Queenstown – A Long Weekend On A Budget!

It was very spur of the moment, and we knew a weekend was not going to be long enough for all the things we had heard about that we definitely wanted to do, but we thought if we don’t go now then we could still face months of people grilling us about why we haven’t been to Queenstown yet, with utter shock-horror and disappointment in their voices.  So we thought, as it is Waitangi day long weekend (New Zealand Day), let’s just take advantage of the situation and go on a road trip to Queenstown!

We are very skint at the moment, putting every cent into travel savings (apart from the occasional coffee that I unsuccessfully try to sneak without Matt noticing), so we knew we wouldn’t be able to partake in all the standard Queenstown attractions i.e. canyon swing, bungee, gondola, luge etc etc, but regardless we went to put a place to a name and see what all the fuss is about.

We awoke at 4am on Friday to the scream of Matt’s ‘escaping prison siren alarm’ echoing around the room and bolted out the bed ready for road trippinnn! I don’t actually know what the hell we were doing, but somehow we faffed around for an hour and didn’t end up leaving until 5! Standard.

Anyway, we were on the road by 5 with a stash of sour snakes, large coffees and some porridge (not ideal when I was trying to spoon-feed Matt as he was driving, and just resulted in runny oats leaving questionable stains on his shorts haha). FullSizeRender

It took almost 6 hours driving from Christchurch to Queenstown.  The drive was B-E-A-utiful! The weather was crap unfortunately, but the scenery could still be fully appreciated.   The roads were typical New Zealand – and the kind that literally terrifies me, with no barriers protecting you and your car from falling 200ft down the edge of a cliff wiping out half a dozen mountain sheep on the way, resulting in me travelling as a passenger with my eyes squeezed tightly shut for roughly 1/4 of the journey, and the occasional ‘ahhhh too close!! SLOW DOWN‘ to startle Matt, leading to him being annoyed at me for being a bad passenger.

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We made our first pit stop at The Church of the Good Shepherd on Lake Tekapo.  Bearing in mind this was around 7am and extremely cold, we wrapped up and went for a stroll around the area.  Matt had previously read about this spot and seen Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 21.29.11photos of it, and therefore spent the next 15 minutes trying to recreate the photo he had seen, in a magazine, using his go pro.  I took a few photos, took in the surroundings, and then got back in the car with the heating on!  It was beautiful, and if it wasn’t for several Japanese tourists shouting to each other in Japanese, it would have been such a peaceful, remote and idyllic setting.  It had an almost eerie feeling to it, I think because it was quite misty and still quite dark, but I think during the day when its sunny it would be beautiful for kayaking or picnics!P1060016

We stopped off again at Twizel to grab some more food – due to me being bored of being in the car and wanting to get out and have a nose around haha.  We could smell amazing bacon and eggs coming from 5 different cafes.  Turns out only one was open…probably the most expensive coffees we have had in NZ, so we passed on breakfast for the fear of $20 toast or some other outrageous over pricing.  The man could tell I was not amused, and tried to explain it was a public holiday surcharge…hmmm.

When we came out, the cheap cafe next to it was finally open so we went in for some sandwiches.  It wasn’t until we were back in the car, we realised that we had spent like $25/30 on two crap leftover sandwiches and two lukewarm over priced coffees – which was actually the difference of price in accommodation of the campsite 20 minutes outside of Queenstown in Arrowtown, compared with the upmarket grounds 5 minutes walk from the centre of Queenstown.  But this is one of those things that we need to get over a.s.a.p. because we do this all the time, and make bad choices when we try to save money which normally results in us spending more money for something marginally as good, haha!

So when we finally arrive in Queenstown, we find a car parking space and walk towards a huge, excited crowd to see what’s going on.  There were important looking security guards gating off the road and speaking over walkie-talkies to each other and everyone was standing in anticipation.  It was then a huge herd of sheep came racing around the corner.  One had a teddy bear strapped to his back, while another had a gopro haha! Sooo random, but typical New Zealand I guess.  We noticed the sign saying ‘The Running of the Wools’, and we hung around taking photos of this very random event but then quickly moved on as the sheep really did smell.

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As we turned to walk off, I felt someone grab me from behind and whisper ‘boo’ in my ear…turns out it was Jen, my housemate at Uni in my final year! I didn’t even know she was here, and for a second I really had to try to remember which country I was in.  We both just stood screaming, was really great to see her and her family, so we all went for coffee.

There were A LOT of choices for coffee, but we settled on a waterfront restaurant/bar called Pier 19 and had a proper catch up. The bar was really cool, offering a relaxed alfresco dining experience. The location is perfect, and very central, overlooking the beautiful lake Wakatipu and there were some VERY appetising dishes being carried around.

Jen, Lau and Lucy all went off to do their bungee swing, and Matt and I went off to explore the area.  It is such a nice, bustling little town, and literally full of backpackers! It reminded me of a uni town, and I loooved the vibe!  It just felt ablaze with life and vibrancy.  Everyone was from all over the world and seemed so excited to be here, maybe it was those sheep getting everyone all hyped up. It is quite a small town with everything in close proximity, allowing ease of getting around and making it virtually impossible to get lost.   We managed to explore the whole town in probably 20 minutes.  The actual lake was such a clear crystal blue, and with a backdrop of picturesque snowcapped mountains, provided a very wintery feel.

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Our first stop was to try a ‘Ferg Burger‘.  This is something I have been told about getting on 30 times for the past 2 years, by my friends from all over.  So Matt and I again wanted to see what the fuss was about.  When we rocked up the queue was 45 minutes!!

