These are all the must do activities with your kids while visiting New Zealand!
25 December 2017| Last updated on 26 December 2017
Working out what activities you want to do when travelling as a family can often be tricky, especially if you are having to juggle different likes, ages and fitness levels. Thankfully, New Zealand has an array of great options that all kids, big and small, are sure to love. And, as all parents know, happy children make for a happy holiday!
Here is a selection of some of the cool things to do with your kids on your travels around New Zealand.
1. Nocturnal Kiwi Walk
The kiwi is the national symbol of New Zealand and the association with this flightless bird is so strong that New Zealanders are often referred to as Kiwis. Native only to New Zealand, they come out to hunt at night so a nocturnal walk is the best time to catch a glimpse of these elusive ground-dwelling birds. With no poisonous animals to be found anywhere in New Zealand, tramping through the rainforest, even at night time, is perfectly safe. However, it still feels like an intrepid torch-lit adventure! What’s more, it’s very rewarding and quite special to see the kiwi in its natural environment.
There are a number of national parks that host guided kiwi walks, the most well-known being Traunson Kauri Park in Northland.
2. Hobbit Hunting
The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit films are world-famous, and with good reason. Filmed exclusively on location in New Zealand, they brought the country’s stunning and diverse landscapes to the attention of movie-goers across the globe. The backdrops became every bit as famous as the star-studded acting cast and amazing special effects and our now tourism attractions in their own right.
A visit to Hobbiton in the central North Island is a must if you are a Peter Jackson or J.R.R Tolkien fan. This is the exact set that was used in the films, complete with the Green Dragon pub where you can finish your tour of Middle Earth with a traditional hobbit ale (or ginger beer for kids!).
In Wellington, visit Weta Workshop and take a studio tour to see where the special effects for all characters such as Golem, the Hobbits, Orcs, Elves and Wizards were created.
You can also visit the other numerous locations where filming was done as you journey through both the North and South Islands. And who knows, perhaps you will be lucky enough to spot a real Hobbit!
The north island of New Zealand has a series of extraordinary underground caves. Many of these are home to impressive limestone formations that cradle tiny glow-worms. True to their name, these minute larvae literally glow in the dark, creating a canvas on the cave’s ceiling like that of the outdoor night sky. Glow-worm grottos can be found throughout New Zealand, but the most famous are to be found at Waitomo in the central North Island.
To view these amazing critters, you can either be guided through the cave labyrinth on board a small boat or, for people aged 12 and over, you can experience it as you float down the river in an inner tube – an activity pioneered here in New Zealand and known as Black Water Rafting.
4. Whale and dolphin watching
Although you may be lucky enough to spot one of these magnificent sea creatures from the shore, the best way to get up close and personal with some of the many different species of whales and dolphins we have in New Zealand waters is to head out on a whale and/or dolphin watching cruise.
The Bay of Islands, Auckland and Christchurch all have a number of dolphin watching cruises and at certain times of the year you can even get in the water and swim with these gentle sea mammals. Kaikoura, in the South Island, is the place to go to see Sperm whales and Dusky dolphins along with fur seals and a proliferation of seabirds.
5. Thermal hot springs
New Zealand has numerous underground hot springs caused by volcanic activity and soaking in these therapeutic waters is a great way to relax and unwind. Many of these springs can be found in areas with free access to the public, either at beaches or forest streams or you can pay to go to a commercial hot pool.
The thermal activity at Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula, and the city of Rotorua are the best picks in the North Island, while Hanmer Springs is one of the most popular thermal destinations in the South.
6. Collecting shellfish for dinner
When in New Zealand you are usually never far from the coast and as such, an abundance of seafood is readily available. Sitting on a beach eating hot chips with freshly caught fish (some would say that this is NZ’s national dish!) from a local takeaway as the sun sets is a great way to end a day.
You can even collect an array of seafood yourself – mussels, pipis, clams, cockles and paua (known elsewhere as abalone) are all there for the taking. And all you need is a bucket and some local knowledge as to where to find them. Adults may be interested to know that NZ is also famous for its oysters, a perfect match with a delicious local wine!
7. Jet boating
When thinking jet boating, most people imagine white-knuckle rides through impossibly narrow canyons. And while there are plenty of those to be found throughout New Zealand, you can also opt for more sedate and scenic options in places such as the Dart River.
Either way, it is a great way to experience some of the spectacular river scenery New Zealand has to offer. And it’s better than any theme park ride – sightseeing has never been so exciting!
8. Maori culture
New Zealand has a strong Maori heritage that’s very evident as you travel throughout the country. It plays out in everything from place names and signage (Maori, along with English, is an official language of NZ) through to our famous hospitality – welcoming strangers is core to Maori values and is known as ‘manaakitanga’.
Whilst travelling around the country, there are plenty of opportunities to learn more about the native culture. Some things your children will especially enjoy include trying a traditionally cooked hangi (food steamed in an underground pit), learning the famous war-like haka that’s been made famous by the NZ’s rugby team, the All Blacks; and even sharing a hongi (nose rub) with a native Maori.
9. Ice cream
With dairy farming being one of New Zealand’s major occupations, it’s not surprising that New Zealand is world famous for its butter and milk. One dairy product that will be a hit with your kids is our ice cream. No Kiwi summer’s day is complete without (a generally quite generous) ice cream cone.
You’ll find all the traditional flavours here, but we’ve also developed a few of our own. The must-trys include Hokey Pokey (solid chunks of honeycomb toffee sprinkled liberally through vanilla ice cream)s); the brilliantly-named Goody Goody Gumdrops (blue bubblegum flavoured ice-cream packed full of chewy gum sweets); and Jelly Tip (gooey raspberry flavoured jelly swirls through vanilla flavoured ice cream with choc flakes).
Kids and adults alike will enjoy licking their way around the country sampling outrageously large ice-creams for a ridiculously small price.
Of course, these are only a handful of cool things you can experience whilst travelling around New Zealand as a family. This is a country that is safe, family friendly and ripe for exploring no matter what age your kids are, what your collective interests are or what your fitness levels are.
Look out for my next article – New Zealand’s North Island – where I will share some hidden gems not usually found on the tourist track.
About The Author
Fiona Rouse recently spent 4 years living in Dubai and has visited more than 35 countries with her husband and 2 kids. Now based in New Zealand she's Director of Adventure Together, offering tailor-made family holiday adventures for those who want to venture a little further off the beaten track.