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Ultimate Guide To New Zealand: 95 INCREDIBLE Things To Do With Kids

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Last Updated on August 24, 2023 by Leslie Stroud

Map of New Zealand

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After our seven-month stay, New Zealand captured our hearts. We talk about it often and fondly. However, when considering a trip to New Zealand, it’s difficult not to become overwhelmed!

New Zealand is made up of two large islands, the North and the South, and there are plenty of places to choose from. Chances are high that you’ll only have enough time to visit one island or at least spend most of your time on one island.

Which Island of New Zealand Should You Choose?

While the South Island is more popular, we really like what the North Island has to offer. I think there is more to see in the South Island for a limited time.

NZ Glaciers

If you want a more “touristy” feel and amenities, the South Island is probably the place for you.  Mt. Cook and Milford Sound are incredible places to visit! 

However, the Te Paki Sand Dunes and Hot Water Beach on the North Island are probably our favorite memories now that we’re gone for a while.  

It’s a hard choice, but you are sure to have an amazing time, no matter which island you choose to visit in New Zealand. Read on to learn more about the most important things to do on each island.

Dune surfing
Beach day with kids
Hot Water Beach New Zealand

Where To Stay In New Zealand With Kids

We love staying in Airbnbs around the world, but for quicker trips, we also like a good hotel at a good price. Check out some of our favorite picks across New Zealand:

North Island:

Auckland:

South Island:

Lighthouse at Cape Reinga

Must-Try Activities On The North Island of NZ

North of Auckland

  1. Te Paki Sand Dunes –  Go surfing on the dunes! This activity is one of our favorite memories from New Zealand. Combine it with a trip up north. See my post here for more details on the things to see in the north of Auckland.
  2. Cape Reinga –  See two oceans come together while visiting this gorgeous lighthouse. This place is the northernmost point of New Zealand.
These mountains in New Zealand are picturesque

3. Bay of Islands –  Take a ferry to Russell, see amazing waterfalls and play on stunning beaches in this gorgeous area of New Zealand.

4. 90-Mile Beach – Rental cars are not allowed, but this long stretch of the beach is technically a highway!

5. Matakana Farmer’s Market – Enjoy local fare and food. We were here for lunch and shopping.

6. Matakana Country Park – After the farmer’s market, drive a short distance to this darling, privately-owned attraction. It has a huge playground, a petting zoo, and a small train.

7. Poor Knight’s Reserve – You can take a boat and scuba dive around this protected island.

Blue waters of New Zealand

Auckland

My tips for Auckland with kids are here Auckland itself has so much to offer, including:

8. Snowplanet –  Ski indoors! You can rent all the equipment you need to enjoy a day of skiing.

9. Butterfly Creek –  An outdoor zoo and butterfly garden.

10. Myers Park Playground – New Zealand really knows how to do playgrounds! This one is amazing and we love it!

11. Piha Beach –  Not really suitable for swimming, but this black sand beach is worth a visit. It’s famous for drownings as well as for its beauty, so have some healthy caution when visiting.

12. Shakespeare Regional Park –  Beautiful park to visit with kids.

13. Day Trip to Waiheke Island –  Explore beaches and vineyards. It is relatively easy to take the ferry from central Auckland. We went for dinner, and some beautiful beach time before coming back.

14. Day Trip to Rangitoto Island –  Hike a volcano!

The famous Skytower Auckland

15. Devonport – A cute beach and town.

16. Mount Eden – The highest point in Auckland with trails to explore.

17. Auckland Zoo – If you like to visit some animals for the day.

18. Sky Tower and Sky Jump –  Jump off Auckland’s tallest building! We loved this thrill.

19. Bungy Jumping.  Born in New Zealand, bungy jumping is everywhere. If you’ve been tempted to take the plunge, this could be a perfect time.

20. Sheep World – Visit this boutique farm to learn more about sheep and watch shows throughout the day.

Geothermal park near Rotorua

Tauranga/ Bay of Plenty and Coromandel

This area of the North Island might be your favorite. It is in the southeast of Auckland and can be reached within a couple of hours drive from Auckland. Some of the most stunning scenery of New Zealand is here as well as our top experience while traveling: Hot Water Beach! 

21. Hot Water Beach –  Bring a shovel and dig your own hot tub right on the beach. This is a MUST-DO activity. We loved it so much we did it twice.

