Epic Things to do in Queenstown with Kids: Adventurous, Free and Fun Activities for the Family

Things to do in Queenstown with Kids

(Updated August 2021) 

Queenstown, how I love you.  I can still remember my first trip here, whisking my boyfriend (now husband) away here… in the pre instagram days where you just heard it was a great place to visit, so you went.  Without stalking everything to do, and when you needed to actually head to a visitor centre to find out what to do in Queenstown.

Queenstown, was perhaps the first place I went to, in New Zealand, as an adult that I was like.. Wow!  And we have been back so many times.  There are views galore, tons of fun things to do with kids and many attractions in Queenstown… we still haven’t done everything.

Queenstown is only an hours drive from Lake Wanaka, another popular lakeside town.  Basing yourself in Queenstown, you also have access to the many incredible things to do in Wanaka too.

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Why visit Queenstown with kids?

I’ve heard people in two camps discuss Queenstown with kids… those who think its all adventure activities and the kids can’t do them, or those who think there is nothing to do besides adventure activities in Queenstown.  Well I’d like to tell you that both of these are myths.

Myth: Kids are too young for adventure activities in Queenstown

There are a ton of adventure activities for kids, even the young ones.  So yes, they can’t do everything, but they definitely can give some “risky” activities a go.  Kids can jet boat (some companies) from 2 years old, white water raft from 3 years old, zipline from 6 years old, bungy from 10 years old.  They can also ski, go mountain biking, snow tubing and luging.  So don’t think that kids can’t adventure in Queenstown.  Whether you as a parent want to pay for all that fun, is a completely different matter.

Myth: There are only adventure activities in Queenstown

There are also lots of things to do beyond an adrenalin rush.  There are boat cruises, farm visits, swimming pools, winery tours, bike trails, trampoline parks and a ton of incredible walks with beautiful views.  So have a look below and decide for yourself what to do in Queenstown with kids.

Table of Contents for Queenstown Family Activities

 

Where is Queenstown, New Zealand?

Queenstown is in the southern part of the South Island in the Otago region.  It has a population of around 15,000 people (2019) and is a very popular resort town and tourist area. 

With the incredible mountain ranges, lakes, alpine hikes and ski fields, along with the stunning views, it is a very popular place to visit in the South Island.  Accommodation in Queenstown is notoriously expensive, as our long term rental properties.  Many local New Zealanders are priced out of the housing market here, and nearby Wanaka, so be prepared to do a little digging to get a good accommodation deal.

Because of this, you will notice a very diverse group of locals, who are often very transient in nature.  Much like other ski resort towns overseas, many come in for the local ski season and follow the winter or travel around the country in the summer.

Sunset at Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown NZ

How to get to Queenstown, New Zealand

The Queenstown International Airport is a small but well connected local airport.  I highly recommend flying in, or out of Queenstown, purely for the views.  Make sure you get a window seat to take advantage of the stunning skyscape.  The mountains and lakes are incredible from above.

You can get some good deals on flights to Queenstown, so follow Air New Zealand and Jet Star on social media or via newsletter to take advantage of these.

Domestically you can fly to Queenstown Airport from

Driving to Queenstown

Many fly straight into Auckland or Christchurch International Airport and drive to Queenstown on a New Zealand Road Trip.  Here are some of the driving times to help plan your trip

  • Queenstown to Christchurch: A bit of 6 hours, but with stops for kids, this is a full day drive.  We highly recommend stopping somewhere like Tekapo or Mt Cook along the way
  • Queenstown to Dunedin: 3 hours 45 mins
  • Queenstown to Wanaka: About an hour via the Crowne Range (longer in winter)
  • Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier: 5 hours
  • Queenstown to Invercargill: 2 ½ hours
  • Queenstown to Tekapo: a bit over 3 hours.
A Patagonia Ice Cream on the Queenstown Waterfront is a must do for kids

Where to stay in Queenstown, New Zealand

There are plenty of Queenstown hotels and all sorts of apartment and holiday home style accommodation in Queenstown.  Not all are family friendly accommodation, so here are a few of our favourites that we have stayed at. (We do have an accommodation Queenstown article coming, but here are a few of the best places to stay in Queenstown with families while you’re waiting)

Note:  Queenstown accommodation is notoriously expensive so the price ranges for budget and mid range, may be a little higher than you expect.

 

Budget Accommodation: Top 10 Holiday Park Queenstown

You can’t go past the Top 10 Holiday Park Queenstown if you are looking for cheap accommodation in Queenstown.  If you aren’t into camping or campervanning, they do have cute wee cabins for a reasonable price or motel units too.  Top 10 Holiday Parks are great for activities for the kids (we have stayed in other locations) as they have on site playgrounds, jumping pillow, movie room and a hot tub.

Check out their prices of their family friendly accommodation here

Mid Range Accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

We chose the Garden Court Suites and Apartments for our first Queenstown holiday.  We loved how close it was to town and we walked everywhere.  It had a full kitchen as we cooked often (easier with a baby) and we had undercover parking (great for winter). 

Check out the latest prices here

Luxury Accommodation: Platinum Queenstown Apartments

We stayed in a three bedroom apartment at the Platinum Queenstown Apartments and had such a great stay.  It was a 5 minute drive to central Queenstown up on the hill with amazing views.  The apartment was very modern, had a full kitchen and plenty of space to relax.  We loved the ranch slider opening onto the grassy lawn for the kids to play on.  

Click here for the latest prices at Platinum here

Luxury Accommodation:  Millbrook Resort, Arrowtown

I have to include Millbrook Resort, even though it is 20 minutes away in Arrowtown because the accommodation was just so relaxing and luxurious.  The golf resort accommodation gives you access to a swimming pool, fitness centre with classes, a spa and restaurants, so is a great break away.  We finished our stay here and explored all the things to do in Arrowtown. 

Easily one of the best places to stay in Queenstown, so find a deal on Millbrook resort here

Some other Queenstown family accommodation that other friends have recommended to us (but we haven’t stayed in yet)

Hiking Ben Lomond. Photo Credit Queenstown New Zealand

Queenstown Weather

Queenstown in Summer

Summer in Queenstown, oh how I love you.  The weather is so pleasant, the days are so long (sunlight from 5am-10pm ish), but it is also the busiest time of year.  Queenstown temperatures can range from 20-30C during the day, but the heat doesn’t usually last into the evenings.  New Zealand is known for warm days and cool evenings, so if you are used to humidity or European summers, then you will need to bring some layers for the evening.

