Queenstown New Zealand

Queenstown New Zealand

If there was ever going to be an eighth natural wonder of the world I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if The Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu in New Zealand made it onto the list – but then this is my first New Zealand experience so maybe I am getting ahead of myself, apparently there is other stunning scenery still to see; it’s just hard to believe it can top Queenstown!

If you’ve been to NZ then you will know about her beauty – I know that anyone who has reported back to me about their travels in the past has mentioned this incredible beauty as one of the top reasons to visit NZ.  But scenery is not the only reason why you should visit.

New Zealand is an easy place to visit.  Our flight from Melbourne was direct to Queenstown and it was a 3 and a 1/4 hour flight – that’s like going to Queensland!  Also our language and money are almost identical (almost).  The people are similar too.  Putting it very simplistically, as far as countries go, NZ is like our sister – Queenstown felt like a part of Australia I had never visited (possibly because most people we met happened to be Aussies or from the UK).

So Queenstown – an awesome place to visit in summer with kids.  (As I am sure it is in winter, but this trip was in summer – and Tourism NZ if you’re reading this, we’d totally be up for a ski trip back in winter just drop me a line!)

For the first time in my parenting career I took leave with my husband sans kids for four whole days (the excuse was to witness two lovely friends get hitched) – it was a fantastic experience, but we did reflect a few times on how much the kids would have loved Queenstown and how we have to have to have to come back and share it with them one day.

So my top 10 things to do in Queenstown (with or without kids)


{Suits all ages, accommodates prams}

Queenstown is a small village and a block back from one of the main streets is the Skyline Gondola.  If you’re not a fan of chairlifts or great heights then you might want to give this a miss – but be warned (unless you are prepared to walk up) you are missing out on what is possibly one of the most incredible views in the world; don’t get me wrong it does look amazing from the bottom – but from up high it’s simply breath-taking.  I am not sure a visit to Queenstown could be complete without a trip on the Gondola – not for the ride, for the spectacular vista at the top.

At the top of the Gondola is a hub of activity – there is a restaurant (bookings are recommended) as well as a decent cafe.  There are also lots of spots to sit and enjoy the view (and picnic). This is also the point where you can head off for a number of activities – paragliding, bungy jumping, the Luge, bike riding, Ziptrek and hikes.

queenstown gondola5


{Suits ages 3+}

At the very top of the Gondola are two winding paved tracks where you can ride modern billy-carts part way down the hill – known as the Luge.  It’s up to you how fast you travel (the handle bars which control the steering also control the speed) and small children can ride with an adult.  I know if we took our kids we would have to invest in the family ticket (which is the return Gondola ride) plus 10 Luge rides to share (which means the kids could have 5 rides each) for $117 – but check on the day when you are purchasing your tickets as there are often daily specials up on the ticket office specials screen and the family ticket plus 10 I mentioned is just one of the many options, click here for more information.

Once you reach the end of the track you hand your Luge to a staff member and jump onto a chair lift which takes you back up the mountain to the top of the Luge track.  FYI the track is pretty short (we had imagined it went all the way down the mountain – but it’s just a small track around the Gondola area at the top of the mountain).  Helmets are supplied and I recommend testing the brakes before you take off (we had one friend Jed whose brakes were a bit dodgy and he was a bit over enthusiastic: Jed 0, Luge 1).

The Luge is a fantastic way to spend time at the top of the Gondola with kids (3+) and really, while you’re up there you should have a go – we grown ups did and it was lots of fun.

Bike Riding

{Hammy’s Track suits competent riders who are off training wheels.}

There are many local bike hire shops (we spied about five in our wanderings and noticed they offer kids bikes & scooters, tandem bike attachments, baby bike seats and toddler bikes) and also a number of bike tours.  But if you just wanted to explore some of the paths around the lake there is easy riding for families along the walking tracks, your bike hire should be able to point you in the right direction.

