Travelling to New Zealand with kids is a wonderful opportunity for all kinds of adventures.
Before we explain the unique spots you’ll want to visit, it’s worth thinking about how you’re going to get from place to place. As you begin planning your family trip to NZ, keep in mind that renting a car, campervan or motorhome is a good idea if you are planning to see as much of the country as possible during your trip. And as they say, the journey is sometimes better than the destination!
You can always drive from hotel to hotel, but you may also want to take advantage of the vast and beautiful outdoors here and spend at least a few nights camping. Your kids will love the experience, and there are loads of options whether you want to sleep under the stars or inside a roomy motorhome (with a private shower!). Read up on the different vehicle options, camping rules and driving tips for tourists in NZ here. For starters, did you know that Kiwis drive on the left-hand side of the road?
Now grab a map and plot your itinerary to these kid-friendly attractions in New Zealand! Some are located quite close together, so take advantage of joining a couple of them in one day to get the most out of your holiday.
Known for its sprawling national parks, volcanic activity and smart cosmopolitan cities, New Zealand’s North Island offers plenty of activities for families with children of all ages:
Flying into Auckland is a common starting point for a family trip to New Zealand, and no visit to this incredible city would be complete without seeing the Auckland Zoo. Boasting 1400 animals covering a staggering 135 different species, a trip to this diverse and kid-friendly attraction is a bare necessity during your visit to Auckland.
You can see everything from cute meerkats to monkeys, penguins to Galapagos tortoises, either by guide or taking yourselves round this entertaining venue. Plenty of eateries if the kids get hungry along the way!
Hobbiton Movie Set
Less than a two-hour drive from Auckland, the Hobbiton Movie Set is a must visit for Lord of The Rings fans young and old. Guided tours take around two hours and children up to eight years of age enjoy free admission. There are 44 attractions to see, including hobbit holes and a great pub – it’s thirsty work! Around 3 hours is enough for this fun family travel activity in New Zealand.
Glow Worm Caves
Once you have had your fill of the hobbits, a drive of just 18 minutes will bring you to the magical Waitomo Glow Worm Caves. One of the most popular natural kid-friendly activities in New Zealand, visitors can take a guided tour of the caves and view thousands of stunning glow worms along the way. Take a boat ride through the grotto, with thousands and thousands of twinkling lights – but they are glow worms! Children can explore with torches and hunt out the worms! Check out the video on the NZ tourism website for a taste of what the caves are like.
Rainbows End Theme Park
A dream kingdom for kids of all ages, Auckland’s Rainbows End Theme Park, located in Manukau, serves up hours of entertainment in the form of rides, play areas, restaurants, tours and more. Family discounts are available and special packages are on offer for visitors bringing a birthday boy or girl with them. Kidz Kingdom is a must for playtime. ‘Stratosphere’ is a ride for the older kids – it turns the rider upside down as it speeds away.
Zorb Ball Rolling Park
Located in Rotorua, there is nothing quite like the experience of rolling down a hill in an inflatable ball (see-through of course). Roll down Mt Ngongotaha or choose the sidewinder track to see how your negotiation skills are. This is the only zorb attraction currently in New Zealand, owned and run by the original inventors – see how you can get a free media kit from your Zorb experience here!
A ‘haunted’ theme park attraction, the older children will love it, if they like being scared to bits. Demons, ghouls and zombies call this home! This is a live entertainment attraction with actors playing the parts and likely to jump out at you with no warning. Not for the faint-hearted, but great fun. 4 sections – Haunted House, The Fog, The Woods and Disturbia. Located in a former hospital, the atmosphere is incredible.
New Zealand’s South Island, also known as Te Waipounamu, is the larger of the two islands and is known for its magnificent mountains, glaciers and lakes. While the cosmopolitan city of Queenstown is a great jumping-off point for a visit to the South Island, there is so much more to do and see if you venture a little further afield.
A firm favourite with kids and adults alike, The Giants House, which has been featured in numerous films and television programmes, is a treasure trove of contemporary art, sculptures, mosaics and acres of terraced gardens. Playful and elegant, you will want to allow plenty of time to explore this unique building and its surroundings. Sit amongst the strange sculptures for a great photographic experience.
A fascinating journey back in time, the Tamaki Maori Village is an experience not to be missed. Guided tours are available to help visitors to discover the ancient world of the Maoris and to learn more about the traditions of these proud warriors. Children can also have their faces painted as well as taking part in a special Haka (if your kids know rugby, they will love this).
The Abel Tasman Track
The South Island offers endless opportunities for hiking (or tramping, as the Kiwis call it) and there is no better than the Abel Tasman Track. Winding along the coastline, this easy trail does not require heavy hiking boots or specialist equipment, making it perfect for families visiting New Zealand with young children. Get inspired by pictures and practical visitor’s information here.
You can add to the fun with kayaking (minimum age 8) and taking water taxis to different points along the route. No need to worry, there are 2-person kayaks so you can share with your kids. For those looking to make hiking a feature of their holiday, reasonably priced accommodation is available along the track.
Buller Gorge Swing Bridge
Take a slightly scary experience and walk this swing bridge (the longest one in the country) or go on the zip ride across the open space. You can also get up to speed on a jetboat, or why not try panning for gold as a more leisurely option for family fun.
Bill Richardson Transport World
For the best experience on wheels, the Bill Richardson Transport World in Invercargill is the perfect way to spend a rare rainy day in New Zealand’s South Island. With exhibits, a movie theatre, exclusive collections and a great restaurant, this is the ideal day out for kids with an interest in vehicles and transport.
If your children are more like water babies, take them to Alpine Aqualand, where they can swim to their hearts’ content. Try the indoor pool if the weather is inclement, plus flumes, gym and relaxation areas make it perfect for the entire family travelling in New Zealand. Alpine Aqualand is fully supervised.
Fyffe View Ranch
A family friendly ranch-style adventure park, where you can get up close and personal with some of the animals. Some are fenced off, but you can still pony ride, and pet the extremely cute deer or hand feed them. There’s a quirky little gift shop where the kids can spend their pocket money on souvenirs.
Both of NZ’s main islands offer limitless opportunities for sightseeing, hiking, water sports, museums and more. As well as the North and South islands, tourists can take a trip to Stewart Island, which is located just 30 kilometres south of South Island. Here, visitors can enjoy stunning beaches and water sports as well as taking the time to explore this quaint island which has a population of just 402 people.
Both North Island and South Island are well worth a visit during your family travel to New Zealand, and you will never run short of things to do. Due to the vast size of the country, it is a good idea to plan your itinerary in advance to make sure that you make the absolute most of every minute of your visit.