Seeing the vintage TSS Earnslaw steamboat come in and out of the bay with its black smoke curling up into the sky, will be one of my strongest visual memories of Queenstown. We watched it from all over Queenstown – Queenstown Gardens, the lakeside, Bob’s Peak and I’ve got huge amounts of photographs of it from all those different locations.
A lake cruise on the TSS Earnslaw was one of the activities that was on my to-do list before we arrived in Queenstown, having been recommended by a friend. We didn’t manage to fit it in until our last full day there, but it was a wonderful thing to round off our trip. As well as the fantastic views of the mountains and lake on the 90 minute cruise, we also loved exploring this historic 100-year-old steamboat.
Built in 1912 (same year as the Titanic), every inch of the steamboat is interesting, and really was a photographer’s dream. I loved just wandering round and looking at all the fittings on the boat, heading out onto the decks and bridge, and watching the pianist play in the bar. You could even go into the engine room to see the giant engines at work – the twins were slightly nervous of the noise and heat at first, but then they were fascinated.
There’s a bar and cafe serving drinks and snacks onboard, as well as amazing sheep’s milk ice-cream from the farm at Walter Peak. The steamer travels across the lake to Walter Peak High Country Farm, where you can disembark for a farm tour. We chose to stay onboard, and go straight back to Queenstown Bay, and the length of this trip was perfect for the twins. They were just losing interest by the time we were back in Queenstown.
One of the twins’ favourite moments of the trip happened after we’d docked back at Queenstown Bay. They watched a big truck load the coal onto the steamboat, ready for the next trip and absolutely loved it – it was a pretty impressive sight.
The steamboat cruise isn’t cheap at NZ$55 per adult (about £28), but under 5s are free, so I thought that wasn’t bad value for all three of us. Doing the farm tour adds another two hours onto the trip, and costs NZ$75 (about £39). I’ve heard great things about it though, so if you have the time I reckon this would be a great option.
For plenty of other activities for children around Queenstown, click here.