The Top Activities in New Zealand for Families
The ultimate destination for families who love to adventure together, New Zealand is well worth exploring while the kids are still young. Experience family-friendly adventure sports and connect with nature and each other on the myriad of short walks, geothermal parks, wildlife sanctuaries and more. Let us guide you through New Zealand’s top family activities, with a variety of options to suit all groups, in this list of things to do in New Zealand with kids.
While you’re here, you might also want to open up The Travel Guide to New Zealand for Families and bookmark it for later!
1. Meet a Kiwi Bird
Say hello to New Zealand’s adorable fluff-ball of a bird at one of the many conservation centres around the country, such as Rainbow Springs in Rotorua (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) and the Kiwi Birdlife Park in Queenstown (on Viator and Tripadvisor).
Location: Rotorua, North Island or Queenstown, South Island. Check out all of the locations in Where to See Kiwi Birds in New Zealand.
2. See the Super Clear Pools of Te Waikoropupu Springs
A stroller-friendly short walk brings you to the largest freshwater spring in New Zealand, Te Waikoropupu Springs. On the North Island, the Blue Spring of Te Waihou Walkway in Putaruru is similar but a longer walk.
Location: Takaka, South Island or Putaruru, North Island. For more Takaka attractions, see the 9 Things to Do in Takaka with Kids.
3. Treat the Family to a Whale Watching Cruise
It’s hard not to be impressed by Kaikoura’s sperm whales diving deep into the ocean. See them by joining a whale watching cruise in Kaikoura (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook). Whale watching is also available from Auckland (on Viator, Tripadvisor, Klook and KKday).
Location: Kaikoura, South Island or Auckland, North Island. See more locations for whale watching in the 5 Best Places to Spot Whales in New Zealand.
4. See Steaming and Bubbling Wonders at a Geothermal Park
Travellers of all ages tend to enjoy the bubbling mud, steaming hot springs and geysers of New Zealand’s hot springs. Good geothermal parks for families include Waimangu Volcanic Valley (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook) and Orakei Korako (on Viator or Tripadvisor).
Location: Rotorua – Taupo, North Island. See more geothermal hotspots in the 8 Best Geothermal Parks in New Zealand.
5. Watch the Rapids at Huka Falls
A free attraction that’s just a short stroll from the car park, Huka Falls is an awesome sight! Watch as huge volumes of water squeeze through a canyon and cascade over a waterfall at the end.
Location: Taupo, North Island. See more epic attractions nearby in the 10 Things to Do in Taupo with Kids.
6. Say Hello to the Seal Colonies
Spotting these cute marine mammals on the shore is a common occurrence in New Zealand. Take the kids to see seal colonies from the Cape Foulwind Walkway in Westport, the Red Rock Walk in Wellington or simply at the Point Kean car park in Kaikoura.
Location: See locations all over New Zealand in the 14 Best Places to See Seals in New Zealand.
7. Enjoy a Scenic Train Ride on the TranzAlpine
What kid doesn’t love riding the train? Make it a moment for the whole family by taking one of the world’s most scenic rail journeys. The TranzAlpine train goes through the mountainous Arthur’s Pass (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook).
8. Dig a Family Hot Pool at Hot Water Beach
Give the kids a reason to dig at the beach by taking them to Hot Water Beach! The beach on the Coromandel Peninsula has a hot spring seeping through the sand, ideal for making a hot pool when mixed with seawater.
Location: Hahei, North Island. See more beaches to visit with the kids in the 22 Stunning Beaches in New Zealand.
9. Have a Downhill Blast on The Luge
All members of the family can enjoy The Luge, either driving these downhill-powered go-karts themselves or by sitting on your lap. Check out Luge tracks atop the Skyline gondolas in Rotorua and Queenstown.
Location: Rotorua, North Island and Queenstown, South Island. See more wacky activities like this in the 9 Newest & Weirdest Extreme Activities in New Zealand.
10. Land on a Glacier in a Ski Plane
Just because you have little ones in tow, doesn’t mean you have to miss out on New Zealand’s glacier experiences. One of the most accessible options for families is a ski plane landing on the Tasman Glacier in Mt Cook (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook)!
Location: Mt Cook, South Island. Add this activity to the itinerary along with the 7 Things to Do in Mt Cook with Kids.
11. Explore Caves and Giant Arches in the Oparara Basin
Location: Karamea, South Island. For more activities nearby, see the 7 Best Things to Do in Karamea.
12. Walk Among Parrots, Robins and Even Kiwi on Ulva Island
Experience what New Zealand used to be like before human migration at Ulva Island (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook). Enjoy a short walk on the island to the sound of parrots cackling in the trees. There are other island sanctuaries similar to this from the North Island, such as Kapiti Island (on Viator and Tripadvisor) and Tiritiri Matangi Island (on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook).
