Wanaka on a Budget

15 things to do with KIds

Tumbling Towers

The Tumbling Towers at Puzzling World, Wanaka

Wanaka is teeming with things to do with kids and we've put together 15 of the best!

Whether you're on holiday with the whanau or you live here, you will find yourself in one of the most blissful locations in New Zealand ~ for heady summer fun with the kids or to enjoy the winter wonderland!  After living in the region for 30 years, we're ready to hit you with our top 15 family friendly things to do, on a budget, in Wanaka with the kids.   Even without the family ~ our super fun suggestions will pack your holiday with fun, and all are either free or inexpensive.

1) Confuse yourselves with the Illusions at Wanaka's Puzzling World!

Welcome to Wanaka's wonderful world of weirdness ~ baffling brains for over 45 years! 
Try to escape the eyes of Einstein, watch water flow uphill, see yourself shrink and marvel at impossible art. All five of the Illusion Rooms defy logic and are extreme Brain Test Dummy challenges!
Finish off with some hands-on puzzle challenges.

2) Get Lost!  In Puzzling World's Great Maze

Think you’re crash hot at following directions? Test your skills in the world’s first multi-level ‘Mega Maze’. Follow the pathways over, under and around, locate the towers then find the exit – sounds easy right?! Built in 1973 this is the maze that started a world-wide ‘Maze Craze’ and will challenge your mental abilities to the max!

Great Maze kid

3) Discover the Amazing Collectibles at Wanaka's Transport and Toy Museum

Prepare to be amazed!  The whole family will be surprised and delighted by this unique and fascinating collection of over 70,000 items – from children’s toys, including a huge range of Barbies, LEGO and an exciting Star Wars collection to unusual motorcycles and rare cars, bikes, fire appliances and aircraft.  Kids will love the interactive pedal cars, plane and anti-aircraft guns while the nearby picnic and playground area also features swings and play equipment.    

4) Visit the Wacky and Wonderful Cinema Paradiso for the latest movies

This is how all cinemas should be and a must-do during your stay in Wanaka. The Paradiso three-screen, classic movie theatre is a Wanaka icon. Seating includes comfy old sofas, lazy-boys and even a Morris Minor!  The atmosphere is friendly and very relaxed with onsite licensed café serving delicious meals, pizza, homemade ice cream and warm cookies – all available to enjoy before, during or after your movie. 

5) Grab your own (or hire) bikes and explore Wanaka on a family friendly trail

Discover some of the 100s of km of mountain bike mega riding trails - from toddler tracks to technical.  Wanaka now also has TWO dedicated Mountain BIke Parks with lift or shuttle access.  We've got the best 10 bike rides to do with kids in Wanaka here >>

6) Hang with the locals at Wanaka's Dinosaur Park

Have you ever ridden down a Dinosaur?  This playground is in the heart of the CBD down on the waterfront and can be accessed either off Ardmore Street or a pathway off Lakeside Road.  It's a social hub with beach and lakeside swimming right next to it.

dinosaur park wanaka 2

7) Wanaka Pool

Visit Wanaka pool for family fun, swim lessons, relaxation or to keep fit.  The complex features 8 lane, 25m lap pool, adult hot pool and learners' pool with separate toddlers' area.  Family changing rooms available.

8) Clip n Climb

Basecamp Adventures Wanaka is home to the fabulous and totally kid-friendly Clip n Climb.  Clip ‘n Climb is an action packed activity with individually themed climbing challenges that provide exciting active entertainment for everyone – just clip in and climb, then let the machine lower you gently back down!  No minimum number is required and if you’re not climbing yourself you can come and watch the kids have fun!

9) School Holiday Free Activities at Wanaka Library

That's right, FREE and fun kids' activities during the school holidays!  Find out what's on at Wanaka Library or Hawea Library
Right in the heart of town, the Wānaka Library knows what their beloved community wants - and they provide!  Young people can make themselves at home in the large children’s area while comfortable couches cater for new mamas and their needs. The Wānaka Library is valued by both locals and visitors alike!

10) Beachfront Hire and Playing in the Lake

Lake Wanaka's town centre beach has the warmest and shallowest water, lots of shady trees, picnic spots and toilets.  In summer they also have Beach Front hire where you can pick up a kayak or SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) and take the kids out on the lake without getting out of your depth.  All accessories including life jackets come with hire.

Family picnic wanaka

11)  Family Friendly walking tracks

There are SO MANY walking tracks around Wanaka ~ it's on the edge of the remote Mt Aspiring National Park after all!
Check out our BEST walking tracks to do with kids here >>

12)  Child-friendly rock climbing

Wanaka is known for it's great rock and is literally a rock-climbing mecca.  While lots of climb locations have grades that are better with kids, the single TOP SPOT for climbing families is Riverside Recreation Reserve.  It's only 10 minutes drive out of town and you can walk from carpark to crag in 2 minutes.  The beginners' slab is short with grades around 12-15 (perfect for beginners, kids and those wanting to try lead-climbing).  There's a picnic bench and easy, flat hang out and belay areas.  And BEST OF ALL - is the Motatapu Gorge secret swimming hole!!  Okay we've told you now ... but really, you have to go!  What's not to love about this 'Best Climbing Day Ever'?