If it’s a hot day, then you’ll probably look to go swimming in Queenstown, but do be aware, the lovely lakes are often still freezing (thank you Queenstown mountains).  I still think it is too cold to actually swim in Queenstown, but perhaps a dash and dip I could do.  So by all means bring your swimsuit, but young kids may find the water temperatures pretty cool.

 

Queenstown in Winter

A Queenstown winter can be icy cold, but it is also the most beautiful time of the year in my opinion.  The snow capped mountains and incredible lake views make it feel very ski resorty… almost with a Canadian or Swiss feel, but on a much smaller scale.

The temperature can average between -2C and 8C.  Whenever we have visited Queenstown in winter, we have had very fresh but pleasant sunny days.

Emilia from Backyard Travel Family, wearing a pink ski hement and ski jacket, sits on a picnic table at the Remarkables ski field Queenstown NZ

Top tips for enjoying Queenstown in Winter with kids

I know some parents worry about taking their kids out in the freezing cold, so visiting Queenstown in winter may sound a little crazy, but there are a lot of things you can do to keep them toasty warm and have a great time

  • Obviously layers are very important.  They’re easy to add and strip back as needed.  Merino layers are great for kids as they keep them warm, but also help to regulate body temperature.
  • Gloves:  These are the one thing I always forget.  Once their little fingers get icy cold, it’s pretty miserable for them.  If they don’t get gloves on, try long socks up to the elbows (I love Lamington knee high socks) which do the job just as well and stay on a little longer
  • Use the rain cover for your stroller:  When we first visited Queenstown in June for Winterfest our eldest boy was only 9 months old.  We used a clear rain cover to help block out the icy cold, and he could still see out.  It was perfect for late night strolls and his body heat kept it warm inside.
  • Long socks or tights:  If you have a child who you will carry, their pants always ride up when you hold onto them, exposing their wee ankles and calves.  We highly recommend merino long socks (like Lamingtons) or some tights to stop this from happening.
  • If you are doing any hiking and your baby is in a backpack, don’t forget that they aren’t moving.  So while you might be warm, your baby doesn’t have his blood pumping around to keep him warm like you are.  So make sure they are rugged up extra tight and check on them very regularly.

There are so many fun things to do in Queenstown in Winter, so don’t think because you’ve got kids that it can’t be just as fun.

 

Queenstown Webcams (for weather, Queenstown)

I find webcams a great way to plan what I am doing for the day, so if Queenstown weather will make a difference to your plans, then check out the webcams of the town, skifields and even Milford Sound.

Click here for Queenstown webcam

Free Things to do in Queenstown, New Zealand

 

Queenstown Walks

One of the best free things to do in Queenstown is to walk or hike.  Not only does it cost nothing, the views are stunning.  If you are an active traveler who doesn’t mind a bit of uphill walking, then I know you will enjoy some of these Queenstown walking tracks.  The views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables are some of the best places to see in Queenstown.

Queenstown Gardens Walk

If you are looking for a lovely place to stroll, then the Queenstown Gardens walk is perfect.  It is safe for the kids to explore and enjoy.  In fact this was one of the places my wee boy was learning to toddle and hold our hands to walk.

Photo Credit Below: Queenstown New Zealand

Tiki Trail (1 hour one way)

Walk the Tiki Trail from the base of the Gondola up to Bob’s Peak Lookout.  It will take about an hour to walk up and if you don’t mind a bit of a workout, can be a great alternative if you want to save money on taking the Gondola.

Bobs Cove Walk (20-60 mins return)

This family walk isn’t in Central Queenstown but is on the Glenorchy-Queenstown Road.  This was one of those walks where we stopped on a whim, not knowing the beauty we would find.  

The short walk through the forest (10-15 minutes) leads you to the beautiful Bobs Cove.  We took a picnic lunch and sat on the stoney beachfront.  This was great for our toddler to walk, as it was mostly downhill to get there.

You can also walk up to the clifftop where you can see beautiful views over the peninsula.  It feels like you are a world away up there, so highly recommend this Queenstown viewpoint.  One of my favourite places to visit in Queenstown and I really can’t wait to go back.

Read more and see more photos: Bobs Cove Queenstown

Backyard Travel Family boys hold hands while they look lovingly at each other as they look over Lake Wakatipu and Bobs Cove in Queenstown, New Zealand

Frankton Arm Walkway (flat walk)

The Frankton Arm Walkway runs from Queenstown Gardens all the way to Frankton.  It is wheelchair accessible and a stroller friendly Queenstown walk.  The whole walk from end to end is about 15km (where you could take a bus back) but most people enjoy just walking sections of this path.  A great one for kids to join you with their bikes.

Queenstown Hill Walk (2-3 hours return)

The Queenstown Hill Walk is a 2-3 hour return walk up a steep hill.  A combination of dirt, grass and gravel, this path is well trodden and can be a bit slippery when wet.  While it is a steep climb with barely any flat sections, you will be rewarded with some incredible views over Lake Wakatipu and the mountains.  It’s a great viewpoint, so if you weren’t planning to hike the Ben Lomond Track (a longer hike) I would choose this one for viewpoints.

Photo credit below: Queenstown New Zealand

Ben Lomond Track (6-8 hours return)

The Ben Lomond Track is no easy walk but if you are going to consider any Queenstown day hike, then this would be it.  Not recommended in winter mind you (crampons required, snow can be heavy) it has the most stunning views. The full climb will take an adult 6-8 hours, or if you want to walk to the top of the Ben Lomond saddle, this is a 3-4 hour return journey.  

We haven’t completed this with kids yet, but the Ben Lomond saddle is on my list for summer.  It is very exposed so freezing in winter, very hot in summer, so do your research and be very careful.

Nathan tries out a tow behind bicycle seat in Arrowtown
We hired a tow behind for the Arrow River Track for a short ride from Arrowtown

Explore by bike.  If you have your own bikes, then this is a great way to see Queenstown and keep the kids entertained.  Many of the trails run along a lakeside and there are many easy cycle trails for the family.  If you just want to cycle in one direction, you can organise a shuttle pickup from one of the many Queenstown bike hire providers – click here for prices.