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Oh. My. God.  Worth the wait.  End of.

I had Cockadoodle Oink … a chicken and bacon burger with avocado…and the best chicken and bacon burger I have ever had in my life. Matt had ‘Mr Bigstuff’ double beef burger with all the trimmings and he says the same.  Bloody expensive though, but you don’t mind when it tastes like that (and when you’ve already paid a lot for the worlds worst breakfast sandwich that same day)!  I’m not sure why this place is so famous, like obviously the food was amazing, but I don’t really know where their reputation came from but I do know they wont open any other chains.

We devoured the burger in the park (in about 3 minutes flat), which was holding a Waitangi day festival at the time.  It was Bob Marley’s birthday too so there was a bit of Reggae and jammin’ too, so that was pretty chilling! It was still very cold though…not really increasing my excitement for sleeping in a tent that night…especially when Google smugly informed us it was going to drop to 4 degrees and there would be fresh snow on the mountains.  But we chose to ignore these thoughts (and eventually drown them in wine to shut them up).

The park was beautiful, really pretty and the perfect setting to go with a big group of friends and sit and drink in the summer sun.  They also have Frisbee golf, which looked really entertaining.

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After exploring more of the town (the free stuff haha) we headed back towards Arrowtown.  On the way though, we decided to check out one of the ski resorts, even though it obviously isn’t the season, we thought they would have great views…they did not disappoint on this front.

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We then carried on to the campsite in Arrowtown to attempt putting up the tent, make some nice dinner, and go to the pub and have lots of drinks!

Putting the tent up was hilarious.  Neither of us had a clue how to erect it because it was very old school. It was leant to us by Matt’s boss and by the end we were just sticking poles in every hole (wheeeyyy).  I gave up and just started pumping up the airbed instead and watched Matt struggle a bit longer!

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When it was up, it was amazing! So big! (haha too many innuendos!)  But anyway the point is, the tent was a good size, very comfortable and didn’t even feel very cold as there was an outside cover…so all in all I felt immediately happier about the camping situation.

The pub (the Fork & Tap) didn’t go to plan when we realised two drinks were $20…we tried to bottleo and the cheapest bottle of wine was $20 (even though it was the exact same one I had seen in Countdown the night before for $9), so we took a trip back into Queenstown, stocked up on wine and food and went back to the campsite and stayed up eating and drinking.  It was really nice!

Arrowtown is a lovely, relaxing suburb that is quite a lot like an old English village – very quiet and I imagine its more for families or maybe retired people that want a peaceful trip and spend a lot of money in upmarket pubs with a classic, country atmosphere.  But it suited us still as we knew if we stayed in the centre of Queenstown, we would not resist the temptation and would end up going out and spending loooads of money.

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The next morning I woke up, completely sweltering hot…wrapped in two scarfs, wooly hat 2 jumpers and 2 trousers…but I didn’t care because heat and blinding sunlight filled the tent when we unzipped it! 25 degrees…YAY!! SO we raced back into Queenstown and decided to hike up the mountain where the gondola is, because we had heard about the incredible views (and obviously didn’t want to pay $30 each for the gondola!).  The hike wasn’t very intense thank god (but I still managed to fall on my ass!) because we were both hungover.  We got up to the top in about an hour and a half I think? Maybe even one hour.

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The panoramic views from the top were out of this world post-card standard.  They were honestly breathtakingly astounding. It was hard trying to take it all in that we were stood there with this to-die-for view displayed ahead of us.  We had a lot of selfies and demolished some OTT ice creams.

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After more coffees, our road trip was over…obviously not forgetting to pick up a huge Salmon fillet on the way home from a Salmon farm just past Tekapo.  It was about $25 and was so fresh and delicious, and fed 6 adults so its very good value for money! The view from inside the salmon place was like a big poster on the wall…the sun was beating down and the lake was the brightest turquoise, with a backdrop of Mount cook and other snowcapped Alps.  You wouldn’t think the lady in the shop had even looked out the window though as she was ridiculously miserable…especially when she didn’t approve of Matt and I having 5 free testers of smoked salmon! Cheer up love.

This lake though was just STUNNING…the pictures just say it all.

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But as I said, Queenstown is a beautiful spot, and we would recommend it 1000%.  My extensively travelled old school friend actually told me this was her favourite place in the world – and she’s been to some incredible places!

Queenstown is perfect for those of you that love adventure activities, as well as those that are on a budget as there are so many beautiful places to see here!


2 responses to “Queenstown – A Long Weekend On A Budget!

  1. Thanks for the entertaining post! My own trip to Queenstown fell toward the end of my time in NZ and my budget was non-existent by that time too! I remember my fellow backpackers paying hundreds of dollars to sky dive, bungee jump and do the canyon swing…while I got to watch the dvd’s they purchased…hahaha. Honestly I was kind of relieved because I was terrified of those activities anyway;) This post reminds me how important good food and coffee are on the road! There’s nothing more important than having good stops along the way! I remember being disappointed more than once with crap, overpriced food too! It is very painful when you don’t have money to throw around…And yes I agree, the view from atop the gondola in Queenstown is fantastic!!!


    • Hi Amber, thanks for your comment we’re glad you enjoyed the post! I know exactly what you mean, NZ is quite an expensive place to travel and a lot of people end up going to Queenstown last when they are low on money at the end of their trip! I can see why so many backpackers stay and get jobs there, it really is such a cool place! Exactly, coffee and food is SO important…no one enjoys being Hangry!


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