A Travel Price Comparison for New Zealand Nelson vs. Queenstown for Food, Hiking, Families, and Couples

Should you visit Nelson or Queenstown?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Trying to figure out where to travel next? This travel comparison between Nelson and Queenstown can help. It includes a travel cost comparison in addition to other factors. For many travelers, the cost of a destination is a primary consideration when choosing where to go.

Nelson

Nelson is a natural, beautiful, and outdoorsy city. This is also a very beautiful destination which attracts plenty of visitors. It's also known for nightlife, food, and beaches.

Queenstown

Queenstown is a adventure-filled, outdoorsy, and nature-oriented city. This is also a very beautiful destination which attracts plenty of visitors. It's also known for skiing, nightlife, and food.

Nelson and Queenstown: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Impressive beauty
Pros
  • Popular for skiing
  • Active nightlife
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Good for students
  • Impressive beauty
Things to Consider
  • Less museums and historical sights


Is there more to do in Nelson or Queenstown?

Tourists will generally find more to do in Queenstown. Although Nelson and Queenstown are both popular with visitors, Queenstown has more sights, activities, and attractions for travelers. Queenstown is more popular for its skiing, food, nightlife, and shopping, while Nelson is known for its museums and beaches. Nelson is popular for its stunning national parks, beautiful coastline, and outdoor adventures. Queenstown is popular for its world class skiing, adrenaline-filled adventure sports, and stunning mountain scenery. It is also home to Kawarau Bridge.

How is Nelson different from Queenstown?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Queenstown and Nelson. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Is Nelson or Queenstown Better for Skiing?

Nelson
Queenstown

Queenstown is renowned for snow skiing. However, Nelson is not a skiing destination.

Visitors will find world class skiing in Queenstown. There are four ski areas that are near the city, and many consider these among the best ski fields in New Zealand. The ski season runs from June until October and the skiing is world class.

Nelson is not a skiing destination.


Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Nelson or Queenstown?

Nelson
Queenstown

Nelson is a good destination for its sights and museums. However, Queenstown is not a good city for its museums and history.

Nelson is a good place to visit if you're interested in museums or other recognizable sights. While most people spend their time enjoying the nature-oriented activities, there are several museums in the area as well. Founder's Heritage Park Museum is a village-like setting that you can explore. There's also the Nelson Classic Car Museum and local art and craft galleries that are fun to walk through.

While most people don't head to Queenstown specifically for the museums and attractions, it does offer a few options. People head to this city for its amazing outdoor activities, but you won't find much if you're looking for museums. You can check out the Lakes District Museum though.

Is the Food Better in Nelson or Queenstown? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Nelson
Queenstown

Queenstown is renowned for its local cuisine and restaurants. Also, Nelson is not as famous, but is still a good city to visit for its restaurants.

Many restaurants in Queenstown have been singled out for their culinary prowess. Located in the heart of the Otago wine region, this city has many award-winning restaurants. Local dishes, vegan cafes, and international flavors all make for a cosmopolitan and world class dining scene.

Nelson has a huge number of terrific restaurants. Local ingredients, vineyards, and craft breweries all make the foodie scene around town interesting. There are many great restaurants that offer seasonal menus that change with the season. Eating is an experience in town, and locals take pride in the food they produce.

Is Nelson or Queenstown Better for Nightlife?

Nelson
Queenstown

Queenstown is a well-known place for nightlife. Also, Nelson is not as famous, but is still a good city to visit for nightlife and partying.

Queenstown offers plenty to do in the evening. This cosmopolitan town has some of the best nightlife in the country. There are laid back pubs, trendy cocktail bars, and live music venues that make for a fun night out.

With a handful of venues, visitors can find a fairly lively vibe in Nelson. The city attracts a good tourist crowd, and there are bars and clubs that keep things interesting late into the evening.


Is Nelson or Queenstown Better for Beaches?

Nelson
Queenstown

Nelson is a world-class destination for its beaches. However, Queenstown is not a beach destination.

