Parents of toddlers will agree that the little ones are happiest when they are busy. That’s what makes a Queenstown family holiday with toddlers so fabulous. No matter the season, there are plenty of activities to keep young children engaged while also creating a trip to remember for the whole family.
Where to stay
Having at least one bedroom separate from the main living area is key to a family-friendly home base. For this reason, apartment-style lodgings are a great option for those travelling with toddlers in Queenstown. In town, try Highview Apartments, Blue Peaks Lodge and Apartments, Cranbury Courts, Garden Court Suites, The Glebe or The Platinum Villas.
Arrowtown can also be an excellent place to base yourself as there are many great walks, adventures and toddler-friendly activities right on your doorstep. Family accommodation options include Viking Lodge, Arrowfield Luxury Apartments or Millbrook Resort. For a cheap and cheerful option - with on-site playgrounds and plenty of room to run around - try Arrowtown Holiday Park.
If fun in the snow is on the agenda, you might want to consider Arthurs Point, located at the foot of Coronet Peak. The Queenstown Top Ten Holiday Park is here, or try Nugget Point which offers an on-site day spa (great for parents when they want to tag-team some time out!).
Where to eat
On a fine day, Cargo at Gantleys in Arthurs Point has plenty of outdoor space with beanbags and lawn games to keep little ones charging while the adults take in the mountainous views. Cargo’s headquarters in Gibbston are also very family-friendly with an enormous lawn area, a trampoline and lots of free games, as well as delicious pizza and beer brewed on site.
The Crown Pub and Beer Garden in 5 Mile, Frankton, has a dedicated children’s room with arcade games and toys, and a great kids’ menu of simple favourites. Also in Frankton at Remarkables Park shopping centre, Giovi Pizza, Pasta and Gelato is a winner for both adults and little ones. Here the Italian owners make their own authentic fare, and children can choose their favourite pasta and pair it with their preferred sauce, with a gelato chaser. Yum!
A little further towards town, off Frankton Road, is The Boatshed Café and Bistro. This is another family favourite where the kids can watch boats launching from the nearby Frankton Marina and also glimpse an epic takeoff from Queenstown Airport while they sip on a fluffy. The Boatshed offers a seasonal menu and a relaxed vibe where the whole family can relax on the deck or in the outdoor garden setting.
In town, Margo’s is a local favourite for kids and parents alike. With margaritas for the parents and kid-garitas (a slushie in a fancy glass) for the little ones, and a changing menu that offers everything from basic quesadillas to excellent spicy tacos, Margo’s is sure to please.
If pizza is called for, you can’t go past the classics. Located upstairs on Queenstown Mall, Winnie’s is the number one spot for a bustling family dinner to please all ages. Or try local institution, The Cow, for something a little quieter and cosier but just as delicious.
Cargo at Gantley's
Things to do with toddlers
Iconic Queenstown activities
You can’t go to Queenstown without visiting the hot spots! The little ones will be enamoured with the journey up the Skyline Gondola, the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere. Children under six years old can ride tandem down the luge with an adult provided they can fit a helmet, offering fun for parents and young kids alike. The blue track is a leisurely ride with a gentle gradient, easy bends, tunnels and dips. The view from the top of Bob’s Peak spans right across Queenstown, towards Coronet Peak and The Remarkables and over the lake to Walter and Cecil Peaks. The cafe at the top is well catered for kids and adults alike, with hot lunches, coffees, fluffies, and beer and wine for the grown-ups.
At the base of the gondola, the Kiwi Birdlife Park is a spacious spot for a run around, with aviaries and kiwi houses to visit, plus a live bird show twice daily. Don’t miss the tuatara enclosure!
