Traveling with kids can be expensive. Although I myself don’t have them, it’s not hard to see that having to pay for an entire family instead of just yourself will leave your wallet a little light. Now, imagine that in one of the most expensive tourist destinations in New Zealand – Queenstown!
It’s safe to say many families are concerned about the cost of visiting Queenstown and to be honest, I don’t blame them. With accommodation, tours, and meals, things can add up really quickly. Luckily there are ways to enjoy Queenstown with kids on a budget.
In this blog, I’ll not only share a ton of free things to do in Queenstown with kids but also a huge list of cheap activities too. On top of that, I’ll show you some of the best hotels for families on a budget and some budget-saving tips that’ll save you a small fortune (they’re at the bottom of this blog!)
Free Things to do in Queenstown with Kids
1. Walk the Queenstown Gardens
Kids love to explore, so take them to the Queenstown Gardens for an easy walk in Queenstown to enjoy the great outdoors. The Queenstown Gardens are located only a short 5-minute walk from the center of town and within them, you’ll find a playground, gardens, ponds, ducks, and even the Queenstown Ice Arena. As a completely free activity, it’s one you can all enjoy without spending a dime.
If you want to enjoy the gardens even more I recommend bringing a packed lunch to eat either by the lake or by a pond in the gardens. The kids can feed the ducks while you relax, sounds perfect!
2. Play frisbee golf
While in the Queenstown Gardens, take the kids to play some frisbee (disc) golf in the free frisbee golf course under the huge pine trees. I personally love playing frisbee golf and the great thing about it is anyone who can throw a frisbee can play. Although I’m not very good, it’s still so much fun!
If you don’t know what frisbee golf is, check out this guide before you go, but seriously, it’s easy to play. Unfortunately, the frisbees aren’t free so if you don’t have your own you will need to rent one. But don’t stress, you can actually rent them from the Queenstown Ice Arena in the gardens for only $5 NZD.
3. Have a picnic at St Omar Park
Picnics by the lake are one of my favorite summer activities in Queenstown. With a packed lunch I can sit by the lake for hours just admiring the views and even kicking a ball on the grass. It’s relaxing, fun, and completely free for the entire family.
The best and largest park to go to is St Omar Park which runs along the esplanade in Queenstown. In the park, you’ll find a walking path to explore, tables, and even free BBQs to use. There are even toilets nearby which is important for families with young kids!
4. Take a day trip to Glenorchy
Kids love exploring, so why not take them on a road trip!? One of the best things you can do in Queenstown with kids is the scenic drive to Glenorchy. Along the way, there are lots of epic places to stop including beaches, hikes, and magnificent lookouts.
From Queenstown, it’s a 46-kilometer drive (29 miles) that without stopping only takes 45 minutes. With that said, if you plan on following our guide to the 12 best places to stop you’ll need a little longer especially if you do a hike or two.
If you don’t have a car you will need to rent one in Queenstown, which isn’t free, but the drive is. Also, there are a ton of awesome free things to do in Glenorchy once you arrive including the Glenorchy Walkway!
Related Read: For more ideas of awesome activities and attractions in Glenorchy, read our blog about 17 fun things to do in Glenorchy.
5. Relax at the beach
During the summer in Queenstown, you simply can’t beat spending a day at the beach. Not only is this family-friendly activity that’s completely free, but kids love swimming in the freezing Lake Wakatipu. There’s something about children and the cold, seriously, I’m not sure they feel it!
There are three spots to visit depending on what you’re looking for all close to Queenstown. The most convenient is Queenstown Beach, with that said, it not only gets busy but also a little rowdy so it’s not the best spot for kids.
Instead, head to my favorite spot, Sunshine Bay. This small secluded bay is popular among locals but it’s much quieter than Queenstown Beach. You can access the beach via the Sunshine Bay Track or drive to the parking lot.
Last is Bob’s Cove. This small bay is located around 10 minutes from Queenstown on Glenorchy-Queenstown Road. If you go around midday the sun hits the beach and it’s a great place to relax. It’s also the quietest beach in Queenstown. If you’re up for it, you can walk Bob’s Cove Track which is a short easy hike that takes you to a viewpoint above the bay!
