Five top family destinations in New Zealand
New Zealand is home to 29 regions across the North and South Island. Whether you're travelling with young children or teenagers, each region offers exciting experiences that the whole family will enjoy. We've selected five top regions to give you a sample of some of the wonderful adventures you can include on a trip to New Zealand.
Destination 1: Canterbury region
Christchurch is the largest city on New Zealand's South Island and the gateway to the rest of the magnificent Canterbury region. Once you arrive, get a feel for the city by taking the kids on a round-trip of the Christchurch Tramway, stopping along the way for a picnic lunch in the stunning Botanic Gardens or Hagley Parki. The tram can also get you to the Avon River where the whole family can enjoy a unique ride on a flat-bottomed 'punt' boatii.
For a spot of whale watching and the chance to get up close and personal with a Giant Sperm Whale, take a family day trip to Kaikoura, two and a half hours north of Christchurchiii.
To take advantage of the fantastic skiing available on the region's alps, hire some snow gear and head to Mount Hutt. The Mount Hutt ski area has runs suitable for people of all ages and abilities, making it a great option for familiesiv.
Destination 2: Bay of Islands & Northland
New Zealand's Northland region extends from Auckland to the top of the North Island. The region's picturesque coastlands make it perfect for family holidaymakers, with so many opportunities to have a coastal adventure.
Sail through the Bay of Islands on a majestic tall ship and soak up the scenery. You could also take the kids on a chartered snorkelling adventure out to the Hen and Chicken Islands, Poor Knights Islands, Cape Brett and Great Barrier Island, and see how many colourful species of marine life you can spotv.
Northland is also home to New Zealand's premier historic site, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Take a tour of the incredibly ornate Meeting House or check out the world's largest war canoe! The Meeting House is also the setting for daily traditional Maori performances, which are not to be missedvi.
Of course, a trip to NZ wouldn't be complete without seeing a live kiwi! Kiwi North's Kiwi House and Heritage Park in Whangarei will have the whole family vying for a view of New Zealand's unique fauna, including kiwis, tuataras and geckosvii. Whangarei is also home to the Kindgom of Zion, where lovers of big cats can see over 30 lions, tigers, cheetahs and even a black leopardviii.
Destination 3: Rotorua
Rotorua on the North Island is the cultural epicentre of the country. It's where you'll best be able to experience traditional Maori culture with the kids and also explore the area's geothermal wonders like hot springs and boiling mud potsix.
Rotorua is a great destination for families looking for a bit of excitement - and it doesn't get much more exciting than rolling down a hillside in a huge inflatable ball filled with water at ZORB Rotorua! There are four different tracks on offer for ZORB globe riding, a fun and unforgettable experience for the whole familyx. Continue your adventure by taking a trip on the 900 metre long Skyline Gondola to the top of Mount Ngongotaha or riding the go-cart style Skyline Luge through the Redwood Forest.
Despite the sinister name, adults and kids alike will love the mud baths of the Hells Gate Geothermal Park. After the kids have had their fill of playing and getting messy in the mud, take a refreshing dip in a sulphur spa, which is safe for children of all agesxi.
While in Rotorua, don't miss Tamaki Maori Village, where proud Maori warriors will have the whole family feeling transported back in time. Explore the beauty of the Maori buildings or sit and listen to legendary tales that have been passed down through generations. A highlight of a visit to the village is the chance to experience a traditional hangi meal, where you can feast on delicious chicken, lamb, kumara and other vegetables that have been cooked underground for hours on hot stonesxii.
Destination 4: Queenstown, Lake Wanaka & Fiordland
The neighbouring regions of Queenstown, Lake Wanaka, Central Otago and Fiordland on the South Island feature some of the most dramatic and beautiful landscapes in the country.
New Zealand's adventure capital of Queenstown on Lake Wakatipu is the perfect base for families seeking an adrenaline rush. Between jet boating, horse trekking, river rafting, bungee jumping, hiking and skiing in the winter, there's no shortage of thrilling adventure in Queenstownxiii. Alternatively, you could spend a relaxing day taking a scenic cruise down Lake Wakatipu, which offers some amazing photo opportunities.
Nearby, the pristine Lake Wanaka is set against a mountainous backdrop. It's a great area for skiing and snowboarding in winter, with some of the most popular ski areas being Cardrona and Treble Cone. While you're there, why not take the kids on a bike tour of the area or for a climb on the challenging rock climbing walls at Basecamp Wanaka Climbing Centre?
The region of Fiordland is where you'll find the 'eighth wonder of the world' and one of the country's biggest drawcards, the stunning Milford Soundxiv. The 1,692 metre tall Mitre Peak rises out of the still, dark waters of Milford Sound, creating the perfect blend of beauty and tranquillity. Enjoy Milford Sound by taking a cruise through its calm waters, or get an even better view by seeing it from the air on a chartered flight!
Fiordland also has an amazing caves system on the western shore of Lake Te Anau that your family can explore. The Te Anau Glowworm Caves have a magical aura about them, thanks to the thousands of tiny glowworms that line its wallsxv.
Destination 5: Auckland
There's so much to see and do in New Zealand's urban capital of Auckland. From the thrilling rollercoasters of Rainbow's End Theme Park to the giant saltwater crocodiles at Butterfly Kingdom, you'll have plenty of family friendly activities to fill up your day.
Kelly Tarlton's SEA LIFE Aquarium is a great opportunity for the kids to get up close with some incredible species of wildlife, including sub-Antarctic penguins, sharks and Spiny Sea Dragonsxvi. There's also Auckland Zoo, which offers visitors the opportunity to live a day in the life of a zookeeper, preparing food for the animals and even feeding themxvii.
You could also spend a day at the Auckland Museum, which houses the world's most extensive collection of Maori and Pacific Island artefacts. Take the kids back in history and walk through exhibitions filled with ancient carvings, canoes and other Maori treasuresxviii .