Nelson offers stunning beaches that attract visitors from around the world. Beaches in the area are sandy and most are great for swimming. There are many water sports available as well such as kayaking, kite surfing, and paddleboarding. You'll find locals and tourists alike hanging out at the beach and enjoying a barbecue.

Queenstown is not a beach destination.

Is Nelson or Queenstown Better for Hiking?

Nelson
Queenstown

Both Nelson and Queenstown are destinations which offer fantastic hiking.

Around Nelson visitors will find world-class hiking trails. The area is filled with walking and hiking trails that wander along the coast and soak up the spectacular views. There are also three national parks in the area that are filled with trails. Abel Tasman National Park, Kahurangi National Park, and Nelson Lakes National Park each have their own environments and scenery to explore.

Queenstown is well-known for its hiking and trekking. The city is ideally located near some of the country's best hiking. There are walks through beech forests, along rugged mountains, and to stunning views. Several of the Great Walks are in the area as well, but if you're looking for something a little simpler, then there are many options also.

Is the Shopping Better in Nelson or Queenstown?

Nelson
Queenstown

Queenstown is a well-known place for shopping. Also, Nelson is not as famous, but is still a good city to visit for its shopping opportunities.

Queenstown is an extremely popular place for shoppers. It's a bustling city with designer brands and boutique shopping. There are also souvenir shops and retail outlets.

Shopping is a popular activity when visiting Nelson. There are weekly markets in the area and a variety of retail shops where you can pick up anything you might need.


Is Nelson or Queenstown Better for Families?

Nelson
Queenstown

Nelson is a world-class destination for its family-friendly activities. Also, Queenstown is not as famous, but is still a good city to visit for its kid-friendly activities.

With a huge array of activities for kids, Nelson is very family-friendly. Surrounded by family-friendly national parks, this city has a number of things for kids to do. In particularly, Abel Tasman National Park is a highlight for kids, with canoeing, sailing and other activities. Kids will also enjoy a visit to Cable Bay Adventure Park or seeing the historically themed Founders Park.

Because of its large number of kid-friendly activities, Queenstown is very family-friendly. Kids will enjoy the Queenstown cable car and the Skyline Gondola. After a ride on the gondola, you can even take the luge back down! The city also offers lake cruises, family-friendly farm tours, boat tours, and kayaking.

Is Nelson or Queenstown Better for Couples?

Nelson
Queenstown

Both Nelson and Queenstown are fantastic destinations for a couple's getaway.

Nelson is a great city for couples, as it has plenty to offer. Wilderness, national parks, beaches, and mountain scenery make this a wonderful couples destination. The area also has beautiful vineyards and gardens as well hiking and outdoor adventures.

Queenstown is fantastic couple's destination with fun and romantic activities. The city is known for its adrenaline-filled adventure activities and couples who enjoy a thrill will appreciate the fun. There are also hot springs, boat cruises, and wine tours in the area. One of the most romantic activities is dinner at the Skyline.

Is Nelson or Queenstown Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Nelson
Queenstown

Both Nelson and Queenstown are fantastic destinations for backpackers.

Nelson is a mecca for backpackers and budget travelers. There are many hostels in the area as well as outdoor activities and adventure sports that backpackers will love.

With so many budget-friendly offerings, Queenstown is extremely popular for backpackers. With its thrill-seeking activities and nearby skiing, this is a great backpacker destination year round.


Is Nelson or Queenstown Better for Students?

Nelson
Queenstown

Queenstown is a well-known place for students. However, Nelson is not popular with students.

Students come from all over to stay in Queenstown. There are excellent universities in the area as well as fun activities and a lively energy that students enjoy.

Nelson is not popular with students.

Is Nelson or Queenstown Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Nelson
Queenstown

Queenstown is a city with good options for its public transit. However, Nelson is not a good city for times when you don't have a car.

Queenstown has a few public transit options. There's a decent bus system that travels around town.