Frankton Track:  Popular for walking too, this would have to be one of the most used tracks in Queenstown.  It runs from the Queenstown Gardens, all the way to Frankton at the other end of the lake.  You can head over the Kawarau Falls Bridge and even head out to the Kelvin Peninsula if you are still up for more.

This easy cycling track is about 15km long and will take 1-2 hours with the family.

(Photo credit below: Queenstown New Zealand)

Arrow River Bridges Track:  There are three suspension bridges on this track which kids will absolutely love.  This is an easy grade two trail.  In essence it’s mostly flat, but there’s a lot of small ups and downs so it is not a trail to explore in your Sunday dress.  It will still require some effort.

The track is 13.5km one way and ends up in Gibbston Valley.  If you were interested in combining a bit of cycling with a visit or two a vineyard cellar door or a wine tour, then this is the family bike track for you.

Photo credit below: Queenstown New Zealand

Lake Hayes Track:  The Lake Hayes Track is an intermediate level 3 ride.  While it doesn’t have too many technical hills, it is narrow in sections and has some steep drop offs, so you do have to be careful.  A great track for those riders with good control looking for something a little harder.

The Lake Hayes Track is a 8km loop and will take about an hour.  It is also a walking track so do keep an eye out for walkers.  It is recommended to walk in a clockwise direction.

Biking is one of my favourite Queenstown family activities.  I just love that it is something that we can all do together, even with a toddler.

Photo credit below: Queenstown New Zealand

Watch the crazy people bungy jump

Even if you don’t want to jump, it’s pretty fun to watch people bungy jump.  The looks on their faces and the “will they, won’t they” moments are pretty exciting.  They’ll think it’s one of the best things to see in Queenstown.

Great places to view bungy jumping
  • Kawarau Gorge at the bridge
  • From the top of the Gondola there is a great viewpoint of the AJ Hackett Ledge Bungy and Swing
(Queenstown Lakefront Playground below)
 

Queenstown Playgrounds
  • Play at the playground on the waterfront.  We love to grab a hot chocolate and head down to the playground and enjoy the views while the kids play.  It’s about as tranquil as it gets.  It’s near the Queenstown Gardens end. (photo above)
  • If you are staying near Fernhill, we played at the small playground at 82 Lake Esplanade at the bottom of the hill.  It was always quite quiet here. (Photo below)
  • McBride Park at Lake Hayes has a great playground that also has a bike pump track, so if your kids are into biking, this is a good one.
  • Hanleys Farm Subdivision:  If you are renting a Queenstown Holiday Home out in the Jacks Point area, then head the Hanleys Farm to visit their new playground.  Its a modern playground using more natural colours and materials to blend in with the surroundings.

Visit Queenstown Beaches

Swimming is one of the best things to do in Queenstown in summer, although don’t expect the water to be tropical by any means.  Let’s just call it refreshing.  Here are some of the best beaches in Queenstown to take a dip

  • Queenstown Bay: The Queenstown Waterfront Beach
  • Bobs Cove: Secluded, tranquil and has a jetty to jump off.  Also the great walk mentioned above
  • Sunshine Bay: lovely clear cool water just a few minutes out of town
  • Moke Lake beach: This is a safe spot for swimming and also has a cheap DOC campsite.  A popular spot for boating, fishing and kayaking too. (Photo below)
  • Lake Hayes: Not officially a beach, but it is a lovely spot to swim.  Do double check the water quality, because sometimes there is an algae that makes it unswimmable.

Places to Eat in Queenstown

Cookie Time Cookie Bar

Visit the Cookie Time Cookie Bar.  Milk and Cookie bars aren’t exactly a “thing” here in New Zealand, so we find this pretty unique.  What makes this interesting is the fact that a big Cookie Time cookie is part of every kids history who grew up in the 90s.  A big Cookie Time could be ordered at the school canteen or for lunch orders.  And when you were old enough to buy one from the dairy (cornerstore) on the way home you could heat them up in the microwave to melt the chocolate.

There’s definitely a sense of nostalgia here, so go and check out part of my childhood.  The Cookie Bar has mashups with ice creams and milkshakes and all sorts of crazy dessert style snacks, so go check it out.

Top tip:  The Cookie Time Factory Store is just on the outskirts of Christchurch, so if you are driving past, pick up a huge bag of second or broken biscuits for a great deal.

 

Patagonia Chocolates

If you are a fan of silky hot chocolates or delicious gelato, then you can’t miss Patagonia Chocolates on the Queenstown waterfront (or also in Wanaka)  Beyond the amazing chocolates that are handmade here, if you are visiting Queenstown in Winter, the hot chocolates are to die for and are ladled from a pot, keeping it warm all day.  They even have a few different flavours such as chilli hot chocolate.

It’s cold, there’s snow on the mountains and there’s you walking along with a tummy full of chocolatey deliciousness.  (We don’t let our kids have drinks like this very often, but when we do, we make sure its the good stuff)

 

Fergburger

If you have done any research on what to eat in Queenstown, I’m sure you would have come across Fergburger.  Fergburger is a Queenstown institution and the #1 thing you must eat while you are here.

So what makes Fergburger so good?  The burgers are big!  They are your classic burger filled to the brim with toppings, just like a good ol kiwi bbq.  The meat isn’t highly processed and tastes like… meat!  It feels like all the goodness of home cooking, done in such a great way.

So if you are sick of eating burgers that taste like the pattie was one of a box of 200 from the freezer and want some hearty kiwi tucker, then this is the place to try.

Warning:  The lines for this place are huge.  People queue to order for ages.  So top tip for parents:  Look up the menu online, order by phone, then skip the queue and ask whether your pickup is ready.

Another tip:  The Ferg Bakery just next door is excellent.  It’s priced higher than an average/typical kiwi bakery but the food is really good and worth the money.  There are lots of European style breads there too that are delicious.

Cheap things to do in Queenstown

 

Kiwi Birdlife Park

The Kiwi Birdlife Park is a family run wildlife park.  If you haven’t seen a kiwi before, it’s a great place to do so.  As kiwi are nocturnal, they have special dark houses where (once your eyes adjust) you can see the kiwi running about as if it were the dead of night.  

