Located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu on the South Island, Queenstown is a lovely destination with historic mining towns, rich vineyards and endless opportunities for adventure. From bungy jumping and jet-boating to skiing and snowboarding, you can do it all in Queenstown’s rivers, lakes, mountains and valleys. You’ll find plenty of urbanite pleasures as well, such as shopping in town and touring historic and cultural attractions with the kids. Whether you want fun with the whole family, a romantic retreat or an adventure on your own, take a look at the best things to do in Queenstown to plan your holiday.
Tour Arrowtown for gold-mining heritage
Arrowtown is a historic gold mining town in the Otago region on the Arrow River. You can take the kids to a variety of unique historic sites in Arrowtown, such as a recreated 19th-century Chinese gold mining settlement and the Lakes District Museum, which houses photographs and exhibits depicting early Maori life, pioneer times and the gold-rush era. Kids will also like panning for gold in the river. Other highlights of Arrowtown include golf, shopping, dining and exploring Macetown, a historic ghost town that can only be reached by wagon track.
Whitewater raft on Shotover River
Known for its incredible rapids, the Shotover River in Skippers Canyon is the best place for whitewater rafting near Queenstown for all ages. The river spans 75 kilometres and flows south, making it ideal for adventurers. In addition to whitewater rafting tours, you can also try jet boarding on the river for even more excitement.
Relax in Marine Parade with the family
Marine Parade is a recreational area that includes Queenstown Beach, the Queenstown Fallen Soldiers Memorial and the Bathhouse Cafe. You can sunbathe and swim at the lake beach or take a scenic cruise or water taxi. In summer, many visitors enjoy picnics and let the kids play at the nearby playground. Throughout the year, Marine Parade hosts family-friendly events and festivals like the Queenstown Winter Festival and the New Year’s Eve celebration.
Trek Skippers Canyon with active teens
Skippers Canyon is a historic and scenic gorge that’s a haven for outdoor adventure. The 22-kilometre gorge was carved out by the Shotover River and offers opportunities for wilderness treks, bungy jumping, jet boating and river cruises. Known for its beauty, Skippers Canyon has been used in the “Lord of the Rings” films.
Stroll through the Queenstown Gardens with the kids
Queenstown Gardens is a botanical garden with a wide variety of exotic and native plants. While walking through the garden, you’ll see numerous heritage trees and significant memorials, such as the Rees Memorial, a memorial for the arrival of the first settlers to Queenstown. The garden also has a large pond, lawn bowls, tennis courts, skating facilities, disc golf and a children’s playground, so you’ll never run out of things to do.
Bungy jump in Nevis Valley
Once a trail for the Maori people, Nevis Valley is now a remote valley that’s popular for outdoor adventures like trekking, climbing and bungy jumping. The valley provides access to the North Hector Mountains and the Remarkables Range for incredible thrills. If you want something low-key to do with the kids, you can visit Ben Nevis Station, a high-country sheep station with sheep and cattle.
Ski Coronet Peak with the whole family
Coronet Peak is one of the best ski resorts in Queenstown. It boasts a long snow season and a diverse range of slopes for beginner, intermediate and expert skiers and boarders, as well as a top-notch ski school for young children and adult skiers. While you’re on the mountain, you’ll be treated to incredible views of Lake Hayes and Lake Wakatipu from the high-altitude vantage point.
Find thrills on Lake Hayes
Located near downtown Queenstown, Lake Hayes is a tranquil and beautiful lake with walking and cycling trails. The lake is surrounded by the picturesque Wakatipu Basin, a haven of outdoor adventure. You could spend your time hiking around the lake with the kids or exploring the mountains to see native wildlife like Australasian crested grebe, black shag, mallard, feral goose and the New Zealand scaup. The lake is also stocked with tour, perch, kōaro and eel for fishing and making memories with the family.