Monday, June 10, 2013

Queenstown with kids.

Queenstown. Date Travelled: May 2012 with the twins.

Two weeks in Queenstown. What an incredibly beautiful place. Breathtaking. It is TOP of our list of favourite places we've been so far. Numero Uno! May was such a good time to go. Rusty Autumn hues and a dusting of snow on The Remarkables. If you're not after a Ski holiday, Autumn in Queenstown is a fantastic option. It's cheaper and NOWHERE near as busy for a start. But it is also so stunning. We were lucky to get an increasing amount of snow towards the end of our stay, so had a bit of the snowy experience as well. But, by then, all the beautiful scenery gets 'whited out'. Undoubtedly it's a great Ski destination, and we plan to give that a go too... But in the meantime we marvelled at the beauty and colour of Lake Wakitipu, went Gold Panning, visited the Kiwi Bird Sanctuary, flew in a helicopter and landed on some Glaciers, then Milford Sound. Bungy jumped and sky-dived (me not the kids!). Took a wonderful journey on the TSS Earnslaw across Lake Wakitipu to Walter Peak High Country Farm for lunch, and a sheep shearing demonstration, and so much more! What a place. I can't recall staying somewhere where we found so much to do - a great place for adults and kids! 

The scenery at Queenstown Airport is striking with an amazing backdrop. I was excited straight away to be greeted by such beauty. It's an arrival for sure! From there we hired a car and made our way straight to our lodgings -the absolutely gorgeous and fairly new Hilton Queenstown on the banks of incredible Lake Wakitipu. I am certain I've never seen a Hotel in a more beautiful setting.

Everything about the Hotel was fantastic and spot-on. There sure is cheaper accommodation in Queenstown available, but for a splurge, this place is amazing. The rooms were spacious, but warm and cosy, with large closed-in gas fireplaces. On the lake side they also had balconies to make the most of the incredible view. There is also a huge indoor heated pool (properly heated, beautifully warm). I LOVED this place, and would give it 9/10. I'm a bit of a lobby bar with entertainment fan, and this has none, but it's not really that kind of place anyway. It feels like an upmarket ski lodge, and suits its surrounds perfectly. It also has a pub/bar as part of the complex. It sits adjacent to the Kawarau Hotel also managed by Hilton, and some shops.

The artwork scattered around the hotel was lovely and fitting of the place, really adding to the atmosphere.

The restaurant was extremely gorgeous and modern, with amazing chandeliers and pink feature lights. The menu was spectacular and tasted as such. The Venison was my favourite. Outside they had a large fire pit with seating to make the best of the view, even in the cold.

The only thing to be aware of with this hotel is its location. Its is on the other side of Lake Wakitipu to Queenstown. Its not a long drive, about 10 -15 minutes around the lake through Frankton. Honestly with the scenery along the way you won't notice it. There is a water taxi that has stops from the Hilton right to the dock in town, so that was a fun and really convenient option anyway.

As much as we loved our Hotel there was much to do. So much different variety of activities and sites to see amongst the jaw-droppingly beautiful country-side, it certainly was a no-brainer for our choice of ultimate family holiday so far. The decision was unanimous! Here we go....

TSS Earnslaw and The Walter Peak High Country Farm.

The Tss Earnslaw is a quaint and impressive old steamer that leaves from the wharf in Queenstown, and makes it's way across Lake Wakitipu to Walter Peak High Country farm. Tickets are purchased right from the Real Journeys office at the dock. The duration is 3 1/2 hours, and it costs $75 per adult, $22 per child including including morning or afternoon tea. We added the optional Buffet lunch for extra. We pre-booked ours over the phone as it's pretty popular, as you could imagine. The farm itself is picture perfect, and after the buffet-lunch, you get to watch a sheep dog and sheep shearing demonstration. The girls had a great time and learnt a lot from the day. It was a very enjoyable, educational and scenic day trip, perfect for families.

Haha! I had to post this pic. My husband got dressed next to our beautiful warm fireplace at the hotel, and walked out the door accordingly.... and proceeded to freeze all day! Not his finest moment. I had two four year-olds and myself to rug up, so I refuse to take any blame!

Kawarau Bridge Bungy

Obviously this is a mummy and daddy only activity! I'm am not sure what I was thinking... I know for certain I must have taken temporary leave of my senses. Surely not the ideal activity for a 37 year old suburban mum of young twins? Or, is it the PERFECT activity? You decide.

The walk of doom?...

3, 2, 1...




It was EVERY bit as terrifying as I thought it would be. Not so much the actual swinging around, which was fun, but THE JUMP itself. I'm glad I did it. I'm actually really proud of myself. But can't say I want to do it again in a hurry. EVER. This is a mighty fine place to do a Bungy Jump, if you want to give it a go. In fact it is the birth-place of modern bungy, and the first AJ-Hackett site. That water is not trick photography, or a filter. It really was that colour. Dazzling! There is a viewing platform right beside, and my girls had a great time cheering me on. My more adventurous one wanted to have a try too... Not likely!

Nzone Skydiving

Once again, I'm not sure why I signed myself on for this. Every other adult in Queenstown seems to be jumping off or out of something, or peddling/walking off into the mountains for epic treks though. So I think you sort of think... why not? I chose the biggie too - 15000ft of sheer, heart-pumping adrenalin. The maximum height they had, with the biggest freefall. You can also choose 12000ft or 9000ft if you prefer. Prices start at NZD$269 and go up to NZD$429. I can't describe how much I loved this. Strangely, unlike the Bungy, I didn't end up being afraid at all. Maybe the ground is so far away, it's less confronting than staring right at the rocks? Like everything here, the scenery is mind-boggling and magnificent, and there's no better birds-eye view! The landing area has toilets, tables and chairs, coffee making facilities and a little play area for kids. My family watched me land, and the girls ran over with big kisses when I had finished.

Here we go!...

Gold Panning and Goldfields Mining Centre

Back to the family activities! About 50mins from Queenstown, on the road to Cromwell, is this historical gem. You can go gold panning in Arrowtown as well, but we tried our luck here. There are old trails, and an old Chinese gold mining settlement that was actually quite amazing. It was astonishing to see how they lived perched on the edge of the gorge, and how tiny they must have been!

Helicopter Tours from Queenstown

We flew with The Helicopter Line, and Glacier Southern Lakes Co. over spectacular Alpine scenery. We experienced dramatic views of the Southern Alps, Aspiring National Park and the ancient ice falls of glaciers. We did an alpine snow landing, and a Glacier landing in the Forbes Mountains. We saw the beautiful Rees and Dart River Valleys, Skippers Canyon as well as Lake Wakitipu's Northern shores, and Milford Sound in the Fiordlands, and enjoyed a landing there. This is our all-time family favourite travel experience to date. Tramping around on a glacier is something I'll remember forever. I'm not sure I'll ever see anything so spectacular again. Not that I'll give up trying! wow, wow, WOWOWOW!!! Book it, you will not regret it. 100% pristine, incredible mother nature at her astonishing best. We don't see snow at home, so the girls had a snow-ball fight, made snow angels and had a ball. Check it out...


Arrowtown is a  living historical settlement on the banks of the gold-bearing Arrow river. It features many restored cottages along it's tree-lined streets. A museum, Chinese gold miners settlement and plenty of lovely cafes and small shops can be found. We went at the best time I think. It's known for its beauty in April and May, as the trees ignite with colour.


Five minutes drive from Queenstown at the end of Lake Wakitipu is glorious Glenorchy. The drive there is considered to be one of the most scenic drives in NZ. The landscape here was featured in key scenes in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Its a small rural village surrounded by snow-capped mountains, pristine lakes and rivers, ancient beech forests and national parks.

Along the way you will want to stop and take heaps of pictures.


 I wonder how that fishermen was fairing?

Invercargill, the Bluff signpost and the road to Lands End.

Invercargill is both the southernmost and westernmost city in New Zealand, and one of the southernmost cities IN THE WORLD! It is about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Queenstown. Another 20 minutes drive is Bluff. It is the southernmost town in new Zealand and considered 'the end' of New Zealand (it actually isnt technically, but why ruin a good story?) You can catch a ferry from here to Stewart Island. It is famous for the Bluff Signpost of course, and has a lovely English-style inn here called 'Lands End'.


There are two ways to travel between Queenstown and Wanaka. The most scenic and shortest actual distance, is the Crown Range Road. It is New Zealand's highest road, reaching an altitude of 1121m. It zig-zags a fair bit, gets narrow and needs concentration. You need to slow down to 15kms at some parts too. Subsequently, the travel time is longer than the other route through Cromwell, which is what i'd reccomend with kids.This is also a lovely drive past boutique wineries and Lake Dunstan, and takes bout 1 1/2 hours.
There is a great attraction for the whole family here. Stuart Landsboroughs Puzzling World. Its an eccentric oddity of a place with illusion rooms, a great maze and the leaning tower etc. Some of the rooms were really, really good and pretty mind-blowing. It is certainly unique and I've never seen anything like it. There was one room in particular I still can't really explain. It was maybe sloping one way, but everything else in it another?... I don't know. But it sent our brains HAYWIRE! We had trouble even walking in there. We spent at least 1/2 an hour in laughing fits in that room. Fun for the whole family. The kids will love it!

Skyline Gondola/Resaurant/Luge/Bungy & The Kiwi Bird Sanctuary

The best views of Queenstown and a fun ride. We also had the really good buffet dinner at the top and watched the sun set. Try the Kiwi fruit wine - yum! Didn't try the Luge or the Bungy... and never will haha! That Bungy looked worse than the Kawarau bridge, because you are already up the side of a mountain before you even start!

I mean for crying out loud!!

Down the bottom is the Kiwi bird sanctuary. It was great, and once again perfect for the whole family. You can't take pictures of them, as they are kept in a pitch-black room. It takes a few minutes for your eyes to adjust to even see them. They are way bigger than I thought! I was surprised. There is a good wildlife show as well. Very educational for us and the girls.

Bars and more bars!!

Ok mum and dad time. Queenstown has a reputable child-minding agency. We got sent a local primary school teacher, so weren't complaining! The rates were very reasonable. So off we went. Excellent bars everywhere to suit all ages. Including two sub zero/ice bars which was a very cool experience (pardon the pun!) Meet people of all nationalities from everywhere... woohoo!


You have to visit the famous Fergburger and try one. It's renowned around the world for its burgers, and has a cult backpacker following. There will be queues, and they are a touch expensive. I was wondering how backpackers could afford them, but they are HUGE. Probably lunch and dinner for a traveller on a budget! They are also VERY YUMMY!!

Look, there are just so many activities and things to do in this awesome place I could go on for ever. I'm just going to post a few random pics of either beautiful or interesting things. Two things of note... Do visit a winery, there is many to choose from. There is also an aquarium of sorts at the wharf in Queenstown. It is actually a room under Lake Wakitipu, which has a window to view the eels and fish of the lake. There is a machine which you can slot coins into, which drops fish pellets on the outside to attract them. The kids really enjoyed this, as did we. Very entertaining. One thing we didn't get around to trying was the Shotover Jet boats... Next time!

What a great idea! Instead of making the poor postie go from house to house!

Finally... we had originally booked for a one week stay. Loving it so much we decided to stay an extra week and changed our flights. The Hilton would have stretched our budget too much for an extra week, so we checked out and moved to The Shotover Top 10 Holiday park at Arthurs Point. We stayed in an Executive Motel Self-Contained unit for NZD$130 a night. It was fantastic. Roomy, modern with a mountain backdrop. It has campsites, lodge and budget motel accommodation as well camp kitchen, laundry and kids playground. You can book tours here as well. There was a bus stop right out the front, and the trip to Queenstown took only 7 minutes. As much as we ADORED the Hilton, at the price we will probably just stay here next time we go.

The last day was actually my birthday May 16, and I got a lovely little present! A small dumping of snow. Well... locals probably wouldn't call it snow, maybe more sleetish, but for us it was SNOW!

We also had a real-life earth tremor! Very small, but our first, so terribly thrilling. There was an earthquake in the Fiordlands apparently, which sent the shock waves radiating out. It felt like ripples under our feet. You could feel it radiating. It was amazing. There was two waves. The first time I looked at my husband unsure as to what was going on, the second I sent the kids under the table and dashed to the park office. The manager looked at me like I was crazy haha! She was like "whats the big deal?", "I didn't really feel it" etc etc. I'm standing there with my mouth open, and her husband walks in and said he felt it, but they are so common that no-one really bothers about them much here. Okey dokey... I felt a bit sheepish, it was only very slight, but we certainly don't get those at home!

So what's next? Another visit for sure. Maybe in winter for a ski-trip. I would still like to come back in Autumn again though, and do the drive through the Fiordlands. I would also like to attempt something called the Nevis Swing!

Watch this Space!

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