How to Plan a Family Trip to Wanaka
The breathtaking mountain and lake scenery of Wanaka inspires travellers of all ages, but there’s plenty to do in the lakeside town that will amp up a family holiday. Embrace the breathtaking alpine landscape on jet boat tours or atop the surrounding ski fields, meet the locals on an interactive farm tour, and enjoy some quality family time exploring the illusions of Puzzling World or challenging each other at Crossfire. We’ll go through some of our top family experience picks, as well as list some amazing family-friendly places to stay, in this travel guide to Wanaka for families.
Oh, and while you’re here, you might also want to bookmark the 20 Best Things to Do in Wanaka.
Family Activities in Wanaka
- Boggle your minds at Puzzling World
- Sail the skies above Lake Wanaka in a parasailing experience
- Delve into the Mt Aspiring National Park with Wanaka River Journeys
- Oggle at more than 60,000 toys at the National Transport & Toy Museum
- Be welcomed to Lake Wanaka with a traditional Maori ceremony with WanaHaka
- Be transported into another reality at Realm VR Wanaka
- Let the kids loose at the Wanaka Dinosaur Park
- Meet the animals at a working deer farm, Criffel Station
- Learn to ski or simply enjoy the snow at one of Wanaka’s ski fields, Cardrona or Treble Cone
- Challenge each other at archery, mini-golf, claybird shooting and more at Crossfire.
Find out more about each activity and more in our 20 Things to Do in Wanaka with Kids!
Outdoor Family Activities
Wanaka is definitely a destination where you’ll want to spend more time outdoors. Here are just some ways to enjoy the magnificent scenery while doing something fun with the kids.
Parasailing on Lake Wanaka
An exciting activity for all ages, join Wanaka Parasailing for their breathtaking flights across the lake. Take a tandem flight with your little one (suitable for ages 4+) and be amazed by the scenery and the feeling of flying together. Parasailing is a soft adventure activity, which most don’t find too scary (unless you’re afraid of heights). See how the experience compares with others around the country in the 5 Incredible Places to Do Parasailing in New Zealand.
Jet Boat Tour
Experience the iconic New Zealand invention, the jet boat, for the reason it was invented: to follow the South Island’s shallow rivers into the wilderness. Join Wanaka River Journeys for their half-day jet boat tour to do just that! The family-friendly tour has you zipping along the Matukituki River into the awe-inspiring Mt Aspiring National Park. Admire views of Lake Wanaka, Mt Aspiring and enjoy a 50-minute guided walk to the Avalanche Glacier. Find out more about Wanaka River Journeys, read reviews and book your tour on Viator and Tripadvisor. Plus, see how the jet boat tour compares in the 18 Best Places to Jet Boat in New Zealand.
Visit the animals at Criffel Station on one of their Criffel Discovery Tours. This family-run deer farm enjoys stunning views over the Wanaka Basin, providing more photo opportunities along with taking photos with the animals. Hop on the Explore Tour to meet the alpacas, feed the sheep and view the majestic deer. More information is available on Viator and Tripadvisor. Alternatively, a 4WD tour is available to take you higher onto the deer station where you’ll enjoy a gourmet lunch at the peak. Check out this tour on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Family Skiing in Wanaka
If you’re visiting Wanaka in winter, don’t miss the opportunity to hit the slopes! Seasoned skiers need only get a lift pass and rental hire for Cardrona or the Treble Cone ski fields, while first-timers can pick up a “First-Timer Package” at Cardrona Alpine Resort. The package for adults and kids include two beginner lessons, a lift pass, rental gear and fittings and the option to upgrade for additional ski clothing. Find out more on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Alternatively, Gondola Sightseeing Passes are available if you want to swap skiing for just playing in the snow, making use of the cafes, or hiring a snow tube for the little ones. The sightseeing pass is also available in summer. Check out sightseeing passes on Viator and Tripadvisor. Plus, learn more about skiing in New Zealand in The 24 Ski Fields in New Zealand.
And that’s just a taste of the outdoor adventures in Wanaka. Discover more in the 20 Things to Do in Wanaka with Kids.
Indoor Family Activities in Wanaka
And for those wet-weather days, here are a few trusty indoor attractions suitable for kids.
One of the most popular indoor attractions in Wanaka, Puzzling World is a complex of bizarre buildings, gravity-defying rooms, illusions around every corner, and the home of The Great Maze. All in all, it’s a must-do for families that’s been attracting the curious since 1973. Most of the attractions are inside, taking you about 30-45-mins to explore, while The Great Maze is outside, taking 10 minutes to two hours. Trust us, it’s a real challenge! Check out Klook, Viator and Tripadvisor for more about Puzzling World.
Realm VR Wanaka
Jump into a new universe at Realm VR. This VR indoor attraction is New Zealand’s largest fully immersive VR centre using cutting edge technology to make you feel like you’re in another world. There are experiences for ages 7 and up, such as defending your castle from Orcs, creating 3D art, saving the world from zombies and much more. More information is available on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Enjoy some quality time with the family while competing at archery, a golf driving range, rifle range, claybird shooting and mini-golf at Crossfire. The great thing about many of the activities at Crossfire is that they are undercover when the weather isn’t playing ball. So head toward the Wanaka Airport and enjoy a fun and affordable day. With prices starting at NZ$5, it can easily be one of the cheap things to do in Wanaka. Find out more about Crossfire on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Again, more rainy day experiences are listing in the 20 Things to Do in Wanaka with Kids.
Cultural/Educational Activities for Kids
Travelling should always have an element of learning to it. Here are some fun ways to educate your kids during your stay in Wanaka.
National Transport & Toy Museum
Explore one of the largest collections of vehicles, aircraft and toys at the National Transport & Toy Museum. There’s something for all ages here with more than 60,000 toys for the kids to oggle at and adult-sized pedal cars the “big kids” to play on. Have a go on the military guns, pretend your driving a car from yesteryears, and enjoy a picnic outside beside the children’s playground.
Get a taste of the Maori culture with WanaHaka. The Maori tour company welcomes you and your family into Wanaka the traditional way with a “powhiri”. Experience the full powhiri, including a challenge to your tribe’s leader (so elect the best leader of your family!), a welcoming speech in the Maori language, and receive a Maori bone carving to remember the experience. Find out more about WanaHaka on Viator and Tripadvisor.
For more inspiration on things to do in Wanaka, check out the 20 Best Things to Do in Wanaka.
More About Wanaka
That’s it for our guide to Wanaka for families. For more Wanaka advice that doesn’t necessarily fall under the “family” category but are still just as useful, check out the following:
- The Luxury Travel Guide to Wanaka
- The Foodie Guide to Wanaka
- Wanaka – Guide for Backpackers
- The Complete Travel Guide to Wanaka
Discover even more family trip tips in The Travel Guide to New Zealand for Families. Finally, plan the rest of your travels around the South Island using the South Island Family Itinerary: Two Weeks or South Island Family Itinerary: One Week.