New Zealand with kids is truly super fun. This is a country full of natural beauty, clean air and warm welcoming people. The winter wonderland of Queensland is ideal to visit in the middle of the year as it offers excellent downhill ski fields and snow activities. In the summer months there are all the extreme sports to partake in (or just watch) such as white water rafting. Whether it be bungy spotting or just feeing the kiwis, there is an outdoor activity for everyone. And with Coronet Peak already open for the 2013 ski season and young kids riding the lifts free of charge, now is really the time to get planning.
Queenstown is the ideal base from which to explore the two major ski fields of the area – Coronet Peak and The Remarkables. The views from both mountains are simply breath-taking and the air so pristine they are the highlight of any winter holiday in the area.
Coronet Peak is about 20 minutes from town and offers early bird 8am starts and night skiing on weekends. About half the mountain is dedicated to intermediate skiiers – good for older kids with downhill experience – while another quarter is perfect for beginner skiiers. Even in a poor snow season the conditions at Coronet Peak are excellent because of the automated snow machines that ensure the slopes are covered at all times. Besides the cost of the lessons, kids under 6 ski for free.
The Remarkables is more than double the distance away from Queenstown (about 45 minutes commute) but is perhaps the better mountain for more experienced older kids as (especially fool-hardy teens) as there are some excellent black slopes. (Plus kids 10 and under get free lift passes.) 70 percent of the mountain is still dedicated to beginner and intermediate runs.
Both mountains offer care facilities at Skiwiland for kids as young as 3 months old right up to 6 years old that includes playtime in the snow. This is ideal if your children don’t have any interest in the sport. For children aged 3 years old and upwards, there is the Skiwi Kids so they can find their ski legs.
If you prefer to experience the area at a little slower pace, there is also Guided Snowshoe Walks, a tour company that hosts hikes through the snow without having to master the skill of cross-country skiing.
For a break from the snow, or in the summer months, there is the charming steamship TSS Earnslaw. Take a ride to Walter Peak High Country Farm and chill out with the cattle and sheep over a leisurely lunch before cruising home again.
Or spot the elusive kiwi at Kiwi Birdlife Park where you can also get up close to New Zealand’s reptiles and other bird life.
Or for an aerial view of the whole area, head to the Skyline Gondola and Luge. If the kids think scenery viewing is a boring adult activity, the luge ride back down will more than make up for it.
Queenstown central is a hive of activity for such a small, out of the way place. There are plenty of accommodation options and friendly bars, cafes and restaurants as well as all the ski and snowboard hire places you will need (if you are not hiring from the ski resorts themselves). For more information about Queenstown, visit the official website.
For somewhere a bit quieter, Millbrook Resort Cottages are just outisde of Queenstown based on a golf course. The self-contained cottages are ideal if you want accommodation where everyone has a bit of space or you are sharing with another family as they come with up to four bedrooms.
The Rees Apartments are noted for their passionate service and the apartments also come with complete kitchen and laundry.
The biggest downside of a visit to the Queenstown ski fields is that you cannot sleep on the mountain. This means you need to be clever about how you plan your day to budget for the additional logistics of the commute up and down the mountain. Pack extra clothes and food with you as what should be a simple drive can become an awfully long trip home with tired, wet and hungry kids.
For more general tips see the suitcases&strollers story Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding.