4 Steps to Settling in Queenstown
It's not easy settling in a new place with a million things to figure out for yourself as well as wanting to find your kind of crowd so you don't have to sit alone in a hostel room wondering how the hell you're going to build a life here in Queenstown.
If you're considering moving to this neck of the woods or have recently moved here, you'll quickly discover that almost all of the locals are transplants, too, so you're not alone. It's pretty rare to find kiwis here (the birds and the people that is), especially ones who grew up in Queenstown. You will occasionally meet a North Islander wandering around town or someone who escaped from Invercargill, but I'd say the majority of the population you will meet have come from a faraway land usually from well across the ocean.
The melting pot of nations that comprise Queenstown's local scene is generally made up of Brits & Irish, loads of Brazilians, a hefty amount of Argentinians, a fair few Americans & Canadians, along with many Koreans, Germans, French, Belgians, Italians, and even a few Australians. In saying all of that, we've all been where you are now and know it's daunting, but moving to Queenstown is one of the best decisions most of us expats here (and even kiwis) have made in our whole lives. You won't regret it!
Whether you're arriving for a winter season or moving here in the warm, summer months, do a bit of research before you land in town to look for a place to live. Before the ski mountains open, town is mad for housing and accommodation. Snow bunnies are coming from every continent to spend at least three months rolling around the Queenstown slopes, so the rush to find a place to live is absolutely nuts.
I highly recommend you come at least two months before the ski mountains open to get yourself settled, find a job, and pin down a great place to live. The later you leave your accommodation arrangements, the more likely it is you'll be stuck in a shared room with two or three other people or permanently residing at a hostel.
If you're not coming here for the snow, consider moving to Otago towards the end of the Queenstown ski season when more places become available and you can actually have a choice of where you'll live.
Depending on whether you want to rent a room for a short stint (3-6 months) or if you want to be the head tenant for the unforeseeable future, you have a few different places to look for housing. Renting/letting a room in Queenstown is typically done through Facebook groups such as:
- Queenstown Trading
- For Rent in Queenstown
- Queenstown-Lakes Rent/Buy/Sell a room/apartment/house/condo/property/flat
- Queenstown Apartments/Houses/Rooms/Flatmates Wanted For Rent/Buy/Sell in NZ
If you're looking for a whole house to rent out yourself, there is a chance you'll find it through one of the aforementioned Facebook groups, but you can also go through Co-Live Queenstown, Housemart or the Queenstown Accommodation Centre (QAC). I have personally rented with Co-Live and Housemart and can recommend them both.
Co-Live Queenstown has an incredible mission statement founded on community values, sustainable living, and co-living spaces, which I love. The cofounders, Mary & Rory, are such a pleasure to work with and handle each and every matter with a professional, yet personal approach. Housemart manages properties across Queenstown and Wanaka and deal with many international property owners to find the right tenants and make sure both sides are happy through the rental process. They have won loads of property management awards and continue to do a great job in the neighborhood.
Now that you've been warned about the housing situation and the seasonal influences, let's talk about the other steps you'll need to take to settle in Queenstown for the season, the year, or forever.
As previously mentioned, Step 1 is:
Pick a neighborhood, find a flat with good, solid housemates, and let the good times roll. **THIS IS KEY!!!** Living with considerate, cool housemates can land you some lifelong friends and tons of great memories.
Next, Step 2:
Find a job doing something completely new, snag a fun bar gig, or use your trade to land a decent, hands-on position. If you need some guidance on how to land a paid pastime around these parts read this for some insider tips. Not many people come from bungy jumping backgrounds or arrive in Queenstown with jet boat licenses, so be open to the random employment chapter and learn a cool, new skill -- more stories for the grandchildren!
Buy a car. Trust me, you will need one for weekend adventures. At first you'll think you can hitchhike, walk, or bus it everywhere, but when you're off from work, you'll want to go exploring the South Island. There are too many beautiful spots to see, and exploring Middle-earth will require a set of wheels.
Lastly, Step 4:
Get involved with scene around town! Join the local rugby, soccer, hockey, biking, running, hiking, etc. club through the Queenstown Lakes District Council and make some active friends. Go to some of LuLuLemon's free events (yoga, goal setting workshops), check out the Lakes Weekly Bulletin for the weekly happenings, or look for posters of events going on around town.
Make some aquatic friends through the Facebook group Queenstown Windsurf and Kitesurf Club, or, if sports aren't your scene, there are groups like the Queenstown Photography Club, Shotover Country Music Club, Wakatipu Potters Group, Arrowtown Line Dancing, and a buttload more. If all of the above don't tickle your fancy, go play Jingo (musical bingo) or find one of the awesome pub quizzes around town and befriend some local competitors! Don't forget to get yourself a few bar stickers for your debit card to make sure you get local prices on pints!
Now that you know the four crucial ways to make yourself a local in Queenstown, you'll need to do one last thing before you can be.......baptized? I'm not religious, so how about this your rite of passage: Ferg Burger vs. Devil Burger. The ongoing battle is everlasting; you must choose your burger tribe and never waver.
Voilà! You're in. You're about to have the most fun in the most spectacular place in the world. Work hard and play hard while you're here so you can really make your time in Queenstown an experience of a lifetime.