Back in early February, just weeks before the New Zealand government closed its borders, we were fortunate enough to visit our favourite place on Earth yet again - Queenstown.
I posted about this trip pretty comprehensively on my Instagram stories, however many of my lovely followers asked me to share some tips and suggestions about where to go, especially with little ones.
Although I don't usually blog for personal reasons, I am very passionate about this location - this was our fifth trip to Queenstown and certainly won't be our last, it's a magical place. So here we go!
Places to eat... with kids
Obviously, this was a family holiday - so the recommendations I have for place to eat are going to be child friendly (remembering that our boys at the time were 3.5 and 1.5 years old). We were lucky to have one night out with some dear friends from the US at the incredible Botswana Butchery - and for that, we hired a nanny through the most professional, incredible local nanny service, Project Nanny. We were given Georgia to look after the boys while we went out - Louie talked about her for DAYS after, she was a big hit. This was the first time a stranger has looked after our kids, and I have to say... it wasn't bad at all! Not something I'd do regularly, but my goodness we enjoyed ourselves that night!
So, back to my child friendly suggestions...
- Vudu Cafe and Larder - great food, decent coffee, and ALWAYS busy - so get in early or at least be prepared to wait a little bit to get a table. Don't go with starving kids, just in case. Or get takeaway - their coconut and chia puddings were a hit with Henry and I, and also their raw salted caramel balls... delicious.
- Bespoke Kitchen (same owners as Vudu) - similar menu to Vudu, and often not as busy either - however its not quite as central, but definitely still within walking distance from most places.
- Yonder - a great spot, never had to wait for a table. The food was lovely and the cold brew was delicious... apart from the time they confused my cold brew for a cold brew cocktail at 8.30am... that was a good kickstart to the morning! Ha. Very child friendly, we came back here again after a good experience the first time, and it was my go-to for a few days for a decent coffee.
- Madam Woo - my absolute favourite place to eat with kids in Queenstown (that is, aside from buying some bread and making sandwiches to eat on the lake). Madam Woo is exceptional - the food is SO good, I cannot tell you just how much I love their Pulled Sticky Pork Hawker Rolls. The kids menu was great, massive portions and quite affordable. Fun facts: We visited the Madam Woo in Christchurch during our last NZ trip and it was just as good. These guys have also opened up a smaller, more low key style takeaway place in the same area called Hawker & Roll - definitely worth checking out!
- The London - is this Queenstown's most underrated restaurant/pub? We think so. We ended up here a few times - although not the most practical to get into (stairs only, but they will help you carry the pram down if you have one), its worth it once you get downstairs. It's an underground bar/restaurant that has hints of the UK everywhere. It's also part sports bar, has a great selection of pizzas and alcohol, a fantastic and cheap kids menu (named after all the royal babies, of course), and they have regular specials each night. This is where we go when we want an easy lunch/dinner. The pizzas are delicious!
- The Lodge Bar - our go-to bar for a quiet drink. Comfortable chairs and enough decor to keep the kids somewhat entertained... but to be completely honest, this is where we brought our ABC Kids on our phone and enjoyed a quiet drink for a few minutes while they watched Bluey. Sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do.
- Public Kitchen & Bar - definitely not the cheapest of places to go to, but the location is amazing and the food is lovely - if you want a nice meal out that's still practical for kids, this is it.
- Joe's Garage - our favourite for a low key lunch or dinner. Always welcoming and friendly, and you feel as though you're never imposing if the kids want to run around a little. They have a great toybox and activities for the little ones, and some great drinks available within seconds of arriving. Bliss. Their food is humble and no frills... just what you need at the end of a busy day.
- Fergburger - it goes without saying that this is on the "to do" list for visiting Queenstown. The burgers are delicious, there's no doubt about it. But are they worth the wait? I'll let you decide. Some tips for getting your order faster (I've been told) is to call ahead and order - however we found that even when the line was really long, it didn't feel like we were waiting forever. They have a very efficient system in that kitchen, they get the orders out fast. What you could also do, however, is try Mrs Ferg next door and grab some bread, pastries, pies and/or desserts and head down to the lake. Just as nice, in my opinion, and nowhere near as time-consuming.
Places to go... with kids
There were a few locations/drives that were real favourites with us this visit. Every time we are in Queenstown, we try to visit somewhere new in the surrounding area. After a few failed attempts on previous trips, we finally got to Glenorchy, which was just as beautiful as promised. However, there were a few other standouts worth mentioning - and for most of these you will need a car. We recommend Apex Car Rentals, purely because they are competitively priced and centrally located.
- Skyline Gondola and Luge - definitely a must if you haven't been here before, simply because the view is incredible. Having said that, the luge is limiting in terms of who can go on - Henry was too little, and Louie was only big enough to go with Shane. Still worth it, though!