Public transit is mostly limited in Nelson. The city has a local bus network, but to efficiently explore everything that the area has to offer, you'll want to have a car.

Is Nelson or Queenstown a more walkable city?

Nelson
Queenstown

Nelson and Queenstown both are very good when exploring on foot.

Nelson is very walkable. There are many great walks in the area and its a wonderful way to get around.

Queenstown is a very walkable city. In town, many of the sights and activities can be reached on foot.


For even more information, also check out Is Nelson Worth Visiting? and Is Queenstown Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Queenstown or Nelson?

How long in Nelson or Queenstown?

Both Nelson and Queenstown have a number of activities to choose from. With generally more activities and things to do, visitors tend to spend more time in Queenstown than in Nelson. Usually, 3-5 days is a good amount of time for Nelson, and 2-7 days is enough time in Queenstown.

Families should spend more time in Nelson than Queenstown. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in Nelson, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in Queenstown than Nelson. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Queenstown that are perfect for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Queenstown than Nelson if your budget allows for it. With a larger number of budget-friendly sights, good nightlife, and active things to do, anyone traveling on a budget would have a good time in Queenstown.


  • How many days in Nelson or Queenstown? Ideal Length of Stay
    Nelson 3-5 
    Queenstown 2-7

One day in Nelson or Queenstown?

With museums and nightlife around the adventure-filled city of Nelson, there's plenty to do. Anyone can find something fun to do here. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than one day exploring.

Many travelers enjoy the shopping and skiing when visiting the destination of Queenstown. Hikers are also drawn to this area. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than one day exploring.

A weekend in Nelson or Queenstown?

With nightlife and food around the destination of Nelson, there's plenty to do. It's also a great beach destination, too. It offers something for everyone. With so much to do, a weekend is probably not enough time to see everything.

Queenstown is a great place to explore. It is common to spend a weekend here. With all of its activities, you can easily fill a weekend here. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

Five days in Nelson or Queenstown?

Nelson, a popular city, is full of activities for travelers. This is a popular place to visit for five days. Hiking can easily take up a good amount of your time here, too. In five days, you should have a good grasp of this city. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Queenstown. For many, it makes a great getaway for five days. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. With all of its activities, you can easily fill five days here. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do.


A week in Nelson or Queenstown?

Nelson is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. One week is plenty of time to see everything, even with extra days to spare. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do.

Many travelers enjoy the food and shopping when visiting the nature-oriented destination of Queenstown. This city offers a variety of activities to choose from. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. If you have one week, this is a great place to go. This would be the perfect place to spend one week, as it has just the right amount of activities.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best Family-Friendly Tours to New Zealand, The Best Wildlife Tours to New Zealand, The Best Hiking & Trekking Tours in New Zealand, and The Best 10-Day Tours in New Zealand.


Which place is cheaper, Queenstown or Nelson?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Nelson is $98, while the average daily cost in Queenstown is $108. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Nelson and Queenstown in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Nelson $42
    Queenstown $57
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Nelson $84
    Queenstown $114
Compare Hotels in Nelson and Queenstown

Looking for a hotel in Nelson or Queenstown? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Nelson


Hotels in Queenstown


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Nelson Hotel Prices and Queenstown Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Nelson $29
    Queenstown $11

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Queenstown

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Queenstown:

  • Queenstown Airport: One-Way Private Transfer to Queenstown: $30
  • From Mount Cook Transfer w/ Guided Landmark Tour: $108
  • Private Transfer from Queenstown Airport to Milford Sound Port: $167
  • Private Transfer from Queenstown Central to Wanaka: $186
  • Private Transfer from Wanaka to Queenstown Airport: $186
  • Private Transfers from Queenstown Airport to Wanaka : $186
  • Private Transfer from Wanaka to Queenstown Central: $186
  • Milford Sound Cruise with Helicopter Transfer: $762
  • Tasman Glacier Helihike with Flight Transfers: $922

Is it cheaper to fly into Nelson or Queenstown?

