Queenstown is the idyllic South Island winter holiday destination, with so much to do outdoors - walks, jet boating, skiing, and four-wheel driving. If you've been to Queenstown before, you know exactly why it is so worth going back for another holiday: the natural beauty is astounding. Each time we go to Queenstown we always end up looking at real estate and dreaming of moving down there and completely changing the lifestyle we live. Practicalities and finances always end up preventing the big life change, but we can still dream!
We hadn't been down to Queenstown with three mobile children, so going to the winter wonderland with young children meant thinking of what to do and where to take them was a little different than when we were there on our own (or with babies strapped to our fronts and backs). After pulling together all our research, we soon had a rough plan of what we could do each day (children's sleep and weather permitting). I had thought that it may be a little bit challenging finding things to do with the kids and some of the more popular options you think of when visiting Queenstown were not necessarily child-friendly. Our one, three and five years olds would certainly not appreciate the Shotover Jet boat or AJ Hackett Bungy jump just yet! We still managed to find plenty to do, a week's worth of great family activities in Queenstown, plus some time out for us as well. Given how much we ended up craming in I’ve separated with blog into one day at a time! So here’s day 1:
We spent our first day at the Kiwi Birdlife Park, which is next door to the Skyline Gondola. I’ve walked past here many times before but never actually visited, and with three young children who all love animals and birds, this was a must on our holiday. It didn’t disappoint! We got there in time for the first of four daily Kiwi feeding times. We took the advice and arrived into the kiwi houses early to allow our eyes to get used to the dark. The kids were in awe – four kiwi’s in total running backwards and forwards and falling over their own feet knowing that they were about to be fed. The Park ranger who was feeding the kiwis was very patient with my five year old who asked some pretty random questions!
Once the Kiwi’s were fed, we started to explore the 5 acres of native bush that is dedicated to the conservation work that they do here. The walk was on well-maintained paths (perfect for a buggy – or a toddler who refuses to sit in said buggy)! The kids loved deciding (aka arguing) which path to take using the map provided, and my three year old boy was enamored by the audio guide which told you further information about the animals you were looking at in different sites (probably because he thought it was a walkie-talkie). The highlight for all of us was the conservation show, which they have twice a day during winter months. It is both entertaining and informative, showcasing different species of birds and a tuatara.
My three year old is a sensitive wee soul, and pretty much scared of most things that move so I was a bit worried how he’d cope with the Wood-Pigeon, Parakeet and Molly the Owl flying low over his head. I needn’t have worried, he thought it was hilarious! The one year old was very taken with the Tuatara (NZ’s living dinosaur or a native lizard dating back to over 200 million years ago) who was being brought around for everyone to have a look, and was very disappointed that she wasn’t allowed to eat it.
Some naughty predators were also there at the show, a few rats and a possum, much to the delight of the kids who were shouting ‘it’s behind you’ to the presenter! Two things I loved most about the Kiwi Birdlife Park – you can reenter the park on the same ticket if you don’t have time to see everything in one go (this is what we did), and the park’s passion for conservation. It is home to over 20 native species of wildlife that are all here on ‘breed for release’ programs or in rehab due to injury.
Unfortunately this park is up against some pretty stiff, exciting, competition for the tourism trade so if you want to leave Queenstown with a sense of “I want to make the world a better place” like we did then I really encourage everyone to visit, you will not be disappointed and a percentage of each ticket, gift shop and honey bee centre sale goes towards conservation. Disappointingly, with so much to see, we didn’t get time to visit their Honey Bee Centre where you can discover a world of fun bee facts, see the indoor and outdoor viewing hive and do some honey tasting. Oh well, it gives us an excuse to go back! In summary, the Kiwi Birdlife Park was a great way to learn more about New Zealand conservation, and a good way to spend a few hours (or more) in town.
After all our walking around, we needed a drink. We decided to go to Minus 5 Ice Bar for a drink with a difference. On arrival we were fitted out in cozy, warm jackets and gloves. They didn’t have any small enough for our toddler but she happily made do with one a few sizes too big, and looked very cute in it! We were then led into the icy wonderland where everything from the walls and furniture to the bar are hand-crafted from over 18 tonnes of crystal clear ice. The ice sculptures were intricately carved they almost didn’t seem real. The kids sat on the ice (specifically a train), touched the ice, kissed the ice and even enjoyed a non-alcoholic mocktail served in a ‘glass’ made entirely of ice (us grown ups had a very yummy ‘proper’ cocktail).
While it was a very unique experience for the kids (and one my five year old couldn’t wait to tell her school friends about), it would probably be more enjoyable with older kids. Our little ones got very cold quite quickly, and the music in the bar was very loud so if you have a sensitive kid like we do, they might not enjoy it so much. If it weren’t for the kids I’m sure my husband and I would have stayed for another drink (or three)!
Coming up in the rest of our 'Queenstown with a young family' blog - Patagonia Chocolates, Coronet Peak, our experience of the Urgent Doctors, Dentist and Emergency Department (the joys of a clumsy three year old boy!), the Million Dollar Cruise, Winnies Restaurant,the Underwater Observatory, Cardrona Ski Field and the wonderful Cardrona Hotel...