6. Taste fudge and The Remarkable Sweet Shop
The Remarkable Sweet Shop is any kid’s dream. Floor-to-ceiling shelves of candy line the walls and they have tasters of their famous fudge available completely free. Seriously, they’ll let you try every flavor if you want.
If you’re looking to treat the kids but don’t want to spend a fortune, head over to The Remarkable Sweet Shop in town and try some fudge. Of course, if you love it enough you can buy some for yourself (just don’t tell the kids!) Everything in the store is tasty, but my recommendation is to stick to homemade candies. You won’t find them anywhere else in New Zealand!
7. Visit Moke Lake
Moke Lake is one of the quietest places to visit near Queenstown. This small secluded lake is surrounded by mountains and on a calm day, reflects them like a mirror. It’s truly a beautiful place to explore.
From Queenstown, it takes around 20 minutes to reach the lake by car, and although it’s a gravel road, it’s completely safe to drive in any vehicle. Many people pay to go on a kayaking tour here but once at the lake, you can enjoy one of the many other free things to do that include enjoying the views, going on a short hike, or even fishing. For kids, the most suitable hike at Moke Lake is the Moke Lake Loop. The trail only takes around 2 hours to complete and it’s almost completely flat.
8. Wander the Queenstown craft markets
The Queenstown Arts & Crafts Market is the best market to visit in Queenstown to pick up unique gifts or souvenirs to remember your trip. At the market, you’ll find vendors from all around New Zealand who come to show off their products. The market is on every Saturday from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm from November to April and 9:30 am to 3:30 pm from May to October.
The Queenstown Arts & Crafts Market is located in the heart of Queenstown at Earnslaw Park and attracts quite the crowd. The vendors change regularly so I don’t have any favorites to recommend – you’ll need to check it out for yourself!
9. Visit Arrowtown
Queenstown can be a crazy place to enjoy with kids. With so much foot traffic and cars driving around it can be a little overwhelming. Instead, take a 15-minute scenic drive to Arrowtown, the cute gold mining town with beautiful architecture and charm.
Even if you don’t have a car you can easily get the bus to Arrowtown with the entire family for really cheap or pay a bit more for a full guided tour experience. Once there, wander the main street, shop around, take the kids gold panning, walk along the river, and just enjoy a much more tranquil town. There are lots of things to do to keep you busy in Arrowtown!
10. Hike Sunshine Bay Track
Hikes are a huge part of visiting Queenstown and this list includes a few. Don’t worry though, I’ve only included those suited to kids and the first is a favorite – Sunshine Bay Track!
I mentioned Sunshine Bay as a beautiful beach to visit but what I love just as much, is the short but beautiful hiking trail that leads there from the Queenstown foreshore. The official trail is 2 kilometers (1.24 mi) one way but the trailhead does start a little out of Queenstown near the suburb of Fernhill.
Once on the trail, you’ll walk along the edge of Lake Wakatipu and up into the cliffs around Queenstown. From the top, the views are breathtaking and there’s even a waterfall to discover. The trail is rated as easy because it’s so short and once finished you can cool off at Sunshine Bay. Of course, you will have to return the same way you came!
11. Bob’s Cove Track
Bob’s Cove Track is one of the best hikes in Queenstown and is suited for kids able to do a little climbing. The trail which starts from the parking lot at Bob’s Cove (don’t go to the one at Twelve Mile Delta it’s much longer from there) follows the shoreline before climbing up a steep path to a viewpoint over Lake Wakatipu called Picnic Point.
From the spot mentioned in my guide to Bob’s Cove Track, it only takes 30 minutes to hike the trail (not allowing for time to stop and enjoy the view.) Although steep at the end, kids can easily make it up with supervision and help from adults.
12. Mt Crichton Loop Track
Not many people know this but Queenstown was settled by gold miners who came to the area during New Zealand’s largest gold rush. Wandering around Queenstown this is almost impossible to see, but if you take a short drive out to Mt Crichton Loop and hike the trail, you’ll come across an old gold mining tunnel and hut.
The Mt Crichton Loop is an 8-kilometer (5 miles) trail that’s rated as moderate, however, it only takes 2 hours to complete and it’s not technical at all. Kids can explore the old gold mining tunnel (it’s completely safe to do so) and also check out the famous Sam Summers Hut and see how people lived back in the day.