Location: Stewart Island or Kapiti Island in Wellington or Tiritiri Matangi Island in Auckland, North Island. See more Stewart Island experiences in the 10 Things to Do on Stewart Island with Kids.
13. Relax in the Hot Pools and Tackle the Waterslides at the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools
Thanks to New Zealand’s many natural mineral hot springs, it’s not too difficult to find a hot pools complex. Some of the family-friendly ones are the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Taupo DeBrett’s (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor).
Location: Hanmer Springs, South Island and Taupo, North Island. See the locations of more hot pools in the 10 Best Hot Pools in New Zealand.
14. 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 at one of New Zealand’s ski fields. For instance, head to Cardrona in the heart of the South Island (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) or Whakapapa on the North Island.
Location: Wanaka, South Island or Tongariro, North Island. See all of the places to ski in the Top 24 Ski Fields in New Zealand.
15. Pretend You’re Hobbits in Hobbiton
Let the kids’ imaginations run wild at the Hobbiton Movie Set while you learn about the behind-the-scenes movie magic of The Lord of the Rings on a guided tour (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor, Klook or KKday).
Location: Matamata, North Island. For more Middle-earth locations, see the 23 Best Lord of the Rings Locations in New Zealand.
16. Jump on a Jet Boat Ride
An adventure activity that the whole family can enjoy, New Zealand’s jet boats provide a real thrill ride! There are many jet boat tours in New Zealand, but Rapids Jet in Taupo is a highlight, taking you on white water rapids (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor).
Location: Taupo, North Island. For more jet boating locations, see the 17 Best Places to Jet Boat in New Zealand.
17. Check Out the Blue Pools of Hokitika Gorge
Get your fix of stunning New Zealand scenery at Hokitika Gorge, which happens to be on an excellent family-friendly walking trail. The short walk brings you to this beautiful river gorge on the West Coast, which you can learn more about in the 23 Best Walks in Hokitika.
Location: Hokitika, South Island. See more photo spots like this in the 10 Picture Perfect Bridges in New Zealand.
18. See Glowworms in Waitomo
Be amazed by cave ceilings lit up with glowworms in Waitomo. One of the most family-friendly ways to experience Waitomo is on a walk and boat tour (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor). Don’t forget, there is a similar experience on the South Island too, at the Te Anau Glowworm Caves (on Viator, Tripadvisor, Klook and KKday).
Location: Waitomo, North Island or Te Anau, South Island. Check out more locations with glowworms in the 7 Best Places to See the Famous Glowworms in New Zealand.
19. Let Loose at McLean Falls in The Catlins
A road trip in New Zealand is typically full of waterfalls with some of the most beautiful residing in The Catlins. McLean Falls is a rewarding waterfall to visit with kids, who tend to love climbing the terraces to a swimming pool at the top.
Location: The Catlins, South Island. For more waterfalls to visit with children, check out the 12 Most Wonderful Waterfalls in New Zealand.
20. Take a Photo of a “Giant Thing”
New Zealand might be a small country but it has a lot of “big things” erected in various towns to state its claim to fame. Get a photo with the giant carrot in Ohakune, the big trout in Gore, the huge kiwi bird in Otorohanga and the list goes on!
Location: Check out many of New Zealand’s sculpture locations in the 21 BIG Things in New Zealand.
21. Meet the Giants in a Kauri Forest
By “giants”, we, of course, mean giant trees but you can use that one to get the kids more excited about seeing the largest types of trees in New Zealand. We recommend a trip to see Tane Mahuta, the God of the Forest, found in the Waipoua Forest via a super-short walk.
Location: Hokianga, North Island. For more kauri forest walks for kids in the 10 Best Kauri Forests in New Zealand.
22. See the Forest from Above on the West Coast Treetop Walkway
Join the native wood pigeons and tui in the trees on the West Coast Treetop Walkway (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor). The elevated walkway features towers and lookouts to take in the views of the surrounding coast, lake and forest.
Location: Hokitika, South Island. For more activities nearby, see the 10 Best Things to Do in Hokitika.
23. Do Horseback Riding in Peel Forest
Knowing that many children love animals, a really special experience for them is horse riding. Family-friendly rides can be enjoyed with Peel Forest Horse Trekking on the South Island or Ruapehu Homestead on the North Island.
Location: Peel Forest, South Island or Ohakune, North Island. More locations can be found in the 11 Best Horse Treks in New Zealand.
24. Visit the Te Papa Museum
Te Papa is the national museum of New Zealand with so much to explore for all ages. The free museum features volcano displays, settlers stories and endless exhibitions inside and out.
