So, you’re planning a family holiday to Queenstown and you aren’t quite sure where to start. Well, don’t worry because I’ve got you Mama!
Heading to the snow for the first time as a family can be a daunting task. What to do, how to plan out you day, what childcare to use, what to pack… It is a lot! With research and thought it doesn’t have to be, and this is where I come in. I have travelled to Queenstown four times before, and am currently in the midst of planning my fifth trip. I have been trawling google and Instagram, reading all of the reviews, and leaning on my knowledge of the area, to come up with the perfect plan! So here goes…
Plus! I have another great blog post I wrote a few years ago all about Queenstown, New Zealeand.
Which ski resorts to visit
This really depends on what you want to get out of your visit to the snow. If you are an avid skier or snowboarder like us, you wait and plan your days closer and base them on the weather. Different mountains have different conditions on each day, and it is impossible to tell in advance. However, if you like to plan it now, I think this is a great idea.
There are four main ski resorts around the Queenstown and Wanaka regions. Treblecone is the farthest away. It is my favourite, though for you to have your best day there you need the right conditions. There is also no childcare available, therefore Trablecone would not be my top recommendation. They do have children’s ski lessons, so I would use those and suggest taking a babysitter with you for younger children. Treblecone is breathtakingly beautiful, and the drive through Wanaka is stunning. A hot tip would be to make time to take pictures at Lake Wanaka on your way past.
Cardrona is between Wanaka and Queenstown, so quite a drive but not as far as Treblecone. It is a decent sized mountain with great terrain. It is well set up with a childcare suitable for children from 3 months to five years old. Cardrona has great ski programs for children, some with lunch included. It is a wonderful place and very family friendly. I would certainly recommend visiting Cardrona as a family.
The Remarkables is much closer to Queenstown and the mountain we have visited the most. It has terrain for everyone, including a well thought out beginner’s section. State of the art facilities make it the perfect place to hang out when you aren’t boarding. Sadly, no childcare this year so you would need to look at a babysitter. There are lessons for children who are old enough. Keep in mind with lessons that you often need to go o and collect your children for an hour lunch break, if you book a full day.
Coronet Peak is also not far out of main Queenstown. Although I have only boarded there once, I really liked it. I think it is a good mountain if you are more of a beginner, which also makes it perfect for families. Much like Cardrona it has a purpose created childcare centre to care for the littlest ones. For children who can there are snowboard and ski lessons. I will be pushing to visit Coronet this year as I think it is a fantastic option for families.
Where to stay
I could give you a few dozen hotel recommendations, but I think the best accommodation for a family staying in Queenstown, would have to be house through Airbnb. You can find properties on Airbnb for every budget and family set up. From houses on the hill with magnificent views, to properties with a garden sitting close to the lake. For a young family I would suggest the latter. I would look for something within walking distance to the middle of town, so it is easy to get around with little ones. Keep in mind that you need to pay for parking in the centre of Queenstown and at popular hours spaces can be tricky to find. Having accommodation with a designated car parking space is a huge benefit.
Where to dine
Food is a huge part of why we love to visit Queenstown. Honestly, I could spend three months there just to get through all of the restaurants I want to visit! Most of them I would have no hesitation taking children to, and a handful are babysitter worthy, in my opinion. Some top picks would be Flames, Madam Woo, Ferg Burger, Yonder and Patagonia. I would highly recommend heading to Gibbston Winery, buying a bottle of wine from their winery and a platter from the shop next for and enjoying it on the grass. Personally, would save Amisfield Winery for a child free night and get a babysitter. Bostwana Butcher is another lovely restaurant which you could take the children to or leave them with a sitter. The Skyline Gondola makes for a beautiful lunch spot, and the restaurant at the top has a fantastic view.
There are two elements to childcare on a snow trip, one being in the day for when you are on the slopes and the other for evening if you wish for a child free dinner.
My first suggestions would always be to try and take a family member on holiday with you. Often, we have taken my parents on vacation with us, we exchange paying for their flights and accommodation for some free childcare. It has always worked well, and my parents really enjoyed the bonding time with the little ones.
As mentioned above, some of the ski resorts have childcare or ski lesson options for young children. This is obviously another top option.