If you’re looking for something a bit more unique it’s possible to load your bikes onto the Gondola and ride back down the mountain along one of many trails.  This was something we really wanted to do but we ran out of time – and it’s something I would absolutely do when we go back with the kids.  Check out Hammy’s Track (the easiest of the downhill tracks) which runs through the mountain forest along a dirt road.

When it comes to getting up the mountain on the gondola with bikes – you can purchase a half day or full day pass: kids $35/45 adults $60/85.  Add to that your bike hire and while it’s not exactly cheap, if you find bike riding a bit of family fun then you have to ask yourself how often do you get to take a bike ride like this one?  And given the track takes 15-30 minutes to complete, with a half day pass you’ll be able to do it many many times!

I would be packing band-aids, sunscreen, water bottle and small snacks into a daypack.  This track would suit kids aged 5+ who are confident without training wheels.  And remember there is a cafe (and water fountain) at the top of the Gondola to stop for snacks/meals too.

Ziptrek Encounters

{For children 6+ and adults under 125kg}

A friend has done this and said it was lots of fun – not as scary as say bungy jumping or paragliding but definitely something to get the heart pumping.  It is also a beautiful and unique way to see the forest, the incredible view and learn about the local area – two guides accompany each group and stop at regular intervals to point out local bits of history and geography.

The Ziptrek Encounter takes about two hours from the Treehouse (located near the Gondola) to the base of the mountain.  There are some points where you will need to climb stairs and do a little bit of walking – but otherwise you are transported via the flying foxes through the tree-tops down the hill.  Groups are a maximum of 10 people and you need to book in advance (it often books out) and as well as your session you will need to purchase a ticket for the Gondola.  Click here for more information.  Tickets start at $79 for kids and $129 for adults.

Lake activities

{all ages}

The magical Lake Wakatipu is a hub of activity – yet so vast that there is plenty of room for all manner of boating activity!

If high jet speed boats sound exciting then you will be pleased to learn that the KJet caters to all ages and a family of four can do an hour trip for $307.  A few of the group in town for the wedding took this KJet trip and said it was a bit of fun – make sure you wear the waterproof jackets as the word is you do get splashed (even if the driver says you wont George, he’s joking).

If slow charm is more your style then take in all the glory of the Remarkables as you travel across the lake on the TSS Earnslaw for a 1.5 hour round trip (for an extra charge you can get off the boat at the other side and experience sheep shearing and Devonshire teas at the Walter Peak homestead).  The TSS is an original and fully operating steam boat – the only coal fired steamship in operation in the southern hemisphere, not only that she’s a movie star, including a cameo as an Amazon River Boat in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Adults return are $55, kids $22 and under 4’s are FREE.  The boat does four trips daily.  There is a bar/cafe on board, access to the engine room and if you desire you can join in a sing-a-long with the live piano music.  The day we made this journey the sun was shining and it was stunning – lots of indoor and outdoor seating and you’re able to easily move about the vessel to take in all the views.

queenstown steamboat3

The water in Lake Wakatipu is not only this incredible iridescent blue green colour – it’s also crystal clear.  I can’t imagine any other marina area where I would happily consider drinking the water.  There is a pebble beach (that said you can swim wherever you like) in the centre of town and at the beach you can hire paddle boats.  FYI the water is pretty icy – we were there on some of the warmest days they had had in a while and only saw a few people out in the water properly swimming.

There are loads of other things to do around the lake – cruises, fishing, canoeing and more.  Click here for more ideas.



{All ages}

The township itself is easy to navigate as it really is only a few streets wide and deep.  A nice little walk is through the Queenstown Gardens (alternatively you could include this in a bike ride) which is a mix of manicured gardens and forest.  The wonderful thing about NZ is that there are no snakes or deadly spiders – so you can head into the long grass and run around.

