Growing up in New Zealand, Queenstown has always been a favourite of mine. Named ‘The Adventure Capital of the World’, Queenstown has plenty of adrenalin-filled activities on offer. However there’s also loads of other things to do in Queenstown with kids.
Can you believe the main tourist attractions remain the same as when I was a child? It was awesome to experience these again during our recent trip to Queenstown, but this time through the eyes of my boys.
One of our main reasons for visiting Queenstown, was to hit the slopes as a family for the first time. It was amazing to watch our boys learn to ski in just a few days. It’s fair to say we all absolutely loved our Queenstown trip and somehow I think we’ll be back again soon. Meanwhile, we’re sharing our favourite things to do in Queenstown with kids.
1. Experience the Skyline Gondola Ride and Luge
Taking a ride on the steepest cable car in the Southern Hemisphere is a must-do in Queenstown with kids. My boys were super excited to step inside a gondola for the first time ever. There’s time for a quick photo before the doors automatically shut and you’re whisked away on a journey you’ll never forget.
Once you’ve travelled the 450 metres to the top of Bob’s Peak you’ll find yummy cafe and restaurant eats, the fun Jellybean Store and the cool luge ride! Our boys had a fantastic time getting a chairlift even further up the hill before zig-zagging their way back down on a luge.
If you have young kids be sure to time your visit in with the free kids activities running from 10am – 12pm daily. Right next door is the viewing platform where you’ll get spectacular panoramic views across the snow-capped mountains, beautiful Lake Wakatipu and of course Queenstown itself.
Tip: To get the best views make sure you visit on a clear sunny day.
2. Family fun at Caddyshack City Mini Golf
This is probably one of the most fun mini golf courses we’ve ever been to. You’ll find moving space shuttles, talking buses and gondolas that take your ball up the mountain. Our boys ran from hole to hole, eager to see what was in store for them next. They even managed to score a hole in one which led to loads of excitement, both from them and other people watching on. The perfect option for a rainy day in Queenstown with kids as it’s based indoors.
3. Bond with nature at Queenstown Gardens
These lush gardens are located in prime position just a short walk from the town centre on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. At the entrance a new playground is taking shape which will be amazing when it’s completed soon. In the meantime it’s a lovely place to walk and let the kids run wild. Be sure to take your camera as the views across the lake are spectacular.
4. Explore spectacular Lake Wakatipu
Renowned for its scenic beauty, being surrounded by snow-capped mountains, it’s well worth taking a walk along the shores of Lake Wakatipu. By day, skip pebbles along the water, listen to the amazing buskers and soak up the atmosphere and scenery.
This is also a popular venue for adventure boats and water activities. Our boys enjoyed standing near the jetty watching ‘shark boats’ that zig-zag along the water, jet boats, para-sailing and the majestic steamboat named the Earnslaw, come and go. Also, be sure to grab a bite to eat and watch the magical sunset over Lake Wakatipu.
5. Visit the home of Bungy Jumping
Just a short 10 minute drive from Queenstown takes you to Kawarau Bridge, home of the very first commercial bungee which is still operating today. No one in our family has bungy jumped however we all enjoy watching from the viewing platform.
Our boys love the excitement of seeing whether the person’s head will touch the water after they’ve jumped. They also find it fun to watch the speed boat go out to disconnect the bungy ropes and take the person back to shore. The scenery and bright blue water is worth the visit alone. You never know you might get the courage to bungy jump while you’re here?!
6. Hit the town
There’s much more to Queenstown’s town centre than shops and cafes. First up we found Beach Street which is home to a few pieces of street-art on the ‘road’. This street is for pedestrians only so its perfectly safe to have a close look. Don’t miss the new ‘Rainbow Crossing’ and the ‘Zebra Crossing’ which is actually zebras painted on the ground instead of white stripes. Our boys thought this was pretty clever and loved walking over it!
Next we headed towards the lake on Earl Street and found a colourful street mural named ‘The Rainbow Trout’ by talented local artist Tess Sheerin. This is one of many mural’s going up around New Zealand, as part of a pollution awareness campaign. A few metres down the road is Queenstown’s tiny oldest house, now the home of a gorgeous design boutique (which I would recommend to the parents out there but it’s not so kid-friendly inside!)
7. Wander historical Arrowtown
Originally a small gold mining town, picturesque Arrowtown is just a short 15 minute drive from Queenstown. You can get a public bus here if you don’t have a car. There’s loads of gorgeous cafes and quaint little shops to explore in the main street. Some of these are the original buildings from the gold mining era which have been carefully preserved.
Make sure you take the short walk from the main street down to the Arrow River. Here you can discover what life was like for thousands of Chinese miners. The original miners village is still tucked into the riverbank and we love that you can visit this for free. Our boys enjoyed going inside the old miners huts and there’s plenty of information boards dotted around for those that are interested. On the way back to Queenstown keep a look out for gorgeous Lake Hayes.
8. Ski the slopes
If you’re visiting Queenstown with kids during Winter you must spend a day or two on the slopes. We spent a few days at The Remarkables ski field which is 45 minutes drive from Queenstown. Our boys had a blast learning to ski at the Kea Club, which we would highly recommend. Coronet Peak ski-field is just a 20 minute drive away. Both ski-fields have great base facilities, learn to ski lessons and buses to get up and down the mountain if you choose not to drive. We also made sure there was plenty of time for snowball fights, building snowmen and sliding down snowy hills. We’ll put together another blog soon with lots of tips for first time skiers.
9. Chill out in the Ice Bar
A unique opportunity for the whole family to literally chill out! We didn’t make it here this time however the friends we were staying with headed along to ‘The Below Zero Ice Bar’ and loved it. The walls, bar and furniture are all created from ice. Wear your warmest clothes and if you’re still cold, super warm jackets, gloves and boots are provided. Kids will love the ice-hockey (air-hockey) table, kid-friendly cocktails served in glasses made of ice and the fun ice-sculpture chair you can actually sit on.
10.Indulge your sweet tooth at iconic Cookie Time
For those of you who aren’t from New Zealand, Cookie Time is an iconic family business making yummy chocolate chip cookies and bumper bars since 1983. To this day Cookie Time are still my all time favourite cookies. Queenstown is home to one of only a few ‘Cookie Bars’. Here you’ll find freshly baked cookies, impressive cookie shakes and a variety of cookies and cream ice-cream.
There’s also soft toys, cool colourful tins and gift boxes to take home as a New Zealand souvenir. Tip: Be warned they are highly addictive – you need to buy more than you think. Also trust me, you should warm them up in the microwave … yummy gooey chocolate is the best!
We have so much more to share with you including delicious Queenstown eats, skiing tips and kid-free places to go in Queenstown. All in another blog coming soon. Feel free to leave a comment below and please ask any questions as we like feeling helpful!