Summary of post: local’s guide to the best things to do in Queenstown without a car, plus tips for getting around Queenstown!
Many people wonder if it’s possible to visit Queenstown without a car.
The short answer is YES! You don’t need a car to visit Queenstown.
In fact, Queenstown is one of the few places in New Zealand where you really don’t need a car to get around.
I live in Queenstown and while I have a car (and use it all the time on road trips), I hardly use my car when I’m in town.
It’s honestly just so easy to walk, bike, or bus everywhere and it takes the stress out of dealing with traffic and parking.
In addition, most activity and tour providers in Queenstown offer transport from the town centre, making it super easy for you to access the scenery and attractions around Queenstown whilst letting someone else do the driving.
In this guide, I’ll give you heaps of ideas for fun things to do in and around Queenstown without a car (spoiler alert: you can basically still do all of the top activities in Queenstown!).
So let’s get to it…here are the best things to do in Queenstown without a car, plus tips to help you make the most of your visit!
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Table of Contents
Best Things to Do in Queenstown Without a Car
1. Wander Around the Queenstown Gardens
The Queenstown Gardens are located just a few minutes’ walk from the town centre and are beautiful (and free!) to visit year-round.
Walking around the gardens is a must-do on a visit to Queenstown!
In the gardens, you’ll also find an indoor ice skating rink, lawn bowls club, and an 18-basket disc (frisbee) golf course.
2. Cruise on Lake Wakatipu
One of the many features that makes Queenstown so beautiful is its location on the shores of pristine Lake Wakatipu.
There are lots of ways to enjoy Lake Wakatipu, but a lake cruise is pretty hard to beat!
There are three main options for cruises on Lake Wakatipu, as follows:
🚢 The TSS Earnslaw: This historic steamship is an iconic part of Queenstown. Simply enjoy a scenic cruise on the lake, or book the epic lunchtime BBQ option (the food is incredible and plentiful—make sure you arrive hungry!).
🛥 Scenic Queenstown Lake Cruise: This relaxing cruise glides across Lake Wakatipu and takes you into stunning Bob’s Cove.
⚓️ Million Dollar Cruise: The Million Dollar Cruise is so named because it cruises along the beautiful Kelvin Peninsula, home to some of Queenstown’s fanciest residences! There’s an honesty bar aboard ship, so bring cash if you want to purchase drinks.
3. Enjoy Delicious Food & Drinks
Despite its small size, Queenstown is absolutely packed with fantastic places to eat and drink.
If you’re staying near the town centre, you can easily walk to a plethora of excellent cafes, restaurants, and bars.
And while you should probably try a world-famous Fergburger while you’re in Queenstown, you’ll also be spoilt for choice when it comes to dining out in Queenstown.
As for drinks, you honestly can’t walk a block without spotting a bar in Queenstown.
4. Go Jet Boating
Jet Boating is such a fun activity in Queenstown. I’m not normally one for adrenaline activities, but just one jet boat ride got me hooked on this epic activity—I highly recommend you give it a go!
There are multiple jet boat providers in Queenstown, and it’s hard to choose which one to do.
That being said, my favourite jet boat ride is the Shotover Jet, which takes you through the beautiful Shotover River Canyon at a speed of over 85kph.
The Shotover Jet is located in nearby Arthur’s Point, but they offer a complimentary shuttle bus from the Queenstown town centre.
Another favourite is the Kjet Jet Boat, which departs from the wharf in Queenstown Bay and couldn’t be more convenient for those visiting Queenstown without a car!
5. Hit the Hiking Trails
There are some excellent hikes and walks you can do in Queenstown without a car.
I recommend these gorgeous walking and hiking trails in Queenstown—there’s something for everyone, from short and easy walks to difficult mountain climbs!
🥾 Ben Lomond Hike
Difficult | 8 hours return | Trail Guide
The Ben Lomond Track is one of the best day hikes on the South Island, and the best part is that you don’t even need a car to get there!
The easiest way to access this trail is from the top of the Skyline Gondola.
If you don’t want to pay for the gondola, you can hike the Tiki Trail up to the start of the Ben Lomond trailhead, but I don’t personally like doing this (it makes the hike way too brutal, in my opinion!).
This is a physically challenging hike that requires preparation. I recommend popping into the DOC office in Queenstown before doing this hike so you can get up-to-date advice on the current trail conditions.