Location: Wellington, North Island. For more experiences nearby, see the 10 Things to Do in Wellington with Kids.
25. Meet the Farm Animals at Walter Peak
Farming has been a way of life in New Zealand for more than a century and tours like those at Walter Peak on the South Island give families a fun insight into sheep shearing, cattle rearing and more (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor, Klook and KKday). Alternatively, on the North Island, try the Agrodome farm tour in Rotorua.
Location: Queenstown, South Island or Rotorua, North Island. See more family-friendly activities in the 10 Things to Do in Queenstown with Kids.
26. Take the Ferry to Rangitoto Island
From the heart of Auckland city, escape to Rangitoto Island, which is Auckland‘s youngest volcano. After a ferry journey, hike through lava fields and explore lava caves on your way to the crater summit.
Location: Auckland, North Island. For more Auckland highlights, check out the 10 Things to Do in Auckland with Kids.
27. Go On a Jet Boat Journey in Haast
So we’ve already mentioned the “thrill ride” style of jet boating in New Zealand, but jet boat excursions are also a fun family-friendly option. For instance, Waiatoto River Safari takes you on a scenic journey from the Tasman Sea to the valleys of the Mt Aspiring National Park with a family picnic included. Find out more on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: Haast, South Island. Again, take a look at the different jet boat tours in the 17 Best Places to Jet Boat in New Zealand and see more family activities in the 8 Things to Do in Haast with Kids.
28. Visit Cathedral Cove
The white cliffs, archway and sandy shores are an iconic image of New Zealand sure to be on your bucket list. The most family-friendly way to get to the beach is via a boat tour (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor). Alternatively, active families can enjoy the walk there.
29. Go Off-Roading in Greymouth
Hit the off-roading trails of bush, bog and pastures on one of New Zealand’s off-roading experiences. On Yer Bike in Greymouth is an epic self-drive option with 4×4 buggies with passenger seats for kids, as well as Hagglund rides for the youngest members of the family (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor).
Location: Greymouth, South Island. For more stuff to do here, see the 10 Things to Do in Greymouth with Kids.
30. Enjoy a Fun and Educational Visit to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds
The place where New Zealand’s Maori and colonialists came together to form a nation, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds offers a museum, carving studios, bushwalks, a historic homestead and Maori cultural performances (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor, Klook and KKday).
Location: Bay of Islands, North Island. Plan more of your visit with the 10 Things to Do in the Bay of Islands with Kids.
31. Zipline Through the Forest in Rotorua
Soar through the forest like a native tui on one of New Zealand’s exciting zipline tours, such as that with Rotorua Canopy Tours on the North Island (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor, Klook and KKday). Or on the South Island, try Ziptrek Eco Tours in Queenstown (on Viator, Tripadvisor, Klook and KKday). These tours are typically suitable for ages six and above.
32. Walk Through Mining Tunnels at Karangahake Gorge
33. See Rare Birds at Zealandia
An eco-sanctuary in the city of Wellington protected by a predator-proof fence, Zealandia has stroller-friendly walkways. These walks are lined with bird-feeding stations making it easy to see native parrots, tui, robins and the colourful flightless takahe. The museum is also a fantastic educational resource for learning more about the fauna of New Zealand.
Location: Wellington, North Island. Plan more of your trip to the capital using the 10 Things to Do in Wellington with Kids.
34. Take the Tractor Tour to Cape Kidnappers
Not only is Cape Kidnappers an excellent example of tectonic plates, fault lines and ancient fossils but it’s also home to the world’s largest mainland gannet colony. Take the tractor tour for a family-friendly way to see the gannets. Alternatively, see the gannet colony at Muriwai in Auckland on a short walk.
Location: Hastings or Auckland, North Island. Plan more of your trip to Hawke’s Bay using the 10 Things to Do in Napier with Kids.
35. Do the Tasman Glacier Walk
While the three-hour Hooker Valley Walk is a popular choice in Mt Cook, families looking for something better suited to kids should choose the Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier View Track. It features spectacular views of the Tasman Glacier and its lake full of icebergs. See more family-friendly walks in the 20 Best Short Walks on the South Island.
Location: Aoraki Mt Cook National Park, South Island. For more unmissable walks, check out the 7 Things to Do in Mt Cook with Kids.
36. Let the Kids Loose at Christchurch Botanic Gardens
You can always rely on public parks and gardens for somewhere for kids to burn off energy. They’ll love Christchurch Botanic Gardens, for example, with its duck ponds, interactive water features and playgrounds. We also like the Wellington Botanic Garden on the North Island.
Location: Christchurch, South Island or Wellington, North Island. Explore more attractions like this in the 10 Things to Do in Christchurch with Kids.