There’s also a beautiful waterfall near the hut and a viewpoint at the highest point of the trail. It’s not only one of the easiest hikes in Queenstown, but probably my top pick for families with kids!
13. Queenstown Hill
No hike in Queenstown is as famous as Queenstown Hill. Not only is this hike one of the most breathtaking hikes on the South Island but it’s also rather short at only 5 kilometers return (3.2 miles.) Although the trailhead officially starts from Belfast Terrace, many people hike the trail from Queenstown center. Doing so means you’ll need to walk further and be ready for a 600-meter (1,969 feet) elevation gain.
For kids, this may be a little hard but I hike the trail a lot and always see young families on the trail. The path is well maintained and wide so larger groups can walk together.
Although a challenging hike, the views from the top make the climb totally worth it. In fact, I’d say it’s my favorite viewpoint of the area and one of the best activities to do in Queenstown with kids who are up for the challenge.
14. Walk the Glenorchy Boardwalk/Walkway
If you decided to venture off and explore the scenic drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy then I highly suggest walking the Glenorchy Walkway. This 5-kilometer (3.2 miles), completely flat loop starts at the Glenorchy Jetty and follows the edge of the lake before turning inland to the Glenorchy Lagoon. It is one of the best hikes in Glenorchy.
At the lagoon, you can enjoy breathtaking mirror-like reflections on a calm day and also spot lots of birdlife. The lagoon itself is also a Lord of the Rings film location and a stop on many of the most popular LOTR tours. The scene where Frodo, Sam, and Gollum navigate the Dead Marshes was partly filmed here.
15. Hike parts of the Routeburn Track
Another hiking trail near Glenorchy you may have already heard of is the Routeburn Track. As one of New Zealand’s 10 Great Walks, it’s safe to say it’s a popular hike. Although the full trail is 32 kilometers long (20 miles) you can actually do lots of different day hikes on the Routeburn Track.
While it isn’t free there are guided hikes or more moderate walking tours if you are a bit intimidated to try it with kids on your own. I think the guide sharing their knowledge about the area, native wildlife, and plants would be a good way to keep your kids attention.
With kids, you can take a short stroll along the Dart River and even make it to Bridal Veil Falls. This part of the track is around 8 kilometers (5 miles) return. Along the way, you’ll enjoy beautiful views on a well-maintained trail and the best part is, you can walk as much or as little as you want before turning around.
To reach the Routeburn Track trailhead you will need to take a 20-minute drive out of Glenorchy to Routeburn Shelter. Part of the access road is gravel so you need to take it slow.
16. Lake Hayes Loop
The last hike on this list is Lake Hayes Loop. This beautiful trail follows the edge of Lake Hayes and is 8 kilometers (5 miles) long. Although the trail does have some inclines, it’s still rated as easy. What I love though, is you can choose to either walk or bike ride the track and access the lake via the bus system even with your bike!
If you can, go on a calm day when the reflections are magnificent. As you can see from the photo above, it’s pretty spectacular!
To plan your journey to Lake Haybe via the public bus you can use this journey planner. All of the buses in Queenstown have bike racks so you can easily transport your bike around free of charge. Just be sure to get the Bee Card from the driver to save money on your bus trips!
17. Go Stargazing
Queenstown is a remote mountain town with very little light pollution. This means you can see the stars like never before and if you’re traveling with kids from the city, it’s likely they’ll be amazed!
To see the Milky Way the best, you should take a short drive out of Queenstown to either Moke Lake or a viewpoint on Glenorchy-Queenstown Road called Bennetts Bluff Lookout. From these locations there is even less light pollution and once your eyes adjust you’ll see the Milky Way clear as day!
If seeing the stars on your own isn’t interesting enough then you can actually do stargazing tours in Queenstown. These tours are operated through Skyline at the top of Bob’s Peak and on the tour, you’ll stare through high-powered telescopes to view planets, stars, and even the international space station.
Things to do with Kids that are Cheap
18. Take the gondola up to Bob’s Peak
Heading up to Bob’s Peak to enjoy the amazing views is one of the most famous activities in Queenstown. For that reason, it just had to make this list.
