This week of family fun starts in Queenstown with gondola rides, luge runs, and 360-degree spins on a jet boat through the world-renowned Mount Aspiring National Park. Bring down the adrenaline with a gentle afternoon getting up close and personal with kiwi birds before heading to the glittering glowworm caves at Te Anau. Spark your children's nature-loving side on a cruise through the majestic Milford Sound, and finish your trip with a gourmet barbecue dinner on an old-fashioned country farm.


  • Journey to the heart of Mount Aspiring National Park by jet boat
  • See kiwi birds close-up during a conservation show at Kiwi Park Queenstown
  • Glide through the glowworm caves of Te Anau by boat
  • Follow a steamship cruise with a gourmet barbecue dinner on a traditional farm

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Queenstown  Queenstown
Day 2 Mount Aspiring River Safari & Kiwi Park Queenstown Queenstown
Day 3 Drive to Te Anau, Glowworm Caves Te Anau
Day 4 Milford Sound Scenic Cruise Te Anau
Day 5 Drive to Wānaka, Lake Cruise, Nature Walk, Lavender Farm & Toy Museum Wānaka 
Day 6 Drive to Queenstown, Steamship Cruise & Farm Dinner Queenstown 
Day 7 Depart Queenstown  

Detailed Itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive in Queenstown

Take the steep Skyline Gondola to the top of Queenstown

Welcome to New Zealand's South Island! After you've picked up your family-friendly rental car, explore Queenstown at your own pace. Although celebrated as New Zealand's "adventure capital," this bustling resort town offers activities to match any pace for families with kids of all ages.

After settling in at your hotel, you might want to relax and take in the sights by hopping aboard the Skyline Gondola—the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere. As you rise to over 1,400 feet (450 m) above Queenstown, you can enjoy panoramic views of the Remarkables mountain range, Walter Peak, and magnificent Lake Wakatipu. At the top, you'll find the Queenstown Luge Track—younger children can ride tandem with their parents for a thrilling descent, while older ages can brave the winding track solo. 

If you want to go farther afield, take a steep, winding trip to Macetown to learn more about New Zealand's 19th-century gold rush. Head over the hill to the resort town of Wānaka, or re-live scenes from the "The Lord of the Rings" by 4WD. And, of course, if you have a thrill seeker in your family, Queenstown has adrenaline-inducing activities in spades: head out on the Shotover Jet Boat, dive off the Nevis Bungy, or free fall on the canyon swing. You could also take a wander around the local boutiques and taste your way through Queenstown's incredible restaurants—including the world-famous Fergburger

Day 2: Mount Aspiring River Safari & Kiwi Park Queenstown

Be enchanted by New Zealand's namesake bird, the kiwi
Be enchanted by New Zealand's namesake bird, the kiwi

No need for a shower this morning, as you'll most likely get one on the Wilderness Jet Boat! Journey deep into the heart of the world-renowned Mount Aspiring National Park, where myth, heritage, and fantasy come to life. Here, you can experience a unique combination of breathtaking scenery and an exhilarating ride as you follow the braided, glacier-fed rivers by jet boat with exciting 360-degree spins along the way. Your guides will take the chance to tie up the boat and let you walk among the ancient beech tree forests—an atmosphere older kids may recognize from "The Lord of the Rings" films.

For the budding animal lovers out there, see real kiwi birds and up to twenty other native birds and reptiles at the Kiwi Park Queenstown this afternoon—an easy five-minute walk from central Queenstown. This New Zealand park features the country's native stars alongside qualified and experienced zoologists. At their live conservation shows, you can meet the birds and creatures who have roamed the country's forests and shorelines for thousands of years in a close-up encounter. After an action-packed day, head back to your hotel for an early night. 


Day 3: Drive to Te Anau, Glowworm Caves

Spark your imagination with a glowworm cave experience
Plan your trip to New Zealand
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Pack your bags and hit the road for a two-hour drive to Te Anau. Following the shores of Lake Wakatipu, the Remarkables mountain range towers over you as you approach the township of Kingston. You'll venture into Southland before crossing the rolling tussock lands of Mossburn—also the deer capital of New Zealand and a good place for the kids to stretch their legs—before shortly arriving at Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland National Park. Have lunch at one of Te Anau's eateries before you embark on a magical experience in the Te Anau glowworm caves.

Begin your tour with a cruise across Lake Te Anau onboard a luxury catamaran. Once you arrive on the other side, enter the caves through Cavern House, taking time to peruse the kid-friendly displays that tell the story of this 12,000-year-old underground cave network. Next, your guide will take you along a limestone pathway, pointing out whirlpools, rock formations, and an underground waterfall. Glide through the darkness on a small boat surrounded by the blue-white glitter of thousands of glowworms on the cave walls and ceiling. After an afternoon spent in this magical setting, you'll head to your Te Anau accommodation for the night. 

