Queenstown is known as a winter-wonderland and an adrenalin-junkie’s paradise, but what about a family holiday with kids? Here’s our list of things to do in Queenstown with kids. Activities that still brings the wonder and the adrenalin, but provide plenty of time for family bonding too!
Whether you’re planning a weekend or a longer stay in Queenstown to ski, jetboat, fly fish, bike or hike, enjoy some adventure activity, or just enjoy this amazing natural wonderland, there’s a huge list of indoor and outdoor activities for you and the kids.
60 AWESOME Things To Do In Queenstown With Kids
We’ve been to Queenstown a few times now, and there’s always something new and exciting to do. But before you start making a list of awesome things to do, you need to find somewhere to stay.
We’ve stayed at the Holiday Inn in the Queenstown township before, which is an amazing location. On our most recent trip we stayed at the new Holiday Inn Queenstown Remarkables Park. It was such a lovely place, and made getting ‘home’ at the end of an activity-filled day even better. We can’t recommend this hotel enough, check out our Queenstown accommodation review.
Shotover Jet Queenstown
No trip to Queenstown would be complete without some sort of hair-raising action. The Shotover Jet totally fits the bill. Even if you have quite little ones (we took our four year old on with us), they will love this trip!
These days there are actually quite a few jetboat operators, and you can choose to go for a ride on Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown itself. But we chose the original Shotover Jet on the Shotover River. Managed sustainably by the South Island Iwi (or tribe) Ngāi Tahu, this is far and away the craziest thing you’ll ever do on board a boat!
We also happened to go on one of the coldest winter days. So that upped the thrill anti! It was bright and sunny, but -3 degrees, so probably around -10 with the wind chill. Freezing and exhilarating all at the same time!
Next up on the awesome things to do in Queenstown list is an awesome classic, hopping aboard a 100-year-old vintage steamship, the iconic TSS Earnslaw.
This ‘lady of the lake’ is a must-do activity. Our four-year-old was enthralled by the men shovelling coal into red-hot furnaces and took many trips over the viewing platforms staring at the mechanisms in use.
The trip across the water to the Walter Peak High Country Farm takes around 30 minutes and is accompanied by a piano player, belting out classics such as ‘Edelweiss’, ‘Roll out the Barrell’ and even a nostalgic ‘Waltzing Matilda’.
On the way back, she dedicated some old-fashioned children’s tunes to the many little eyes watching her encased fingertips work their magic on the piano.
Walter Peak High Country Farm Tour
While at the Walter Peak High Country Farm, you’ll be treated to pikelets with whipped cream and jam, or delicious homemade scones, or an evening BBQ if visiting during the summer months.
Then there’s a classic Kiwi sheep show to entertain. The kids got to hold a new lamb, just three days old, and it was good to see that all the sheep were calm and happy and obviously very well looked after and cared for.
A tour of the property, which has its own power generation onsite, featured feeding some of the many animals such as moose, llamas, cows and of course, the friendly sheep. A well-weathered local recounted stories of Southern prowess and superiority in an entertaining hour-long tour.
The day-trip was 3.5 hours all up, and under $400 for a family of four, and a great way to start a Queenstown holiday!
Onsen Hot Pools
After all that jetboat action, you’ll want to soak up the view at the Onsen Hot Pools. From our soothing hot pool we could watch the Shotover Jet flying past!
It’s very family friendly and the kids loved pushing the button to make freezing cold water shoot from the roof into the pool. They also experimented with raising the roof and switching on the bubble jets.
It’s a private sanctuary that takes away any skiing aches and pains, or just restores a holiday-weary soul.
Just remember that from 2-3pm a helicopter flies overhead to pick up river canyoners – it can be a bit noisy, but is quite exciting to watch too.
Skiing, Snowboarding, Tubing and Tobogganing in Queenstown
There was no more delaying, we had to hit the slopes! Cardrona, Coronet Peak and the Remarkables provide the backdrop for this snow-loving community. We chose the mountain range the furthest from town to start with – Cardrona.
It’s the perfect place for all skill levels with its four chairlifts – more than any other South Island mountain. It enjoys deep snow cover, wide-ranging terrain and friendly ski instructors to make even the most novice skier feel welcome.
Coronet Peak Ski Area
Located 18km from Queenstown and 86km from Wanaka, Coronet Peak provides reliable snow via its south facing ski fields, and extensive snowmaking capability, and is well set up for families. Check out their website at www.nzski.com.
Remarkables Ski Area
Located 26km from Queenstown and 82km from Wanaka, this ski area consists mostly of three north facing sunny bowls, and is family friendly with children 10 and under skiing for free, and a Tubing Park for those not wanting to ski or snowboard. Check their website at www.nzski.com.
