Queenstown comes into its own in autumn, with the hills transforming into a gorgeous combination of red, yellow and orange tones. The ground crunches underfoot with fallen leaves, the days are clear and the peaks begin to get a dusting of snow, adding to the magic of Queenstown’s alpine vistas.
For those travelling with kids, autumn is a great time of year for outdoor adventures. Here’s your guide to some of the best things to do in Queenstown during the autumn school holidays
Family-friendly outdoor adventures
Hit the water
Family waving to The TSS Earnslaw at Walter Peak Station
Hitting the water is a must on a Queenstown visit. Whether you go for a day trip on the grand old lady of the lake, the TSS Earnslaw, take a spin on a jet boat, hire a kayak or aqua bike, the many waterways around the Whakatipu basin are ripe for exploration and memory-making and it’s a wonderful way to take in the autumn colours.
Sightsee on two wheels
Family biking around Queenstown Gardens
Renting a bike for an afternoon’s ride is a popular activity for families visiting Queenstown, and there are loads of bike hire options available to explore our surrounds. Better by Bike has a range of e-bikes and mountain bikes for hire for all ages, including baby seats and buggies for the smallest riders. From Arrowtown, it’s possible to jump straight on the Arrow River Bridges Trails, which amble alongside the river among the trees. Kids will love riding over the bridges, testing out the infamous rope swing and crunching through the golden fallen leaves along the way.
Or start in Kelvin Heights, where a sculpture trail takes you along the lakeside to Kelvin Beach and the head of the peninsula. This is an easy loop trail for families on bike or foot, with many little bays for picnic stops, sculpture installations to spot along the way, as well as amazing views across the lake towards Cecil Peak.
Explore on foot
Queenstown Gardens in autumn
For a fun and easy outing close to town to see the autumn colours, take a stroll around the Queenstown Gardens with its lofty trees and duck ponds complete with lily pads. Finish at the awesome lakefront playground to burn off any excess energy and with coffee available right next door at The Bathhouse, this is a win-win for parents and children.
For a fresh experience, the recently opened Kingpin is a centre full of fun activities. Housed in a ski lodge-inspired building next door to indoor skydiving venue iFly and close to the Skyline gondola, Kingpin offers tenpin bowling, escape rooms, an arcade, VR activities, karaoke and some great new family-friendly restaurants and eateries all in the one location!
The weather at this time of year generally cooperates - but if you get a rainy day, never fear! If you’re visiting with older children, they may be brave enough to conquer Fear Factory, a live action haunted house experience! Younger kids will love the underwater experience of the Time Tripper downtown - and they may even learn a thing or two about the history of the area too! Also downtown, Thrillzone has a plethora of indoor activities on their menu, from glow in the dark mini golf, VR experiences, escape rooms and laser tag - and they even offer a childcare service!
Game Over Queenstown
Further afield in Frankton, Red Oaks Drive is a hub of activities for kids, with Site Trampoline park and Basecamp Adventures indoor climbing. Across the road at Game Over, challenge your kids to a race on the go-carts, or let them battle it out with a round of laser tag.
Where to eat with kids
Here are some local family favourites that provide entertainment for the kids and great food and drinks for parents needing a relaxing break.
- The Fork and Tap, Arrowtown: With a tree hut and play area in the rear of the garden and plenty of outdoor tables complete with heaters and shelter, this is a firm favourite for families all over Queenstown and makes a great pit stop or final destination after an autumnal walk or ride down the riverside.
- The Crown Pub and Beer Garden, 5 Mile Frankton: A dedicated indoor playroom gives this British pub-inspired restaurant its family-friendly credentials. Toys, a TV screen and arcade games in an enclosed room might see you having to drag the kids away to eat - but it could also provide a few golden peaceful moments.
- The Hayes, Lake Hayes Estate: An outdoor onsite playground and a location next door to a public park makes this spot in a residential neighborhood, close to its namesake lake, a favourite for kids and parents alike.
- Margos, Queenstown CBD: With authentic Mexican food in a bright and colourful upstairs location in the centre of town, Margos will bring a smile to even the most tired child’s dial. The kids menu echoes the adult one, with less spice and more cheese, and they even do a kids version of a frozen margarita (a slushie!) to match the adult’s real deal.
- Farelli's Trattoria, Queenstown CBD: This spot on Steamer Wharf downtown has a quintessential Italian vibe, with checked tablecloths and a bustling, vibrant atmosphere. The food caters to all sorts of tastes, with a full vegan menu available as well as a clever kids menu that provides such fussy-kid favourites as plain cheese pizza and pasta without bits.