Day 4: Milford Sound Scenic Cruise

Pass thundering waterfalls and towering mountains at Milford Sound

Set off to Milford Sound after breakfast and get ready for some of the most beautiful and iconic scenery in the country. Countless photo opportunities mean this drive should not be rushed. From crystal clear lakes and towering mountains to lush, glacier-formed meadows, this area is abundant with picture-perfect scenes. Stretch your legs on the Chasm Walk, a short stroll through native beech forest to see several powerful waterfalls. Most stops and points of interest are well signposted on the 80-mile (121 km) road, and there are plenty of spots where you can enjoy a family picnic.

Arriving in Milford's very small village, you will be greeted with an amazing view of Mitre Peak. Sheer cliffs rise from hundreds of feet below the water's surface—a dramatic and awe-inspiring sight. Head out for a leisurely cruise of this spectacular fjord, where you'll pass thundering cascades, sky-high mountains, and lush rainforests. Kids will love experiencing the spray of the waterfalls as you cruise close to sheer rock faces. Once you've had your fill of breathtaking views, head back to Te Anau for the night. 

Day 5: Drive to Wānaka, Lake Cruise, Nature Walk, Lavender Farm & Toy Museum

Get ready for family pictures at Wānaka Lavender Farm

Depart beautiful Lake Te Anau and start the scenic trip north to Wānaka. Pack snacks for you and the kids for the four-hour drive, where you'll pass trout fishing rivers and high country scenery. Leave time to take a break in Kingston, the home of a remarkable vintage steam train that kids (and adults) will love. The route continues through Queenstown and Gibbston Valley, where some of the South Island's best vineyards are located, then through the spectacular Kawarau Gorge. Head through the upper Clutha Valley and continue on to picturesque Lake Wānaka.

You've been watching the scenery from the car, now it's time to get out into it! Lying close to the center of Lake Wānaka is Mou Waho Island Nature Reserve, which you can reach by a 35-minute boat cruise. Take a well-formed track that leads to the top of Tyrwhitt Peak, where you will have a sweeping 360-degree view of Lake Wānaka and its surrounding mountains and valleys (as well as a perfect spot to stop for tea, coffee, or hot chocolate). Re-join the boat for the cruise back to Wānaka.

If time permits, you could head to Wānaka Lavender Farm, just a few minutes from Wānaka. Take Instagram-worthy pictures of you and your kids frolicking in 10 acres (4 ha) of beautiful lavender fields. Meet friendly farm animals, relax over a cup of herbal tea, and indulge in lavender and honey ice cream. For a more historical afternoon, go to the Wānaka National Transport and Toy Museum—the result of one man's dream and 50 years of collecting and preserving pieces from the past. The Museum offers indoor and outdoor playing areas with pedal tractors and trucks for the kids as well. 

Day 6: Drive to Queenstown, Steamship Cruise & Farm Dinner

Watch the sheepdogs at work on a high-country farm

Today you'll spend the day weaving in and out of New Zealand's lakes and villages on the drive back to Queenstown. Leave Wānaka and follow the stunning Crown Range Road for an hour before dropping into Arrowtown for some old-world charm and delicious lunch options. While here, consider partaking in one or more of Arrowtown's many family-oriented activities, such as bike riding, exploring a Chinese village, walking a quirky maze, or relaxing in hot pools. From Arrowtown, it's just a short 20-minute drive to Queenstown. Drop your things at your hotel and get ready for a memorable evening aboard a steamship. 

Step aboard the TSS Earnslaw for a wonderful way for your family to spend their last night in New Zealand. Cruise along Lake Wakatipu to the Walter Peak High Country Farm, where you'll enjoy a gourmet barbecue dinner featuring the country's signature dishes. Feast on rotisserie-cooked meats, seasonal vegetables, and salads, followed by dessert, local cheeses, and demonstrations about high country life on the farm. After the meal, join a sing-along with the ship's pianist and breathe in the fresh night air as reflect on your New Zealand adventures.

Day 7: Depart Queenstown

Bid farewell to Queenstown
Pack your bags and get ready to bid farewell to New Zealand—but not before you've had breakfast. Head to one of the city's culinary gems for brunch, coffee, babycinos, and hot chocolates. Once you feel satisfied and ready to travel, drop your rental car off at Queenstown Airport and board your plane. Safe travels!

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Map of New Zealand South Island Family Trip: Nature, Thrills & Culture - 7 Days
Map of New Zealand South Island Family Trip: Nature, Thrills & Culture - 7 Days