Kids will love getting out on Lake Wakatipu. © Destination Queenstown

Five great days out with kids in Queenstown


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Queenstown is synonymous with adventure. If you've got small thrill-seekers in tow, it's the place to go. Though there are great options for more sedate days out, too.

1. The Gondola and Luge

Skyline Gondola is one of Queenstown’s top attractions. From the moment you step into the gondola the fun begins, with awe-inspiring views over Lake Wakatipu as you ascend 450 metres to the top of Bob’s Peak.

After a short chairlift and the all-important cheesy holiday pic, slide into a cart – choose between solo or tandem – and race each other down the 800m course with banked corners, tunnels and dippers. 

At the top, there’s also a yummy buffet restaurant, plenty of great photo opportunities, and a Jelly Bean concept store with 30 fantastic true-to-life flavours. 

If that hasn’t exhausted you, walk back down to the car park. That’s right. Don’t take the gondola, but follow the marked trails through the forest, passing zip trekkers, mountain bikers, giant wood chairs and lots of other walkers. Wear good trainers or walking shoes.  

2. Snow magic

With two ski fields at Queenstown’s doorstep and a further two towards Wānaka, winter holidays in this part of the country are a must-do. 

At Coronet Peak (only 20 minutes from downtown Queenstown), kids aged three to five can spend a morning or day with professional instructors in a dedicated outdoor area at Skiwiland including food, gear and care by early childhood certified instructors. 

With a lower centre of gravity and that typical kid fearlessness, they’re likely to pick it up quicker than you are. 

If skiing/boarding is not your thing, Coronet has a toboggan course, a pass to ride the chairlift up and back down again without having to ski or snowboard, and night skiing – the best in the Southern Hemisphere. You don’t need to ski to enjoy the large deck, braziers, marshmallows on sticks and free bands and DJs – both local and international – who perform up the mountain as the sun goes down. It’s not unusual to see the kids flossing around the deck after a session making snow angels.   

3. Around the lake

Lake Wakatipu is the heart of Queenstown, offering activities for thrill seekers of all ages.

Jet boats are the most popular when it comes to extreme fun – blasting, spinning, turning, and splashing around the lake. Some operators will take kids from age two (usually free aged two to four) if they fit into an infant life jacket, but it’s probably better suited for slightly older kids, as speeds get up to 95kph. 

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You could also opt for a more relaxing boat cruise on the iconic TSS Earnslaw Steamship or one of the big aqua bikes with their brightly coloured wheels. 

Finish your on-water experience with an icecream or sweet treat at Queenstown’s famous Patagonia Chocolates parlour near the jetty, lunch at any number of restaurants – including the famous Fergburger (Tip: phone your order in first to skip the queues) – and visit the new multi-sensory Queenstown Beach playground, opened late in 2018. 

4. Kiwi Birdlife Park

Queenstown is not just about thrills and speed. Learning about our native wildlife can be an engaging family day out.

The Kiwi Birdlife Park is a five-acre wildlife sanctuary, home to native animals including kiwi. Time your visit to take in one of the two 30-minute Conservation Shows each day, where the keepers will thrill kids with an entertaining live show in the outdoor theatre featuring free-flying birds and a prehistoric Tuatara. 

There are also opportunities to see the kiwi being fed – a special treat when you consider that most Kiwis haven’t actually seen one of our native icons. 

End your visit at the Honey Bee Centre to see a hive of activity and take home the local honey. 

5. Indoor fun

Although the district is known for hot summers and dry winters, it does occasionally rain.

The indoor pools of Alpine Aqualand at the Queenstown Event Centre are great for all ages with a toddler pool, warm leisure pool, lazy river and two hydro slides, plus a large spa pool so you can soak while watching the kids.

At the other end of Frankton, near Remarkables Park shopping mall, you’ll find Game Over with its Go-Kart track, laser tag and video arcade. Across the road, is SITE Trampoline with super tramps, mini-bouncers (with sessions exclusively for toddlers), a foam pit, airbag, bounce boards and mini ramp. 

Visit the French delicatessen Ma Boulangerie before or after your session for an extremely good sandwich and sweet pastry.  

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Things to do while you're here

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Queenstown: aboard the TSS Earnslaw

The TSS Earnslaw has plied the glassy waters of Lake Wakatipu for over 90 years; her graceful lines and plume of coal smoke as much part of the scenery as the Remarkables. Read the story . . . 

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Get outdoors

Queenstown Hill Time Walk: a rocky delight

Queenstown Hill, just out of town, is more than worth a peek, and you can make its peak in an hour if you get a wriggle on. Read the story . . . 

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Queenstown: the sky’s the limit

You feel pretty brave, standing there on the edge, your toes dangling in the void, the river moving lazily 100 metres below. Read the story . . . 

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Night skiing at Coronet Peak

Few people find themselves out in the mountains at night, so quite apart from the skiing, just being on the slopes under the stars is an unusual and affecting experience. Read the story . . . 

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