The TSS Earnslaw is Queenstown’s grand Lady of the Lake. Board the over 100-year-old steamship and see the giant steam engines at work - sure to please any vehicle-loving toddler! The trip across the lake to Walter Peak takes 45 minutes and the café on board has ice creams and coffee if you need an excuse to sit down for a rest. Either stay on board and travel back to town, or step off at Walter Peak and visit the working high country farm. BYO picnic basket and blanket and cap off your family adventure on the lawns of Walter Peak, or make it even more epic with a buffet lunch where even the fussiest toddler is well catered for.
When on a family holiday with toddlers, it is paramount to have wet weather options up your sleeve. Alpine Aqualand is an indoor swimming facility with a fun toddler pool, hydroslides for the brave, and a lazy river. Sure to please!
If bouncing, playing or climbing are more your jam, take the little ones along to Red Oaks Drive in Frankton. There are tonnes of options here to entertain and all are in close proximity to each other with plenty of free parking – try Site Trampoline, the clip ‘n’ climb at BaseCamp, Game Over, or the local Chipmunks.
In town, dinosaur buffs will love a journey underwater to the Time Tripper, Queenstown’s only underwater cinematic experience. Watch eels and trout dive under the wharf and then take a seat and experience what it is like to step back in time in Queenstown’s natural history.
For more learning and indoor fun, head along to Lakes District Museum in Arrowtown and find out about the rich mining history of the area through the interactive displays and installations.
Let’s talk playgrounds! The Hanley’s Farm subdivision has a destination playground which will keep the small ones entertained for hours, with mini trampolines, flying foxes, huge sand pit, and pump track - as well as an astounding view of The Remarkables. Hanley’s Farm is a 10-minute drive from Frankton towards Kingston.
Queenstown Playground is an unmissable stop for families travelling with toddlers. Right next to the lake and divided by a musical bridge over a small stream, this playground has a wide variety of play equipment plus great climbing trees. It also doubles as a place to splash around on a hot day. For Mum and Dad, the Bathhouse Café sits right on-site, perfect for a quick pick-me-up coffee.
Nothing beats short walks to burn off steam. The Kelvin Peninsula Sculpture Trail is a family favourite, although the buggy may be needed for tired legs! There are sculptures to spot along the way, trees with names, lots of wildlife (duck) spotting, and plenty of great locations for picnics and rests overlooking Lake Whakatipu.
Try the Arrow River trail in Arrowtown for an amble along the water’s edge, or head towards the Chinese Village and step inside the old stone miner’s cottages for a taste of history.
If you’re heading towards Glenorchy, the Bob’s Cove Track is a short walk that takes you through forest to a beautiful calm cove which is great for a paddle or even a swim. Moke Lake in the same area is a peaceful spot with incredible views that is well worth the drive.
If you’re staying near Frankton, the Remarkables Market opens up in late spring through until autumn and is a great Saturday morning activity for the whole family – with live entertainment, fresh food and coffee, and a huge sandpit and playground. In the summer, Frankton Beach is the place to be for families looking for an evening dip or have a family barbeque and utilise the public facilities.
Queenstown Bay Playground
Fancy a shopping trip? In downtown Queenstown, there are plenty of spots to keep toddlers happy while you browse. Cookie Time’s flagship store is sure to please, and your kids will be like...well, kids in a candy shop...when you take them to choose a treat at Remarkables Sweet Shop. Patagonia is perfect for parents looking for a coffee hit as well as being the home of amazing ice cream.
Planning your family trip
The concept of packing light goes out the window once you have children but you can lessen your load somewhat by renting equipment for your stay such as buggies and car seats. Tots on Tour has a variety of equipment that can be set up in your hotel prior to your arrival, from cots and highchairs to toys and safety gates. They can also arrange babysitters.
Rent a bike along with a toddler seat and set out for a family bike ride. The bridge crossings on the Arrow River Bridges Trail are sure to impress your wee ones, or try a ride around the Queenstown Gardens or along the Frankton-Queenstown section of the Queenstown Trail.
So if you’re looking for family activities with toddlers to make your family holiday one to remember - for all the right reasons - look no further than Queenstown!