13) Motatapu Gorge Swimming Hole

If you're not into climbing and skipped #12 – go find the Motatapu Gorge Swimming Hole on a hot day!  It's at a popular climbing spot just out of town and you can part clamber and walk over rocks and part swim, through a super cool gorge which opens out into a bigger swim hole.  Keep walking/swimming a bit further - then let the gentle current float you back to the beach!  FUN!

14) Look out for regular Wanaka family events

Wanaka has stuff going on all year round so check out for events such as festivals, races, shows, fairs and markets for when you're in town.
Regulars and favourites include Rhythm and Alps, Warbirds on Wanaka, Motatapu Bike Race, New Year Celebrations, Film Festival, Gypsy Fair, Festival of Colour, Winter Festival and more.
Check out what's on with Wanaka events >>

15) Weekly Markets

Handmade New Zealand arts and crafts market. The craft market is held in the town centre, right beside Lake Wanaka.
It's on every Sunday through summer.

Discover even more actvities with kids and things to do in Wanaka >>

 

Map of New Zealand
  • Central Otago
  • Bay of Plenty
  • Coromandel
  • Dunedin
  • Gisborne
  • Fiordland
  • Hawkes Bay
  • Marlborough Sounds
  • Manawatu
  • Nelson & Golden Bay
  • Northland
  • North Canterbury
  • Rotorua
  • Queenstown
  • Taranaki
  • South Canterbury
  • Taupo
  • Southland
  • Waikato
  • Wanaka
  • West Coast
  • Whangarei
  • Bay of Islands
  • Tauranga
  • Gisborne
  • Hamilton
  • Napier
  • Kapiti
  • Palmerston North
  • Whanganui
  • New Plymouth
  • Arrowtown
  • Te Anau
  • Akaroa
  • Ashburton
  • Hanmer
  • Kaikoura
  • Methven
  • Mt Cook
  • Oamaru
  • Tekapo
  • Timaru
  • Abel Tasman
  • Motueka
  • Nelson Lakes
  • Blenheim
  • Picton
  • Catlins
  • Gore
  • Stewart Island
  • Central Plateau
  • Invercargill
  • Cromwell
  • Greymouth
  • Hokitika
  • Westport
  • Glenorchy

Our favourite destinations…

Auckland destination2

Auckland

New Zealand’s economic heart and biggest city is also an exciting family visitor destination, situated on a sunny harbour with city beaches just minutes away from the CBD. Orientate yourself by heading down to Viaduct Harbour, wandering the waterfront, checking out the super yachts or enjoying the waterfront restaurants. Nearby is the must-visit Sky Tower along with excellent and kid-friendly museums and tons of exciting activities!

Wellington

Wellington is New Zealand’s capital. Here you will find New Zealand's parliament buildings, including the 'Executive Wing', more well-known as 'The Beehive' due to its distinctive shape. Another icon to look out for is the Wellington Tram, which was the main means of public transport between 1878 and 1964.

Christchurch

With a population of around 400,000 Christchurch, in Canterbury, is the South Island ’s largest city, yet much of it has the feel of a small town. Perhaps that’s why it’s known as the Garden City but with the expansive Hagley Park, Botanic Gardens, Port Hills, River Avon and numerous beaches the city certainly has an open, relaxed feel that’s hard to beat.

Queenstown

With its well-deserved reputation as New Zealand’s activity adventure capital you’ll never run out of activities and things to do in Queenstown, but you may run out of time! With breathtaking scenery, activities and festivals, cafes and restaurants, skiing and snowboarding, shopping and wineries, this lakeside alpine resort rates as one of the world’s top vacation destinations for all ages and seasons.

Rotorua

Rotorua sits on the shore of Lake Rotorua, one of sixteen lakes in the area formed by hundreds of thousands of years of eruptions from the Taupo Volcanic Zone. The area is renowned for its geothermal activity and top of any activity list is to see the bubbling mud pools that are around the region for yourself. The Waimangu Volcanic Valley offers a first hand insight into the devastation caused by the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera and is a great place to discover steaming volcanic craters and bubbling, spitting  pools of mud!

Nelson and Golden Bay

The Nelson and Golden Bay regions, at the top of the South Island, boast enviable sunshine hours, glorious sandy beaches, safe swimming spots, lots of wildlife to look out for, and Abel Tasman National Park - an absolute must to explore, on foot, by kayak, your own craft or watertaxi.  Nelson is home to a vibrant arts and crafts community with a fabulous Saturday market, and is close to award-winning wineries and family-friendly bike tracks to take you around the coast.

Hawkes Bay

Napier was rebuilt after the 1931 earthquake and is now known as NZ's Art Deco City.  The Art Deco influence has created a unique city – nowhere else can you see such a varied concentration of art deco style. With over 2,200 sunshine hours a year, Napier is a year-round holiday destination with countless activities to entertain the kids – there's days of entertainment on Marine Parade alone, plus numerous other family-friendly trips and activities.  Add to that the beaches, walks and flat cycle paths, outdoor cafes and entertainment, and you have a perfect holiday destination!

Northland

Beautiful, unspoiled beaches, fishing, historic gum fields, kauri forests – the Far North has it all. With subtropical temperatures, it's often known as ‘the Winterless north', with warm, humid summers and mild winters.
Gateway to the Bay of Islands, Paihia is a pretty, lively beachside town and a perfect base for your family holiday. It’s your start point for Bay of Island adventures including day cruises, sailing, kayaking, swimming with dolphins and reef or wreck diving.