Prices for flights to both Queenstown and Nelson change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Nelson $28
    Queenstown $37

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Queenstown

Also, here are some specific examples of food and dining related activities in Queenstown.

  • Bar Crawl with 5 Free Shots and Pizza: $18
  • Dinner at Walter Peak High Country Farm and Cruise from Queenstown: $119
  • Queenstown Progressive Dinner Tour | Experience 3 Locations: $214

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Nelson $24
    Queenstown $22

Tours and Activities in Nelson

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Nelson are as follows:

  • Nelson City Walking Tour - Guided: $30
  • Cable Bay Adventure Park Skywire Experience: $68
  • SKYWIRE Experience: $69
  • Nelson to Mapua: Full-Day Cycling Self-Guided Adventure: $73
  • Self-Guided Nelson to Mapua Cycle Adventure: $75
  • Magical Mapua Self Guided One Day Cycle Tour: $78
  • Magical Mapua Charms in off-summer Season Selfguided Cycle Tour: $78
  • Great Taste Beer Tour by Bicycle (Self-guided): $82
  • Guided Quad Biking Tour Through Forest and Farmland: $83
  • Spooners Tunnel to Nelson One Day Cycle Self Guided Tour: $85
  • Cruise, Walk, and Sail in Abel Tasman National Park: $126
  • Full-Day Sailing Adventure in the Abel Tasman National Park: $166

Typical Entertainment Prices in Queenstown

Some typical examples of activities, tours, and entrance ticket prices in Queenstown are as follows:


  • Skyline Gondola (for 2)
    $31

Tours and Activities in Queenstown

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Queenstown are as follows:

  • Time Tripper Underwater Experience: $9.22
  • Self-guided adventure hunt: Queenstown Quest: $13
  • Private Race Car Simulation Experience: $21
  • Gibbston Valley Wines - Winery Tour: $24
  • Fear Factory Haunted House Admission Ticket: $25
  • Escape Adventure AR Experience in Queenstown: $25
  • Minus 5 Ice Bar Experience with Drink Options: $26
  • Go Karts - Highlands Motorsport and Tourism Park: $31
  • Ride to Riches: Arrowtown-Queenstown Bike Tour + Shuttle: $32
  • Lake Wakatipu Scenic Cruise: $36
  • Million Dollar Cruise in Queenstown: $37
  • Kids Club Experience Including Childcare: $49

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Nelson $13
    Queenstown $9.22

Sample the Local Flavors in Nelson

Some specific costs for nightlife related activities in Nelson:

  • Self-guided E-bike cycle tour with private wine tasting : $100

Sample the Local Flavors in Queenstown

Some specific costs for nightlife related activities in Queenstown:

  • Ice Bar Crawl: $25
  • Hop on Hop off Wine Tours Queenstown : $50
  • Queenstown & Gibbston Valley: Hop-On Hop-Off Wine Tours: $55
  • Hop on Hop off Wine Tours Bannockburn - departing Queenstown: $63
  • Afternoon Wine Tasting Tour with 3 Wineries: $102
  • Original Wine Tour: $105
  • Queenstown Classic Wine Tour: 3 Vineyards, Caves and Cheeseboard: $113
  • Afternoon brewery tour with lunch: $114
  • Classic Wine Tour: $122
  • Wine Tasting Tour: $135
  • Queenstown Wine Tour with Wine Dog | Adults Only: $136
  • Central Otago Wine Tour from Queenstown Including Lunch: $136


When comparing the travel costs between Nelson and Queenstown, we can see that Queenstown is more expensive. However, the two cities are actually relatively comparable in price, as the difference is somewhat minimal. Generally, this means that you could travel with generally the same travel style and level of luxury in each place. Since both cities are in Pacific, it's no surprise that their costs are relatively close, as many destinations here have somewhat similar travel prices overall.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Nelson Expensive? and Is Queenstown Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Nelson or Queenstown?

Nelson has a larger population, and is about 6 times larger than the population of Queenstown. When comparing the sizes of Nelson and Queenstown, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.