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.

Highly Recommended

  • MINUS 5° Ice Bar.  Experience the Thrill of the Chill!  A frozen family adventure that will never be forgotten
  • Shotover Jet has thrilled more than 3 million people since 1970, and now it’s your turn!

Take Flight

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.

Now is the chance of a lifetime to go flying, and to marvel at the absolutely stunning views – the beautiful landscapes and lakes around Queenstown district and the surrounding region.

For flight bookings and to take a look at the options available, check out Air Queenstown.


Snow Sports

This is a seasonal activity and is normally available from June till October. Please check the snow and weather conditions at each field before setting out.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Snowfarm 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.
  • 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.

Winter Festival

Close to the start of the ski season each year (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 from afar to be part of it.

Action Aplenty

For the adrenalin-junkies in the family, you are truly spoilt for choice! There are action attractions aplenty in Queenstown – for all ages, all seasons, and across a wide variety of entertainment types – mountain bikes, 4-wheel motorbikes, kayaks, white-water rafts, sledges, bungy, snow skiing, snowboarding, jet boats, horses… the list goes on!

Destination Queenstown provides an up to date list of Queenstown’s action and adventure activites here.


There is a tremendous range of more “relaxing” places to go in Queenstown – places that don’t involve lots of exercise or risky adventure.

Many wonderful spa treatments can be found in a diverse range of spa experiences in the Queenstown area – here are some details.

Golfers will find some amazing greens to play on, with equally amazing views.

Museums and galleries offer wonderful days out.

The Gibbston Valley River Trail is worth checking out.  There are plenty of wineries for visiting, many with lovely areas for children to run around in.

Guided Tours

If you’d prefer to sit back and allow a local expert to show you the highlights around Queenstown, Southern Lakes district, and Fiordland, then you have a wide array of tour types from which to choose.

For an unforgettable experience, try a cruise on Milford or Doubtful Sounds.  You can even book an overnight cruise with meals provided.

Tours of wineries, Lord of the Rings sights and heritage sights are also popular options.  Check out the list of options here.

On a Budget

Queenstown, the Southern Lakes district, and Fiordland provide an abundance of picture postcard views of nature, outstanding scenic walks, and mountain biking trails which you can experience for free or at very little cost. Some suggestions to explore:

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 – 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.

Blue Pool – 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.

The Chasm – a 20 minute return walk near Milford Sound. Stunning views of sculptured rock canyons and waterfalls along the Cleddau River.

Cromwell Walks – 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.

Diamond Creek – 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.

Glenorchy Walkway – 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.

Key Summit – 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.

Lake Gunn – 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.

Mirror Lakes – 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.

Queenstown Gardens – 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.

Mountain Biking

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 www.otagocentralrailtrail.co.nz website.

Seven Mile & Wilson Bay Tracks – the local MTB club has developed a network of trails, which start from Wilson Bay on Glenorchy Rd.


DOC Te Anau Wildlife Centre – located on the shores of Lake Te Anau, 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.

Ivon Wilson Park, Te Anau – 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, available from any sports store or the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre located in Te Anau, is needed to fish the lake.

Lake Hayes – close to Arrowtown, enjoy a relaxed picnic and a quick dip (for the brave!) on the northern side of the picturesque Lake Hayes.

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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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