Living in Queenstown New Zealand- absolutely everything you should know

You want to know what living in Queenstown is really like. In this piece, I’ll give you the lowdown on finding a job, finding an apartment and whether Queenstown really is the best place to live in New Zealand.

Queenstown has been our home for the past two years. Living in Queenstown was one of the best decisions we made. It is known as the ‘adventure capital of the world’ with all sorts of adrenalin-filled sports available. It is stunningly beautiful, I mean all you have to do is google image the place to see why it is so popular with tourists & expats.

If you’re interested in applying for a Working Holiday Visa to New Zealand, read all my detailed instructions here.

Is Queenstown a good place to live?

Definitely! We loved our two years in Queenstown – there is so much to do & not only expensive/adventurous things like bungee-jumping, helicopter trips, boat trips & skiing. There’s lots of fabulous FREE things to do too – the views from the local hikes are stunning, you can go for a bike ride through wine country or be brave and take an icy-cold swim in the bright blue waters of Lake Wakatipu.

Here’s my detailed list for budget-friendly things to do in Queenstown!

It’s easy to make friends in Queenstown – I think this is because of the large population of overseas backpackers on Working Holiday Visa’s. Before your move to Queenstown, we recommend joining local Facebook groups to get a ‘feel for the town’ – these groups are also great for finding jobs or rooms to rent. Facebook groups I recommend Queenstown Trading and Queenstown Houses to Rent

helicopter over queenstown
View from a helicopter ride over Queenstown

How much does it cost to live in Queenstown?

Prior to COVID-19, Queenstown was known as one of the most expensive cities in New Zealand. With rent being the most expensive cost for most. Back in the ‘good ‘ol days’ a lot of landlords rented their properties to the throng of tourists via airbnb. Hence, the demand was higher than the supply for long-term rental properties. Since COVID however, rents in Queenstown have dropped an average of 20% (our two-bedroom in Frankton dropped from $590 to $450 per week). A weekly food shop for two can cost between $100 – $200 per week. Add on electricity and other bills like WiFi (both of which are quite reasonable) and my best estimate is that each person would need to earn $500NZD per week to live comfortably in Queenstown.

Cheapest Supermarkets in Queenstown

Food shopping is reasonable with Pak N Save in Frankton being the best bang-for-your-buck supermarket. It’s kind of like a CostCo but without the need for membership. A weekly shop for two (including beer/ wines) cost us approximately $200NZD which I imagine is way above the average. It’s definitely possible to do a weekly food shop for two for $100 NZD if you’re thrifty. Keep in mind that fruit & veg is seasonal in Queenstown (& in New Zealand as a whole) so only buy in-season otherwise you will pay a fortune!

Other supermarkets in the Queenstown area include Countdown at 5-mile Shopping Center in Frankton; New World at Remarkables Park; FreshChoice on Gorge Road and Alpine Market (a small store in Queenstown CBD).

Eating out in Queenstown

Eating out can be as expensive or as cheap as you want – you can splurge on a fantastic meal at Botswana Butchery or Rata. But, we loved using First Table to get 50% off meals, this app gives you the first table of the night for 50% off – it’s a great way to try out Queenstown’s restaurants cheaply. The best cheap-eats in Queenstown include Fat Badgers for pizza, the famous Fergburger, Caribe Latin Kitchen for delicious Mexican food and Taco Medic.

So, in short Queenstown can be an expensive place to live (especially with all the temptations) but once you start earning money you will notice the expense less & less.

bobs peak, skyline gondola queenstown
View from Bob’s Peak

How much money do I need to move to Queenstown?

My estimation is that start-up costs to move to Queenstown will cost you approx. $4,000 NZD. This figure takes into account your first months rent, your rental deposit (usually one months rent), stuff for your apartment like bed sheets, cooking utensils etc and one big food shop.

Surprisingly homeware is cheap in New Zealand – K-Mart, Warehouse & Spotlight all located in Frankton are your best bet for cheap stuff to furnish your house. There’s also a Facebook group Queenstown Buy/Sell/Trade where you can grab a great second-hand bargain! But thankfully most places here come fully furnished. 

How much is rent in Queenstown?

Rent prices in Queenstown vary massively, our two-bedroom apartment in Frankton was $590 NZD per week pre-COVID and $450 NZD per week currently. Which is actually quite reasonable considering it was over three levels & had two balconies. For units closer to town you are likely going to pay from $350 NZD per week for a one-bedroom apartment. If you go further afield to Shotover Country/ Lake Hayes (a 20 minute drive from town) average rental prices for a one-bedroom decrease to about $300 NZD per week.

If you really want to save money on rent, you can rent a room from about $100 – 150 NZD per week, again this price massively depends on where the house is located and the condition of it. Some share houses are truly awful.

My top tip is to arrive in Queenstown before the peak seasons begin – if you’re planning to stay for the Summer season arrive in October and for the Winter season arrive in April. This way you will have more choice of rental options available to you.

If you plan to buy a house in Queenstown – note it can be hard to choose the perfect house abroad. So, make sure you  do a lot of research to figure out what you want and set out a reasonable budget.

skyline gondola queenstown
View from top of Skyline Gondola

Where do people live in Queenstown

There are a couple of neighborhoods in Queenstown, here I will list the best/most popular. We lived in Fernhill for one year and Frankton for the second. We loved both area’s for different reasons.