22. Hahei Beach – Gorgeous beach with rope swings and tide pools to explore.

23. Cathedral Cove –  Breathtaking beauty in this bay you hike down to. Enjoy the beaches and stunning scenery below. You can also view this by boat.

24. Tauranga/Mount Maunganui – Stunning beaches surround this hill. You can hike to the top or just enjoy the surrounding beaches and neighborhoods.

Hit a park in New Zealand with kids

25. Pukekura Park in New Plymouth –  Wonderful park and nature area for children. From mid-December to February, the Festival of Lights exhibit adds an extra touch of beauty.

26. Redwood Valley Farm –  Get back to nature at this collection of cabins that you can serve. It was a lot of fun to explore the property with the mudslides and nature.

27. Hairy Maclary Playground – on The Strand. Have fun with the ocean and playground in one!

28. Slipper Island – Go glamping on a private island.

Turangi, Taupo and Rotorua

29. Hobbiton –  About a 2-hour drive from Auckland, you can immerse yourself in the fantasy of the Lord of the Rings.

30. Tongariro Crossing – See lakes of emerald green in a reddish desert. This 19+km hike requires some preparation, but it’s worth it. You can see Mt. Doom from the LOTR movies!

Hobbiton

31. Taupo Donut Boats – These little, round boats can be taken out on Lake Taupo. We met the owners and had a great time!

32. Sailing Lake Taupo –  Take a boat ride around this beautiful lake.

33. Hot Springs in Rotorua –  Immerse in the geothermal activity in this area.

34. Maori Dinner and Show –  Similar to a luau in Hawaii, these dinner shows are super fun and teach you about the local Maori culture. Book a fun tour like this one!

35. Zorb in Rotorua – Roll down a hill while riding in a giant bubble.

36. Huka Falls – More of a horizontal water chute, this short hike is gorgeous.  You can also drive and park directly here to skip the hike. At the beginning of the hike, you will also find a natural hot spring pool to swim in.

37. Waitomo Glow Worm Caves –  Not far away, it’s a must-see to go through the glowing caves of glow worms. Book a tour here!

38. Sky Waka on Mt. Ruapehu – For a unique gondola experience.

39. Mud Pool – Not the typical one. Here you can enjoy sitting in a mud pool!

40. Geothermal parks and geysers – Walk around to see the different hot springs, volcanic pools, bubbling mud pools, and soaring geysers.

Rotorua geothermal park

41. Tongaporutu Beach – At low tide, you have about an hour window to walk out and get up close to the “Three Sisters and the Elephant Rock”.

42. Lady Knox Geyser – It is presented daily at around 10:15 am. (Currently closed for visitors for renovations)

Wellington

43. Underground Market – A super fun craft market!

44. Te Papa Museum with Gallipoli Exhibit – Interested in history? This groundbreaking exhibit tells the story of the Gallipoli campaign in World War I.

45. Waterfront – Grab some food truck food and enjoy the marina.

46. Skate Park and Beach Playgrounds – One stop for fun playgrounds, cafes, and skate parks.

47. Cable Car and Gardens – The cable car ride is gorgeous and you can explore the botanical gardens above. The playground in the botanical garden is also incredible!

Must-try Activities On The South Island of NZ

Christchurch

48. Akaroa –  A French settlement, this is a great place for lunch and exploring.

49. Margaret Mahy Playground –  A MUST-SEE with kids, this is the largest playground in the Southern Hemisphere.

50. New Brighton Beach – For camping and beach activities.

Lake Tekapo Snowshoeing

51. Hagley Park – Dedicated urban park and the largest in Christchurch.

52. Downtown Christchurch –  See street art and take a trolley ride. We did a trolley dinner date that was so fun!

53. Gondola to Port Hills – A must-do activity when in Christchurch.

54. Rapaki Hike – A popular hike that’s easy to do with kids.

55. Hamner Springs – This Hot Spring is about a 90-minute drive from Christchurch.

Fun day at Glacier National park with kids

Northwest

56. Wharariki Beach –  Dunes, beaches, and baby seals!

57. Pancake Rocks – Super cool rock formations and nearby restaurants.

58. Teri Beach – A favorite of our local friends, this gorgeous beach area will soothe your soul.

59. Mitchell’s Gully Gold Mine. A fun hiking area with self-guided tours and a chance to see glowworms for free!

Wanaka/ Mount Cook Area

60. Aoraki Mt Cook National Park –  Remarkable view! Amazingly, this mountain was used by Edmund Hillary to train for Mount Everest.