Cardrona Alpine Resort
Located 57km from Queenstown and 34km from Wanaka, Cardrona has superb dry snow and wide open slopes across three basins. Cardrona provides specialist slopes for beginners, wide open groomed slopes for intermediates, chutes for the advanced and an extensive park for freestylers. Cardrona is well resourced for children. Check out their website at www.cardrona.com.
Treble Cone Ski Field
Located 90km from Queenstown and 20km from Wanaka, this ski field is the largest in the South Island and is renowned for dry powder snow, but caters more for intermediate and experienced skiers. Families are catered for – find out more at www.treblecone.co.nz.
Located opposite Cardrona off the Crown Range road is “the Snowfarm” (previously known as “Wairau Nordic”) providing world class Cross Country or “Nordic” skiing. Cross Country skiing is hugely popular in Scandanavian countries, and attracts a small but loyal following in NZ. Accommodation and catering facilities are on site. Find out more at www.snowfarmnz.com.
Snowsports Queenstown-3 top tips
- Don’t just try one resort! You’re spoilt for choice in Queenstown with multiple mountain resort options close by. Each mountain has it’s own pros and cons, and caters differently for different skill levels. But you won’t be disappointed if you try out more than one ski field on your trip.
- This is a seasonal activity and is normally available from June through October (ish). Please check the snow and weather conditions at the links below for each ski field before setting out.
- When at the slopes, it’s a good idea for someone to be dropped at the top with the kids and gear and the other parent go back and park, otherwise, like us, you’ll be struggling in the slippery snow or will have to hop on the back of the shuttle – an open-back sheep truck.
- Pack for all weather. On our first day at Cardrona, the wind chill was so bad our hands froze outside our gloves. On the very next day, the sun was shining and we skied without jackets on. Welcome to New Zealand! So make sure you pack for all occasions, as the weather can change very quickly on the hill.
- Last top tip, pack plenty of food. Sure there is catering on all the resorts, and some of the cafe’s sell some half decent food. But it’s expensive. Our tip is to use the cafe’s for coffee and hot chocolate, maybe some hot chips at the end of the day, but pack a full lunch. Kids get hungry fast on the hill, so fuel them up with sandwiches and slices to prevent any meltdowns!
Around the start of the ski season each year (toward the end of June), Queenstown hosts the Winter Festival. It’s an amazing event spread over a couple of weeks, packed with exciting activities.
This is definitely worth checking out, though make bookings very early if you’re interested – it is a popular event and people travel far and wide to be a part of it.
Take a Flight over Queenstown and the Southern Lakes
There is nothing like seeing the Queenstown Lakes district from the air. A commercial flight into Queenstown Airport provides a breathtaking experience – get a window seat if you can!
But for those who want more than a short descent to witness the mountains from the air, there are a variety of options available.
Take a flight to the Milford Sound or over Mt Cook, up to Mt Aspiring and over the glaciers. For flight bookings and to take a look at all the options available, check out Glenorchy Air.
I’m so glad we decided to try out Time Tripper the last time we were in Queenstown. If you have 30 minutes to kill in between activities, we highly recommend it.
You can buy tickets from KJet on the wharf front. It’s basically a cinema underneath Lake Wakatipu! The short film tells the beautiful love story and Māori Legend of Lake Wakatipu. And you get a real flavour of the history and evolution of Queenstown.
Once the short film finishes, they feed the ducks and eels, and the biggest trout I’ve ever seen in my life!
Skyline Queenstown Gondola
You absolutely have to ride the gondola in Queenstown. Whether or not you dine at the Stratosphere Restaurant, ride the luge, or take flight on a tandem paraglide, it’s just worth it to get a birds eye view of Lake Wakatipu.
And if you go up at night there is an epic star-gazing tour that takes about an hour and finishes up with free hot chocolate.
If you’re just riding the gondola up then it’s quite fairly priced too.
Skyline Queenstown – Luge
Take the driving seat with the gravity-fuelled Skyline Luge, the global thrill ride for all ages.
Our purpose-built Luge carts put you in complete control as you take on over 1,600 metres of banked corners, tunnels and dippers. Once you’ve conquered the course, hop on the chairlift and do it all again, and again, and again.
Gentle and leisurely or fast and adventurous, you’ll be hooked. Once is never enough!
Skyline Queenstown – Stratosphere Restaurant
Delicious fresh fare, with stunning views. Treat yourself to a sumptuous buffet dining experience at Skyline’s Stratosfare Restaurant & Bar at the top of the Gondola in Queenstown. As you dine, the floor to ceiling windows and panoramic views of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains will captivate you day and night.
Skyline Queenstown – Mountain biking
Take on the legendary challenges of the Queenstown Bike Park – New Zealand’s first-ever Gondola assisted bike park.