  • Fernhill – one of the closest neighborhoods to the town but it’s located up a very steep hill so you will need to be fit if you want to walk to/from town. There is a regular bus service however. Fernhill is popular with backpacker’s and the quality of the houses tend to be focused towards these backpackers, but it is one of the ‘cheaper’ areas to live. There’s a small convenience store and a fantastic fish & chip shop here.
  • Goldfield Heights – located off the main Frankton Road into town, and just a 5-10 minute drive away. The houses here are typically larger, so a lot of ‘rooms only’ come up for rent here. Again, there is a regular bus service into town.
  • Frankton Road – Frankton Road is the main road that connects Queenstown to Frankton. Frankton is the commercial hub in Queenstown – this is where the large supermarkets are located. As well as K-Mart, Warehouse and so much more. Most of the properties on Frankton Road are newer apartment complexes or townhouses. There’s a popular lakeside walking track in Frankton too.
  • Shotover Country/ Lake Hayes – I’ve put both these area’s under the same section as they are both large housing estates next to one another. Shotover Country being slightly closer to Queenstown. This is a popular area for young families and the houses here are pretty much all new-builds. It’s a longer drive into Queenstown from these neighborhoods at about 20 minutes. There’s a bar/restaurant in Lake Hayes.
  • Arrowtown – a cute, picture-perfect town about a 20 minute drive from Queenstown. This area is popular with long-term locals. Arrowtown is a town in itself with restaurants, mini-marts, bars etc so no need to venture into Queenstown regularly. Arrowtown is especially stunning in fall.
  • Kelvin Heights – or the ‘sunny side of the lake’ as locals call it. Seriously it always seems to be sunny in Kelvin Heights. Long term locals tend to live here and the houses are typically nice & large. A semi-regular bus service operates here. The Hilton hotel is located over here and theres a nice walking track along the lake.
  • Jacks Point – an upmarket housing development at the base of the Remarkables mountains. The houses here are seriously gorgeous but they tend to be on the large side so it’s ‘rooms to rent’ that come up over here often. The Jacks Point Golf Club is located here, which has a bar/restaurant with great food. There’s also a nice lakeside beach and walking track a 15 minute walk from the houses.

Check out Harcourts or QAC for a large selection of rental properties currently available. We used both these letting agents during our time here.

lake alta, remarkables, queenstown
Lake Alta on the Remarkables mountain range

Best short-term apartments for rent in Queenstown

My best advice is to rent an apartment short-term in Queenstown while you search for a long-term apartment. That way you’re not under any pressure to find a place quickly and you can get a feel for the neighborhoods and find out which area is best for you. I DO NOT recommend committing to a long-term apartment without having seen it in person -as unfortunately there are a lot of rental scams in Queenstown. One such example is when the pretend “landlord” says he’s out of the country and to transfer the rental deposit to his bank account and he will leave the keys in xxx place for you to collect. As you can probably guess, the keys are never there to be collected and the “landlord” has done a runner with your money.

Here are the best apartments I found for short-term rent –

Glebe Apartments – centrally located (next to Queenstown Gardens in the CBD) these stylish apartments are a great option. You can choose from Studio, One; Two or Three bedroom apartments.

Cranbury Court Apartments – are again centrally located on Glebe Road, just a 5-minute walk from the CBD. FreshChoice supermarket is also close by. You can chose from One, Two or Three bedroom apartments.

Apartments at Spinnaker Bay – luxurious apartments with great lake views, these apartments are located on Frankton Road. You can walk the Frankton Track into the CBD – taking about 25 minutes. The apartments here are very stylish – choose from One, Two or Three bedroom apartments.

The Whistler Apartments – also located on Gorge Road, these apartments are a very popular choice in Queenstown. Just a 5-minute walk from the center of Queenstown. There are two supermarkets very close by – Raeward Fresh and Freshchoice. Choose from One or Two bedroom apartments.

wilsons baby, queenstown, new zealand
Me at gorgeous 7-mile Carpark viewpoint|!

Is Queenstown the best place to live in New Zealand?

Okay, okay Queenstown is stunningly beautiful – I mean have you SEEN the photos! But there is so much more to Queenstown than it’s good looks. It’s a great place to live as an expat and it is very easy to have a good comfortable life here. Wages are typically high, and rent (currently due to COVID) is the lowest it’s been in years. It’s easy to make friends thanks to the large backpacker community. And the bar-scene (if you’re into that sort of thing) is excellent. It’s obviously a great place to tick things off your bucket list. From plane rides over Milford Sound, jet-boating on a world-famous boat or trying out the first bungee-jump in the world.

UPDATE – This July we waved goodbye to our gorgeous home of Queenstown, New Zealand. We made the difficult decision of moving to Ireland because of Covid, visa issues and my pregnancy.

Have you ever considered living in Queenstown? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

If you plan on visiting Queenstown for a vacation only then you HAVE to check out my guide to 24 hours in Queenstown

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You want to know what living in Queenstown is really like. In this piece, I’ll give you the lowdown on finding a job, finding an apartment and whether Queenstown really is the best place to live in New Zealand.

3 thoughts on “Living in Queenstown New Zealand- absolutely everything you should know

  1. Teja Reply

    First time I visited the South Island (a long time ago), I had the mad impulse to stay as a shepherd lol

    1. snaphappytravel Reply

      Sounds very interesting!

  2. Krista Reply

    I haven’t been to Queenstown yet but it looks like a beautiful place with lots of fun things to do to keep you busy!

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