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South Island

Family-friendly Activities

Our most recommended South Island Family-friendly Activities

Milford Sound Nature Cruise on Premium Glass-Roof Catamaran

1. Milford Sound Nature Cruise on Premium Glass-Roof Catamaran

Climb aboard 'Gem of the Sound', the newest vessel to cruise in the fiord, for a Milford Sound nature cruise. Capture the best views of the incredible fiord with three-levels of indoor and outdoor seating, unique glass roofs, and large viewing decks. Your friendly crew will welcome you on board and embrace you as one of the family, whilst you marvel at one of the most stunning places on earth. Relax in the comfortable booth seating with stylish decor and ambient lighting. High-definition cameras project outdoor footage live onto TV screens throughout the vessel - so no matter where are, you won't miss a thing. Admire New Zealand fur seals basking on rocks and feel the spray of cascading waterfalls. Look out for playful dolphins and, if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of the rare and elusive Fiordland Crested Penguin. Travel the length of the fiord and out into the Tasman Sea, to see why Captain Cook failed to discover Milford Sound after charting the Fiordland National Park.

From Queenstown: TSS Earnslaw 1.5-Hour Cruise

2. From Queenstown: TSS Earnslaw 1.5-Hour Cruise

Join the TSS Earnslaw for a 1.5-hour cruise across Lake Wakatipu. Admire spectacular alpine scenery and enjoy plenty of time to explore a piece of living history. Listen to engaging commentary from your experienced captain who will highlight points of interest throughout your cruise. Make your way to Steamer Wharf at Queenstown’s waterfront. Climb aboard the oldest working coal-fired passenger steamship in the southern hemisphere and feel free to explore! View the collection of historical photos in the small onboard museum and check out the skipper’s wheelhouse. Visit the engine room to feel the heat of the giant steam engines at work and see the stokers shovel coal into the glowing fireboxes.  Soak in the dramatic mountain views surrounding Lake Wakatipu and relax at the cafe where you can enjoy a wine or beer and snacks are also available for purchase. 

TSS Earnslaw: Cruise and Walter Peak Farm Tour

3. TSS Earnslaw: Cruise and Walter Peak Farm Tour

Start with a scenic cruise, crossing Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak High Country Farm. Explore the decks, visit the steam room, or chat with the captain in the wheelhouse. You’ll find a licensed cafe on board. Disembark at Walter Peak and join the host for a farmyard tour. Get up close to sheep, deer, and highland cattle. Help feed the farm animals, watch a farm demonstration, and explore the lakeside gardens. Enjoy a morning or afternoon tea including scones, muffins, coffee, and tea. The Walter Peak Farm tour is the perfect way to get a taste of New Zealand's farming lifestyle in an interactive way. This 3.5-hour tour is suitable for all ages.

Cardrona: First Timer Ski or Snowboard Package

4. Cardrona: First Timer Ski or Snowboard Package

Make your first day as easy as possible at Cardrona with a first-timer package for kids and adults. With facilities like the learner conveyor tunnel, a beginners’ area close to the base, gentle learner runs, a dedicated kids’ conveyor, and of course the amazing snow sports school, there’s no better place to learn to ski or snowboard. The first timer package is a great introduction to the sport, and is the most cost-effective way to learn how to ski or snowboard. The package includes beginners’ area lift passes, rental equipment, and 4.5 hours of lessons. On top of that, you can choose to upgrade yourself to an all-inclusive package to add on a clothing and accessories bundle. Your first-time package includes a full-day learners pass and a single uplift on the McDougall's Chondola in the afternoon. This will allow you to get to the top of the mountain on your very first day. Once there you can snap that pic for your friends, before taking the green beginner run back to base or jumping back onto the gondola to cruise back in comfort.

Christchurch: Gondola Ride

5. Christchurch: Gondola Ride

Take a ride on the Christchurch Gondola to see the beautiful Alpine scenery surrounding Christchurch city and suburbs. The gondola ride is 10-minutes each way at normal speed and each cable car stops to allow you to board and disembark safely.  Marvel at the Southern Alps to the west, and the Kaikoura Mountains to the north. To the south lies the beautiful harbor of Christchurch, and to the east is the Pacific Ocean. Enjoy 360-degree views of the plains, mountains, city, and harbor from the glass-enclosed gondola. At the summit, you can browse the souvenir shop or visit the cafe. Experience authentic Kiwi flavors as you take in the spectacular views. If you are feeling more energetic, explore one of the many walking trails like the hike to the Crater Rim. Travel back in time at the Time Tunnel experience to learn about the development of the region. The automated ride is a definite highlight with children and adults alike!

