The Top North Island Activities for Families
Where else can you see geothermal hotspots, go skiing, watch kiwi birds, then go and watch whales all on the same island? The North Island of New Zealand makes for an exciting and diverse holiday, even for those family members with the shortest attention spans. Take a look at this list of the best things to do on the North Island with kids and just try to argue that a family holiday in the North Island is “boring”! We bet you can’t and we have the list of family activities to prove it.
While you’re here, you might also want to open The Travel Guide to New Zealand for Families in a new tab!
Things to Do on the North Island with Kids: Watch the Video
Are the kids keeping you too busy to read? Listen to the video or keep scrolling for the full article.
1. See a Real-Life Kiwi Bird
Meet the unofficial mascot of New Zealand, the adorable fluff-ball that is the kiwi bird! Treat the kids to seeing one in real life at one of the many conservation centres around the North Island, such as Rainbow Springs in Rotorua (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor).
Location: Rotorua, Bay of Plenty. Check out more North Island locations in Where to See Kiwi Birds in New Zealand.
2. Watch Whales and Dolphins in Auckland
Most know Kaikoura on the South Island for whale watching, but did you know you can jump on a whale cruise from the centre of Auckland? Join Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari to spot Bryde’s whales, dolphins and majestic seabirds (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor, Klook and KKday).
Location: Auckland City, Auckland. See more Auckland activities in the 10 Things to Do in Auckland with Kids.
3. Check Out the North Island’s Geothermal Wonders
Travellers of all ages enjoy the bubbling mud, steaming hot springs and geysers of the North Island’s geothermal parks. Good parks for families include Waimangu Volcanic Valley (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook) and Orakei Korako (on Viator and Tripadvisor).
Location: Rotorua – Taupo, Waikato. See more geothermal hotspots on the North Island in the 8 Best Geothermal Parks in New Zealand.
4. Stop By Huka Falls
Super easy to get to on your way to Taupo, Huka Falls is an awesome sight for the whole family! Watch as huge volumes of water squeeze through a canyon and conclude by cascading over a waterfall.
Location: Taupo, Waikato. See more attractions nearby in the 10 Things to Do in Taupo with Kids.
5. Get the Kids to Dig You a Hot Pool at Hot Water Beach
Forget sandcastles, give the kids a better reason to dig at the beach by taking them to Hot Water Beach! This beach on the Coromandel Peninsula has a hot spring seeping through the sand, accessible at low tide. Be sure to mix it with the cold seawater so you don’t burn sensitive feet!
Location: Hahei, Waikato. See more beaches to visit with the kids in the 22 Stunning Beaches in New Zealand.
6. Have a Race on The Luge
All members of the family can enjoy The Luge, either self-driving these gravity-powered go-karts or by sitting on an older driver’s lap and going along for the ride. The North Island is home to arguably the best Luge tracks at the Skyline Gondola in Rotorua.
Location: Rotorua, Bay of Plenty. See more wacky activities like this in the 9 Newest & Weirdest Extreme Activities in New Zealand.
7. Relax or Play at the Hot Pools
Thanks to New Zealand’s many natural mineral hot springs, it’s not too difficult to find a hot pools complex. One of the best family-friendly options is Taupo DeBrett’s (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) complete with waterslides.
Location: Taupo, Waikato. See the locations of more hot pools in the 10 Best Hot Pools in New Zealand.
8. Learn How to Ski
Learning to ski is a right of passage for many Kiwi kids, so let your little ones join in on the fun too with ski lessons on Mt Ruapehu. While they are having their lessons, parents can also hit the slopes or relax in one of the cafes.
Location: Tongariro National Park. Learn about skiing on the North Island in our North Island ski guide.
9. Pretend to Be Frodo and Sam in Hobbiton
Let the kids’ imaginations run wild at the Hobbiton Movie Set! Take a tour and learn about the behind-the-scenes movie magic of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor, Klook or KKday).
Location: Matamata, Waikato. For more Middle-earth locations around the North Island, see the 23 Best Lord of the Rings Locations in New Zealand.
10. Jump on a Jet Boat Ride
This New Zealand invention is a thrill ride that the whole family can enjoy. While there are many jet boat tours on the North Island, Rapids Jet in Taupo is a highlight mixing white water with jet boating (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor).
Location: Taupo, Waikato. For more jet boating locations, see the 17 Best Places to Jet Boat in New Zealand.