61. Tekapo Hot Springs –  Enjoy stunning blue lake views and a hot spring resort.

62. Hooker Valley Track –  The most incredible hike we’ve ever done, take hanging bridges over streams and end at the glacier lake.

63. Glacier Heli-Hiking –  Take a helicopter ride onto a real glacier. We loved exploring ice caves! Check some bookings here.

64. Glacier Boat Ride –  Alternatively, take a boat ride around the glacier-formed lake and see it from the bottom.

65. Wanaka Lavender Farm – Darling farm, lavender fields, and shop.

66. Church of the Good Shepard Lake Tekapo – Iconic Instagram picture spot!

67. Roy’s Peak – A gorgeous and steep hike. Might be tough for little kids.

68. Isthmus Peak – A three-hour hike, one way. Long, but not difficult.

69. Blue Pools Track (Haast Pass) – Gorgeous blue pools make this hike one to consider.

A Hot Air balloon ride is a must-try

70. Wanaka Tree – Lone tree sitting in a gorgeous lake. Another iconic Instagram picture spot!

71. The Kawarau Bridge – The birthplace of commercial bungy jumping.

72. Omarama Hot Tubs – A hot tub with mountain views and on-site massage is available.

73. Franz Joseph Glacier – Visit one of the remaining glaciers in New Zealand!

74. Cardrona Bra Fence – Quirky spot to see a rural fence that is covered in hundreds of bras!

75. Rapaki Track Hike – Over four miles of track through iconic scenery.

76. Rakaia River Bridge – New Zealand’s longest road bridge.

77. Moeraki Boulders – Large boulders on a scenic shoreline.

78. Elephant Rocks in Duntroon – Let the kids run around the giant boulders that resemble elephants.

79. New Brighton Pier – Take some pictures at the sunset.

Te Papa Museum with Gallipoli Exhibit

Dunedin And Surrounding Areas

80. Dunedin –  Home to the Cadbury Chocolate Factory!

81. Caitlins Beach – Lush forests and waterfalls surround this beach area.

82. Moeraki – Quaint fishing village and former whaling port.

Queenstown

83. Ice Bar –  An whole bar is made of ice!

84. Shark Rides –  Hop in a covered jet ski and submerge in the lake.

85. Skyline Gondola and Go-Karts –  Take the tram up the mountain for amazing views, dinner, and go-karts!

86. Ziplines – Soar over the town!

87. Shotover Jet Boat –  Ride along the canyon river in this speedboat.  It’s a ton of fun!

88. Canyon Swing –  Like a Bungy jump, but better. Free-fall and then, into a swing.

89. Bungee Jumping –  Born in New Zealand, there are many options for this.

90. Arrowhead Mining Town – The gold mining town near Queenstown is definitely worth a visit.

91. Glenorchy – The drive to this quaint town surrounded by snow-capped mountains is one of the most beautiful drives in New Zealand.

Milford Sound

92. Coach and Cruise Day Trip From Queenstown – Spend the day on a boat and see the fjords of New Zealand.  Sail out to the ocean, witness stunning waterfalls and see penguins!

93. Airplane Tour From Milford to Queenstown –  We took a plane back from Milford Sounds to Queenstown.  The views were unreal!

94. Glow Worms – The area is also home to fantastic glow worms.  Book a tour here!

95. Visit The Chasm. Short and easy walk to a stunning waterfall view.

Plan your trip ahead so you don’t miss the best places you want to go!

Xoxo,

Leslie

✈️ Plan and book your flight to New Zealand on Booking.com, Skyscanner, Kiwi.com, or Expedia

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???? Discover more of New Zealand from GetYourGuide, Airbnb Experiences, or Viator

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✅ Get your family’s travel insurance from World Nomads

???? Capture your best New Zealand memories with a GoPro, Sony camera, or our favorite drones: DJI FPV, Air, and Mini

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Additional Reading

???? Our Favorite Places to Eat in Auckland With and Without Kids

???? Tips for Visiting New Zealand with A Toddler

???? Road Tripping Tips in New Zealand

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