Although not the cheapest activity you can do with the kids, the gondola only costs $32 for children. A nice little discount from the $46 NZD for adults. They also have discounted family rates available where a family of four costs $133, and a family of five costs $160. Kids under 5 ride free!
Each gondola seats up to 4 adults, or 2 adults and 3 kids, perfect for a family!
Kids love the gondola and for some, it’ll be pretty scary as it makes the steep ascent up to the top (450 meters/1,476 feet high.) But once there, you can wander the area, enjoy the views, or even enjoy the next activity to do with kids on this list…
19. Ride the luge
The Luge is Queenstown’s very own gravity-fed go-kart track. The race track is located on Bob’s Peak at the top of the gondola and let me tell you, it’s so much fun! When I first tried the luge I thought the karts wouldn’t go fast, but boy was I wrong.
On your first go around the track, you must take the slow on the beginner track (the Red Track) but after that, it’s off to the fast track to zoom around the course. In some sections I actually got air! Don’t worry though, they space everyone out and you can go as fast or as slow as you’d like using the brake to control your speed.
If you’re taking the gondola up to Bob’s Peak then you should book your luge tickets in a combo deal to save money. However, if you walked up via the Tiki Trail then be sure to buy at least a few luge rides. Trust me, you’ll want to keep going, and the more you buy at once the cheaper it is! For example, four luge rides plus the gondola ticket only costs $72 NZD for an adult and $50 NZD for kids!
Kids as young as 6 years old and 110 cm (43 in) tall can ride Red Track on the Luge by themselves. Kids over 135 cm (53 in) tall can also ride the Blue Track alone. Kids under these requirements can ride with an adult as many times as they want for only $5!
20. Go on a lake cruise
This may come as a surprise but going on a cruise in Queenstown can actually be a really cheap activity for kids. The Spirit of Queenstown scenic cruise starts at only $49 NZD for adults and only $10 for children under 14. That means a family of four can enjoy a cruise in Queenstown for not much over $100!
The Spirit of Queenstown is a modern catamaran and onboard you can take a walk around the front, look out at the water from the top viewing deck, visit the captain in the wheelhouse, or relax down below with beautiful views out the windows. From the water, you get to truly appreciate the area and see the surrounding landscape from a whole new perspective!
The cruise lasts for 1.5 hours and onboard they sell snacks as well as hot and cold drinks!
If you have a little bit more to spend, another cruise option is the historic TSS Earnslaw Steamship. This coal-powered ship is almost 100 years old, and it is so much fun to explore! Although a little pricier than the Spirit of Queenstown, it is a fun tour! You can also upgrade it to include a gourmet BBQ or the Walter Peak Farm tour (which kids love!)
21. Go stand up paddleboarding or kayaking on the lake
During the spring and summer months, stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking are really popular activities on the lake. The best part is though, is that rentals are really cheap. In fact, a SUP board costs only $25 NZD for 45 minutes and the boards are big enough to take your little one along for the ride. I will warn you though, if you fall in, it’s freezing!
If staying dry is important then I’d rent a kayak instead. Rentals are based on the number of people you’re traveling with and a two-person kayak for 45 minutes is $60 NZD. On a kayak, you can go much further and even explore small bays and secluded beaches. Both can be rented from the Queenstown waterfront.
22. Go for a bike ride
For a fun day out, rent a mountain bike or an e-bike for the day and head off to explore the many bike trails around Queenstown. Bike rentals start at only $40 NZD for a half-day and you can also rent a baby carriage for another $30.
Some of the best bike trails in Queenstown for kids include the Moke Lake Loop (but you’ll need a car to transport the bikes there), Lake Hayes Loop, and leaving right from Queenstown, the Frankton Track. The Frankton Track is a 16-kilometer return (10 miles) bike ride that takes around 3 hours to complete. From Queenstown, the trail leads to Frankton Beach, and along the way, you’ll pass jetties, Altitude Brewery, and the famous Rees Hotel. It’s a beautiful ride!
There are more bike trails around Queenstown you can check out too and any rental shop in town will be able to provide you with recommendations! You can also join a bike tour too!