11. See the Glowworms of Waitomo
See amazing limestone features and the blue lights of New Zealand’s glowworms in Waitomo. One of the most family-friendly ways to explore the caves is a cave walk and boat tour (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) but check out the 6 Ways to Take On the Waitomo Caves for more options.
Location: Waitomo, Waikato. Check out more North Island locations in the 7 Best Places to See the Famous Glowworms in New Zealand.
12. Meet the North Island’s Forest “Giants”
And by giants, we mean New Zealand’s largest species of tree, the magnificent kauri! The largest one, Tane Mahuta, is worth a trip to the Waipoua Forest with the kids.
Location: Hokianga, Northland. For more kauri walks for kids in the 10 Best Kauri Forests in New Zealand.
13. Visit the Te Papa Museum
There’s no excuse not to visit the Te Papa Museum. First, kids love it with its multiple levels of interactive exhibitions on subjects like volcanoes, animals, Maori culture and so much more. Second, it’s free!
Location: Wellington City, Wellington. For more experiences nearby, see the 10 Things to Do in Wellington with Kids.
14. Meet the Farm Animals at Agrodome
Farming has been a way of life in New Zealand for more than a century and shows/tours like that at Agrodome give families a fun insight into sheep shearing, cattle rearing and so much more.
Location: Rotorua, Bay of Plenty. See more family-friendly activities in the 10 Things to Do in Rotorua with Kids.
15. Take the Ferry to Rangitoto Island
From the heart of Auckland city, escape to Rangitoto Island. Auckland‘s youngest volcano is a popular destination for school trips and kids will love it on the weekend too as they walk through lava fields, explore lava caves and see the views from the crater summit.
Location: Rangitoto Island, Auckland. For more Auckland highlights, check out the 10 Things to Do in Auckland with Kids.
16. Take a Glass-Bottom Boat Tour at Cathedral Cove
Cathedral Cove is on everyone’s bucket list when road tripping in the Coromandel. A unique way to experience with the little ones is through a glass-bottom boat tour (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook).
Location: Coromandel, Waikato. For more attractions in the area, see the 10 Things to Do in the Coromandel with Kids.
17. Enjoy an Educational Visit to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds
For a dose of New Zealand history that’s also fun for the kids, visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. The entry includes access to a museum, carving studios, bushwalks, a historic homestead and Maori cultural performances (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor, Klook and KKday).
Location: Bay of Islands, Northland. Plan more of your visit with the 10 Things to Do in the Bay of Islands with Kids.
18. Zipline Through the Forest
Fly through the forest like a native wood pigeon on one of the North Island’s exciting zipline tours, such as that with Rotorua Canopy Tours (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor, Klook and KKday). The tour is suitable for ages six and above.
Location: Rotorua, Bay of Plenty. For more North Island zipline locations, check out the 10 Best Places to Zipline in New Zealand.
19. See the Maori Rock Carvings on Lake Taupo
Sit back and relax as you enjoy a cruise in the crater of a supervolcano! Any cruise on Lake Taupo takes families to the Maori artwork carved into the cliffs (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook).
Location: Taupo, Waikato. See more experiences in the 10 Things to Do in Taupo with Kids.
20. Parasail in the Bay of Islands
It doesn’t matter if you’re five or 95, almost anyone can enjoy this extremely accessible adventure sport. Soar over the Bay of Islands with Bay of Islands Parasail (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) or Lake Taupo with Big Sky Parasail.
Location: Bay of Islands, Northland or Taupo, Waikato. See more places to parasail in the 5 Incredible Places to Do Parasailing in New Zealand.
More Things to Do on the North Island with Kids
That’s it for our list of the best things to do on the North Island with kids but not the end of all of the things to do. Check out the destinations we didn’t cover on this list for more North Island activities for families:
- 10 Things to Do in Tauranga with Kids
- 10 Things to Do in Hamilton with Kids
- 10 Things to Do in Whakatane with Kids
- 10 Things to Do in Gisborne with Kids
- 10 Things to Do in New Plymouth with Kids
- 10 Things to Do in Palmerston North with Kids
- 10 Things to Do in Whanganui with Kids
- 10 Things to Do in Napier with Kids
And, of course, don’t forget to check out the 20 Best Things to Do on the South Island with Kids and the 50 Best Things to Do in New Zealand with Kids!