With stunning scenery ranging from glaciers to rolling green pastures, soaring mountains and mirror-image lakes, New Zealand is tailor-made for adventure.
Here are our picks for the best family-friendly activities in the home of the Hobbits.
Here are our picks for the best family-friendly activities in the home of the Hobbits.
One of the world’s great driving destinations, New Zealand is positively heaving with scenic drives. Compact enough to make getting around easy, but packed with cool urban centres, food and farm gate experiences that will tantalise even the tiniest taste buds, and more natural delights than you can poke a GPS at.
From north to south there’s a road trip itinerary for every family in New Zealand.
New Zealand’s iconic Kiwi may be its most famous bird, but these flightless little guys aren’t the only feathered cuties endemic to New Zealand. A twitcher’s paradise, you can spot amazing birdlife across both islands, including the boisterous tui (a type of honeyeater), the flittering piwakawaka (fantail) and the lumbering kereru (native wood pigeon) as well as more than 80 types of endemic seabird including the northern royal albatross with its three-metre wingspan. For a little waddle with your warble, three species of penguin call mainland New Zealand home: the yellow-eyed penguin, the Fiordland crested penguin and the little penguin, the world’s smallest
The Land of the Long White Cloud is also the Land of the Long White Runs. A wonderland of white, New Zealand boasts some of the best skiing in the Southern Hemisphere. Whakapapa and Tūroa are perched on the sides of the North Island’s Mt Ruapehu, an active volcano south of Rotorua.
See some of the South Island’s most dramatic scenery, including towering waterfalls and seal colonies, with a day trip to Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park. Lots of tourism agencies offer this experience, usually as a combined bus and boat trip, with most leaving from and returning to Queenstown.
With more than 15,000 kilometres of epic coastline, it will come as no surprise that there’s as much to explore below the water as there is above it in New Zealand. Enjoy scuba diving and snorkelling along sub-tropical reefs and through shipwrecks. Swim alongside playful Hector’s dolphins in Akaroa, take a dip with dusky dolphins and New Zealand fur seals in Kaikōura, and spot migrating humpback whales, pilot whales, blue whales and southern right whales along the coast.
With its exceptional scenery and diverse terrains, New Zealand is a dream come true for cyclists. Whether your crew is into mountain biking or recreational cruising around town on two wheels, you’ll find excellent accessible riding trails and tracks around the country with a jaw-dropping view around every bend.
In Auckland, it’s as simple as renting a dockless electric JUMP bike through the Uber app. If you want to head further afield, the New Zealand Cycle Trail spreads from north to south with dozens of incredible rides from easy to intermediate and varying from a few hours to a few days.
New Zealand is a dream destination for sailors because of its stunning coastline, island-speckled harbours and tranquil sounds.
The Bay of Islands, on the east coast of the Far North District of the North Island of New Zealand, is sailing central. Its stunningly blue waters, 144 islands and sheltered harbours provide a watery wonderland where families can charter a vessel.
Visit pretty Paihia or the 19th-century whaling port of Russell for dolphin spotting, kayaking and to sail through the famous Hole in the Rock. While you’re in the area, be sure to make the pilgrimage to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, one of New Zealand’s most significant historic sites, to learn how New Zealand became a nation.
New Zealand’s volcanic activity has resulted in a number of black sand beaches on the west coast of the North Island.
In the Waikato region, you’ll find Raglan, a scenic stretch of black sand coastline renowned worldwide for its incredible surf, where wannabe groms can enjoy a surf lesson.
Mount Taranaki, is just outside of New Plymouth, halfway between Auckland and Wellington on New Zealand’s North Island. The Taranaki region starred in The Last Samurai due to its namesake mountain’s resemblance to Mt Fuji. There are lots of hikes to do around Mount Taranaki and New Plymouth is crammed with a vibrant arts and culture scene, dozens of surf breaks and a stunning Coastal Walkway.
New Zealand is the Southern Hemisphere’s adrenaline capital and older kids can join their parents in a variety of incredible action-packed activities. Look out for activities like bungee jumping, jet boating, white water rafting, caving and zip lining. In every region, you’ll find the white-knuckle adventures the country is famous for.
