Wānaka is a fantastic place to travel with kids. Whether you are camping, road-tripping or just on a weekend trip, you’ll find plenty to do there.
The town is home to many outdoor and indoor activities, offering something for every taste and interest.
Plus, Wānaka is also extremely safe and family-friendly.
You’ll find this charming town just a 1 hour, 15-minute drive from the very-popular Queenstown.
Wānaka is very similar to Queenstown, yet different. It’s less touristy and more local. It’s sometimes known as its quieter cousin.
Though it can be visited as a day trip from Queenstown (over the Crown Range), we think it’s worth spending at least 2 days in Wānaka.
But with that time, what will you and your family do?
Join us as we share our favourite kid-approved activities…
Epics things to do in Wānaka with kids
1. Visit a Honey, Lavender & animal farm
Wānaka Lavender Farm is a must-visit for families.
Located a few minutes drive out of central Wānaka, you’ll find 20 acres of lavender, several farm animals, including alpacas, lavender ice cream and a cafe!
You can also shop at the on-site shop for lavender and honey goodies.
Though they’re open year-round, the lavender is in season from December to March. Off-season (April to November), you’ll be able to visit the animals and shop, but you’ll be unlikely to see lavender blooming.
Depending on what’s open, your visit can last from an hour to a half day. We suggest you take your time to enjoy this natural beauty.
36 Morris Road, Wānaka 9382
Did you know? Kids under 5 are free and both adults and children are surprisingly affordable – particularly in the off-season.
2. Go strawberry picking
Strawberry picking is a favourite with kids. It’s a rewarding activity that connects you to nature – and what kid doesn’t love strawberries?
If you’re in Wānaka from late spring through to mid-autumn, we suggest you head along to Red Bridge Berries, grab a box get picking. You and the kids can pick as many strawberries as you want at the set price per kilogram.
They also offer a real fruit ice cream, which is as real as it gets, and is guaranteed to be a hit with the whole family.
1 Shortcut Road Luggate State Highway 8A, Wānaka, Luggate 9382
3. Explore Puzzling World
Puzzling World [save using the promo code NZTTPLAY] is at the top of the list of all families visiting Wānaka.
It’s actually one of the oldest tourist attractions in the region, established in 1973, but don’t let that put you off – it’s still around for good reason.
Puzzling World has a variety of “interesting” oddities, from the Great Maze, and illusion rooms to the puzzle centre.
Families can happily spend a half-day visiting, rain or shine (though it really does come into its own on a rainy day, as most attractions are inside).
188 Wānaka-Luggate Highway, Wānaka 9382
Pro tip: Be sure to have your camera charged as there are lots of great photo opportunities here.
4. Take the kids rock climbing at Basecamp
Whether your child is a first-time climber, or an experienced one, a trip to Basecamp is a great way to spend a few hours (and burn off some energy).
There, you’ll find a sport climbing wall (for experienced rock climbers), a bouldering room (where people climb smaller walls and rocks without ropes), and a Clip ‘n Climb arena (which is our #1 pick for kids!).
The Clip ‘n Climb walls have automatic belays which are super convenient and safe. Plus, with exciting, unique climbing walls, this is a sure hit with the kids.
Pro tip: A new session starts on the hour, every hour – plan to start your climb then, and prebook if possible.
The indoor facility is close to town, so it’s possible to walk there if you don’t have transport.
50 Cardrona Valley Road, Wānaka 9305
5. Catch a salmon and feast at Hooked Wānaka
Hooked Wānaka is a unique place where you can dine and entertain yourself and your family at the same time.
There, you can rent fishing equipment (at a super affordable price) and catch your lunch or dinner from the lake.
It’s a super fun activity for children and a very fruitful one…. simply pay per kilogram for any fish you catch.
Then, you can either ask the Hooked Wānaka team to prepare it for you for free, or you can take the unprocessed fish home.
In addition to any fish you catch, they have a tasty menu, including kids’ favourites and wood-fired pizza. Unsurprisingly, the salmon pizza is particularly good!
49 Monteith Rd, Wānaka 9382
6. Explore Wānaka by bike
Wānaka is great for every outdoor sport, including mountain biking.
With children, you might want to pick less strenuous and adventurous tracks.
Our favourite family-friendly bike track
The most popular easy bike track is from Wānaka to Hawea (Hāwea River Track). Though it’s about 10 km each way, the track is pretty flat.
It takes you along the Hāwea River, which later falls into Clutha River in certain locations.
Intermediate bike tracks, suitable for confident kids and teens
If you want a more exciting biking experience for older kids, there are some of our favourite tracks…
7. Visit a kid-friendly museum – the National Transport & Toy Museum
Wānaka’s largest museum is the perfect destination for children – it’s our National Transport & Toy Museum! Kids of all ages enjoy their visits here, making it a fantastic Wānaka attraction for families.
Expect to see huge collection of toys, including model aircraft, cars, trucks, motorcycles, fire appliances, other vehicles and over 70,000 toys!
Like many activities on this list, the toy museum is an affordable activity. It’s also suitable for rainy days and is just a 10-minute drive from town.
891 Wānaka-Luggate Highway, Wānaka
8. Go for a bounce at the trampoline park
SITE will get your kids active with no question! This indoor facility (yep, another great wet-weather option) is the home of trampolining in Wānaka and Queenstown.
They’ll also teach your kids parkour and have a bike and skatepark, allowing them to practice all their tricks safely.
Given the nature of these activities, SITE is suitable for kids 5+.
9 McCormick Street, Wānaka
9. Let them play at a dinosaur Playground
Wānka Dinosaur Park is an awesome playground – particularly for small children.
It’s located in centre of Wānaka, close to the lake and all the eateries. And if you are staying at one of the Wānaka’s central accommodations, you’ll be able to walk to the playground… be warned though, your little one might want to visit every day!
The piece of equipment most kids enjoy most is, of course, the famous dinosaur slide. There are plenty of other things for kids (big and small) to play on though.
5 Lakeside Road, Wānaka 9305
So you know… The playground isn’t fenced, so you’ll need to keep an eye on your little ones.
10. Go skiing or snowboarding
Children of all ages can enjoy the snow here, whether it’s their first time playing in snow, or they’re experienced skiers giving adults a run for their money.
Cardrona Alpine Resort is the most popular ski resort. It’s only 35 km (40 minutes drive) from Wānaka and is suitable for all types of skiers, from small kids to grown-ups, with experience or none. Their children’s facilities include a fully licensed kid’s centre.
Treble Cone Ski Area is only a 30-minute drive from Wānaka. The resort has an off-piste terrain and is more suitable for advanced skiers and snowboarders, making it less family-friendly (unless your family is serious about the snow).
Lastly, Snow Farm is great for low-adrenaline, cross-country skiing on flat ground and for building snowmen. Families also love the skifield’s snow tubing and snowshoeing!
Snow Farm is located in Cardrona hamlet, just a 20 minute drive from Wānaka.
11. Relax at the coolest little cinema around!
Both are awesome, but we recommend Cinema Paradiso for kids – seeing this place is an experience in itself. We love that the theatre shows all of the big blockbusters and that kids can sit on comfy sofas and even in an old convertable car in the movie!
Both venues have full menus including pizzas, salads and burgers, and Cinema Paradiso even serves homemade gelato and freshly-based cookies straight from the oven at half-time.
12. Get an ice cream at Patagonia Chocolates
No trip to the Southern Lakes region is complete without an ice cream!
We think a visit to Patagonia Chocolates is a must when you are in Wānaka (and Queenstown, for that matter).
This is one of the best ice cream producers in New Zealand. Using only real milk and quality ingredients, their flavours are incredible!
In fact, their ice creams frequently win awards, so you know you’re onto a good thing.
155 Ardmore Street, Wānaka 9305
Wānaka activities that parents will love (and kids will still enjoy)
13. Enjoy a hike
When it comes to hiking, it’s hard to beat Wānaka. There are so many tracks around that you will need a couple of weeks to conquer them all.