You can learn about other New Zealand native birds at the Conservation show, or they have a self guided audio tour so you can explore at your leisure.  There are over 20 native species of birds, including my personal favourite piwakawaka (fantails), tui and falcon.

This is a great Queenstown tourist attraction for kids.  My kids always love seeing animals and I’m sure yours will too.

Click here for ticket prices at Kiwi Birdlife Park

Kiwi bird walking through the bush in Rotorua

Frisbee Golf in Queenstown Gardens

Something a little unique that children will love, is to play Frisbee Golf (also called Disc Golf) in the Queenstown Gardens.  Its free to play, you just need to have your own disc/frisbee (pick one up from one of the local sports stores for cheap or hire at the Queenstown Ice Arena in the Queentown Gardens)

The aim is to throw your frisbee into these “chain baskets” that sit about headheight, in the fewest throws possible, just like in golf.  There is a whole course you can play, or just choose a few “holes”.  One of the best cheap activities Queenstown has to offer.

 

 

Things to do in Queenstown on a rainy day

Now we aren’t great indoors people and much prefer to be outdoors, but there are occasions when it rains and you just need another option for family fun.  We haven’t tried all of these out, but there are far more fun things to do in Queenstown indoors than I thought.

 

Things to do in Queenstown on a rainy day

  • Time Tripper by KJet – Starting with a virtual reality tour to the time of the dinosaurs, you then get to view the underwater viewing station, seeing what lies beneath Queenstowns Lake Wakatipu.  Typically seeing trout, eels and fish. Suitable for all ages
  • I Fly Indoor Skydiving:  Suitable from 5 years +, you can learn to fly indoors.  Just like flying on a water fountain of air (that paints the right picture in your mind right?) Click here for pricing
  • Thrillzone Queenstown: A whole lot of activities under one roof, from paintless paintball to VR gaming, to drift karts, laser tag and 12D motion movies.
  • Clip n Climb Queenstown at Basecamp Adventures: If you haven’t tried a clip n climb, they are just great!  Indoor rock climbing, in lots of fun colours and themes, where you don’t have to belay.  You just clip in, then climb.  Kids can start climbing from age 3.
  • Alpine Aqualand:  Indoor pool complex in Frankton with 2 hydroslides, lazy river, leisure pool and usual lane swimming.  We love how it is really cheap for adults to swim with toddlers and general entry is very reasonable too. Classic fun activities for kids like this are always a hit.
  • Odyssey Sensory Maze is one of the most unique things to do in Queenstown with kids.  It is a maze through a series of rooms with obstacles, mind boggling illusions and challenges.  It is recommended from 8 years old + but prices start from children of 5 years +.  We haven’t tried this one out, so let us know if you do.  Click here for skip the line ticket prices
  • Site Trampoline:  An indoor trampoline park is always a winner.  This one is located in Remarkables Park in Frankton.
  • Strike Bowl Queenstown:  Located at the Swiss Belresort Coronet Peak, it is the only full sized indoor bowling centre in Queenstown.
  • Chipmunks Indoor Playland:  A great place to get all that energy out, the indoor playground has slides, things to climb, inflatables etc, all under one roof.  Really great for toddlers, preschool and primary aged kids. 
Clip and Climb Rock Climbing at Base Camp Adventures: From 3 years and up

Queenstown Attractions

 

Queenstown Gondola

The Skyline Gondola Queenstown truly is a must do, if you haven’t been to Queenstown before.  The experience is much less about a cool gondola careering up the side of a mountain, but more about the absolutely incredible view from the top.  If you are not planning  a big day hike or a Queenstown scenic flight, then the Skyline Gondola is a Queenstown Must Do.

Kid and Family Deals, Queenstown Luge and Gondola

This is a great experience if you have kids, and a great bonus is that under 5s go free on the Queenstown Gondola.  They have family deals as well as a Gondola and Luge combo.  In fact these family deals with luge combos are ideal.  Kids love the luge and I guarantee it will be on their list as one of the best things to do in Queenstown.

Book tickets in advance here so you don’t have to wait in line

Queenstown Luge (with a parent or 6 years old unaccompanied)

A luge is a downhill cart style ride that is just so much fun. (Skyline also have one of these in Rotorua, but the Queenstown Luge has much better views)  The minimum age to ride alone is 6 years old/110cm tall, or younger riders can double with a parent.

Other Things to do at the Queenstown Gondola

At the top of the Gondola, there is actually access to a raft of things to do including:

  • Lunch and Dinner at the Skyline Restaurant – The Stratosphere Restaurant and Bar
  • Coffee at the Market Kitchen Cafe
  • Skyline Luge Queenstown (a downhill cart style ride – young kids can double with an adult)
  • Access to the Queenstown Mountain Biking Park (where you can take your bike up on the Gondola Queenstown and downhill mountain bike back down)
  • A number of Queenstown walks link up to the Skyline gondola here.
  • Access the Ziptrek Ziplining, as well as Paragliding

Top Tip:  Visit the Skyline Gondola Queenstown earlier in the day so you don’t get the shadow of the hill ruining your photos as can happen later in the afternoon.  Or stay until sunset for those pretty orange hues.

A free option: Another way to get these amazing Queenstown views is to walk up the Tiki Trail that starts at the base of the Gondola. It will take about an hour to climb to the Queenstown Gondola lookout and it is a steady uphill climb.  Do be aware of the mountain bikes though as this is a shared track

Buy tickets or check out the family combo deals for the Skyline Queenstown here and add it to your Queenstown sightseeing list

 

Boat Cruise, Queenstown

 

Lake Wakatipu is such an icon, it’s almost a shame if you don’t venture out on the water.  If your kids are anything like mine, they will love being on the water.  I have such lovely memories of the kids eyes lighting up as they steam across the water on the TSS Earnslaw.

Tss Earnslaw in Lake Wakatipu at Walter Peak Station which is easily one of the best things to do in queenstown with kids

TSS Earnslaw Cruise

The TSS Earnslaw is an iconic part of the Queenstown landscape.  The Earnslaw is a beautiful historic steamship that is over 100 years old.  Kids will love being able to visit the engine room and seeing how a real steam ship works.  In winter, we found the best spot to sit, was right outside the steamroom, as the seats where all warm here and you kept out of the cold wind.