With over 30 world-class downhill MTB trails totaling over 30 kms of riding and 450 metres of vertical descent, the Queenstown Bike Park is easily one of the best places to ride a mountain bike.
The crew will attach your mountain bike to your Gondola cabin at the base. Once you’re at the top, we’ll un-hook your bike and the rest is up to you.
Skyline Queenstown – Paragliding
Take-off from the top of the Skyline Gondola and enjoy the ultimate flight with spectacular views of Lake Wakatipu, the mountains, forests and Queenstown itself.
Fly with the largest and most experienced paragliding company in New Zealand…. We’ve been tandem paragliding over Queenstown since 1991!
Start your walk at Queenstown Bay Beach and take the Te Araroa Trail into the Queenstown Gardens.
Established in 1866 the gardens are a tranquil lakeside sanctuary, with shady lawns and benches, a children’s playground, memorials to Robert Falcon Scott and William Gilbert Rees, who was the first European settler in the area, and the chance to play a round of Frisbee golf, bowls or tennis.
21 Queenstown Short Walks
Check out the excellent DOC website: www.doc.govt.nz – to discover the excellent selection of walks available, including some of the short walks described below.
Bannockburn to Stewart Town walk
A 60 minute easy walk observing crumbling remains of 50 years of gold mining – sun-dried brick buildings, old water races, dams, and orchards.
Bob’s Cove Track & Nature Walk
Just 14 kilometres from Queenstown on the Glenorchy Road is this relaxing 20 minute walk, providing walks alongside Lake Wakatipu, historic sites, swimming beaches and fishing.
Bob’s Cove Bridle Track
While you’re at Bob’s Cove take a 45 minute diversion along the original bridle track linking Queenstown and Glenorchy, enjoying the bellbirds, kereru and tui birds, in the kowhai, fuchsia and rata trees.
A 30 minute return walk located near Makarora on SH6. Stroll through beech forest, cross the swingbridge over the Makarora River, and witness the crystal clear turquoise “Blue Pool”. Challenge the kids to spot any trout.
A 20 minute return walk near Milford Sound. Stunning views of sculptured rock canyons and waterfalls along the Cleddau River.
12 different walks around Cromwell, including the historic village of Cromwell, an historic water reservoir, Bendigo and Bannockburn old gold mining mines and sluicings, and the shores and picnic spots along Lake Dunstan. Check out the Cromwell Information Centre or a Cromwell focussed www.cromwell.org.nz website.
Just 15 minutes from Glenorchy on the Routeburn Rd is a 30 minute walk to Lake Reid which provides opportunities for viewing waterfowl and views up to Paradise and the Dart Valley.
Diamond Lake Lookout
On the Mt Aspiring road, just by the bridge over Motutapu River, is a 60 minute return walk, providing a rewarding view over Lake Wanaka and Matukituki River.
Double Barrel Creek
40 minutes from Glenorchy is a 30 minute loop walk through tall red beech forest, with wonderful views across the valley.
Frankton Arm Walkway
A 90 minute moderate return walk along the lakeshore between Queenstown and Frankton provides spectacular views of the Remarkables Range, Cecil Peak (1,974m) and Kelvin Peninsula.
Flat Top Hill Conservation Area
Just 6km south of Alexandra on SH8 is an easy 60 minute walk in a very distinctive landscape, featuring semi-natural grassland and cushion plants growing amongst schist rock hills in the driest environment in New Zealand. Other features include Butchers Dam, interpretative panels along the loop track, and superb views of Alexandra and the Clutha River from the summit.
A terrific easy family 1 hour loop track and picnic spot provides opportunities to view bird life, including black swans and Canada Geese, and views over Lake Sylvan and to Mt Earnslaw.
A 3 hour return walk for older families (involves a steeper gradient to the 918m summit), which includes 1 hour of the famous Routeburn Track. Located on the Milford road, the effort rewards you with truly magnificent views of Fiordland’s highest mountains, beech forest, subalpine terrain, wetlands, and the awe-inspiring Hollyford Valley.
An easy 45 minute loop beside Lake Gunn on SH94 toward Milford Sound. Enjoy the relaxing red-beech forest and forest birds.
Lake Sylvan Track
30 minutes drive from Glenorchy is the Lake Sylvan car park to access a 40 minute loop track which includes very tall red beech trees, a river crossing, and views across Lake Sylvan.
A 5 minute return stroll for the kids to marvel at the reflective views of the Earl Mountains in several flax-fringed lakes. Located along the Milford Road.
Mt Iron Track
Just out of Wanaka on SH6 is a 50 minute lakeside easy return walk to Eely Point and Waterfall Creek, with the option of another 60 minutes return gentle climb up Mt Iron (548m), to reward you with panoramic views of the Wanaka basin and Lake Wanaka.
