Just 10 hours away by plane, New Zealand is a great destination for family-friendly holidays, and no matter where you travel, there is always plenty of things for you and the kids to do.
The wide selection of activities for kids range from animal and wildlife experiences to nature-based activities and thrill-seeking adventures.
Get inspired with this list of regions and their top family-friend experiences that will definitely leave you spoilt for choice, regardless of age.
A must-do is Hobbiton, which you’ll instantly recognise from the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit trilogies. As you amble through the heart of the Shire, you’ll hear the fascinating commentary about how it all came to life. Take a guided tour into the heart of the Waitomo Caves and be amazed by the limestone formations and huge cavern before exiting via boat-ride under thousands of twinkling glowworms.
Then make your way down to Rotorua. Be introduced to Maori culture at Te Puia and watch the Pohutu Geyser erupt up to 20 times a day to heights of 30 metres. Further along the lakeside you’ll find Hell’s Gate, with the largest hot waterfall and only geothermal mud baths in New Zealand. For a change of pace, head around to the Agrodome to rub noses with some cuddly farm creatures and pair that with a lively round of Zorbing – rolling down a hill in a giant transparent ball.
Interested in wildlife? You can’t go past Zealandia, which houses some of New Zealand’s rarest wildlife including kiwi and tuatara. There’s also Wellington Zoo – New Zealand’s oldest zoological park – and Kapiti Island Nature Reserve on an island off the coast. Be sure to fit in a trip up the historic cable car from downtown to the Botanic Garden, too – the views are the top are magnificent, but the ride is half the fun.
Become an outdoor explorer and get to know local wildlife when you board a scenic cruise in the Marlborough Sounds. Spot dolphins and seals from the boat or step ashore to search for endangered birds, lizards, and insects. For something a little different don’t miss the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre for a showcase of rare WWI and WWII aircraft and memorabilia.
Whale watching is the name of the game all year round in Kaikoura! Kaikoura is a base for wildlife experiences of all kinds – that includes fur seals, dolphins and many seabirds. Tours leave multiple times a day and there are lots of cafés, restaurants, and shops to explore. If you have time, the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway is a three-hour return hike that visits a seal colony, limestone formations and a seabird colony.
Explore genteel Christchurch at your own pace – take a relaxing boat journey down the Avon River in a punt or stroll through the perfectly manicured Botanic Gardens. At the International Antarctic Centre you can experience polar life for yourself – find out what it’s like to be in the midst of an Antarctic storm.
Be dazzled by the night skies in the Dark Sky Reserve, which covers most of the Aoraki/Mount Cook Mackenzie region – there’s no better place for stargazing. During the day, Lake Tekapo is a photographer’s dream, with clear turquoise waters and lupins that bloom in a rich display of colour every November/December.
The West Coast is glacier country, with Fox Glacier and Franz Josef being the most easily accessible to visitors. Heli-hiking is a great way to get up onto the glaciers with plenty of energy to spare for walking across the ice.
For epic views across Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu, climb aboard the Skyline Gondola. On the lake, take a cruise on the classic steamship TSS Earnslaw – this can be combined with farm tours, horse treks or simply a tasty lunch or dinner option. From Queenstown you can take a day trip to Milford Sound by road or air, or explore Lord of the Rings filming locations by 4WD or on horseback.
Escape the bustle of Queenstown and get away to Wanaka, another lakefront destination with a laidback vibe. Relax waterside among the cafes and restaurants, with perhaps a jaunt over to Puzzling World – a truly unique place with the world’s first 3D ‘Great Maze’, illusion rooms and other eccentric activities and architecture.
Dunedin and Southland
Southland’s rugged terrain is home to penguins, seals, albatross and many more species; it’s a great place for a wildlife tour. At the tip of the Otago Peninsula, in Dunedin, is the Royal Albatross Centre, the only mainland in the world with a breeding colony of northern royal albatross. Colonies of little blue penguins – the smallest species of penguin of all – are also found in this region.
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