23. Spend the night camping under the stars
As a kid I loved camping, in fact, I still do! Around Queenstown, there are a few designated campsites to camp at under the stars. Some of the closest include Moke Lake and Twelve Mile Delta. Both are DOC-run campgrounds that only cost $15 NZD for adults and $7.50 for children per night.
You will need your own tent or campervan to do so but you can rent them in town too. Often though, tents can be purchased from a place called The Warehouse for around $30 NZD! Then just rent sleeping mats for $5 from Outside Sports in Queenstown and you’re ready to go!
Check this out: For cheap campervan rentals in Queenstown use the website Motorhome republic. It’s like Booking.com for motorhomes and the best place to find a cheap deal.
24. Eat Fergburger
After exploring Queenstown, the kids (and you!) are going to be hungry. Well, now you can feed them and enjoy one of the best cheap activities in Queenstown… eat at Fergburger. You may have already heard about Fergburger because it’s literally the most popular burger joint in New Zealand. Famous people including Ed Sheeran have raved about it!
A burger at Ferg costs as little as $14 NZD and it would definitely feed two young kids (if they don’t mind sharing!) The menu is huge and there are around 20 burgers to choose from including a vegetarian option. So grab your burger and head to the edge of the lake for a delicious meal!
25. Take the kids to Alpine Aqua Land
Alpine Aqua Land is the public pool in Queenstown. It’s home to a lap pool, kid’s pool, spa, and sauna. It’s a great indoor activity in Queenstown especially when it’s too cold to swim in the lake or when it’s raining. Entry to Alpine Aqua land is only $8.50 NZD for adults and $4 for children making it super affordable and fun.
While the kids play in the kid’s pool you can watch with a close eye from the comfort of the hot tub. It’s really an activity the entire family will love!
26. Jump around at SITE Trampoline Queenstown
Do your kids have too much energy? Take them to SITE Trampoline in Queenstown and literally let them bounce it out! This indoor trampoline center is the perfect place to enjoy a little fun in the air. They have trampolines on the floor and walls as well as foam pits for practicing flips and jumps.
A visit to SITE Trampoline only costs $26.50 for a one-hour session and if the kids still have too much energy, an extra hour is only $15. Also, kids under 6 only cost $16.50 per session! Although kids love it, I personally don’t mind jumping around too so don’t just sit on the sidelines!
27. Game Over Queenstown
For a little indoor fun in Queenstown, consider taking the kids to Game Over Queenstown. The huge warehouse is home to three activities including an arcade, laser tag, and even an indoor go-karting track. My personal favorite is the go-karts and although not the fastest, kids will love them. The track has really tight corners so you feel as though you are going faster than you are!
The cheapest thing to do at Game Over is the arcade though and games start at only $1 each. They have a huge selection of games including skill testers and my favorite, table air hockey! I’ve personally never tried their laser tag but it does look like lots of fun too.
28. Get a treat at Balls and Bangles
If you’ve ever wanted to try those donuts stacked with toppings and even a syringe of caramel or chocolate sauce sticking out the top then Balls and Bangles should get you excited. The small donut shop sells just that and they come in a huge range of flavors including my go-to, the Reeses Peanut Butter donut.
The donuts are huge and they look so good they’re “Insta worthy”! The kids will literally fall in love with the donuts and it’ll be one stop they remember on the trip. Of course, you may need to take them for a hike to burn off some of that energy afterward!
29. Visit the Kiwi Birdlife Park
The kiwi bird is a symbol of New Zealand, we even call New Zealanders “Kiwis”! So, you simply can’t leave without seeing one. To be honest though, it’s almost impossible in the wild. Not only are kiwis nocturnal but they like to hide from people. Luckily, you can see them and many more native species at the Kiwi Birdlife Park in Queenstown.
The center is a 5-acre bird and wildlife sanctuary that’s family-owned and operated. They run a few different experiences including the Kiwi Encounter and the Conservation Show. Both are really cool and operate at lots of different times throughout the day.
The best part is the entrance to the Kiwi Birdlife Park is only $110 NZD for a family of two adults and up to three children! Plus, you can feel good knowing your money is going to a good cause as the park spends a lot on conservation efforts and the preservation of native species in the area.
