Mini Itinerary: 5 Days In Queenstown and Wānaka

The resort towns of Queenstown and Wānaka are synonymous with stunning scenery, picturesque lakes, fun and adventure. Explore them both with our itinerary suggestions and create a family adventure to remember.

Whether you’re escaping on a mini-break or a longer getaway, our itinerary will give you inspiration for an amazing family trip. Do as many or as few of the suggestions as you please.

Due to the popularity of the attractions in this area, we recommend booking well in advance for any activities or accommodation that are on your must-do list.

Refer to our Queenstown Destination Guide for more information on many of the attractions and activities.

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.

Getting there

Queenstown and Wānaka are just 50 minutes apart, via a beautiful drive over the magnificent Crown Range, or 90 minutes if you go via Cromwell. There is a regular shuttle service between the two places.

You can fly direct to Queenstown with Air New Zealand from Wellington or Christchurch, with connecting flights from other regional centres. To find out more, visit www.airnz.co.nz.

Sounds Air  also flies direct from Christchurch to Wānaka daily.

By road, Christchurch to Queenstown is around 6 hours, while it will take around 3.5 hours from Dunedin, or 2.5 hours from Invercargill. Christchurch to Wānaka is around 5 hours drive time.

Both Wānaka and Queenstown are serviced by buses from locations around the South Island.

Getting around

There is a regular bus service in and around Queenstown but if you want to see the sights of the areas, self-drive is best.

Day 1

Spend your first day getting to know Queenstown.

Breakfast at Bespoke Kitchen before a five minute walk and a trip up the gondola to Skyline Queenstown is a great way to get in to the Queenstown vibe. The stunning views from the top and the thrilling luge ride down gives you a taste of the adrenalin that is to come on your holiday. Have lunch and then catch the gondola back down.

In town, pop into Fear Factory for a scary family bonding moment, then explore town, the wharf area, and Queenstown Gardens and playground nearby.

Finish the day with dinner at local institution The Cow Pizza and Pasta and dessert at Patagonia Chocolates.

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Day 2

Your second day takes in a little lake, a big lake, and a magnificent river.

Enjoy breakfast at Yonder and then head along the lake out of town towards Glenorchy and the turn off to Moke Lake. Walk the whole lake (2-3 hours) or just explore a bit and then carry on to spectacular Glenorchy.

Browse Mrs Woolly’s General Store and have a bite of lunch before jetboating or paddling “funyaks” with Dart River Adventures.

Then it’s 45 minutes back to Queenstown for dinner at Joe’s Garage and some treats from The Remarkable Sweet Shop.

 

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Day 3

Today, venture out of Queenstown to golden Arrowtown.

Get the day off to a delicious start at Arrowtown Bakery and Café and then explore the beautiful village and Arrowtown Chinese Settlement where you can explore the partially restored village where Chinese goldminers lived and worked in the 1870s.

Now it’s time to explore by bike on the Arrow River Bridges Trail (there are good bike hire options in Queenstown and Arrowtown). You can either head out and back, or ride 13.7km on the easy trail, passing quaint cottages, crossing fascinating bridges and taking in the stunning landscapes, all the way to the historic and picturesque Kawarau Bridge and home of AJ Hackett Bungy. Watch the bungy jumpers (or have a go yourself) or enjoy the thrill of the Kawarau ZipRide.

If you wish to be transported back to your vehicle in Arrowtown, talk with a tour operator before you leave.

After such an energetic day you deserve some relaxation at Onsen Hot Pools before dinner at the world famous Fergburger.

 

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Where to stay in Queenstown

For family friendly stays, we recommend checking out the below. Or search here for holiday parks and campgrounds.

Copthorne Hotel & Apartments Queenstown Lakeview 

Conveniently close to town and offering a range of room and apartment options. Take in the stunning mountain and lake views.

Blue Peaks Apartments 

Two and three bedroom holiday apartments are totally self-contained, spacious and fully equipped, ideal for families, just two minutes walk from town and opposite Queenstown Gardens.

Arrowfield Apartments

Situated in the heart of the Queenstown-Lakes region, just moments from the historic and thriving village of Arrowtown. Their stylish one, two, and three bedroom apartments offer modern and spacious self-contained holiday accommodation, fantastic for every season.

Crowne Plaza Queenstown

Opposite Steamer Wharf in the heart of Queenstown. With lake or mountain views, the twin rooms can cater for two adults and two children.

Scenic Suites Queenstown

Located in town with stunning views, Scenic Suites offer one and two bedroom self-contained apartments.

Day 4

Farewell Queenstown and hello Wānaka.

Enjoy your last Queenstown meal at Café Society located in 5 Mile on the way out of town. Then it’s off through the Kawarau Gorge to historic Cromwell. Here you will find the Highlands Motorsport & Tourism Park that offers go-karting, self drive V-8 muscle cars, fast laps, a sculpture park, a Motorsport Museum, café and … a loo with a view!

Once you’ve had your fill of motors, head around to Cardrona Valley and to the historic Cardrona Hotel for lunch (plus the obligatory photo outside). Then it’s time for some more action – this time downhill on mountain carts at  Cardrona Alpine Resort.

 

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Check in to your accommodation and then refuel at Amigo’s Mexican restaurant in the centre of Wānaka.

Day 5

Today you explore Wānaka and get out on the lake.

The last day of your wonderful five day tour starts at Relishes Cafe before wandering down to the i-Site directly opposite Relishes on the lakefront for a short cruise with a pushchair-friendly guided photo walk on Ruby Island.

No doubt the tummies are rumbling after all that fresh air, so pop up the hill from where you get off your cruise to Erik’s Fish and Chips. Dine in or take away back down to the Dinosaur Park that no doubt the kids have already spotted!

After such a gentle start to the day it’s time for some adrenalin with a jet boat ride down the mighty Clutha River on GoJets Wānaka. It’s a combination of spectacular scenery, historic gold mining sites, rapids and twisting turns.

After the excitement of the jet boat the Wānaka Lavender Farm will be an oasis of calm where you can stroll amongst the flowers, enjoy the stunning display gardens, and freshen up with lavender ice-cream. The children can also meet some friendly farm animals and play games in the garden.

 

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Spoil yourselves with dinner on the lakefront at Trout Bar & Restaurant. After dinner cross the road to the water’s edge and head round to your left following the lakefront until you come to the legendary Wānaka Willow.

Where to stay in Wānaka

For family friendly stays, we recommend checking out the below. Or search here for holiday parks and campgrounds.

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.

Wanaka Hotel

Home to Amigo’s restaurant, the Wānaka Hotel is a budget and family-friendly option in the town centre. Featuring expansive grounds, and located just up from the Dinosaur Park and lakefront, Wānaka Hotel also enjoys stunning views.

Ramada Resort by Wyndham

Featuring a lovely heated swimming pool with a waterslide plus a hot tub and one, two, and three bedroom apartments, the Ramada is a destination in itself. Just a short walk from the lakefront and town.

Bella Vista Motel Wanaka

Located right in town, Bella Vista consists of purpose built studios and units that can sleep up to four. Just a one minute walk from the shops and 150m to the lakefront and with free on-site parking.

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