Queenstown: Time Tripper Underwater Experience

6. Queenstown: Time Tripper Underwater Experience

Take the stairs down under Lake Wakatipu and travel back to the beginning of time. Time Tripper is a 14-minute state-of-the-art animated show that takes you back 90 million years ago to what Queenstown was like all those years ago. Your time-travel pilot will guide you through the time of the dinosaurs, taking you back to when New Zealand was formed and flying you deep into the earth to when the Southern Alps were created. Ending in present-day Queenstown, you'll then experience activities all from the comfort of your seat. Following your informative session, you'll enjoy 10-15 minutes of underwater viewing during which you can see the famous diving ducks, slinky eels, and trout that lie beneath. This approximately 30-minute activity is Queenstown’s only underwater experience, blasting off every half hour from the Main Town Pier.

Doubtful Sound: Scenic Flight with 2 Landings

7. Doubtful Sound: Scenic Flight with 2 Landings

Experience the stunning Fiordland National Park from the sky. Soar high above the Iris Burn Valley and Lake Manapouri, also known as the "Lake of Many Islands". Spot the infamous West Arm Power Station on Lake Manapouri before flying up and over the Wilmot Pass into Doubtful Sound. This long and winding fiord is one of Fiordland’s deepest and is home to a number of stunning waterfalls. Your helicopter will detour into magical Campbell’s Kingdom, a beautiful hanging valley encompassing a lake and a waterfall. This is the stuff of fairytales. From here, take a peek at Bradshaw Sound before soaring over the Main Divide of the Southern Alps for a second remote landing at scenic Mount Kidd. Make sure you have the camera or phone well charged for this flight — you’ll want to revisit the scenes and landscapes you visit over and over again.

Christchurch International Antarctic Center Entry Tickets

8. Christchurch International Antarctic Center Entry Tickets

Embark on a journey through Antarctica without leaving Christchurch. Visit one of New Zealand's best tourist attractions, the International Antarctic Center. Visitors of all ages will enjoy an interactive, fun and exciting experience of Antarctica. Experience snow and ice, an Antarctic storm, take the polar plunge ice water challenge, learn about life in modern modern-day Antarctica and Scott Base, and hang out with Little Blue Penguins. Try the famously exciting Hagglund ride and an awesome simulated 4D cruise Ice Voyage. The entry ticket is the closest way to experience Antarctica, without mounting your own expedition. You can also enjoy a personalized commentary on your journey to Antarctica with an audio guide tour available in English, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Thai, German, French, and Spanish.

Tekapo: Indoor Māori Heritage and Astronomy Experience

9. Tekapo: Indoor Māori Heritage and Astronomy Experience

Delight in a Big Bang of awe and inspiration at the Dark Sky Experience, where science, tatai aroraki (Maori astronomy), and fascinating multimedia installations are brought together for a sensual treat. Change your outlook on the universe in the best way possible on this 45-minute guided tour. Enjoy your guide's thought-provoking, educational, and entertaining commentary at this truly unique place. During your tour, get up close to the newly-restored Brashear telescope, one of the world's most famous Victorian telescopes. A must-do for all visitors to Lake Tekapo, this immersive daytime experience is a place for people to connect, to discover, and to be inspired, with the aim of empowering others to make a difference to dark sky preservation.

Queenstown: Kawarau River Jet Boat Adventure

10. Queenstown: Kawarau River Jet Boat Adventure

Discover Queenstown’s untouched and pristine wilderness during an authentic jet boat adventure across Lake Wakatipu and along the historic Kawarau River. Choose from a 25-minute or 1-hour experience and spend more time on the water with a convenient departure right from the heart of Queenstown. Depart from Thunder Bay next to Steamer Wharf in the heart of Queenstown and travel far up the Kawarau River, covering a distance of 47 km. Along the way, listen to interesting commentary from your experienced driver. After getting equipped with a life jacket, climb on board and experience exhilarating 360-degree spins, skimming the water at speeds of up to 95 km/hour.  Then, travel down the river where it is calmest, even when the lake is rough. Take your camera along to capture the stunning scenery of your jet boat experience with frequent photo opportunities.

Frequently asked questions about South Island Family-friendly Activities

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The other unmissable things to do in South Island are:

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Other Sightseeing Options in South Island

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What people are saying about South Island

Great activity, even on a wet day. Atmospheric from the start. The hustle and bustle of boarding through clouds of steam as the engines warmed up was unforgettable. The timber lined cabin gave the impression of stepping into the past. The mulled wine was a nice treat.

Our family (two adults and two under 5 year olds) enjoyed our afternoon on the earnslaw. The information shared was fantastic, being able to watch the put the coal in was the children favourite part, the food and drinks on board were great. The views were stunning.

I believe the tour guide actually made it a fun time for us on the lake wealth of knowledge about the history of the lake and Queenstown and helped to put everyone at peace. Very skilful and fun entertaining her customers while on the lake

The boys were mesmerised! We loved it!! Could go back again and again!! Thank you!

Fantastic trip, Staff are great , beautiful scenery, And the pianist is fantastic