There are walking tracks along the waters edge of Lake Wakatipu and loads of bush walking – head to the information centre in Queenstown for more information or click here.  Around the lake you could take a pram – a stroller might be harder given the paths are often gravel.

The husband and I went for a three hour walk from the top of the Gondola but it wasn’t the kind of activity I would probably do with our kids (aged 5 and 8) as we didn’t really know what kind of terrain was ahead, how long it would take or if we were even on the right track (corresponding with the map we had) so unless your kids are a bit older (or familiar with this kind of adventure) I would recommend sticking to the main tracks and getting lots of advice before setting off (as well as packing water, snacks, sunscreen, hats etc).


I can’t personally recommend bungy jumping as it’s not something I would ever want to do (nor would I let my kids go) but for those who are curious, you need to be 10 years + to do it.  As you travel up the Gondola you might be lucky enough to see someone jump, we almost saw someone jump as the gondola stopped for a couple of minutes right next to the bungy platform, but the jumper was still working up the courage to jump.  Yup you couldn’t pay me to do that!

Now if you haven’t already mortgaged your house to pay for the Luge rides, bike hire, Gondola passes, Ziptreck, KJet, steamboat trip and other activities around Queenstown perhaps a heli tour to a mountain top or glacier is in order.  It would certainly be something to remember.  Flights start at $220 for 20 minutes for adults ($154 for child, under 4 FREE) and include complimentary shuttle bus to the helipad.

A few of the wedding party went paragliding while we were in Queenstown and it sounded pretty amazing.  While the idea of bungy jumping sounds horrible to me I could totally go for a gentle float down to the ground.  The flight takes about 10 minutes in total, taking off from a launch area at the top of the Gondola.  Paragliding is done in tandem so you need no knowledge and you run for a few steps with the Pilot and then lift your feet off the ground as the Pilot glides you both into the air – at the same time you sort of slide into a seated position and enjoy the ride down in comfort.  Apparently landing is very gentle (unlike sky diving) and you are in a standing position with the paraglider being released once your feet are firmly on the ground.  To go paragliding you need to be a minimum of 30kg and a maximum of 100kg.  Flights are about $200.

Best places to eat

Queenstown has so many dining options – and loads of really great ones.  I was really impressed with how many quality options there were and wished we had more time to try a few more places out.

We found one favourite breakfast/lunch venue that we just had to keep going back to again and again and again, Vudu Cafe & Larder.  Delicious, healthy, hip (yup there was kale on the menu) and family friendly.  Just looking at their website now to add a link for you and notice they call themselves “Melbourne Cool” and it’s true – we felt right at home!

Another easy eat is to be found at the Fergburger (although there isn’t a kids burger mentioned on the menu the trick is to ask).  Expect to wait 20-30 minutes for your burger as the Fergburger is world famous and there is always a queue out the door.  There is minimal seating – so you might want to plan this as a take-away meal and if the weather is nice there is plenty of lovely spots to sit nearby at the lake.

My favourite dinner out was at the Botswana Butchery (despite its name there were vegetarian options) but it’s probably more a date-night venue as the menu doesn’t specifically cater to kids.


We stayed at Peppers Beacon which was in a fantastic location – a 5 minute stroll along the lake into the centre of Queenstown.  The rooms were pleasant, many with views, there are apartment options for families as well as breakfast included (the breakfast room however was very uninspiring so it’s more for convenience than for any enjoyment value).  I would be happy to return as overall there was nothing I could fault – but I might also compare rates with rental houses (if we were there for a week) or other hotels that included a heated pool (as I suspect the kids would enjoy having access to a pool).

Babysitting service – one of the couples in Queenstown for the wedding travelled with their 20 month old and so they used a company that came recommended by a friend and now Amanda can recommended it to me, her exact words: they were ace.  Around The Clock Childcare will look after children day or night and can be employed as a one off minimum 3 hours or for the whole week.


Well okay that’s only possible in winter.  But one day we’ll have to add that to the list  🙂