The lake cruise lasts 90 minutes, or you can also include a visit to Walter Peak Station to explore a high country farm and even enjoy a farm tour or a bbq lunch.  Our kids loved the farm tour, where they saw how a sheepdog can round up sheep and were able to handfeed the farm animals.  Its so lovely being able to get up close with the animals, even a highland bull!

The cruise and farm tour are such a great way to explore a different part of Queenstown and there is nothing more iconic here that the TSS Earnslaw.  Highly Recommended by us here at Backyard Travel Family

You can check out the price of tickets on the TSS Earnslaw Cruise here

 

Million Dollar Cruise

We made a last minute decision to jump on the 90 minute Million Dollar Cruise on Lake Wakatipu and it was just great.  We were visiting Queenstown in winter and it was lovely and warm inside if we needed to warm up and the views were amazing.  

The captain was spritely and humorous and we loved the chance to steer the boat.  We also learnt a lot about the area and since we don’t usually go on guided tours, we often miss this interesting information, so it was a great decision all round. 

The boat heads from the Queenstown Wharf, down to the Frankton end of the lake then return.

This cruise is cheaper than the TSS Earnslaw, so may be a more budget friendly option.\ if you’re just hoping to jump out on the water.  Click here for ticket prices

 

Spirit of Queenstown Scenic Cruise

Another 90 minute cruise, except this Southern Discoveries cruise, heads towards the Glenorchy side of Lake Wakatipu.  You will be able to check out the High Country Station (farms) on the way and the beautiful Bobs Cove Beach

Bungy Jumping in Queenstown (from 10 years old)

Bungy Jumping originated in New Zealand, part of our kiwi ingenuity crossed with our adventurous spirit that we just run with. If you are going to bungy anywhere in the world, make it here in New Zealand.  

There is definitely something about standing on the ledge, as the massive rubber band rope pulls on your ankles, almost pulling you over the edge, before you actually take a leap of faith.  If you’re worried about being frozen in fear, just don’t think.  As soon as they say jump, just do… the adrenaline rush is amazing.

There are three places you can bungee jump at in Queenstown, all run by AJ Hackett

So which Queenstown Bungy Jump should you choose?

The Kawarau Bridge is the classic bungy jump.  Jump off the bridge, do a water touch and Bob’s your uncle.  It is a 43m jump and you can also do it tandem.  One of the cheapest bungy jumps in Queenstown, click here for prices

The Ledge Bungy is right beside the Queenstown Gondola.  It is a 47m jump and can be done as a classic bungy or as a swing.  A classic bungy, you jump off, the swing, they haul you up then drop you.  The views are great but you will have to add in the cost of going up the gondola.  Personally I like the idea of jumping off a bridge into the water as opposed to jumping over the trees, but that’s just me. Click here to book

The Nevis Bungy is a big daddy bungy.  It is the highest bungy in New Zealand and is a 134m bungy jump.  It has an 8.5 second freefall.  You also have the option to do a swing (where they drop you) or a catapult (where you stand and get catapulted off the platform).  The Nevis experience does take longer as they have to transport you out to private land.  As such, any spectators are charged $50 to go along as long as there is room for them.  They say to allow about 4 hours for an experience at the Nevis.  Click here for up to date prices

The minimum age to bungy jump at the Kawarau Bridge and Ledge bungy is 10 years old and 13 years old for the Nevis Bungy.  There are weight limits too if your kids are light, so double check this too before committing. 

Paragliding, Queenstown (minimum weight 20kg)

Everytime I visit Queenstown, I sit on the waterfront and look up at the paragliders sailing down from the gondola and think… gee that looks awesome.  I haven’t done paragliding in Queenstown before, but friends took their daughter and said it was awesome.  So if your kids are up for a Queenstown adventure, take a look at some of the paragliding options.

Please note:  As paragliding is very weather dependent, schedule this in at the beginning of your Queenstown holiday so that there are a few backup days in case the weather cancels your flight.

NZ GForce Paragliding: Leaves from the Queenstown Gondola, minimum weight limit is 20kg so kids of primary school age should be able to give this a go.  Flights start from $179.  You will need to buy a gondola pass on top of this.

Tandem Paragliding Coronet Peak: Free transport to Coronet Peak Ski field, double the height of the gondola paragliding experience. Minimum weight of 20kg.  In winter you will need a chair lift pass to access the take off point.  They also offer hanggliding.  Click here for prices

Queenstown Scenic Flights

If you want an incredible experience without throwing yourself off or out of something, and something the whole family can do together, then a Queenstown scenic flight or Queenstown helicopter tour might be perfect for you.

This is a great activity if you have a baby, as infants are usually free (under 2) so it means that nobody is left behind.

Here is a quick summary of the types of flight options you can take:

  • Glenorchy Air: Scenic plane flights over Milford Sound, Sunrise over the glaciers, Mt Aspriring National Park and Earnslaw Burns.  
  • Air Milford: Queenstown Scenic Flight (15 mins – $99), Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound, 5 Glaciers
  • True South Scenic Milford Flights: Fly over Milford, Fly-Cruise-Fly
  • The Helicopter Line: Heli Tours Queenstown to Milford Sound, Southern Glacier Experience with Alpine Landing, and many short Queenstown flights with alpine landings.
  • Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters: Queenstown, Milford and Middle Earth Scenic Helicopter Flights.

I am fairly sure that all of these depart from Queenstown Airport

Ziplining in Queenstown with Zip Trek Eco Tours (from 6 years old)

 

Ziplining is such awesome family fun.  All the thrill and adrenalin within a completely safe environment.  I like that they also offer an educational component, learning about the environment and maori mythology.  

ZipTrek Eco Tours have 3 different tours

  • Moa Tour (1.5-2 hours) with 4 ziplines
  • Kea Tour (2.5-3 hour) with 6 ziplines including the world’s steepest zipline
  • Keruru Tour (1 hour) with 2 ziplines including a giant drop.