🥾 Queenstown Hill Walkway
Moderate-Difficult | 3 hours return | Trail Guide
For something less challenging than the Ben Lomond Track, the Queenstown Hill Walkway is a great option.
Access this trail from the Belfast Terrace carpark, which you can walk up to from town.
Hike up and up through pine forest before reaching the Basket of Dreams sculpture and eventually the Queenstown Hill Summit, which provides gorgeous panoramic views over Queenstown and its surrounds.
🥾 Frankton Track
Easy | Walk as long as you’d like! | Trail Guide
The Frankton Track is an excellent walking and cycling trail that curves along the Frankton Arm of Lake Wakatipu.
I love this track so much that I walk a section of it almost daily!
Access this trail by walking from town along the Queenstown Gardens and then along Park Street until you reach the trailhead.
🥾 Sunshine Bay Track
Easy | Approx. 1.5 hours return | Trailhead Location
Walk to pristine Sunshine Bay Beach with views over Lake Wakatipu for much of the way.
The trailhead for the Sunshine Bay walk starts a few minutes past the Fernhill roundabout just off the Glenorchy-Queenstown Road.
Don’t forget your swimsuit and a picnic, because Sunshine Bay Beach is an excellent swimming spot!
🥾 Kelvin Heights Peninsula Trail
Easy | Approx. 1.5 hours return from the Bayview ferry stop | Trail Guide
Take the ferry from Queenstown Bay over to the Bayview ferry stop, and then walk for about 20 minutes to the start of the Kelvin Heights Peninsula trail.
This is one of the most underrated things to do in Queenstown, but it’s a real favourite of mine.
This easy loop trail weaves through pine forest and offers stunning views over to Queenstown. There are beautiful sculptures to admire along the way, too.
Bring a picnic, your swimsuit, and a beach towel—that way, you can enjoy a refreshing swim and picnic lunch at Kelvin Beach after your walk.
6. Cycle Scenic Trails
The Queenstown area has an incredible network of stunning cycle trails—and you can easily hire bikes (including e-bikes!) from many businesses around Queenstown.
My favourite bike ride is the Frankton Track and Kelvin Peninsula Trail, which I’ve also mentioned above as being some of the best walks around Queenstown.
On the way back to Queenstown, pop into Altitude Brewery for a refreshing beer, or grab coffee and lunch at the Boatshed Cafe!
🚲 I love this e-bike hire from Around the Basin for cycling around Queenstown!
Another excellent option is to cycle the trails around Arrowtown—especially if you’re keen to sample some wine in the beautiful Gibbston Valley!
🚲 🍇 This is an excellent bike hire option in Arrowtown. It includes a shuttle from Queenstown to Arrowtown and back, and a pickup at your vineyard of choice.
7. Hang Out at the Beach
On a warm summer day, there’s nothing better than hanging out at one of the beaches around Queenstown.
Queenstown Bay Beach is located right in the heart of town and is by far the most popular beach in Queenstown. In summer, this busy beach is packed with people soaking up the sun, hiring kayaks, and swimming in Lake Wakatipu’s refreshing (okay…icy-cold!) water.
However, if you’re like me and prefer a quieter beach scene, then I recommend hiking to Sunshine Bay.
It takes about 45 minutes one way to walk from the town centre to Sunshine Bay, and the effort is well worth it—don’t forget your swimsuit, and bring along a picnic!
8. Go Wine Tasting
Queenstown is home to some incredible vineyards, many of which can be seen on the drive from Cromwell to Queenstown. The two closest wine regions to Queenstown are Gibbston and Bannockburn, both of which are known for their pinot noir.
For obvious reasons, though, the best way to visit Queenstown’s wineries is to take a tour—let someone else do the driving so you can enjoy the wine!
There are lots of excellent wine-tasting tours in Queenstown, including this popular wine sampler tour, which includes tastings at 4 wineries.
🍷 My favourite option for visiting Queenstown’s wineries is the Wine Hopper Bus—you can hop on and hop off the bus at the vineyards of your choice, so it’s perfect for more DIY-style travellers. Tip: Don’t miss the Mt Rosa & Kinross cellar doors 😍
9. Sample the Craft Beer Scene
Queenstown has a booming craft beer scene, including local breweries and some excellent craft beer bars serving up pints from NZ-wide beer producers.
You could also do a self-guided beer tour by taking the bus to one (or more!) of these excellent breweries around Queenstown:
🍻 Prefer to take a guided craft beer tour? Then check out this excellent craft beer tour, which includes a visit to beautiful Arrowtown!
