The best things to do in Queenstown with kids are all about getting into the incredible scenery.
I literally caught my breath when I had my first glimpse of New Zealand’s South Island through my plane window. From the sky, the landscape was covered in green-covered mountains as far as the clouds would let me see. And in between the mountains, the green would stop to let a river through. And the river was the most sparkling bright aqua water I ever did see.
I almost couldn’t comprehend the beauty that surrounded me.
- 1 5 top things to do in Queenstown with kids
- 1.1 1. Thrill yourselves silly on the Shotover Jet
- 1.2 2. Have a sky high adventure at Bob’s Peak
- 1.3 3. Explore the shores of Lake Wakatipu
- 1.4 4. Hit the kid-friendly cafes in Queenstown
- 1.5 5. Enjoy the local entertainment
- 1.6 Give paragliding a try (not one for the kids!)
- 2 Family-friendly Queenstown
5 top things to do in Queenstown with kids
Queenstown itself is a remarkable place.
It has a young, vibrant energy due to the huge number of young travellers from around the world. It is a town that feels completely built on tourism and adventure sports. As a result there’s no weekends and weekdays, no quiet time or busy time. It is always buzzing.
The combination of lake and mountains soothes the soul.
The town feels only as big as it needs to be, so you have this little kernel of FABULOUS food, stylish coffee shops and pubs, and surprisingly great shopping, surrounded by the most beautiful gifts that nature has to offer.
1. Thrill yourselves silly on the Shotover Jet
Queenstown’s adventure sport reputation never really did it for me, but there is no need to be an adrenaline junkie to love this. I thought it might be over-hyped, but absolutely everyone said you had to do it and everyone was absolutely right.
It is exciting, fun and a bit wet, but the drivers know exactly what they’re doing so we just sat back and relaxed.
It was the surroundings that had a powerful effect on me. The beauty was quite literally overwhelming and I spent the first half of the ride with tears running down my face. Words can’t describe it, photos can’t capture it, but for me it was like being inside a Lord of the Rings film (it was filmed nearby).
Kids have to be at least 1 metre tall (although this can change with weather conditions), so it’s suitable for quite young kids.
Just make sure you dress warmly. I was wearing a t-shirt and jeans in Queenstown, but here, 10 min up the road, speeding along and getting splashed, it is cold. They give you a waterproof coat, but wear an extra jumper, a beanie and gloves. I did and thank goodness, because by the end of the 25 min trip I was starting to feel a bit cool.
You can do jet-boating on Lake Wakatipu, which seems convenient, but don’t do it. It is the Shotover River and its surrounds which make it unique. And they pick you up from the centre of town and drive you here, so you don’t need to worry about transport.
Website – Shotover Jet
2. Have a sky high adventure at Bob’s Peak
Just a 5 min walk from the centre of town is the Skyline Gondola (a cable car just like the Sky Safari at Taronga Zoo in Sydney). Sit back and relax while it takes you 450m above Queenstown to Bob’s Peak.
This is where you’ll find bungee jumping, walking tracks, dining with a view, mountain bike trails, luge and paragliding. Do nothing or everything. Whatever floats your boat.
The Queenstown New Zealand luge is particularly kid-friendly – over 6s can ride alone, under 6s with an adult. The chairlift takes you and your luge up to the top, so all you need to do is steer your way down.
3. Explore the shores of Lake Wakatipu
The town sits by the lake, so your first experience of the vast Lake Wakatipu is most likely to be wandering along its shores to or from your accommodation. This is where the “100% Pure New Zealand” slogan is defined. The air feels crisp and clean and the water is crystal clear.
See what I wore in Queenstown and how I used my ninja layering skills in What to wear in Queenstown in autumn.
4. Hit the kid-friendly cafes in Queenstown
The centre of town only covers a small area bordered by Shotover and Camp Sts and the lake. Once you get much outside that area the streets start going vertical, so be warned for when choosing your accommodation. But within those confines is the sweetest little town that always looks freshly washed with her best dress on. There’s national retailers like Witchery, Country Road and Smiggle, every outdoor clothing brand you can imagine, a smattering of homewares, and an abundance of quality places to eat.
So you’ve arrived, gone “Woah!” at the abundance of scenery, but everyone’s hungry and a coffee wouldn’t go astray either.
This is where you go.
This is my idea of the perfect cafe. Lifted straight out of Brunswick St or Acland St in Melbourne, it has that retro eclectic vibe that those locales do so well. But it is the magnificent food and relaxed friendly service that sets it apart.
There were other cafes around, like Joe’s Garage, that are apparently good too, but we ate here on all three mornings, had three different things and loved every meal. It is also kid-friendly with retro-highchairs, crayons and kids menu.
You have to have a Fergburger.
This mostly take-away license-to-print-money is open 21 hours a day every day and I never saw it without a queue out the door and around the corner. Its popularity is off-the-chart, but their burgers are so worth it.
If you don’t have time to stand in the queue, their domination of Queenstown food continues next door with their Bakery (Venison & portobello mushroom pie? Yes please!), great coffee and Gelateria (the Hokey Pokey is divine!).
We didn’t make it in to Madam Woo, but this stylish Chinese/Malay street food restaurant looks fabulous, kid-friendly and a lot of fun.
CookieTime will be the kids’ fave, but try to go during happy hour (6-7pm when we were there), when you’ll get fresh hot cookies for half price!
5. Enjoy the local entertainment
We heard there was an annual paragliding display on at the lake front on our last night, and it was unforgettable. Paragliders spent two hours doing tricks and stunts, flips and even base-jumping!
We watched as two paragliders came down from Bob’s Peak together, then above the lake two black dots started falling from them. My God, I had a heart attack. I thought something terrible was happening. But these crazy people popped open their parachutes and landed gently in the lake. Base-jumping from a paraglider!
But taking it all in as the sun went down over this beautiful place? Priceless.
Give paragliding a try (not one for the kids!)
I jumped off a cliff!
I think I was a touch carried away by watching them floating through the sky. It just looked so peaceful. But turns out it was more feel the fear and do it anyway. Yep, it was terrifying. Todd from G-Force Paragliding did an amazing job keeping me safe, but once was enough for me. I think I found the limit of my courage!
I was surprised that we didn’t see more families, because Queenstown is perfect for kids. The beauty of the place draws you outside, so, if you had more time, it would be a blissful holiday walking and exploring with the kids.
And if you have a car or a campervan like we would like to next time, there’s so much to explore further afield. I’ve already started researching a driving holiday of the South Island. David and I are both super keen to get back there as soon as we can.
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