Kids must be a minimum of 6 years old to ride, and if they are under 15 years old, they must ride with an adult.  Click here for the latest zipline prices

Please note:  The Zip Trek Eco Tours start near the top of the gondola and ziplining does not include a price of the gondola to get there.  So you will need to add this into your budget.

 

Jet Boat, Queenstown

There are three main companies who run at Queenstown Jet Boat Experience.  They are

Go Orange Jet Boating (from 12kg+)
 

The Jet Boating experience with Go Orange is fantastic!  We took a 1 hour jet boat ride with our 3, 6 and 8 year old and they just loved it.  Starting at the Queenstown Waterfront you will zip your way down the far end of Lake Wakatipu where you will join the Kawarau River and the real adventure begins.

Turn on the tunes and its a good ol jet boat party as you do 360s and get “what seems like” impossibly close to the rivers edge.  But don’t worry, you’re in safe hands with your captain who knows the river like the back of your hand.

Top Tips

  • If you want to avoid getting too wet, sit right in the middle
  • In the winter, make sure you bring a winter waterproof jacket, such as a ski jacket and a pair of gloves.  They were a lifesaver for my 3 year old
  • We love that kids under 5 go FREE

Go Orange Jet Boats offer both a 25 minute and a 60 minute jet boat option. The 25 minute rides are $79 for an adult or $39 for a child (infants free) (August 2021)

Double check the most up to date prices here

There is no age limit for kids to join the Go Orange Jet, however they must weigh more than 12kg.  This means they will be able to fit the lifejacket

KJet Jet Boat (from 2 years old)

The KJet is a little different in that it is a full 60 minute jet boat experience.  The boat runs over Lake Wakatipu, and in the Shotover and Kawarau Rivers.  The boats are easy to access as they leave from the Queenstown Waterfront so you don’t have to drive to a location.

There are no height limits for the KJ Jet, so this makes it a great family option.  Kids who are 2-4 years old just need to be able to fit one of their infant life jackets.  Kids under 5 also go FREE.

KJ Jet Boat rides are $99 for an adult and $59 for kids 5-14 years old. (August 2021)  This is a great value Queenstown Jet Boat experience and would be my pick of the bunch.  

Click here for availability and ticket prices

 

 
Shotover Jet (minimum height 1m)

The Shotover Jet takes you to explore the Shotover River.  It is one of the only ways to see the canyons of the river and is a thrilling experience for the whole family.  They are the only Jet Boat company who is authorised to run in this area.

The Shotover Jet Boat experience is a 25 minute boat journey.  Life jackets are provided and you have the option to borrow a full length waterproof jacket.

The minimum height for kids is 1m.  Kids under 5 who meet this height are free.  (as a side note, my child was over 1m at 3 years old)

You can buy a family pass for 2 adults and 2 children ($299) (August 2021) Click here to book

Ice Bar, Queenstown

 

There are two Ice Bars in Queenstown, the Minus 5 Ice Bar and Below Zero Ice Bar.  While you may think it is a little strange to take kids to an ice bar, as long as you go at a reasonable hour, it’s a whole lot of fun.

We have only visited the Minus 5 Ice Bar, so can only relay our experiences here.  The Ice Bar, is a short but fun experience.  The Ice Bar will provide all the jackets and warm gear that you will need to be warm enough inside the bar.  We had our 9 month old when we visited, so they didn’t have any gear small enough for him.  But we just wrapped him in a jacket like a blanket and he was fine.  I would advise you to bring your own hats and your own jacket for a baby or toddler if you do have them.

I think we spent around 20 minutes in the bar, looking at the ice sculptures, having a cocktail or mocktail in a glass made of ice.  We visited in the early afternoon which was a good choice with a family.  A great way for the kids to experience winter in Queenstown, without any of the risk factors.

Excuse the photo quality, it was quite dark in there (well for cameras anyway)

White Water Rafting, Queenstown (from 3 years old)

You may have never considered white water rafting as a family, but Family Adventures in Queenstown run a family rafting trip that can take kids as young as 3 years old.  Starting from deep within Skippers Canyon (an epic drive in by the way), the rafting trip takes you down the Shotover River on grade 1 and 2 rapids.

Water confidence is not necessary and you will only get really wet if you want to.  They offer a guided river safari of the canyoning, including finding gold mining relics and a great close up look at the incredible Skippers Canyon.  You do not need any specialist gear as it is all provided, although a swimsuit is advisable.  There are sections where you may stop for rock jumps into the water too.

Sounds great for young families or those who want an adventure that is not death defying.

 

Packrafting Queenstown (from 8 years old)

Haven’t heard of Packrafting, well neither had I?  Thanks to a lot more focus on sharing small local businesses as of late, I have added packrafting to my bucket list.

Packrafting is where you pack up a small inflatable kayak sized raft, hike to somewhere awesome and raft back down.  The rafts only weigh a few kgs and pack down surprisingly small.  For beginners you can take a guided trip and kids can join a family paddle tour from age 8 upwards.  These family trips take you down grade 1 rapids so they are really safe and you will of course have a guide with you.  Parents can take a child in their raft or if they are confident enough can paddle by themselves.

If you are looking for one of most unique things to do in Queenstown in summer, then go over to Packrafting Queenstown and check out their awesome adventures.

Day Trip to Milford Sound

This Queenstown Day Trip to Milford Sound is an incredible experience with the advantages of it only taking a day (albeit a long day)  Of all the Queenstown tours, this is one of the best and I guarantee it will be worth the full day out.  You could also choose a trip to Doubtful Sound, which is just as beautiful but more remote and a hidden gem.  If you’re debating Milford Sound vs Doubtful Sound, click here

You can obviously drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound, but here are my thoughts on why a day trip is a great idea.

Mitre Peak stands proudly in Milford Sound on a beautiful clear blue day. Mitre Peak reflects into the waters

Why choose a day trip to Milford Sound?