10. Ride the Skyline Gondola & Luge
A highlight for many visitors to Queenstown is the Skyline Gondola, which offers some of the best views in town.
The gondola is just a 5-minute walk from central Queenstown, so this is easily one of the best things to do in Queenstown without a car!
At the top of the gondola, you’ll find a restaurant, bar, and luge—definitely book a couple of tickets for the luge, because it’s super fun! The bar is also a great spot to grab a drink while looking out over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.
Another excellent thing to do at the top of the gondola is a ziplining tour. You’ll plunge through pine trees while enjoying amazing views and experiencing the thrills of one of the best ziplines in New Zealand.
11. Go Skiing or Snowboarding (winter only)
Winter in Queenstown brings about a special sight: snow on the mountaintops!
And all of that snow means good news for snowsports enthusiasts—ski season has arrived!
The ski season in Queenstown runs from mid-June to mid-October, so if you’re keen to ski or snowboard, then that’s the time to visit.
My favourite skiing month in Queenstown is August, but July is also an extremely popular month for skiing as it falls within both the Australian and New Zealand school holidays.
The two ski fields (or you might call them “ski resorts”) near Queenstown—the Remarkables and Coronet Peak—both have bus transport available. This means that you don’t have to drive yourself to go skiing, which is so epic!
I do recommend booking your ski bus passes well in advance, because the buses can fill up during busy periods.
Day Trips from Queenstown Without a Car
12. Milford Sound
One place you can’t miss on the South Island is Milford Sound, which is located about 287km from Queenstown.
Luckily, you don’t need a car to get there, as there are heaps of excellent tours from Queenstown to Milford Sound!
The best tour for you really just depends on how much time you have, and how much money you want to spend.
All Milford Sound tours include a cruise along Milford Sound, so it’s just the “getting there” part that you’ll want to decide on.
Here are the Queenstown to Milford Sound tours I recommend:
🚌 Option 1: Coach-Cruise-Coach Tour
A coach-cruise-coach tour is the most popular option out of all the tours from Queenstown to Milford Sound, and it’s also the cheapest option.
This tour, however, will take a full day, so you do need to be prepared for that, and for the fact that you’ll be sitting on a bus for over 6 hours round-trip.
🛩 Option 2: Fly-Cruise-Fly Tour
If you’re pressed for time and have the funds to do so, then a fly-cruise-fly tour is the quickest way to visit Milford Sound from Queenstown.
The flight is absolutely stunning and it’s well worth the money if you can fit it in your budget!
🤩 Option 3: Coach-Cruise-Fly Tour
A coach-cruise-fly tour is arguably the best way to visit Milford Sound from Queenstown.
With this option, you’ll get to experience the beauty of the drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound, but will get to zip back to Queenstown on a plane after your Milford Sound cruise without having to sit on a bus for the return trip.
That being said, this tour does tend to be more expensive than the other options.
Arrowtown is a historic gold mining town located about 20km from Queenstown. Filled with history, beautiful scenery, and an excellent dining scene, it’s well worth day-tripping to Arrowtown when you’re in Queenstown!
You can easily get from Queenstown to Arrowtown by taking the public Orbus bus. You’ll want to take the #2 (Arthurs Point to Arrowtown) bus from the Stanley Street Bus Hub (or whichever bus stop is closest to your accommodation). The bus journey takes about one hour each way.
If you’re interested in a hike, you could also tackle the Sawpit Gully Trail, which is particularly beautiful in autumn when the foliage has turned to shades of orange and red.
The road from Queenstown to Glenorchy is one of the most scenic short drives in New Zealand, which is saying a lot!
So, I really recommend visiting Glenorchy while you’re in Queenstown—even if you don’t have a car to drive yourself there.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a public bus service from Queenstown to Glenorchy. However, there are heaps of great day tours that’ll take you on the journey from Queenstown to Glenorchy.
15. Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park
The 3-hour (one-way) drive from Queenstown to Mount Cook is a full-day adventure, but if this is your only chance to see Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, you won’t want to miss it.
Without a car, the best way to day trip to Mount Cook is to take a tour.
➡️ This full-day tour is a great way to see Mount Cook National Park, including the Hooker Valley track (which is, hands down, one of the best day hikes on the South Island!).
Getting Around Queenstown Without a Car
It’s easy to get around Queenstown without a car.
Here are the best ways to get around, including getting from the Queenstown airport to central Queenstown!
