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Things to do in the School Holidays in Wanaka & Queenstown

September 9, 2020
Georgina Cleave
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Georgina Cleave

Make your next family ski holiday a breeze - here are Cardrona's top picks for kid-friendly activities in the spring school holidays in Queenstown & Wanaka.

Here at Cardrona, not only do we love our maunga (mountain), we also love the two towns that send us adventure seekers, fresh air enthusiasts, foodies & all types of family fun finders – Queenstown & Wanaka.

Even though we’re obviously big fans of winter, we adore the changing seasons & all they have to offer. Spring brings with it warmer weather & great snow conditions. It also opens up opportunities to explore the region around Cardrona Alpine Resort. Let’s look at our top picks for what to do in the spring school holidays in Queenstown & Wanaka. There’s something for everyone!



It goes without saying that spring is a great time to ride. The queues are shorter, the snow softer & the weather warmer.


We could write a whole book on the short walks around Wanaka & Queenstown, but with the kids you’ll want to check out the Kelvin Heights & Arrowtown loop tracks. These are both about 4km long & relatively flat. On the other side of the Crown Range try the Outlet Track, a mellow trail running along the picturesque Clutha River (Mata-Au).


That’s right, you can do it all in spring! Pack your skis or board & your bike to enjoy the plentiful family-friendly trails around the area. Get in some practice before the Summer mountain biking season kicks in (Cardrona Bike Park opens on December 1).

We're looking forward to summer mountain biking already!



Visit the local Department of Conservation offices in Wanaka & Queenstown to find out about local flora & fauna & get advice on the many family-friendly outdoor activities in the region. They’ve got some cool displays the kids will love too.


Queenstown is home to the only commercial passenger-carrying, coal-fired steamship in the southern hemisphere, the TSS Earnslaw. This beauty will take you on a spectacular cruise out to a high country station. There, you’ll get up close to all the farm animals, topped off with a lovely lunch at Walter Peak.


Did you know that on a clear day you can spot Aoraki (Mount Cook), New Zealand’s highest mountain, from the top of Cardrona? You don’t have to be able to ski or snowboard to enjoy the alpine environment. Ride McDougall’s Chondola to check all the epic views.

Click for more photos...

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Go faster, go further with the Go Orange Thunder Jet. Adventure down the historic Kawerau River, complete with entertaining local stories, stunning scenery, exhilarating speed, 360° degree spins & more! Add this to your itinerary today.


Wanaka’s iconic Puzzling World is a must do when in this part of New Zealand. Challenge yourself in the maze (no cheating!), gaze at all the wonders of Stuart Landsborough’s imagination & let your mind be blown.


Whizz down the twisting, turning, tubing track on snow at Cardrona. The whole family can have a go at tubing. We dare you not to smile! Make a day of it with a ride on McDougall’s Chondola & lunch at one of the cafés & restaurants in the Base area, or grab a bite & a drink from Vista Bar at the top of the maunga.



With the weather warming up, it’s the perfect time to pack a scrummy lunch & settle in to one of the incredible viewpoints the Queenstown Lakes District has to offer:

  • Queenstown Gardens. A short walk from town, the botanical Queenstown Gardens features a range of exotic & native trees & plants.
  • Queenstown lakefront.  Make your way along the lake from the town centre towards Fernhill. Take in the spectacular Remarkables mountain range with Lake Wakatipu in the foreground.
  • Wanaka lakefront. Stroll in either direction along Roy’s Bay from town & take your pick of picnic tables, or find your own space to throw down a rug on the lake shore & watch the world go by.
  • Wanaka War Memorial. Situated in an elevated spot above town, but a very short walk from the centre, this is a great viewing spot to check out the lake & surrounding mountains.


We’re spoilt for choice of great eateries in Wanaka & Queenstown. Take your pick from a number of family-friendly cafés & restaurants:

  • Double Black Café in Albert Town has seating outside, complete with a sandpit & toys for the kids. Delicious food & great coffee make this a top pick.
  • Winnies: Dinner with a difference. This child-friendly pizza restaurant has an opening roof! That’s something you don’t see every day. The menu covers a good range of other items, not just pizza.
  • Noodle Bar:  If you're craving Asian inspired food, head up to Noodle Bar on the top floor of Snow Sports HQ, with the best views across the Beginners' Area & freshly-made sushi it's worth the walk upstairs (or a ski in from Skyline)!
cardrona-what to do in wanaka - what to do in queenstown
How's your chopstick game? Photo: Charlotte Kiri


Central Otago is well known for its wine, so it’s no surprise that there are countless vineyards & watering holes to check out. The sober driver & kids will love these ones...

  • Gibbston Valley Winery: cheese, chocolates, a great restaurant & wine. What more could you want? Gibbston Valley has the largest wine cave in New Zealand and it’s worth a visit just to check that out.
  • Cardrona Hotel: A visit to the Queenstown Lakes District wouldn't be complete without stopping by the Cardrona Hotel. Perfect for an après ski dinner with the kids, or a day off long lunch. With the longer days of spring you can enjoy the alfresco dining space & room for kids to run amok (if they’ve got any energy left) while you settle in with a cold one & a hearty meal.

We could go on… & on & on & on, but that’s probably enough to get you daydreaming about planning your spring school holiday in Wanaka or Queenstown!

About the Author

Georgina Cleave

Georgina Cleave is a freelance marketer & content creator based in Wanaka. She's had a long love affair with our maunga. Currently a ski instructor, you may have seen her working in many other departments over the last couple of decades.

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