- The Remarkables Market - open every Saturday between October-April from 9am to 2pm, located at Remarkables Park near the airport. The produce here is incredible, great coffee and food, and features a few little local boutique shop stalls. Our favourite cheese is sold here - Whitestone Cheese - and next to it is a great little jam/chutneys/paste stall. A match made in heaven!
- Arrowtown - a beautiful historic village at the base of the Crown Mountain Ranges. There's beautiful gift shops, some brilliant cafes - Chop Shop and Aosta are exquisite - and some lovely homewares stores. The boys just enjoyed playing down at the creek, walking around the old cottages with reachable door handles, and playing in the open spaces and telephone booths.
- Wanaka - my second favourite place in Central Otago, after Queenstown. The first two times we came here, we actually stayed in Wanaka and drove into Queenstown most days. The last three times, we've stayed in Queenstown. There's not quite as much going on in Wanaka, but that may be exactly what you're after. Without kids, it was great - but being closer to shops, walking distance to most locations was very helpful, and this is not really ideal in Wanaka. But brilliant to visit! The Wanaka Lavender Farm is absolutely gorgeous, and great for kids. The bees are not at all aggressive (but we weren't really game to test them either), the honey tasting room is delightful, and the scenery is just stunning.
- TSS Earnslaw - it took a bit of convincing, but after our trip, Shane agreed this was a good idea. One of the highlights for my trip, and Louie's too - he still talks about the "really big steam boat we went on when we were on holidays". The view was incredible as you make your way around Lake Wakatipu, across to Walter Peak. My only regret is that we didn't do the full trip, where you get off at Walter Peak and see the farm demonstration and eat a banquet meal. We didn't do it because we didn't think the kids would last, but in hindsight, we should have given it a try. Next time we will definitely do it! My favourite memory from this journey was the trip back to the wharf - there is an old piano on the top deck with a series of songbooks for people to use. On our boat there was a number of seniors who joined us at Walter Peak, and they all sang along to all of the songs. Henry was in his element, the kid loves to dance - when Waltzing Matilda came on, I suddenly became quite patriotic and sang along with the oldies. Then followed "You Are My Sunshine", which I sing to the boys regularly - and of course, I got teary as I held my little boy in my arms, singing along with these lovely people. Like I said, it was a highlight of our holiday for me, for sure.
- Glenorchy - you visit here because of the drive, let's be honest. There's not a whole heap to do in Glenorchy itself, but the drive is SPECTACULAR. The jetty and boat shed is picturesque, while you're there.
- Lake Hayes - a stunning lake near Arrowtown, and if you take the road that goes past Cargo Brewery, you'll also go past the Coronet Peak ski fields. During non-ski seasons, this is another great spot for a lookout. Lake Hayes itself is just beautiful, with a great (and easy) walking track around the lake's edge. There's a few great wineries nearby too!
- Moke Lake - this spot is a little off the beaten track, but well worth the trip. A local photographer told me about this spot, and I'm glad she did because it was BEAUTIFUL. Just go there, trust me.
Places to stay... with kids
We have now stayed at a few different locations in Queenstown, and whilst this is not an exhaustive list, we can hand-over-heart say we would stay here again:
- Hotel St Mortiz - I cannot praise these guys highly enough. The staff were incredible with the kids, everything we needed was provided. The rooms had ample space for the four of us, and the concierge made it his mission each day to make Louie smile - sometimes with lollies or balloons, and other little treats. The location is very central and walking distance into the main CBD - the only 'downside' is the steep hill to get there, but that didn't really bother me (... Shane was the one pushing the pram most of the time, since I was taking the photos... haha)
- The Rees Hotel - a bit of a splurge location, but well worth it. The room we stayed in had THE MOST INCREDIBLE VIEW. And a kitchen, which meant we didn't have to eat out as often. However this hotel is definitely on the more expensive side, and it is out of town - so I would only recommend here if you planned to stay in a bit more to make the most of the view and amenities.
- This little Airbnb - great if you want somewhere central to the drivable locations, but definitely not close to the CBD - probably a good 10 minute drive without traffic (yes, there's traffic in Queenstown... a lot). Very comfortable, affordable and the host was lovely. Also, it is close to the airport, supermarket and village, and close to my favourite cafe in Queenstown (they have the BEST coffee, and the use MilkLab Almond Milk!) - Black & White Coffee Cartel Queenstown
Places to go... without kids
Parents need a break sometimes too! Here's a few places we've been in the past (or booked a babysitter for) that you should definitely check out if you can:
- Alpine Wine Tours - a boutique style wine tour that feels local, personal and intimate. Great value, highly recommended! We visited Akarua Wines, Gibbston Valley Wines (my personal favourite) and Mt Rosa Wines.
- Botswana Butchery - the food is HEAVENLY. There's no other way to say it, just go. Book a table NOW. You won't regret it.
- Amisfield Bistro & Cellar Door - William and Kate went here on their NZ leg of the 2014 Royal Tour... need I say anymore? Ok, well, its stunning and the wine is great, but apparently this chef is highly regarded in the fine dining world.