Queenstown a great base when travelling on the South Island of New Zealand with your family. There are outdoor and indoor activities that are suitable for children of all ages. Some of New Zealand’s most spectacular mountain views, old historic towns, and national parks are all within two hours of Queenstown. Choose your ideal day trip when visiting Queenstown from these five stopovers. Watch your little one learn about the world around them as they discover new foods, cultures, and experiences.
Before You Begin: Driving in New Zealand
All of the destinations recommended in this article are within two hours from Queenstown. The key when driving in New Zealand is to allow for extra time. New Zealand roads are different and can be narrow and windy. Also, plan on taking several extra stops along the way to take in the beautiful sights.
Here are our 5 Must Do Self Drive Day Trips From Queenstown when travelling with kids
If you are planning on spending a few days in Queenstown, also Read: The Ultimate Family Guide to Queenstown
Day trips from Queenstown
Arrowtown: 20 Minutes
Just a short 20 minute drive from Queenstown, historic Arrowtown is a “must do”. Here you will find a former mining town founded during the 1860’s gold rush with all its charming quaint qualities still in tack. Sounded by mountain scenery and the arrow river, walk the tree-lined avenues past rows of nineteenth century miners’ cottages. This working village is full of cafes, shops, and bars to explore.
Things to Do and See in Arrowtown
- Learn about the history of Arrowtown at the Lake District Museum with a special exhibit on life in a gold mine just for children.
- Heritage Town Centre Walk: Grab yourself an official guide and walk the red dotted loop circuit through the town.
- The Chinese Village: There is a separate restored and created Chinese settlement by the river. Stop by to learn about the history of the Chinese miners’.
- Village Green: Let your little one run wild on the village Green while you grab a coffee or beer from Bendix Stables, directly next to the green.
- Buckingham Street: Have a walk down Arrowtown’s famous tree lined street, Buckingham Street. You will be enchanted with the beautiful historic heritage buildings. Its a wonderful place to browse through the galleries, restaurants and shops.
Family Friendly Places to Eat in Arrowtown
The Fork and Tap: This historic pub specialises in local food and NZ craft beers. But the best park is the large outdoor patio featuring sandpits and playhouse.
- Children’s menu
- High chairs
- Enclosed sandpit and playhouse
Bendix Stables: Recently rebranded and refurbished, Bendix Stables is located next to the village green. At night the atmosphere comes alive with live music and locals, while children run around the green.
- Toy trucks
- High chairs
Gibbston Valley: 25 Minutes
Within driving distance from downtown Queenstown is Gibbston Valley located in central otago region, also known as the “Valley of Vines.” Between the Kawaqrau River and rugged mountains you will find several vineyards providing some of the best wines. A majority of the grapes grown here are pinot noir, but you may also find other varieties including; sauvignon blanc, and pinot gris.
If biking the wine trail doesn’t seem up your alley, there are several other picturesque trails to choose from, including Arrowtown, Lake Wakatipu, and Lake Hayes.
How to bike Gibbston Valley
With easy off-road trails, the Gibbston Valley wine trail is great for beginners and suitable for young families with children. Use a local bike hire company such as Around the Basin, and design your own wine tour. There is a selection of packages available to suit your needs. All of the cellar doors are located right along the wine trail. Book a self-guided tour to allow yourself time to explore. Riding at your own pace is a great option when towing children. Whether you want a casual day of riding or a day of wine tasting, go at your own pace and speed.
Family-Friendly Wineries to Stop At
Many of the wineries offer space for younger families to enjoy a glass of wine, while their young ones stretch their legs.
- Gibbson Valley
- Carggo Brewery
Glenorchy: 45 Minutes
The day trip to Glenorchy is just as much about the journey than the destination. Queenstown to Glenorchy is a 45 minute scenic drive, perfect while your little one takes their morning nap. Providing one of the best driving roads in New Zealand, there are also plenty of scenic stops to make along the way. So allow for extra time.
Once you reach Glenorchy, stop to stretch your legs on the Glenorchy Lagoon Walkway. Before heading back into Queenstown, stop at the Bold Peak Lodge. Perfectly suitable for children, there are highchairs and toys to keep your little one entertained while you sip on a cup of coffee or grab a bite to eat.
Cardrona: 50 Minutes
It is best to stop in Cardrona if you are taking a day trip to Wanaka from Queenstown, as there is not much to do here.
The historic village of Cardrona is about 20 minutes from Wanaka. Situated on the Crown Range Road, Cardrona Valley connects Wanaka and Queenstown. This small town is home to the most photographed building in New Zealand, the Cardrona Hotel. I recommend stopping to take a photo in front of the hotel. Before you continue on the road, grab some refreshments and snacks at the General Store.
Wanaka: 1 Hour 15 Minutes
With picture-perfect views at every turn, snow-covered mountains, and a massive lake, Wanaka is perfect for families of all ages. Lake Wanaka is a popular lakeside town full of activities, from nature, farm animals, and tourist attractions. Your family is sure to keep entertained.
Tip: The drive from Queenstown to Lake Wanaka via The Crown Range takes longer than expected at around 1.5-2 hours. The Crown Range is known for its tight curves and viewpoints, but the road itself is easy to drive.
Things to Do and See in Wanaka
- To make the most of a summer day, send the day at the lake. A good place to take away lunch is Erik’s famous fish and chips. Bring it back to the lake for a picnic, but be careful of the birds.
- After lunch, stop at the Wanaka Lavender Farm for some fresh ice cream, interact with the farm animals, and to wander through the gardens.
- Puzzling World is a famous attraction in Wanaka featuring a massive 3d maze to keep not only you, but your little ones perplexed and intrigued.