Skiing and snow play
Just a short drive from central Queenstown, Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Cardrona Alpine Resort and Treble Cone all offer ski lessons for kids in a fun environment. For parents, this means you can head out for a few hot laps, kid-free, before rejoining the family to see how much they have progressed. For preschoolers, instructors combine skiing with games and indoor play to ensure your kids are happy chappies upon pick-up. For older kids, instruction will begin on the learner slopes and progress up the hill as your kids develop their skills.
Whether you go for lessons or opt to pass on your own prowess to the sprogs, a day spent on the mountain is so rewarding - and makes for a great night’s sleep for all involved, too!
If you’re not a skier and the kids aren’t too keen either, you can still have lots of snow fun by heading up to any of the four ski resorts in the area. Take a sightseeing chairlift up Coronet Peak or Cardrona Alpine Resort and see the snow-capped peaks on high, or visit the snow play zone and try tobogganing, build a snowman, make snow angels, or have a snowball fight. For most young kids, playing in the snow is the best part of visiting a ski resort - so get amongst it!
For a bit of an upgrade and a possible teen pleaser, take your snow play a step further. Take a helicopter ride to a remote alpine peak, where your kids can play in the snow to their heart’s delight, take a thousand selfies for the ‘gram, and truly experience the magic of the mountains.
Ski lessons at The Remarkables
Iconic family activities
No visit to Queenstown is complete without checking at least one of the alpine town’s iconic activities off your list - and winter is just as good a time as any to try them. The Skyline Gondola takes you above central Queenstown, with lake and mountain views for miles. Kids will love the ride - and they will love the luge at the top even more. Little ones can ride on a parent’s lap and time trial challenges will have the older kids fizzing.
Jet boats are synonymous with Queenstown - and there are many options, from a short, 20 minute hoon up the lake with thrilling spins and turns - to longer journeys up the Shotover and Kawarau rivers. Like a roller coaster ride, the grins will last until well after you’re back on solid ground.
Visit the Kawarau Bungy Centre in Gibbston to watch some brave folks plunge off the bridge into the gorge. Maybe one of your party will even be game enough to give it a try? The kids will be keen on the Kawarau Zipride, a fast and thrilling zipline which gives you a taste of the adventure of a bungy jump, without the sinking feeling. The Bungy Centre is also a fun place to linger a while, watch people jump, enjoy a coffee and browse the retail section in the architecturally designed building.
All aboard the TSS Earnslaw! One of the oldest tourist attractions in Queenstown and the only remaining commercial, passenger-carrying, coal-fired steamship in the Southern Hemisphere, a journey on the ‘Old Lady of the Lake’ is a truly special experience. Enjoy views from the majestic steamship of the mountains and the glistening lake, see the inner workings of the coal room and enjoy a coffee or hot chocolate from the on-board cafe. On arrival at Walter Peak, visit the working farm, take a horseback ride, or sit down to a buffet lunch before heading back to town.
Family adventures aboard the TSS Earnslaw
Queenstown has a great range of indoor activities, perfect for when the weather isn’t playing fair.
In town, journey through the out-of-this-world Odyssey Sensory Maze, or take a trip below the lake and back in time to learn about Queenstown’s history - all the way back to the dinosaurs - with Time Tripper. Test your teen’s scare limits at Fear Factory, or try one of the many exciting options at Thrillzone such as glow-in-the-dark mini golf, laser tag or VR gaming. For mild adrenaline fun, try indoor skydiving at iFly and experience the thrill of flight. It's exciting for all ages (and mum-approved).
For a wintry option that will give everyone a giggle, try ice skating at the Queenstown Ice Arena or test out the arena’s newest attraction: ice bumper cars. These easy-to-steer cars slide and bump across the ice and are fun for everyone. Afterwards, warm up at Alpine Aqualand, which has a hot tub for the adults and a lazy river and hydroslides for the kids!
In Frankton, there are a number of attractions all in one place. Go for a bounce at Site Trampoline, test your rock climbing skills in a safe, indoor environment at Basecamp Adventures, or try a game of family laser tag or go-cart racing at Game Over, where you can also enjoy an array of arcade games and win some prizes to take home.
Laser tag at Game Over
Out and about
Unlike other parts of the country, winter days in Queenstown are often clear and crisp. Make the most of the opportunity to dress up in those woolly hats and scarves that spend most of the year in your closet, and get outside into nature. There are many incredible walks and hikes that can be done in an hour or two, earning you the right to warm up afterwards with hot chocolates (or mulled wine for Mum and Dad) at one of the great hospitality offerings in the area.
With over 130km of trails on offer, the Queenstown Trail connects all the main centres and weaves its way alongside the lakes and riverbanks, with stunning scenery around every corner. Wrap up, hop on a bike or on foot and take a section of the trail for a spin and stop for a warm up in one the cafes or pubs along the way.
Check out the historic Arrowtown Chinese miners settlement near the Arrow River, where you can duck inside the historic stone huts and read all about the history of these early gold miners. Finish this with a walk through the Lakes District Museum and Gallery to find out more about the rich history of this area. Arrowtown is also home to many great strolls along the banks of the river. On frosty days, kids will love crunching the ice and seeing crystals on the plants alongside the water.
Exploring Glenorchy with family
For another true winter experience, take a drive to Glenorchy. This little town at the end of the lake transforms into a winter paradise in the middle of the year, with glittering frosts and snowfall low on the mountains.
Queenstown Hill is a steep but rewarding walk that ends at a dynamic sculpture called the Basket of Dreams. The views at the top are breathtaking, especially in winter where you may even encounter some snow. The journey up is a kind of magic of its own, with fairy houses hiding in the trees. For something a little less strenuous, take a stroll around Queenstown Gardens and look up into the branches of the huge trees planted by early settlers. Kids will love to run around the tracks, finding pine cones and feeding the ducks in the fresh alpine air.