Created in partnership with Tourism New Zealand
Located in beautiful Central Otago, Wānaka and Cromwell are synonymous with stunning natural beauty and a host of family friendly fun activities.
Whether you’re planning to head away over the school holidays or just want to escape on a mini-break, we’ve put together some of our favourite places to stay, eat, and play so you can create some lasting memories with your family.
Please note: Venue information was correct at the time of publication. Please check with individual venues for the latest opening dates, times, prices, etc, before making plans.
Free family activities
Even if you’re travelling on a budget, there are still so many experiences you can enjoy with your family.
Mount Iron walk – accessible from the Wānaka town side as well as Albert Town, the popular Mount Iron walk is a great way to blow off any travel cobwebs, as well as get your bearings.
Wānaka Skate Park – located right in town on the edge of Pembroke Park, the recently upgraded skate park features a pool style bowl, vert wall, wave with gap feature, plus a traditional style bowl.
Blue Pools – enjoy the easy 3km walk from the road through mature beech and podocarp forest, across a swing bridge and then on the flat with spectacular mountain views to the stunning glacier fed pools. One hour from Wānaka and 1.5 hours from Cromwell.
Become a Kiwi Guardian! Print off the Blue Pools adventure map before you head out, then find the Kiwi Guardian post and submit the special code word on it to receive a Kiwi Guardians certificate and medal.
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Motatapu Gorge – head out of Wānaka towards Mt Aspiring, and opposite the Glendhu Bay campground you will find the Motatapu Gorge Road. Head up this gravel road as far as the private property sign. Park and follow the trail to the river where you can float down the gorge, or for the intrepid, do some rock jumping.
Wānaka Rotary Playground / Dinosaur Park – located right in Wānaka town centre and on the lake edge, the famous Dinosaur Park is a great spot to relax and let the kids play (and even a swim if the weather is warm).
Butterfields Wetlands Walk – small loop track over the Hāwea River Swing Bridge with stunning views of the surrounding wetland and peaks.
Become a Kiwi Guardian! Print off the Butterfields Wetlands adventure map before you head out, then find the Kiwi Guardian post and submit the special code word on it to receive a Kiwi Guardians certificate and medal.
Cromwell Heritage Precinct – when the Clyde Dam was built, Cromwell’s original main street disappeared under Lake Dunstan but some of the heritage buildings were taken to higher ground where you can explore them today.
Hidden Doors Hunt – while exploring the quaint buildings in the Heritage Precinct, you can also go on a treasure hunt for five tiny decorative doors.
Bannockburn Sluicings Walk – pop Felton Road car park and information kiosk into maps and go and explore the remnants of the short lived gold mining era on this 3.5km loop walk.
Petanque on the waterfront – enjoy the spectacular Cromwell waterfront and a spot of petanque courtesy of the Cromwell Petanque Club.
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Fun family experiences
Whether you’re looking for an adventure or your just want to smell the flowers, Wānaka and Cromwell have it all.
Unleash your inner wild, tame your fears, and experience epic! Suitable for families and the hesitant adventurer through to experienced adrenalin hunters.
Visit a lake, on an island, in a lake, on an island (!) on this half day Mou Waho Island eco tour. Look out for some cheeky weka and be prepared to be enchanted by this beautiful cruise and walk.
The only mountain carting in New Zealand! Get yourself two hours of epic fun on the ski tracks during summer. Children under 8 years old can ride tandem (check for further conditions).
Catch a Chinook salmon then have it prepared for you to take with you or dine in while the kids explore the other fun activities. All equipment provided.
Stroll amongst the flowers, enjoy the stunning display gardens, then refuel with lavender ice-cream. The children can also meet some friendly farm animals and play games in the garden.
There’s so much fun to be had with 12 activities on site including go karts and fast laps in a Ferrari or Porsche GT3! For the less adrenalin addicted there’s also a sculpture park, motorsport museum, and wine tasting. Don’t miss the quirky themed loos with one-way glass for a view with a difference!
Enjoy a scenic helicopter flight and take in the enormous vistas that Central Otago has to offer.
Family friendly eateries
All the fresh mountain air will be making you all extra hungry but luckily there is an exciting selection of places to refuel.
Cardrona Hotel – you won’t want to miss the classic Insta moment outside the Cardrona Hotel, but there’s a good food moment waiting inside! Choose from the extensive brunch, all day, and dinner menus (all featuring kids meals). If it’s warm, relax in the lovely outdoor area, or snuggle up beside the toasty fire inside to warm up.
Amigos Mexican Grill – with restaurants in both Wanaka and Cromwell you’re guaranteed a fiesta no matter where you are! With a huge menu to choose from plus separate gluten-free and children’s menus there’s something for everyone. Special prices on tacos before 5pm.
Urban Grind – amazing scones and coffee plus a full day menu. In the evening Urban Grind rounds out the day with a tasty tapas style menu.
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Eriks Fish and Chips – this legendary Wānaka food truck has been serving up fish and chips (and more) to travellers and locals for years. Dine at the truck, or wander down to Dinosaur Park to enjoy an alfresco treat.
Francesca’s Italian Kitchen – Pizza and pasta plus more, Francesca’s offers authentic Italian cuisine and hospitality right in the heart of Wānaka.
Big Fig – slow food served fast! Make your own meal up from the amazing selection of deliciousness. Eat in or take across to the lake front for a picnic or on your next day trip.
Wānaka Artisan Market – if you are lucky enough to be in town late on a Thursday afternoon, head to the market for a selection of seasonal artisan produce, pastries, bread and more.
Where to stay
For family friendly stays, we recommend checking out the below.
Edgewater Resort Hotel – right on the edge of the lake, and not far from the famous Wānaka Tree, Edgewater has a range of rooms including two bedroom apartments that can sleep up to six guests. Facilities include a tennis court, 9 hole putting green, playground, petanque, and spa pools. The restaurant features their world famous in Wānaka made-to-order scones. You can also hire bikes and explore the trail right out front.
Ramada Resort by Wyndham – featuring a lovely heated swimming pool with water slide plus a hot tub and one, two, and three bedroom apartments, the Ramada is a destination in itself. Just a short walk from the lake front and town.
Oakridge Resort – Just out of town and on the road to Cardrona you will find Oakridge Resort. Oakridge has a variety of room options, a 9 outdoor seasonal pool, an inhouse restaurant, and is just up the road from a quirky Cinema.
Main photo credit: Miles Holden
- Find out more about Wānaka
- Find out more about Cromwell
- Destination guide: Queenstown
- 5 places to travel in a campervan these school holidays
Written by Kidspot NZ for Tourism New Zealand.