37. Feed the Alapacas in Akaroa
A surprising find in New Zealand for many is alpaca farms! Feed them, stroke their ultra-soft wool, and get a photo with the alpacas of Shamarra Alpaca Farm in Akaroa. On the North Island, try the Nevalea Alpacas in Taumarunui.
Location: Akaroa, South Island or Taumarunui, North Island. Plan more of your trip to Akaroa using the 10 Things to Do in Akaroa with Kids.
38. Check Out the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks
If you’re roading tripping on the West Coast, don’t miss the stroller-friendly walk to see the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks. See oddly-shaped rocks stacked like pancakes and powerful blowhole displays at high tide.
Location: Punakaiki, South Island. There’s more stuff to do here, which you can find out more about in the 9 Best Things to Do in Punakaiki.
39. See the Maori Rock Carvings on a Lake Taupo Sailing Cruise
Sit back and relax as you enjoy a cruise in the crater of a supervolcano, Lake Taupo. One of the highlights of a cruise (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook) is sailing right up to the Maori art carved into a cliff face.
Location: Taupo, North Island. See more experiences in the 10 Things to Do in Taupo with Kids.
40. See How Movies are Made at the Weta Workshop
Visit “Wellywood” including the Weta Workshop which creates props and special effects for The Lord of the Rings, Avatar, Thunderbirds and more. They offer insightful tours to intrigue movie fans of all ages (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor, Klook and KKday).
Location: Wellington, North Island. Plan more of your trip using The Travel Guide to Wellington for Families.
41. Get the Imaginations Going at Steampunk HQ
One of New Zealand’s quirkier attractions, Steampunk HQ is a steampunk museum and art gallery with all sorts of wacky inventions that kids are encouraged to interact with.
Location: Oamaru, South Island. Check out more attractions nearby in the 10 Things to Do in Oamaru with Kids.
42. Explore the Castle and Grounds of Larnach Castle
Location: Dunedin, South Island. Check out 10 Things to Do in Dunedin with Kids for more activities.
43. See Vibrant Displays at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre
Far from your boring collection of dusty relics, the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre showcases warplanes and World War memorabilia in realistic static displays made by local movie studios (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook).
Location: Blenheim, South Island. Explore more of Blenheim using the 10 Best Things to Do in Blenheim.
44. Check Out Whangarei Falls
Another free natural attraction to admire with the little ones in tow, the mighty Whangarei Falls is on a short walk with various viewpoints. See more family-friendly walks in the 20 Best Short Walks on the North Island.
Location: Whangarei, North Island. Add more to the itinerary with the 10 Things to Do in Whangarei with Kids.
45. Get a Family Photo at the Moeraki Boulders
Visit these perfectly spherical boulders on the beach between Oamaru and Dunedin for a fun family photo-op. Plan your visit using our Moeraki Boulders guide. There are also similar boulders in the North Island, the Koutu Boulders in the Hokianga Harbour.
Location: Hampden, South Island or Hokianga, North Island.
46. See if You Can Walk Up the World’s Steepest Street
That’s right, Baldwin Street in Dunedin holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s steepest street! Challenge the family to walk up the street for a fun free thing to do.
Location: Dunedin, South Island. Add a visit to Baldwin Street to your 18 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Dunedin.
47. Explore the Hidden Gem of Washpen Falls
Hidden at the edge of the Canterbury Plains, Washpen Falls offers “heaps” of sights for families to explore. A walking trail here features volcanic remnants, Maori archaeological sites, viewpoints, a lagoon with a rowing boat and, of course, a waterfall.
Location: Methven, South Island. Plan more items for the itinerary in the 10 Best Things to Do in Methven.
48. Hit One of the Family-Friendly Bike Trails
Give kids an excuse to ride their bikes on one of the scenic bike trails in New Zealand. Excellent options for families include the Dunes Trails in Opotiki and any section of the Otago Central Rail Trail on the South Island.
Location: Opotiki, North Island or Alexandra – Middlemarch, South Island. See more bike trails in the 10 Best Family Bike Rides in New Zealand.
49. Race Each Other Down the Rere Rockslide
Forget waterparks, Gisborne has its own natural waterpark at the Rere Rockslide. All you need is a bodyboard or an inflatable mattress and you’re good to go! Kids can play here all day.
Location: Gisborne, North Island. Plan your visit with the 10 Things to Do in Gisborne with Kids.
50. Parasail in the Bay of Islands
Finally, 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 or Taupo, North Island. See more locations in the 5 Incredible Places to Do Parasailing in New Zealand.
More Things to Do in New Zealand with Kids
That’s it for our list of the best things to do in New Zealand with kids but not the end of all of the things to do. Check out these articles for more holiday ideas: