the streets of downtown Queenstown.
Then, head to Red Rock and land yourself a $10 breakfast (served all day!), which includes two eggs, roasted tomatoes, toast, sausage/bacon, and potatoes. It’s a pretty good deal for $10!
*Ask about the vegan option*
Walk off your breakfast by taking a stroll up Queenstown Hill to the Basket of Dreams. This classic walk is a must for anyone visiting Queenstown.
The views at the top are epic – and free!
Make sure you bring your camera along so you can snap those photos that will make everyone back home super jealous.
Grab a delicious burrito at Caribe Latin Kitchen or a hearty pita pocket at Pita Pit, both $15 and located on Mall Street. They both have vegetarian and vegan options!
Eat your lunch by the lake or take it with you as you stroll towards the Botanical Gardens for a FREE game of Frisbee/disc golf (aka Frolf).
Bring your own Frisbee discs if you have them, or they can be rented for $5 from most activity shops in town.
This 18-basket course winds through the gardens and takes you out to a stunning view of the lake.
After a competitive round of “frolf” head over to Surreal and snag yourself a table on their rooftop bar. $5 draft beers and a tapas menu will make your day 1 dinner delicious and cheap!
Walk along the lakeside and find yourself a western-facing spot to watch the sunset on Lake Wakatipu. Unless it’s raining, the sun usually puts on a good show as it’s creeping towards Glenorchy and into the night. Don’t forget your camera for this one!
Note: Grab some sandwiches or pies from Alpine Grocery Store, Ferg Bakery, or Kai Pai because breakfast tomorrow will be eaten before the town even wakes up!
Set your alarm early, pack your sandwiches & head torch (flashlight), and head up towards the gondola. Make your way up the Tiki Trail and find the path towards Ben Lomond Saddle.
Nibble away at your pies while you watch the sunrise behind the Remarkables.
Whether you make it all the way to the summit of Ben Lomond or you stop somewhere on the saddle, this hike won’t disappoint you.
The views span for miles and the sunrise melts onto a scene you’ll never forget.
Tip #1: Bring lots of warm layers, even in the middle of summer! The summit is a lot colder than you think, especially at 4am. Bring hats, gloves, and an extra hoodie or you won’t make it long up there.
Tip #2: Bring lots of water! You’re quite far from the nearest water fountain, so make sure you bring a minimum of 1.5 liters on your walk.
Tip #3: Start hiking at least two hours from the predicted sunrise time (if not, three) so you get up to the saddle before the golden colors start seeping up from behind the horizon.
After you’ve enjoyed the sunrise, walk down to the top of the Skyline complex and be the first in line for some luging (if the budget permits).
Do a minimum of two luges (once is never enough!), then head down to the bungy viewing platform.
Watch some crazy people jump and swing 400 meters above Queenstown. If you’ve got the coin and the bravery, sign yourself up and do it, too!
Head down the tiki trail, which may be more enjoyable in daylight, and make your way to Sal's Pizza for $5-6 slices. You’ll likely be ravenous at this point, so a big New York slice will certainly fill you up.
Before you crash for an afternoon nap, check out BookMe and book yourself on a post-snooze jet boat ride. For an hour of fun at a discounted price, you won’t be disappointed. Plus, Queenstown is all about the thrill, so if you can snag yourself a deal, you can get your adrenaline fix at a cheaper cost.
Plus, if you fall face-first into your pillows after that big morning hike, this jet boat ride will wake you right up before your night of fun!
After your 360° experience zipping around the lake, make your way to Atlas Beer Café for a $20 steak, salad, and chips (vegan options available, too!) and a craft beer.
This delightful lakeside spot serves incredible food and even better beer. They even have tapas if steak isn’t your thing.
If you’re lucky, grab yourself a table by the lake and watch the seagulls swarm the Earnslaw as it docks and picks up loads of tourists.
If you’re traveling Queenstown on a shoestring, my guess is you’re a backpacker or money-savvy explorer.
Queenstown has an amazing nightlife, but experiencing that doesn’t mean you have to spend your whole budget bar hopping.
Get yourself onto a free pub-crawl and make some friends as you enjoy cheap drink deals around town.
Have a bit of a sleep in, but don’t let that hangover keep you in bed all morning!
Head over to Flame for their $10 lunch options (yes, they even have vegan stuff!) or Pig & Whistle for a $9.50 bangers & mash deal to nurse that hangover.
Rent some paddleboards down by the lake or just chill on a towel on the sand. Have a low-key morning watching boats coming in and out, paragliders soaring above you, and shark-like vessels popping up from under the surface. It’s not the worst place to be hangin’ after a big night – I mean, that view can heal anything!
After some down time recovering in the sun, walk to Ferg Bakery and grab a pick-me-up coffee. Instead of waiting on the long, unbearable Ferg Burger line to get an over-priced meat patty, watch the chaos from benches across the street while you let the caffeine do its job.
Yes, Ferg is a Queenstown staple, but if you’re on a budget, watching the people versus participating is enough to say you’ve “been there.”
Head back to your hostel, hotel, Airbnb, friend’s house, wherever you are staying, and get yourself ready for that dinner you booked a few days ago. I told you that would come in handy!
Enjoy your 50% off meal and your last evening in Queenstown. You’ve done a lot without spending a lot!
I hope this three-day itinerary on a shoestring is a helpful way for you to make the most of your time in Queenstown without forking over all of your hard-earned cash. If you’ve found any cheap deals around Queenstown that I haven’t mentioned, please let me know in the comment section!
Here are a few more deals that may help you save some coin: