Flying into Queenstown, I straight away knew it was going to be an amazing place to visit!
The mountains meet the water of Lake Wakatipu and nestled at the waters edge is Queenstown. There are so many things to do in Queenstown from high action bungy jumping and rapid river water rafting to gentle cruises along the lake. We used Happy Tours to help us find the best things to do in the short time we had.
Our first adventure was to take the Skippers Canyon jet boat, which is a 3-hour tour. You are picked up in Queenstown in a mini van and driven along Skippers Canyon road for about an hour and a half until you get to the boats at the bottom of the canyon. That sounds pretty good until you realise the road to Skippers Canyon is actually the 7th most deadly road in the world and they weren't kidding!
The dirt road winds so far up the mountains that the sheep down in the paddocks looked like dots. It was amazing to look out- as long as you didn't look down- the views were spectacular and the guide pointed out many landmarks featured in the Lord of the Rings. We even drove past The Gates of Mordor. The jet boat ride was amazing and we flew so close to the rock face that I was sure we were going to hit the wall.
The Skyline Gondola and Luge were so much fun. The gondola takes you right to the top of the mountain and the view across the bay is beautiful. But the best part was catching the luge from the top to halfway down the hill. It was so much fun and they give you lessons before they let you go. There is a fast and a slow track which makes it suitable for most kids. But it was usually the adults who couldn't work them out and were often broken down halfway down the hill. The kids had no trouble!
I know kids aren't supposed to go into bars but the Minus 5 degree Ice Bar is an exception you really should make. This place is so cool- pardon the pun! Kids are allowed with an adult and for the price of your ticket, you get to choose a mock tail, which comes in a cup, make from ice. In fact, everything is made from ice! They have ice chairs and tables and you can even get your photo taken in a ice photo frame. The lights constantly change colour which make it even more fun. If you get the chance to go, make sure you take lots of photos!
Apart from the extreme sports, most things in Queenstown are kid friendly, and all the tour operators are really friendly and happy to help. They give priority to people with disability and are really good at making everyone feel welcome.
There are loads of things for kids to do in Queenstown. There is the Ziptrek with the zip line through the forest canopy. Odyssey sensory maze, ice skating rink, Fear Factory as well as a Readings cinema and like I mentioned, most tours have a kid friendly option.
The TSS Earnslaw is the only coal powered steamboat in the Southern Hemisphere and this majestic lady took us on a beautiful cruise to Walters Peak Station- a fully functioning sheep farm on the other side of Lake Wakatipu. We were shown how the sheep dogs bring the sheep in for shearing and learned how the wool is prepared for shipping. After the tour we enjoyed a delicious banquet of locally grown food while we overlooked the water. As the boat left the shore I looked down into the engine room just as a big burst of steam blew up and engulfed me.
There are lots of options on how to see Milford Sound. You can catch a bus, take a light plane or a helicopter or drive yourself. We chose to drive ourselves and I am so glad we did. When you drive yourself you can stop at the places which interest you and you can leave when you want. There were so many great lookouts along the way and the scenery changes so many times... So does the weather! Milford Sound is about 4.5 hours drive from Queenstown so you really need to leave early.
The cruise along Milford Sound is magnificent. It is so beautiful that it is often used in movies; In fact, they were packing up a set when we were there. It can be very cold on the water do make sure you take a jacket. The waterfalls are so beautiful and the boats nose right up to the rocks so you can stand under the water if you wanted to- but the water is very cold. The skipper told us the water is so cold you would only last 30 minutes if you fell into the water. The weather changed a few times when we were there. It was sunny, and then it rained when we were heading back, the mist moved in so you could hardly see in front of you. In winter months the mountains are covered in snow and the road is often closed so even though there is no snow on the mountains, summer is probably the nicest time to see Milford Sound.
When you go to Queenstown, you have to try the burgers at Fergburger. No matter what time you go past, there is a line up- we went a few times and the food is delicious and although the line is long, you get served fairly quickly. Next-door is Fergs bakery where you can get the best cup of hot chocolate and fresh bread and croissants. And one more door down is Fergs Gelato- if you can think of a flavour, they will have it and it's all so delicious!! Hokey pokey and gingerbread were my favourite!
Queenstown is a very busy place and if you are travelling in their peak times, you should probably pre book your tours because you might miss out. But if you travel in the off-season, take your time to talk to the various tour booking outlets. They are great and can make sure you get the right tour for your family at the best price, because as beautiful as Queenstown is, it isn't cheap.
Queenstown is such a beautiful place and it has something for everyone. I loved the short time I had there and I really want to go back in winter so I can see the snow capped mountains and even learn how to ski.