But if you have only limited time, you can choose some of the most beautiful and child-friendly walks such as Blue Pools Track, Diamond Lake Track, Mount Iron Track and, of course, the walk along the Wānaka Lake to #ThatWānakaTree.
If we had to pick one family-friendly walk as our favourite though, it would have to be the Blue Pools.
This track is favoured by those with kids (and everyone else!) due to its beauty and ease. It’s just a short, easy 30-minute walk one way via lush bush to two awesome swing bridges.
It takes about one hour to reach Blue Pools from Wānaka, so it’s not entirely fair to call this a Wānaka walk… but, if you have time to spare, we think it’s worth the drive.
Pro tip: You’ll pass the Blue Pools travelling from Wānaka to Franz Josef. If you’re not planning to visit the West Coast, but you do decide to make this drive, you may as well continue on to Fantail Falls and Thundercreek Falls.
14. Enjoy some delicious family-friendly food
Wānaka has a wide range of great restaurants and bars.
We especially love the local cafes and eateries in town though… they’re accommodating to kids and serve high-quality food.
There are several excellent places for brunch or lunch just right on the main street (Ardmore Street).
Some of our favourites are:
If you are after an amazing crepe (which children adore), stop at Charlie Brown Crepes; they are great!
All other cafes listed are great for a typical Kiwi breakfast or lunch. Plus they all have yummy options for kids.
Federal Diner is particularly popular among families; they have all-day breakfast, burgers and much more.
Keep in mind, though, that most cafes are open only till 3 pm.
For dinner, check out Francesca’s Italian Kitchen to taste some of the best pizzas in New Zealand.
The Big Fig is also a super popular healthy-but-tasty option in town and it’s open until late.
We also love the Wānaka food truck park and highly recommend it for families.
Grab something to eat from the wide variety of food trucks (perfect if everyone in your family wants something different to eat) and then enjoy your meal together by the river.
15. Visit Lake Hāwea
Lake Hāwea is a beautiful half-day trip from Wānaka – and we think its a worthwhile visit.
The lake itself is New Zealand’s ninth-largest lake. It is great for fishing but can be a bit cold for swimming (though that won’t put brave kids off!)
The small town on the southern tip of the lake is also called Lake Hawea (just to confuse things), and it’s just a 15-minute drive from Wānaka.
Here, you’re more likely to bump into locals than other travellers, but we think that’s half the charm of the place.
Besides visiting the lake, we recommend getting lunch at the Hawea Hotel, which has stunning views and reasonable prices. The Camp Food Truck, also offers great food and a cozy campground vibe – just be aware that it’s closed during the winter season.
That’s not all there is to do there though…
YourWave is the world’s first custom standing wave… what that means in reality, is that your kids can learn to surf in a super safe and supportive environment (that just happens to be nowhere near the beach).
Book your kids (or yourself) in for an hour-long session with other surfers, and rent any gear you need on site.
The Hāwea Wave
If you already know how to surf, or you just fancy seeing something a bit unique, head to the The Hāwea Wave.
Part of the Hāwea Whitewater Park and located near Camphill Bridge, this is a fun place to watch people kayaking, body boarding and surfing over two waves that have been created on the Hāwea River.
If your kids are brave (and fairly experienced), they can even have a go themselves.
16. Visit wineries
Though most kids won’t be excited about visiting a winery, you probably are!
Fortunately, Wānaka has a few very good wineries where you can do wine tastings and have lunch – and in New Zealand, kids are always welcome.
The top wineries in Wānaka are:
- Nanny Goat
- Aitken’s Folly Vineyard
- Paddons Paddock.
With lots of space for the kids to explore, special kids menus and even outdoor games, a visit to a local vineyard needn’t be a chore for your family.
Wānaka is a fantastic place to visit with your family. With so many free and cheap activities, it will be a hit with your kids (and gentle on your finances too).
That’s a win-win!
Guest post by by Anna from Simple New Zealand.