New Zealand South Island itinerary with kids – 5 amazing stops from a local
As some of you know, we are extremely curious when it comes to new potential destinations and love hosting guest posts from other travelers to provide inspiration and first-hand information about places we haven’t seen ourselves yet. In this article, Nancy – teacher, mother, and part-time traveler at Around the Globe at the Weekend has put together a New Zealand South Island itinerary with kids.
A family with a world travel vibe split between New Zealand and the UK, Nancy and her adventure-loving toddlers can also be found on their Instagram account. As travelers who return to New Zealand with every possible opportunity, we are very happy for them to be our guides today.
Please note that this New Zealand South Island itinerary post contains a few friendly affiliate links. Shall you make a purchase through one of them, we can a small commission at no extra cost for you! Thank you!
New Zealand South Island itinerary with kids – practical information
The South Island of New Zealand is famed for beautiful views, incredible wines, and extreme sports – none of which sounds particularly toddler-friendly but we have found it the perfect place to visit, with friendly easy going locals and lots of modern conveniences at your fingertips!
New Zealand may be at the end of the world but it is as well equipped and easy to navigate as any Western country so don’t worry – nappies and toddler-friendly snacks are easy to lay your hands on in big clean supermarkets like Countdown and Pack n Save. Freedom camping in New Zealand can additionally help you save money and you should definitely consider it while planning your trip.
Our top tips for your New Zealand South Island itinerary with kids
- Take travel sickness pills – the roads are windy!
- Take lots of layers – the weather can be very changeable!
- Make sure you use suncream in the summer – burn times can be very short!
- Look for playgrounds on Google Maps or signposts for them – many of them are outstanding!
- Plan for a BBQ park visit! They have these little BBQs in the parks that you can put money in and they heat up – they are awesome!
- Corner shops are called ‘Dairies’ and have most things you will need – keep an eye out for them!
- Eat a chocolate fish (and make sure you pronounce it ‘fush’ like a proper native)!
New Zealand South Island itinerary with kids – where to stay
Our child-friendly New Zealand South Island itinerary is based around Christchurch, the largest city in the South Island and Queenstown, the most famous tourist town further South, which are both great places to base yourself and access the other locations during day trips.
We highly recommend a stay at Quest Serviced Apartments in Christchurch as part of your New Zealand South Island itinerary, only 3 minutes from Cathedral Square and a great value for money.
For those in search of a luxury stay, Sudima Boutique Hotel will pamper you and your loved ones in close proximity to Hagley Park, the city’s largest public park.
The other main stopping point in this New Zealand South island itinerary is Queenstown, on Lake Wakatipu, where we recommend getting an accommodation overlooking this amazing water expanse. The Rees Hotel and Luxury Apartments and Copthorne Hotel and Resort are both excellent accommodation options here.
New Zealand South Island itinerary with kids – where to go?
New Zealand South Island itinerary with kids – Hanmer Springs
I think Hanmer would be the absolute first choice for a toddler or child-friendly day trip. The Springs themselves are warm and inviting all year round and there are lots of swimming options from rock pools to lazy rivers to explore with children.
Our top tip: If you go to New Zealand in winter, make sure to think about how you are going to get everyone changed. The springs are hot but you can get very cold quite quickly when you get out! You can warm up by taking a child-friendly hike up the nearby Conical Hill. It’s an easy walk, with beautiful Alpine views, and it makes for a fun end to your day.
Our base accommodation tip: Braemar Lodge and Spa is a great facility if you want to spend more time in the area.
New Zealand South Island itinerary with kids – Sumner Beach
Sumner Beach is only 20 minutes from Christchurch and is a super pretty drive with a picture-perfect beach at the end of it. The beach reminds me of all that is good about British beaches and you can explore Cave Rock which is a tidal cave (so take care to watch the water). There are lots of rock pools and secret corners and even a beach at the back which kids love to explore.
After your adventure, you might want to stop for ice cream at one of the sweet little parlors which line the road overlooking the beach. My favorite is Sumner Ice Cream Parlour and Takeaway and my husband (who grew up in Christchurch) recommends a Bubble O’Bill ice cream – though it has a bubble gum nose and thus would only be suitable for slightly older adventurers.
New Zealand South Island itinerary with kids – Akaroa
Just outside of Akaroa is a famous cheese manufacturer called Barrys Bay Cheese which offers free tastings and has a farm shop. Both my toddler and six years old absolutely wiped out the samples but I was more than happy to buy a large chunk of cheese to make up for it! One of our favorite things to do in Akaroa itself any time of the year is to sit by the beautiful harbor, marveling at the views and eating hot and crisp Fish and Chips.
Akaroa is a little French town and so there are lots of lovely and unique shops and restaurants, though if your toddler is like mine, you will be avoiding them until you are slightly older! What definitely shouldn’t be avoided is the stunning children’s playground by the war memorial, the views of the harbor and the mountains are breathtaking and though they are almost certainly wasted on a toddler, it makes pushing a swing very joyful.
There are lots of things to do in Akaroa from Boat Cruises to Forest Walks and even a Lighthouse and it can easily make for a perfect long weekend or overnight stay as well as a really fun day trip.
New Zealand South Island itinerary with kids – Queenstown
Although Queenstown is the adventure capital of the world, it’s also a lovely place to visit with kids. You can take a boat on Lake Wakatipu or even stay on the shore and go into a glass room to look at and even feed the fish, which my kids really enjoyed. I can’t recommend enough a family trip to the Ferg Burger, and even though you might have to sit on the pavement, it’s worth the discomfort for the amazing food.
Our tip: If you are feeling adventurous, or are staying in Queenstown for a few days then a trip on the gondola called the Skyline is definitely in order, with the most beautiful views of the lake; don’t go if you have an issue with heights! There is another beautiful playground here with stunning lake and mountain views and a swing rope over a little stream.
New Zealand South Island itinerary with kids – Lake Wanaka
Lake Wanaka is the most beautiful lake you will encounter during your New Zealand South Island itinerary. You are spoilt with yet another amazing playground which has its own dinosaur slide and was my little boy’s favorite of all!
In addition you can hire a boat on the lake to take in the views or you can enjoy coffee and cake in one of the little cafes by the side of the lake.
Our tip: This would be a great place to have a child’s first skiing or snowboarding lesson in the winter – you can hire all of the equipment you will need on the day.
If you are planning your own New Zealand South Island itinerary, we would love to hear more from you, please contact us to share your experience and win the chance to be featured on our website and social media accounts!