The Orbus bus system is an excellent way to get around Queenstown via public transport.
Pay cash on board or pick up a Bee Card for cheaper fares.
You can get a Bee Card on the bus (bring cash) or from one of the retailers on this list.
Fares per trip are $3 without a Bee Card, or $2 with a Bee Card.
The bus is the cheapest way to get from the Queenstown Airport to town, and vice versa.
Ubers are plentiful around Queenstown, although fares can vary wildly depending on the time of day and whether it’s a holiday, etc.
While I tend to use the bus system far more often than Uber, I’ve taken Ubers to the airport on many occasions when I’m pressed for time. It usually costs me around $30NZD from my town-centre apartment to the airport, which I find a bit excessive, but it can certainly be convenient!
Note: There are also taxis in Queenstown, but I avoid these at all costs—they’re mostly unregulated and I’ve heard horror stories about people getting ripped off.
If you need to get to/from the airport and have a lot of luggage or gear with you, then the Super Shuttle is a good way to go.
The Super Shuttle service has a little trailer in the back that can hold luggage along with oversized equipment like skis, snowboards, golf clubs, etc.
At the time of writing this, the super shuttle costs $15NZD per person with a two-person minimum and you can pre-book online.
Day Tours & Activity Providers
Almost all of the activity providers around Queenstown will provide free transport from the town centre (and back) if they’re located outside of town.
I use Viator to book all of my tours and activities in Queenstown, and under each tour or activity description, you’ll be able to easily find out whether transport is included.
Ski Shuttle Bus
Make sure to book the ski buses in advance, as they do fill up during busy periods.
The Queenstown ferry travels between Queenstown Bay, the Kelvin Peninsula, and the Queenstown Marina. If you get a Bee Card for the bus, you can also use it on the ferry to get slightly cheaper fares.
The ferry fares are $10 one-way with a Bee Card, and $14 one-way without a Bee Card (they only accept bank cards onboard, not cash just FYI).
I know, I know—this is obvious. But once you’re in town, the easiest way to get around is to walk! Queenstown is super walkable. Bring comfy shoes!
Where to Stay in Queenstown Without a Car
My #1 tip for visiting Queenstown without a car is to book accommodation right in the town centre!
This will make it SO much easier to access Queenstown, as you can pretty much walk everywhere. All of the tours mentioned in this guide also have pickups right in town.
Here are the accommodation options I recommend you check out!
🛏 Adventure Queenstown Hostel: After a backpacker’s hostel while in Queenstown? Then look no further—the Adventure Hostel is the crème de la crème of hostels in town! Their rooms are clean and comfortable and they offer so many freebies, including mountain bike hire, GoPros to borrow, and discs to take to the frisbee golf course.
🛏 Novotel: This centrally-located hotel couldn’t be in a better spot. It’s right by Lake Wakatipu, right by the Queenstown Gardens, and right by town. The rooms aren’t the flashiest, but the location is unbeatable!
🛏 Blue Peaks Apartments: For something with a bit more space (and a kitchen!), book one of these great apartments. They offer two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments that are fully self-contained, making this a great option for families or groups (and I for one love having a kitchen when I’m travelling!).
🛏 Garden Court Suites & Apartments: These great little units are located a 10-minute walk from town. The rooms have kitchenettes and some have balconies with views—perfect for sipping on a glass of wine after a day of exploring Queenstown!
🛏 QT Queenstown: If you’re looking for accommodation with style, then the QT delivers that and more. Their modern, luxurious rooms are absolutely gorgeous, and the ones with lake views are particularly magic.
FAQs: Visiting Queenstown Without a Car
No, you don’t need a car in Queenstown.
While hiring a car in Queenstown gives you the ultimate flexibility and freedom, it’s not necessary to have a car in Queenstown.
You can walk, bus, bike, Uber, or take tours to access almost all of Queenstown’s top attractions.
Yes, Queenstown is a walkable city.
Well, calling Queenstown a “city” is a stretch, to be honest—it’s more of a bustling town!
But regardless, it’s really easy to walk around Queenstown, as long as you’re staying in the town centre.
Yes, there are Ubers in Queenstown.
Ubers are a popular way to get to and from the Queenstown airport, or for short rides around town.
Thanks for Reading my Guide to Visiting Queenstown Without a Car!
I hope it’s helped you plan your visit to Queenstown.
As always, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email if you have any questions about this article, or about New Zealand travel in general, and I’ll be happy to help!