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.

P.S. I’ve also lived in Sydney and Whistler, Canada if you fancy reading about what it’s like to live there!

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.

11 of the best photography spots in Queenstown



Photography in Queenstown – a local’s guide to the best photography spots in Queenstown!

We moved to Queenstown in July 2018. I was lucky enough to transfer here with my job, we were previously living in the sunny Bay of Islands on the North Island, but alas a change was due and now we’re here among the snow-capped mountains of the South Island.

We are incredibly lucky to live in one of the most beautiful towns in the world. But as pretty as it is, Queenstown is not without its problems. As with all resort towns long-term accommodation is a nightmare to find. We got lucky with a cute two bedroom place just outside of town, but the process was stressful – we ended up living in  a cheap hotel for two weeks while we waited for our apartment to become available. Anyway, the pros and cons of living in Queenstown is a story for another day.

11 of the Best Photography Spots in Queenstown

So, here we go our guide to the best photography spots in Queenstown including 27 of our prettiest pictures. You can bet it will convince you to visit. P.S if you have more time I urge you to explore more of this gorgeous region on an epic South Island Road Trip.

  1. Bob’s Cove
  2. Glenorchy
  3. Skyline Gondola in Queenstown
  4. Fernhill
  5. Moke Lake
  6. Doubtful Sounds
  7. Arthurs Point
  8. Sunshine Bay Walking Track
  9. Cromwell
  10. Helicopter flight to Milford Sound
  11. Cardrona Hotel

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

1. Bob’s Cove

15 minute drive from Queenstown on the Glenorchy road is Bob’s Cove. One of my favorite spots in the Queenstown area. You can chose to go for a short and easy walk around the lake here, or if you’re feeling more active hike up the steep hill to Picnic Point. Here, at Picnic Point is where the best views are.

2. Glenorchy

Approximately 40 minutes drive from Queenstown is the cute and extremely photogenic town of Glenorchy. The drive here in itself is a sight for sore eyes, with the drive consistently named as one of the most photogenic in the world by media outlets. Whilst in Glenorchy be sure to take a photo outside the bright red boat shed. There are also a few cafes here to get your caffeine fix, if you want to try a yummy kiwi pie – then, Mrs Woolies General Store is your place.

This Lord of the Rings guided tour includes stops at many sights in Glenorchy and departs from Queenstown CBD.

Additional tip | If you have a 4WD vehicle drive further afield into Paradise for truly stunning South Island scenery.

glenorchy, new zealand

3. Skyline Gondola in Queenstown

From Queenstown you can hop on the Skyline gondola for approximately $79 which includes some luge rides. Our top photography tip for the Skyline gondola is to walk up to the take-off point for Paragliding – just follow the signs for NZone paragliding. You can grab a coffee or some food from the restaurant on-site at Skyline, sit on the balcony for great views of Queenstown.

4. Fernhill

Fernhill is a neighborhood just outside the town of Queenstown. Put simply, it’s the very steep hill at the edge of the lake – about a 20 minute walk from town. The best views here can be seen on the walk from the Heritage hotel into town via the walking track. Sunset is pretty spectacular from this spot too.

5. Moke Lake

Moke Lake is a 20 minute drive from Queenstown on the Glenorchy road, just take the turn off called Moke Lake Road. The scenery here is very Lord of the Ring’s, in fact Moke Lake is a very popular filming location for many TV series and movies.You can walk around Moke Lake on the loop track which takes approximately 90 minutes.

6. Doubtful Sounds

Doubtful Sounds is a full-day trip from Queenstown, it’s the less-visited sister of Milford Sound. But in my opinion Doubtful Sound is even more spectacular, not only is it less-crowded with just two boats on the water at any one time it is also much larger. You can book a day trip to Doubtful Sound through many of the tourist shops in Queenstown or online. If you do plan on self-driving to Doubtful Sound, we highly recommend spending the night in the nearby towns of Te Anau or Manapouri.

One of the best tours you can book in Milford is this glass-bottomed luxury catamaran that will surely get you the best photos of this stunning natural wonder!

doubtful sounds cruise

7. Arthurs Point

Arthurs Point is a suburb of Queenstown about a 10 minute drive from town. The best views here can be seen from the famous Onsen Hot Pools (book in advance!) or the Nugget Point Hotel. FYI – all these photos below were taken from our balcony at Nugget Point Hotel.

Arthurs Point, Queenstown

8. Sunshine Bay to Queenstown Walk

You can start the Sunshine Bay walk from Queenstown at One-Mile Carpark, the return journey will take you approximately 2 hours in total. Alternatively, you can drive to Sunshine Bay beach about a 10 minute drive from town and just walk some of the path before returning to your car. The best photo spot here is from the jetty at Sunshine Bay beach.

9. Cromwell

The commuter town of Cromwell is a 45 minute drive from Queenstown, it is a huge fruit-growing and grape-growing region. There are also a selection of cafes and restaurants in Cromwell if you fancy stopping here for lunch or dinner. The best views in Cromwell can be seen from the jetty in the old town.

10. Up in the air – a helicopter ride to Milford Sounds

The ultimate bucket list item whilst in Queenstown is a helicopter ride to the famous Milford Sound. This trip will vary in price depending on the company you choose, if you have a little more money in your pocket try to book a trip that includes a landing on a glacier.

This helicopter tour includes an alpine landing and is one of the most luxurious helicopter tours in the area!

11. The Cardrona Hotel

The Cardrona Hotel is one of the oldest bars in New Zealand and is located on the road to Wanaka, about a 45 minute drive from Queenstown. Be sure to stop in for food or a beer, especially on a sunny day as the Cardrona Hotel has a huge beer garden.

cardrona hotel new zealand

Where to stay in Queenstown

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.

The best photography spots in Queenstown

Phew guys, and that’s a wrap on the best photography spots in Queenstown. Hopefully these photos have captured your imagination enough to make you want to visit Queenstown and take heaps of photos.

We love it here, we really do – there’s so much to do and see. As is the case in the rest of New Zealand it is expensive, but most of these photo’s were taken in places that are free to enjoy.

Of course, if you have any questions feel free to ask – we’ve been living in Queenstown for a year and consider ourselves ‘kinda experts’. And last but not least – please tell me, where was your favourite spot in Queenstown from this list?!

Why not read | A locals guide to Queenstown

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Introducing 27 of the best photography spots in Queenstown and how to get there. Plus all of our local secrets to convince you to visit.
Introducing 27 of the best photography spots in Queenstown and how to get there. Plus all of our local secrets to convince you to visit.
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