30. Glenorchy Animal Experience
Last on this list of things to do in Queenstown with kids is another animal experience that’s not only cheap but a must-do. The Glenorchy Animal Experience is located on the outskirts of Glenorchy and on the self-guided tour you’ll walk a real New Zealand farm to feed and interact with the animals. You can say hello to pigs, llamas, chickens, ducks, sheep and lambs, farm dogs, and more. This is easily one of the best things to do in Glenorchy!
The entire tour costs only $10 NZD for kids and $20 for adults, and you can spend as much time with the animals as you want! Although I recommend it for kids, I also loved the tour so adults will enjoy it too.
Budget-Saving Tips for Families in Queenstown
When you’re traveling with your family every bit you can save counts. Luckily as a local, I know of some great ways to save money and want to share them with you. From picking up cheap tours, saving money at restaurants, and even activities where kids go free, here are a few of the ways to save money while traveling with kids in Queenstown.
Use Book Me
If you’re planning on doing any of the tours above be sure to check Book Me first. This online website is the place many tour companies post specials in Queenstown and all over New Zealand. Often, you can find tours at 50% off the normal price. For example, I did a 20-minute scenic flight in Queenstown for only $140 NZD which was a 51% discount!
This is one website that’ll save you lots of money and it’s great for finding ideas of what you want to do!
Book a restaurant with First Table
First Table is my favorite way to dine in Queenstown. The concept of the website is to give the “first table” of the night a 50% discount on food. How it works is up to a week and until the day of, you can go on the website and book a table at a restaurant for up to four people and enjoy a 50% discount on food for a $10 booking fee.
Each restaurant in Queenstown only does one table a night so you do need to book in advance for the most popular places, but there are always places available last minute. For a family of four, you’ll save a ton!
Look for companies with school holiday specials
During the school holidays in Queenstown, lots of companies offer special discounts for kids. For example, the Spirit of Queenstown scenic cruise (run by Southern Discoveries) lets kids travel for free with an adult. The TSS Earnslaw also does this.
Of course, these specials change every school holiday but it’s something you should ask about while in town and looking for things to do. When kids go for free, you’ll be able to travel as you did before kids. You know, when you were “DINKs” (dual income no kids!)
Where to Stay in Queenstown with Kids
One of the most expensive parts of traveling with kids in Queenstown is your accommodation. Having to pay for an extra hotel room can quickly become too expensive. Luckily though there are some very affordable places to stay in Queenstown that are perfect for families.
For budget travelers, you really can’t beat the Pinewood Lodge and Apartments. although not luxurious by any means the location is only a short walk from Queenstown and their standard double room comes with a double bed and a bunk bed. For a family, the room is really cheap and they can provide a cot upon request for $15 NZD per night.
If you have a little more the spend then you can enjoy a much more comfortable stay at Kamana Lakehouse. This place is a steal, especially with the amazing views, luxurious rooms, and perfect reviews. They have a twin room with two queen beds, a balcony, and a large bathroom. The hotel also has an onsite spa! Seriously this place is amazing for the price!
For luxury travelers why not consider a stay at Swiss-Belsuites Pounamu Queenstown. Their two-bedroom apartment is perfect for families and the views over the lake are breathtaking. also, with an apartment, you’ll have more room to move. With that said, it’s not exactly a cheap place to stay.
Thanks for reading!
Traveling with kids to Queenstown doesn’t have to be expensive. With this huge list of free and cheap activities for kids in Queenstown, you’ll be spoiled for choice and be able to stay on budget. Also, with the budget-saving tips above you’ll be able to spend less than you expected or be able to enjoy more activities with your family.
Thanks so much for reading! I really hoped you loved My Queenstown Diary and this blog! Be sure to stick around and check out more of my website. When it comes to visiting Queenstown and New Zealand in general, I’ve got you covered with all the most up-to-date and in-depth information! I’ve listed a few of my favorites here:
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Saturday 8th of October 2022
Thanks 😊- we are relatively new to living in Queenstown with 3 kids under 6 and found this write-up really useful!
Sunday 9th of October 2022
Thanks so much! I am so happy to hear that!