I’ve noticed something about Queenstown – it’s expensive. I mean, REALLY not somewhere you would call a budget destination. Not only do the hostels book up in town months in advance (mostly with long term locals who cannot find or afford the rent prices) but the restaurants bump up the prices to compensate for the ‘remote’ tourist town premiums.
So having been around for almost a year now and with panic saving for the South East Asia tour next year here are my cheapest locals tips and recommendations for good Queenstown grub and entertainment.
You would think that with breakfast usually being the smallest meal of the day that it would somehow be the cheapest. Well you would be wrong. Eating out for breakfast is still a bit of a luxury the world over. I mean, breakfast usually consists of eating toast over the sink while still wearing your pj’s, right? So a tasty cheap breakfast out and about in Queenstown is a bit of a gem if you can find it.
Let’s start with the beverage. Cookie Time, (the store that makes and sells cookies. I know) has long been a bit of a tourist hotspot in town. For good reason; the hot cookies are delicious, but for $3 a cookie, your wallet can feel a bit empty after a visit. Between 8am and 9am Cookie Time serve $1 coffees. You will find a lot of locals queueing up to grab 4 or 5 cups around that time but very few tourists who for some reason choose to go to the Starbucks next door. Best of all, you get a tiny cookie with the coffee! Best to go closer to the 8am slot, they have been known to run out!
The best place to get a cheap breakfast is, uninspiringly, Fresh Choice supermarket on Gorge road. If you pop in there the night before you can usually pick up some discounted bakery goods (fresh breads and pastries) for discounted prices and enjoy them with your $1 coffee on the lakefront.
My favourite meal of the day is also my favourite meal in town; Sushi curry. On Beach street hidden just inside the entrance to the Casino and next to Billabong is the Sushi Box. An almost exclusively locals spot, the staff here are wonderfully friendly and make the best sushi in town. For a big meal get the Sushi curry bowl in either chicken or beef (or a mix). You can choose to get it with rice or udon noddle’s. This big bowl of tummy hugs comes in at only $10. If curry isn’t your thing then their sushi rolls are also $10 and vary in fillings from veg to chicken to fish. You’ll be so full afterwards a nap on the beach may be your only option! (Note: these guys are only open Mon-Fri.)
If you find yourself stuck for nibbles on the weekend head to CBC bar on Camp Street. This bar is slightly hidden away but they have a great bar menu. My favourite is the fish and chips bucket for $9. Large portion and very filling!
OK, you’ve spent the afternoon napping and then skydiving and worked up a huge appetite. You can always do the one thing everyone tells you you MUST do and go to Ferg Burger. If you’re in town for a few days then you will inevitably end up there. BUT if you don’t fancy waiting in line for 30mins and then standing around for another 20mins while it’s cooked, head to Devil Burger. These burgers are, in my opinion, fresher and much more flavoursome than the mass produced ones from Ferg. Burgers here range from $15-$20 and fill you up nicely. Their chips are some of the best I’ve had on this hemisphere too!
(HUGE insider tip: if you are set on Ferg Burger then just call ahead with your order and stroll in to collect while dozens of people are baffeled by the mysterious local dodging the queues.)
Not in the mood for more burgers? Go to Caribe on Mall Street. This small Mexican diner offers amazing tacos and burritos with a vast array of condiments ranging from milk to fire. I have never managed to finish a large burritto in one sitting and it tastes amazing for breakfast the next day. You’re looking at $10-$14 for a decent sized dinner.
One last tip for those of you eating really cheap; opposite Ferg Burger sits the humble ‘The Bakery’. Here between 5-6pm they do a buy one get one free deal on savouries and sweets. You can get yourself a pie and eclaire for around $5. Not the healthiest of dinners but bloody tasty fuel after a long day.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I am afraid there are no cheap watering holes in Queenstown. 1894 will offer you small pints for $4 but this still isn’t the best option. Really you could just join the locals by heading to the bottle shop and picking up a box of beers and having a sit down on the beach.
Bunji jumps and skydive’s may have been your first thought and impressions of Queenstown but they do rinse your budget very quickly. If you are going to try to scare yourself pantless then don’t book ahead, go to BookMe.com. Here you will find massive deals but usually only a few days to a week in advance. If you’re happy to go with the flow then check these over your morning $1 coffees and you’ll be very happy!
Something that gets overlooked is the frisbee golf in the Queenstown gardens. If you have’t heard of this before it is exactly as it sounds; golf…with frisbees. There are 18 ‘holes’ (baskets) which you attempt to get your frisbees in with as few a tries as possible. Some of the locals will have up to 30 frisbees for all weather and speed/distance circumstances. Really though you’ll only need the one. Small Planet on Shotover Street rents out frisbees for $5 and the course is free.
Of course you could buck the skydiving trend and get on the humble mountain bike and hit the stunning trails around town. The trails are maintained by the Queenstown Mountain Bike Club and although the only lift operated one is accessed via the Skyline Gondola, anyone with a reasonable level of fitness can head up the free access trails. The firm favouite in town is Rude Rock located at Coronet Peak. This is a beautifully constructed smooth trail suitable to just about anyone who has ever ridden a bike. Bikes can be rented in town for the day and usually include all the extra gear.
If you fancy a short drive out of town I recommend visiting Moke Lake. Away for the busy town centre, Moke Lake is a picturesque spot with its own little campground. Watch out for those warm sunset evenings; those mossies will eat you alive!
There are a couple of hostels in town and quite a few hotels but all for mega bucks if they aren’t fully booked. There is no freedom camping around Queenstown and if you’re on a budget you’re going to be a bit stuck. If you are travelling around in your own car or campervan then the DOC campsite at 12 Mile is only $10 a head. There’s no hot water, no showers and only a drop toilet but it is sat in a stunning location and close enough to town for you to be able to spend a few days here. We certainly did while homeless! There’s no booking so make sure you get there early in the day to secure a good spot.
That’s all for now, folks! If you have any more let me know!