New Zealand is a great destination for family-friendly holidays, with its wide selection of activities for all ages that range from animal and wildlife experiences to nature-based activities and thrill-seeking adventures.
Planning an NZ holiday anytime soon? Here's a list of best family-friendly places in the home of Kiwis.
A must-visit in NZ, Hobbiton treats The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies fans to an awe-inspiring experience. As you walk 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.
After a trip to the Middle-earth, make your way down to Rotorua where you will be introduced to Maori culture at Te Puia and can watch the Pohutu Geyser which erupts up to 20 times a day to heights of 30 meters. 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 to the Agrodome to rub noses with some cuddly farm creatures and experience 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 squeeze in a trip up the historic cable car from downtown to the Botanic Garden, too—the views at 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 this town. Kaikoura is a base for wildlife experiences of all kinds—that includes fur seals, dolphins, and a variety of 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.
The best way to explore the genteel Christchurch is 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.
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. The cruise 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 The Lord of the Rings filming locations via 4WD or on horseback.
Be dazzled by the night skies in the Dark Sky Reserve, which covers most of the Aoraki/Mount Cook Mackenzie region. During the day, Lake Tekapo is a photographer’s dream, with clear turquoise waters and lupins that bloom in a rich display of color every November or December.
Escape the bustling Queenstown and get away to Wanaka, another lakefront destination with a laid-back vibe. Relax in the cafés and restaurants by the waterside, before you 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.
Fox Glacier and Franz Josef are the most easily accessible to visitors in this glacier country. Heli-hiking is a great way to get up onto the glaciers so you’ll have plenty of energy to spare for walking across the ice.
Dunedin and Southland
Southland’s rugged terrain is home to penguins, seals, albatross, and many other species, which makes it 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—are also found in this region.