Mini Itinerary: 5 Days In Queenstown and Wanaka

Created in partnership with Tourism New Zealand

The resort towns of Queenstown and Wānaka are synonymous with stunning scenery, picturesque lakes, fun and adventure. Both year-round destinations, they are particularly beautiful in autumn.

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

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 drive apart over the magnificent Crown Range or 90 minutes if you go around via Cromwell. There is a regular shuttle service between the two places.

You can fly direct to Queentsown with Air New Zealand from Auckland, Wellington, or Christchurch, with connecting flights from other regional centres. To find out more, visit www.airnz.co.nz. Sounds Air 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 from Invercargill. Christchurch to Wanaka is around 5 hours drive time.

Both Wanaka 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 ffrom 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 at the far end of the main beach.

Finish the day at with dinner at local institution The Cow Pizza and Pasta and dessert at Patagonia Chocolates – Ice Creamery & Chocolaterie.

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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 Fun Yaks on the Dart River.

It’s 45 minutes back to Queenstown and dinner at Joe’s Garage and some lolly 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 landscape, 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 Arrowtown and your vehicle, 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 Ferg Burger.

 

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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 Lake View – 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.

Arrowtown Viking Lodge – a pleasant walk from Arrowtown town centre with eight self-contained, spacious individual one and two bedroom units. Units contain full kitchen, separate living area with sofas, and an automatic washing machine.

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 Wanaka

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 Grill in the centre of Wānaka.

Day 5

Today you explore Wanaka 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 Wanaka. It’s a combination of spectacular scenery, historic gold mining sites, rapids and twisting turns.

After the excitement of the jet boat the Wanaka Lavender Farm will be an oasis of calm where you can stroll amongst the flowers, enjoy the stunning display gardens, and reshen 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 “That Wanaka Tree”.

Where to stay in Wanaka

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 lake front, Wānaka Hotel also enjoys stunning views.

Ramada Resort by Wyndham – featuring a lovely heated swimming pool with 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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