The glowworm, Arachnocampa luminosa, is unique to New Zealand. Glowworms can be found throughout New Zealand’s caves, grottos and native forests but their glowing blue-green lights can best be seen in the extraordinary Waitomo Glowworm Caves.
See thousands of magical glowworms and over 120 years of cultural and natural history on a tour. Visitors can explore the caves on a guided walk, cruise or on a heart-stopping black water rafting adventure.
Experience the explosive power of Mother Nature in otherworldly Rotorua. Soak in natural hot springs and witness the Pohutu Geyser erupting. It is the largest active geyser in the Southern Hemisphere. There’s also a bounty of bubbling geothermal mud pools.
The top places to visit are Waimangu Volcanic Valley, Hell’s Gate Geothermal Park and Wai O Tapu for its Insta-famous Champagne Pool, one of the most photographed hotspots in New Zealand.
New Zealand is awash with locations that starred in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. But to really bring the movies to life, let your little Hobbits follow in the footsteps of Frodo in the Waikato town of Matamata, which portrayed The Shire and is still home to the fictional village of Hobbiton.
The Hobbiton Movie Set has been rebuilt and is now a permanent ticketed attraction where fans can explore the iconic rolling hills and lush green pastures on a guided two-hour tour. Oh, and be sure to leave time to visit the Green Dragon Inn for an ale.
A melting pot of Māori phrases and slang combined with a few British soundbites, Kiwi speak might take a moment to get used to, but if you take your time to familiarise yourself with the local lingo, you’ll be “sweet as, bro” (cool as, mate).
In New Zealand, a thong is a stringy item of lady’s underwear while a “jandal” is the name of everyone’s favourite rubber footwear. A “dairy” is a corner store, a “bach” (pronounced batch) is a small house, an esky is a “chilly bin” and a “Tiki tour” is taking the scenic route to get somewhere. If you should hear mention of the “West Island” well, that’s a tongue-in-cheek nod to Australia
Located on the eastern shores of New Zealand’s South Island, Kaikoura is famous for its spectacular marine wildlife including dolphins, seals and sperm whales. The best way to see this spectacular array of creatures is by boat, so take to the waves with one of the many agencies offering the experience for a front row seat to nature’s greatest show.
The Marlborough Flyer is a heritage steam train from a majestic bygone era. Experience a heritage steam journey between Picton and Blenheim, travelling on a historic World War I Memorial Locomotive. Your journey through Marlborough takes you to Blenheim, where you can explore and mums and dads will be spoilt for choice sampling the regions’ world-famous wines and cuisine.
One for the adrenaline junkies: the world-famous Shotover Jet is the ultimate jet boat experience in Queenstown. This hair-raising 25-minute ride takes you through dramatic and narrow canyons – but hold on tight for those 360˚ spins! Children under 5 years old who meet the minimum height limit are free with a fare paying adult, but a ticket still needs to be issued.
If you haven’t seen a kiwi, have you really been to New Zealand? Stroll around the aviaries at the five-acre Kiwi Birdlife Park for a glimpse at thousands of species of native plants and birds – including the illusive kiwi – and check out the fun-filled conservation show.
A lush forest that’s home to over 40 rare species of native New Zealand wildlife, ZEALANDIA is a magnificent ecosanctuary where you can walk among rare birds, spot prehistoric reptiles and take an after-dark tour to spot glow worms and free-roaming kiwi. Located right in the heart of the capital Wellington, on the North Island, a visit helps kids connect with nature and support conservation.
Puzzling World in Wanaka is an iconic, world-unique attraction that for over 45 years has been fascinating people of all ages keen to engage in a fun, challenging and sensory experience.
The journey on the Interislander – known as one of the most beautiful in the world and one of New Zealand’s most iconic tourism experiences – is one of the classic ferry journeys in the world. The ferry links Wellington in the North Island with Picton in the South Island, with the 92 km journey taking just three hours.
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