We get asked this question quite a bit throughout the year, and unfortunately our answer is generally the same – it entirely depends on your personal circumstances, budget, and travel desires. So we’ll try and simplify it a little for you below
1.What are you trying to accomplish whilst you’re in Central Otago?
Is the extent of your intended experiences the amazing tour options available from Queenstown – think AJ Hackett Bungy, NZONE sky-diving, Queenstown Wine Tours, and even day tours to Milford Sound? Maybe your just looking to enjoy Queenstown itself for it’s hospitality scene, a bit of frisbee golf, and a sit by the lake?
Alternatively, are you looking to explore Central Otago in general? Grabbing a beer at the Cardrona pub, go-karting at Highlands motorsport park, hiking Paradise and Glenorchy, Mountainbiking in Alexandra – the list can go on and on.
Essentially, if you fall into the ‘former’ category, we’d recommend take the free tour transport available with all experiences, and enjoy the public transport options available to get around town. If you’re more looking to explore a wider variety of options in the general area, you’ll definitely benefit from your own set of wheels.
2.Is it just yourself, or do you have a group of people/family?
This can go both ways really. By all means, if you’re travelling by yourself, the cost of renting a car and the petrol associated with it may prove a little prohibitive. In saying that though, having access to a car when fellow travelers don’t means you’ll generally meet some new people who will be willing to pitch in.
Generally speaking though, if you have a couple of people to split the cost with, a car is a great option for families and groups. Gives you more flexibility, and will probably prove cheaper than buying 4 x bus tickets from Queenstown to Dunedin. If you’re travelling by yourself, you could go either way here – refer back to question 1 and make your decision from there!
3.Are you coming to experience more of the South Island or just Queenstown?
Normally in Summer, people tend to come for longer periods of time, and tend to look to experience the whole South Island. Alternatively, we find in Winter, most people are just coming to Queenstown to hit the skifields, and aren’t looking to ‘explore’ so much.
Your travel plans are going to dictate which is your best option, but much like question 1 – if you’re looking to experience a little more, particularly places/experiences that aren’t on the usual ‘beaten paths’, you’ll probably benefit greatly from your own set of wheels. The nationwide bus systems are great – Intercity, Naked Bus and Atomic Shuttles – but they can be prohibitive in terms of timing, cost, and scope of where they travel to. So what exactly are you looking to take in? A little bit of research of bus timetables can go a long way, and you may find the places you HAVE to visit have been taken care of. Otherwise it may show you the it’s called ‘the road less traveled’ for a reason, and thus you might have to take yourself!
In Winter it’s pretty simple really. All of the ski resorts in the surrounding area provide transport to and from, and this is a great option particularly if you are not used to driving in Winter conditions. If you’ve got a group of people, then by all means look towards a car option, as this will be cheaper for you if you’re going up more than once. Just make sure at least one of your drivers is confident driving in snow/ice, as this can be an awful predicament during what was meant to be a relaxed holiday. If you’re by yourself, we would highly recommend to simply take the transport available – it will be cheaper, easier, and most importantly, relaxed!
Parking in Queenstown is like parking in any busy city/town – timing is everything, and be prepared to pay! It’s a hell of a lot cheaper to pay for parking here than in major destinations though, and if you stay at the best located accommodation in town, we’ll always point you in the right direction for free or cheap options. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you! 😉