One Mile Creek Walk
A 60 minute loop track along each side of One Mile Creek, starting from the One Mile Powerhouse carpark on Lake Esplanade.
A short walk from the town centre to a small peninsula are the Queenstown Gardens, which offer a terrific view of the town and Lake Wakatipu; and on the other side of this peninsula is a wonderful view of the Remarkables. The views can be spectacular at sunrise and sunset.
Queenstown Hill Walkway
A 90 minute return walk provides spectacular views over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu from atop Queenstown Hill (907m).
Thunder Creek Falls
A 5 minute return walk located near the “Gates of Haast” on SH6 within Mt Aspiring National Park. A short stroll through beech forest results in the wonderful 28m waterfalls.
4 Queenstown Mountain Biking MTB Tracks
Frankton Arm Walkway
A mountain biking trail between Queenstown and Frankton provides sensational views of the Remarkables Range, Cecil Peak and Kelvin Peninsula.
Otago Central Rail Trail
Take a day trip with older children to cycle the beautiful 22.5km Lauder to Oturehua stretch of the Otago Central Rail Trail, which is a year-round DOC-managed public reserve that follows the 157km old railway line from Middlemarch to Clyde. More detailed information is available at the Otago Central Rail Trail Charitable Trust’s website.
Seven Mile & Wilson Bay Tracks
The local MTB club has developed a network of trails, which start from Wilson Bay on Glenorchy Rd.
Skyline Queenstown – Mountain biking
Take on the legendary challenges of the Queenstown Bike Park – New Zealand’s first-ever Gondola assisted bike park. With over 30 world-class downhill MTB trails totaling over 30 kms of riding and 450 metres of vertical descent, the Queenstown Bike Park is easily one of the best places to ride a mountain bike.
5 Kayaking, Paddle Boarding and Jet Skiing options in Queenstown
There are heaps of great options for kayaking, funyaking, stand up paddle boarding and jets skiing in Queenstown. Hiring the equipment is usually really straight forward. And the scenery that you’ll be surrounded by in just a few short minutes is just unreal!
Kayaking Lake Wakatipu
Kayaking Lake Hayes
Funyaking on Lake Wakatipu
Peddle bikes on Lake Wakatipu
Jet ski on Lake Wakatipu
2 Ziplining Options in Queenstown
Although you can zipline in many tourist hot spots around the world now, it’s still an amazing experience, and Queenstown does it in style.
There’s two options to choose from now too.
Te Anau Bird Sanctuary Walk
The Te Anau Wildlife Centre – located on the shores of Lake Te Anau. Just 10 minutes walk from the DOC Visitor Centre. Learn about some of Fiordland’s wildlife and view the rare flightless takahe, waterfowl, weka, kereru (native pigeons), native parakeets, tui, kea and kaka. Check it out at the DOC site.
Ivon Wilson Park
A children’s (brook trout) fishery is on Lake Henry, within the 35ha park (including native and exotic plantings), managed by the Southland District Council. A licence is needed to fish the lake, but these are free and available from any sports store or the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre located in Te Anau.
Ivon Wilson Park is a wonderful place for a picnic, a walk and some recreational fishing.
Fish and Chips and Sunsets on Lake Wakatipu
By far the cheapest meal you’ll ever buy in Queenstown, with definitely the best view, is to just buy some fish ‘n chips and head down to the lakefront.
Fish ‘n chips on the lakefront requires you to dress warm in the winter time, but is well worth it. And in the summer, there couldn’t be a better way to end the day.
Sit on the wall, and watch the kids throwing pebbles into the lake while the sun sets, this is how memories are made.
Queenstown Too Lovely to Leave
Our luggage was lighter on the way back – we’d brought toys and books that we wanted to leave behind – and we arrived at the airport in time for the best breakfast food ever from an airport café. Is there anything they don’t do awesome in Queenstown!
Queenstown is everything you’d expect – picture perfect landscapes, enthusiastic locals who love their environment, fine food and wine, a never-ending supply of activities for the kids, and so accessible and easy for families to get around.
The sign as you leave says: “Queenstown, too lovely to litter”, I think a more appropriate sign would be: “Queenstown, too lovely to leave.”
Queenstown and the surrounding Southern Lakes provide plenty of things to do and places to go for all members of the family.
Queenstown is very well organised to ensure your family has a wonderful holiday, including a wealth of holiday activities that save you time and effort and provide you with a wonderful range of entertainment experiences – from peaceful tours through to adrenalin-pumping action.
For more great travel ideas around New Zealand, and some of the best travel for advice for family adventures further abroad, check out our Family Travel section.