Queenstown is a hugely popular destination for families. There are the favourites of course, including jet boat rides, Kiwi Birdlife, lake cruises, Skyline Gondola and the mountains during the ski season. When you’ve done all of this and/or the budget is running dry, try this list of the best Queenstown family activities which are our recommendations for things to do in Queenstown with kids. These attractions and activities are entertaining enough to keep the whole family happy without breaking the bank. If you want to save even more dollars then the Queenstown Deals guide will show you where to look.
- 1 Go for a Day Walk
- 2 Visit Queenstown’s Underwater Observatory
- 3 Visit Kiwi Birdlife Park
- 4 Go for a Swim
- 5 Visit Glenorchy
- 6 Visit Arrowtown
- 7 Activities While you Shop
- 8 Check out the Markets
- 9 Take the Queenstown Luge
- 10 Visit the Playgrounds
- 11 Easy Walks Around Queenstown Lake
- 12 TSS Earnslaw
- 13 Alpine Aqualand
Go for a Day Walk
Read my post for the top 5 walks in and around Queenstown and their suitability for families. The town’s locations between the mountains and lake is perfect for discovering new walks with amazing views. Walking the trails is free and if your kids like the outdoors, it’s one of the best family things to do in Queenstown.
Visit Queenstown’s Underwater Observatory
Every wondered what’s swimming around the lake? The water might be clear but you can’t see everything. Have your kids taken an interest in the aquatic wildlife of Lake Wakatipu? Take them to the Underwater Observatory where they can meet eye to eye with eels, gigantic trout, and the odd snorkelling duck. The kids will love it and it costs only $5 entrance for them. Adults pay $10. Find the observatory near the main town’s pier. You can’t miss it. The underwater observatory is also a great spot to go when the weather puts a stop to outdoor activities.
Visit Kiwi Birdlife Park
I’m yet to meet a kid who didn’t like getting up close with the Kiwi, New Zealand’s national icon. Kiwi feeding time is a big hit with children and adults. You’ll come away with a new found appreciation for this strange looking flightless bird. This conservation park is dedicated to conserving and displaying New Zealand’s wildlife. Private tours are available and don’t forget the conservation show, which is both educational and entertaining. Children under 5 enter for free. It’s a little pricey for adults at over $40 but well worth the money. The Kiwi Birdlife Park is a great way to spend a few hours with the family.
Go for a Swim
On a very hot day that icy cold water is brilliant! Hot spots are the Kelvin Heights bay at the end of Peninsula Road; Lake Hayes Reserve (although the water is murky and sometimes slimy underfoot, it is warmer and the pontoon is lots of fun – very popular with families and camping groups); Frankton Arm lake swimming and Alpine Aqualand (see more about this below). And check out our guide to Swimming in Queenstown.
About an hour’s drive to the top of Lake Wakatipu, depending on how many times you stop to take photos. Sure, the petrol isn’t free, but you can pack a picnic and once there, there are plenty of lake-side and forest walks, a BBQ area, playground and skate park. Read more in our Glenorchy Day Trip guide.
Activities While you Shop
Remarkables Park Shopping Centre runs activities in the school holidays targeted at smaller children including face-painting and a bouncy castle. Cafes such as Hamills are a good lunch option with a dedicated children’s play area.
Check out the Markets
Open Saturday’s 9 am to 2 pm from 24 October 2015 to 26 March 2016, the Remarkables Market near the Remarkables Park Shopping Centre. It’s small and quaint with a delightful array of artisan goods and foods. There’s a strip of green at the side with, more often than not, a bouncy castle. The Creative Queenstown Arts and Crafts Markets located in town on Earnslaw Park runs on Saturdays. Stop at Patagonia Chocolates first to grab an ice cream before meandering past the stalls.
Take the Queenstown Luge
This is the activity that gets the dads more excited than the children. The luge is a high-speed ride down from the Skyline Gondola on small carts controlled by a central steering stick. Left and right to steer, forward and back to accelerate or brake. It’s an activity for bigger kids as there’s some element of safety involved. The carts are low to the ground so there’s little chance of one rolling or tipping anyone out. Safety is a priority and accidents are rare and minor. If you enjoy gokarts, mountain biking, or any kind of fast driving activities, then check out the luge. The cost of the Gondola ride (which is highly recommended) and 2 luge rides is $49 for adults and $37 for kids. You can also get family passes. The track runs for 800m and the views are amazing. Not that you’ll have time to take it all in or snap photos. The luge is open from 10 am to 5 pm daily. Book online here.
Visit the Playgrounds
There are a number of popular children’s playgrounds around Queenstown. The grounds by the Bathhouse on the lake front are a great option. Grab a coffee while the kids throw themselves at the playground, nearby low-lying branches and little rivulets streaming into the lake. Another popular option a little further away is McBride’s Park in Lake Hayes Estate near Graze Restaurant. The park is excellent and includes a bike track, and you can get your coffee fix from Graze. Dotted around town and further afield are more than 20 playgrounds, most of which are open to the public. Some, like Jack’s Point Playground, are only open to residents but if you can find a local to help, you might get in. The Queenstown Lakes District Council maintains a list of playgrounds around town.
Easy Walks Around Queenstown Lake
Feed the ducks at the botanical gardens or head to St Omer Park on Lake Esplanade to see views of the lake and play on the playground.
Kids travel free on selected Real Journey excursions during the school holidays (with a full-paying adult fare). This includes the TSS Earnslaw, an iconic 100-year old coal steamer ship that cruises from Earnslaw dock to Walter Peak Farm Station. The Buffet lunch is amazing!!
Babies and toddlers are free of charge with a paying adult, and kids four and over only pay $3. The centre has a leisure pool and lazy river, two hydro slides (extra $2), catering for various heights, a tapered toddler pool with water feature and adult hot pool (16+ years).For more ideas on things to do with toddlers read the Guide for New Parents. Photo Credits Cover picture Gavin Lang Photography