  • Time:  If you are short on time and want to experience the 8th Wonder of the World (yes it was called that) taking a bus trip is the most economical use of time.  Otherwise to make this a relaxing trip, you will generally need to drive down, spend overnight, cruise and then head back.  This way, even the driver gets to relax and enjoy the ride.
  • With Kids:  It’s a long drive to do this as a day trip in your own vehicle and kids will have more room to move around.  They won’t need to be buckled into a car seat and because you aren’t driving, you can help entertain them too.  My kids love being up high, seeing out of the window and complain far less than being in the car.  Anyone with toddlers especially will know how nice it would be to just pop them on our knee when we are driving (of course we don’t, but on a bus, you can!)
  • Winter:  If you are visiting in winter, the roads can be icy and dangerous.  Especially if you aren’t used to driving on New Zealand roads, or if you are like me, hate anything remotely icy or snowy, then let an experienced bus driver do this for you.
  • If Milford is the only thing you wanted to see:  If you don’t want to do any of the hikes in the area, or spend time in Te Anau or Fiordland, then this can be a really economical way to experience Milford Sound and continue on your New Zealand holiday.
 

 Check out the price of one of the best day trips from Queenstown here

If you are even shorter on time, you can also fly into Milford Sound, or even fly one way and take a bus the other way.  So there are definitely a lot of Milford Sound options.  I guarantee this will be one of the top things to do in Queenstown and it will be money well spent

Hydro Attack Shark Ride (from 6 years old)

If you head down to the waterfront, you can take a look at this crazy boat ride.  You won’t have seen anything like it, as it is the only commercial passenger boat of this kind in the world.

The boat is like a narrow inline pilots cockpit shaped up like a shark, that jets through the water and jumps up in the air like a dolphin.  As crazy as that sounds, yes has to be seen to be believed.

Perfect adventure activities for your tween who will want to tell everyone about the shark boat they rode it, but they take kids from 6 years old.  Your child does have to ride by themselves, as they only take one passenger.  They tailor the ride to be as gentle or as extreme as you request too.

Grab a great deal on a Hydro Attack ride here

Things to do in Queenstown in Winter

 

The majority of Queenstown attractions are doable in winter, so if you have scrolled straight down here, don’t think these are the only things to do in Queenstown in Winter.

But if you’re coming specifically for winter snow, then these are the best activities for that winter wonderland experience.

Things to do in Queenstown in Winter with kids

  • Ice Skating
  • Husky Sledding
  • Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Snow Tubing
  • Snow Shoeing
  • Build Snowmen
  • Queenstown Winter Festival

See more on all of these Queenstown activities below

Emilia laughs after getting off her snow tube at Snow Farm Wanaka NZ

 

Ice Skating Queenstown

The Queenstown Ice Arena in the Queenstown Gardens is a great place to experience winter, indoors.  The Ice Arena hold public skating sessions (check their website for times) where you can buy a session pass (inclusive of ice skate hire)

A new feature, the Ice Bumper Cars, which are exactly what you think they are.  Bumper cars on the ice.  There are family deals for both the ice skating and bumper cars, as well as a combo of them both.

Top tip:  Even though it is inside, it is still very cold.  Make sure the kids have long pants and lots of layers.  Gloves will be particularly important for kids who do, or are likely to fall a lot.  Freezing hands are game over for most kids.  And don’t worry if its your first time ice skating, they will totally be able to give you a hand to get going.

Skiing in Queenstown with Kids

 

One of the most popular things to do in Queenstown in Winter is to go skiing.  The Queenstown mountains, aka, the Remarkables and our incredible Southern Alps range are just beautiful.  I mean, you can’t come to Queenstown and not go appreciate them right?

The great thing about going skiing in Queenstown is that there are a number of ski fields to choose from.  There are four main ski fields, as discussed below as well as Snow Farm, which is a cross country ski area, so can be a great introduction to snow fun for the kids

Below is a quick overview of the ski fields as they relate to kids and family ski options.  If you haven’t taken your kids skiing before, and want a beginners guide on how to teach your kids to ski (a great way to test the waters before spending money on lessons) then we have an article about kids skiing here.

Are you ready to Ski Queenstown?

(photo credit: Queenstown New Zealand)

Cardona Alpine Resort

 

Kids at Cardona

Cardrona is a great place for kids to learn to ski.  They are well catered for, from day care that starts at 3 months, to ski kindy (up to age 5) and kids club lessons from ages 5-14 years.  This is great if you have young kids, who can learn to ski and have a great snow experience, while the adults can enjoy their own time together too (win-win)

Cardrona has 25% beginners, 25% intermediate, with the rest being advanced and expert runs.  There are a number of cafes, bars and restaurants including a pizzeria.  Besides skiing, you can also access snowboarding, tubing and sightseeing on the mountain.

Cardona also has some of the most extensive facilities in their terrain park, where the NZ Olympic boarders train, so if you have snowboarders in your family, this is the best ski field to choose.

Click here to find out ski pass prices this season

Getting to Cardona:  Cardona is nicely situated between Queenstown and Wanaka on the Crown Range.  You can get a bus from Wanaka or Queestown to Cardona, drive directly up to the sk field, or if you are not confident to drive the whole way up, you can grab a shuttle near the base.

Accommodation at Cardrona Ski field:  In many famous North American or European ski fields, you can ski right to your accommodation or you are very close to the lifts.  But this is not common in New Zealand.  The usual option is to stay in a town nearby and travel.  But if you have your heart set on Queenstown ski resorts, then this about as close as you can get.

However Cardrona has 15 on mountain apartments ranging from studios to four bedroom apartments available to hire.  The majority have full kitchens and lots of space and are super modern which I love.  As well as this they are only 1 minute to the lifts.  So if you have your heart set on being right on the skifield, then this Queenstown accommodation is for you.

Photo credit: Queenstown New Zealand

 

Coronet Peak Ski Area

Coronet Peak is the closest ski field to Queenstown, taking only 20 minutes to access from the central city.  It is well set up for family skiing, especially since kids 5 and under ski for free.  They get a free lift pass, so you just need to borrow or hire skis.

For kids, they have a daycare/childcare centre, a ski preschool and the Kea Club kids club, which includes lunch for full day care/lessons.  Our kids have loved their experiences of childcare on the mountain.

Coronet Peak runs in conjunction with the Remarkables and Mt Hutt (Methven, near Christchurch)  As such, they run similar style programmes, so if you are interested in how childcare at a ski preschool works, or about full day group lessons, check out this article here.

If you are up for a spot of night skiing, then Coronet Peak is your pick as they run evening sessions up to three times per week.

How to get to Coronet Peak:  If you don’t want to drive up, there are buses that leave every 30 minutes (in the morning) from central Queenstown and they even do a hotel pick up route.  This is extremely convenient and means you won’t be rushing in the morning, as there are many to choose from.  Grab a ski transfer pass here

Emilia (3) and Nathan (7) ski together on the beginner slopes at the Remarkables Ski Area Queenstown

 
The Remarkables Ski Area

If you are not interested in skiing but want another way to enjoy the snow, then you can also try out snowshoeing at the Remarkables.  Your guided snowshoe tour will take you up to Lake Alta and includes snow shoe hire and poles.  It’s a great option if you want to experience the snow without skiing, or if other members of the family ski or board and you want to try something new.

If you want to get at all the details of Queenstown skiing at the Remarkables, click here:  We really loved this skifield for beginner to intermediate skiers

Coronet Peak and the Remarkables run under the same umbrella so you will find similar ski school programmes at both.  The Remarkables however don’t have a childcare centre and the ski school programmes start from 4 years old.  So if you have very young ones, Coronet Peak or Cardona might be better options.

Treble Cone Ski Area, Wanaka

Treble Cone Ski Area is the largest ski area in the South Island.  While it caters for beginners, intermediate and advanced skiers, the learners area is only 10% of all the mountain runs with the rest split between intermediate and advanced runs.  

They have kids lessons available, as well as individual private or group lessons for adults.  We haven’t been here before, but locals have told us if you are looking for a more off-piste and advanced Queenstown skiing experience, then perhaps heading a little further over the hill to Wanaka will be well worth it for you.  

Getting to Treble Cone Ski Area:You can get transport up to Treble Cone on the Wanaka Treble Cone Express.  The bus leaves from Wanaka and costs around $35 return.  You need to make bookings 24 hours ahead. 

Photo credit: Lake Wanaka Tourism

 

Snow Farm

Snow Farm is quite unique in that it is a cross country ski area.  So if downhill skiing isn’t for you, perhaps cross country skiing could provide the snow experience you are after.  You can hire all the ski equipment you need on site, as well as get a lesson before going out for a day or a half day.

They even have back country huts you can cross country ski or snowshoe too.  How about that for the ultimate winter experience?

Family Snow Fun Zone

If you want an awesome snow experience but don’t want the expense or rigmarole of skiing or snowboarding, then Snow Farm is a great place to go snow tubing, build a snowman, have snowball fights etc.

All the fun without a huge price tag, in a safe place that has a ton of snow.  Day passes cost $15 each (August 2021) for adults and kids (under 3s are free) and you get access to a snow tube and the whole Snow Fun Zone for the day.  It’s a great place for a Queenstown snow experience and especially good for young ones.

2 boys sit in blue snow tubes at Snow Farm Lake Wanaka

Dogs at Snow Farm

I thought it would be interesting to note that you can get a dog pass for Snow Farm so that your dog can accompany you on your ski or snowshoe adventure.  On some trails, they are required to be on leash, and some they can be off leash.  You can find out more information about this on their website.

How to get to Snow Farm

Snow Farm is located in the Cardrona Valley between Queenstown and Wanaka.  The road up to Snow Farm is unsealed and you are advised to carry chains.  They do note it is suitable for 2WD vehicles so don’t feel you have to have a special vehicle to access the snow here.  Do be careful of course, driving on the snow.

Under Dog NZ Husky Sledding

If you are looking for a bucket list experience, then going on a sled dog tour surely has to be one of the most exciting things to do in Queenstown in Winter.  Under Dog NZ start their winter experience at Snow Farm, Cardona.

1.5 hour Basket Ride

Families may enjoy a short basket ride, a 90 minute experience where a guide will take you out on a sled, driven by these awesome huskies and Alaskan malamutes.  A parent and young child can fit in a sled, or two kids, or for adults or older children, they can ride solo. (maximum weights 100kg)

1.5 hour Solo ride

If you have children who are 10 years old (+) they may enjoy learning to drive their own team of dogs.  The sessions include safety briefing and lessons, before you drive your own team.

Longer Experiences at Snow Farm

There are other options if you wish to snowshoe or ski, combined with a husky tour, or to take an overnight tour, or even a nightride.  There is more information on their website for this.  If you are looking for epic Queenstown activities, this is surely one for your bucket list.

 

What’s on in Queenstown

 

Queenstown has some great events, but since we don’t have an events calendar, head over here – Whats on Queenstown and take a look at some of the Queenstown events coming on your next visit.  I will however highlight an awesome annual festival that we just loved and I highly recommend you plan around – Queenstown Winter Festival

 

Queenstown Winter Festival

Queenstown Winter Festival is an annual festival that happens every June.  Originally it lasted over about 10 days, but is now a long weekend and it is just a ton of fun. The majority of these are free events that just put a smile on your face.

They have lots of silly fun events.  These are some of our favourite Queenstown free activities and we know your kids will love them too.

  • Birdman competition where contestants dress up in costumes and see how far they can “fly” off the jetty into the icy water
  • Undy 500 race
  • Splash for Cash event
  • Fireworks Display
  • The Comedy Festival is excellent (grab a babysitter)
  • Up at Coronet Peak Skifield you can watch (or participate) in the downhill suitcase race, the dog derby or the Bikes on Snow race
  • If you’re looking for something to do in Queenstown at night, they have a main stage on the waterfront with lots of bands playing.  We grabbed some mulled wine and cider and it was just awesome.
(Below: Parade at Queenstown Winter Festival)

What to do in Queenstown New Zealand – have we nailed it?

So if you are booking a trip to Queenstown, things to do will not be a problem if you jot down this list.  We know you will have such a blast visiting Queenstown with kids as there are just so many things to do in Queenstown.  If you can think of anything to add to our list of “things to do Queenstown” then jump over to Instagram or Facebook and come and have a chat.  We love learning new experiences and finding cool kids activities.

 

Jennifer

Jennifer

Founder of Backyard Travel Family

Jen is a super organiser when it comes to travel. Having travelled extensively in Europe and Africa, has lived in London and the USA and holidayed in many parts of Asia, she is not a newbie to the travel space

Jen has three young children, 5 and under and travels around New Zealand with them.

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