Whether or not you can point to Queenstown on the map, you’ve probably been there in your head.
I know I had.
You see, before this trip I spent a lot of time imagining what New Zealand would be like. What often came to mind was a vision of dramatic, Lord of the Rings landscapes and the adrenaline junkies who live to push the limits of this wilderness. When I thought of the people of New Zealand, I imagined them jumping off bridges and skiing down steep rocky slopes and jetboating at insane speeds down deep, crystal bottomed canyons. These are the images that make up the most widely distributed NZ promotional materials, after all, and it only took about 3 minutes in Queenstown to realize that all of those commercial shoots had to have been filmed here.
Google ‘adventure capitol of the world’, and you’re likely to find page after page of Queenstown websites.
But while there is a ton to do in this stunning mountain town, I have to admit that I can’t report on many of the excursions that make Queenstown world-renowned. Skiing, jet-boating, bungee jumping… they’re not cheap adventures, and I’m a poor graduate student after all.
But with our limited time and more limited funds, Tom and I had a pretty good time exploring the cheaper excursions Queenstown had to offer.
And what is there to do in Queenstown on the cheap?
Cost: Burgers start at NZ$11 and go all the way up to NZ$18.50 (That’s US$7-11.77 at the time of writing), plus sides
I found that this was easily the most highly and commonly recommended place in New Zealand – not to eat, just period. I probably talked to a dozen people about things to see or do in NZ, and every single one of them told me to go to Fergburger. In New Zealand, the word ‘burger’ encompasses just about anything served on a burger bun. While there are more typical beef options at Fergburger, their menu also includes ‘burgers’ of lamb, deer, chicken, tofu, falafel, bacon, egg, pork, cod, and ribeye steak.
Literally our first stop in Queenstown, we picked up some beers and took our burgers to eat lakeside. Disclaimer: these suckers are best eaten after your adventure sport of choice – they are massive and it will be a challenge to get moving again after you’ve finished.
Queenstown Hill Walkway
This gorgeous hike takes you 500 metres (1640 feet) above Queenstown with 360 degree views of the area’s stunning landscape. A large portion of the trail takes place in a beautiful pine forest, with interpretive waysides along the path providing information about flora and fauna and the history of the area. The trailhead leaves straight from town, but you can avoid the steepest part of the climb by driving straight to the start – the walk through town to the start of the trail is a killer!
Cost: Cheese platter, NZ$35 (US$22); NZ$1.80-5.00 per taste (US$1.14-$3.17), depending on the wine
New Zealand is famous for its wine, so I was psyched to be in Queenstown surrounded by so many vineyards. But tours and tastings were expensive, so while not exactly cheap, this spot was a nice compromise. The Winery advertises more than 80 local wines available for tasting, set up in self-service machines organized by type. The wine dispensers will distribute quarter, half, or full glasses for your tasting pleasure. You are given a card to insert in the dispensers that keep track of your tastings as you go. Be careful, all those sips add up fast!
Overall, I was totally charmed by our day in Queenstown. The town itself has a very Colorado feel to it – an international crowd of outdoor enthusiasts filled the streets every night. Tom remarked that very few of the people we interacted with there were actually from New Zealand. People travel from all over the world to see this mountain paradise, and even though I was limited by time and money, I’m so glad I got to count myself among them.
Want to start from the beginning? Click here to read about our first stop, Lake Tekapo!
Want to keep going? Click here to read about where we went next!