If you don’t have any family available to holiday with you, you could look at taking a nanny with you. You could either go through an agency or look at finding a family friend, or friend of a friend. From speaking with people in the know, the consensus seems to be that if you cover the persons flights, accommodations, travel during the holiday, activity costs for things they do with the children and allow a food allowance, everyone seems to be happy.
The other option is that you hire a babysitter whilst over in Queenstown. This is something you can arrange in advance. Through research I have found a company called Tots on Tour who I would be comfortable with booking.
Lastly you could look at whether there are any local day care centres who take casual bookings.
After doing some research we have booked with Snap Rentals as they offered the best price. We want to be able to take our babysitter up the mountain with us, so have hired a large 7-seater SUV. In Queenstown you need to make sure you have an all-wheel drive, and carry snow chains in the vehicle when you are driving up the mountain.
What you need to pack and what you can leave
We own all of our own snow gear for Ryan and I, so we take everything with us. If you were a beginner, I would buy everything you wear, and hire your snowboard or skis etc. So, your shopping list would be jackets, thermals, pants, goggles and boots. You could either buy or rent a helmet. You can do all of this for your children as well. I would recommend organising your hire gear from a store like Torpedo 7 in town, rather than on the mountain to save time on the hill. You could do this the afternoon that you fly in, so you are ready for a full day of boarding the following day.
Keep little ones warm by purchasing good quality thermals and snow gear. Even babies who aren’t boarding will need little snow suits. When Ari nine weeks old we took him to Queenstown, I bought him sunglasses to help with the snow glare. Also a snow suit. Of course, beanies and gloves are great too. I would have two sets of snow gear for children as they spend a lot of time sitting in the snow!
Things to do
I have so many tings I could tell you to do on a visit to Queenstown but instead I thought I would share my dream nine night itinerary. Keep in mind that I love snowboarding, so mine is quite ski field heavy. You might like to switch out a snow day and head to off to AJ Hackett Bungy (so fun,) or go Zip Lining.
9 night itinerary:
Day one: After flying in, collect hire car and check into accomodation. Do a large grocery shop for the holiday, focusing on breakfasts, snacks and some dinner meals. Unpack. Collect ski and snow board rentals, set up boards and get snow mountain ready.
Night one: Get a takeaway dinner from the iconic Fergburger. Then go to Patagonia for ice cream.
Day two: Head to The Remarkables for a full day on the slopes. I suggest two full day lessons for beginners to start them off.
Night two: Have a casual dinner at The Ballarat.
Day three: Head to Coronet Peak for a full day on the slopes.
Night three: Dinner at Flames restaurant. Then head to Cookie Time for dessert.
Day four: Take the day off from the slopes. Enjoy a late breakfast at Yonder . The read out of the Shotover Jet for a wild ride. Then head up the Skyline Gondola to enjoy the view and some fun on the luge. You can even coincide your visit with a buffet lunch or dinner.
Night four: If you haven’t already even have a quiet dinner in, or get some takeaway. How about trying Mrs Ferg’s Beach Shack.
Day five: Head back onto the slopes, but this time a little further afield to Cardrona. On the way home from the slopes make a stop at Cardrona Hotel for some snacks and mulled wine.
Day six: Another day on the slopes is calling. I would try to go to Treblecone, make sure to stop at Lake Wanaka on the way for a great photo opportunity.
Night six: Head to Bostwana Butcher for a tasty feed.
Day seven: Take the day off the slopes and head to Arrowtown for a walk around this beautiful township. Then onto Gibbston Winery for a wine tour. Or skip the wine tour and buy a bottle of wine for fro the winery. You can head next door to a little shop who make up the most delicious cheese, meat and dip platters, for you to enjoy with you wine.
Night seven: Get a baby sitter and head to The Nest for a fine dining experience.
Day eight: Back to the slopes and make is the The Remarkables.
Night eight: I would go for dinner at Madam Woo and then visit the iconic Minus Five Ice Bar, this is a bar even the kids will love.
Day nine: Choose your favourite ski field and give it a revisit.
Night nine: Lock in a baby sitter and head to Amisfield Winery for dinner.
Day ten: Time to pack and head off for your trip home. If you have a late flight you could fill in any of the gaps you have missed like a trip up the skyline gondola, a trip to a winery or just enjoy some shopping.
The plans for our own trip are still evolving, and I will certainly keep you up to date with new information and suggestions, both here and over on Instagram.