Plan a Family Trip to Nelson
New Zealand’s sunniest city and gateway to the Abel Tasman, Kahurangi and Nelson Lakes National Parks, Nelson is an enticing destination for families who love the outdoors. Kids can get stuck into water adventures, paddling in Maori canoes to river rafts! Those seeking more relaxing experiences will certainly find them in the city with beautiful gardens to explore and a tour of an iconic peanut butter brand’s factory. At the end of it all, relax in one of Nelson’s convenient motels or a fun-filled holiday park. We’ll go through it all in this travel guide to Nelson for families.
Things to Do in Nelson with Kids
- Ride the world’s longest flying fox and much more at Cable Bay Adventure Park
- Paddle in a Maori canoe in the Abel Tasman National Park
- Do some sailing in the Abel Tasman National Park
- Visit the old-timey town of Founders Park
- Check out the birds at Brook Waimarama Sanctuary
- Ride bikes to Rabbit Island
- Build sandcastles at Tahunanui Beach
- Explore Nelson’s gardens
- Take a tour of Pic’s Peanut Butter World
- Do a family-friendly white water rafting trip.
For more details on each activity, see the 10 Things to Do in Nelson with Kids.
Family Adventure Activities
Between the Abel Tasman, Kahurangi and Nelson Lakes National Parks, as well as in the city, Nelson offers an amazing array of outdoor adventures for families. But first, let’s talk about Nelson’s all-family adventure park to experience some of that New Zealand adrenaline: Cable Bay Adventure Park! One of the highlights of the adventure park is the Skywire Experience, suitable for kids over the height limit of 1.2m (3.9ft), which is a four-seater flying fox and the longest in the world! Kids can also learn how to shoot a longbow at Archery Park. Feeding the eels, doing family-friendly walks and the toy box at the cafe are other ways to entertain the little ones. Find out more about Cable Bay Adventure Park on Viator and Tripadvisor.
In the Abel Tasman National Park, experience a perfect blend of coastal scenery and culture with Waka Abel Tasman. Enjoy a down-to-earth way of exploring Abel Tasman and the iconic Split Apple Rock. You and your family (suitable for ages two and above) will learn paddle commands, Maori traditions, a waka (canoe) salute in the Maori language and more. The tour takes place in the morning, lasting about three hours, so you’ll be back in time for lunch. Find out more about Waka Abel Tasman on Viator and Tripadvisor.
For a family-friendly outdoor attraction in the city, visit Founders Park – a historical themed village with established artisans and gardens. Ride the Nelson Railway, see inside a Bristol Freighter plane, visit the historical exhibitions between the fire station and the cycle museum, pick up a cookie from the bakery and dine at the Founders Cafe.
For more outdoor adventures, like cycling to Rabbit Island or visiting a bird sanctuary, check out the 10 Things to Do in Nelson with Kids.
All-weather Family Activities
Although Nelson is the sunniest city in New Zealand, it still has its fair share of rainy days. If you get caught in one of them, still keep the family happy with one of Nelson’s all-weather activities.
A highlight is Pic’s Peanut Butter World, the home of one of New Zealand’s favourite peanut butter brands! Learn more about this delicious breakfast spread on a tour of the peanut butter factory. Kids can have a go at making their own peanut butter, while the whole family gets to watch the factory in action with conveyor belts whizzing glass jars to be filled with spread made from freshly-roasted peanuts. Tours of the factory are free but note that the factory doesn’t operate on Saturdays so Pic’s offers an alternative tour where you’ll have to use your imaginations.
An adventure for families with children aged five years and above, white water rafting on the Buller River between the Kahurangi and Nelson Lakes National Parks is well worth considering as a rainy day activity. With the idea that you’ll get wet anyway, the Buller Family Rafting trip with Ultimate Descents New Zealand is an excellent option for active families. Everyone gets the opportunity to paddle if they want to with custom-made child paddles to navigate over choppy rapids whilst among breathtaking river gorge scenery.
For more rainy day ideas, check out the 10 Things to Do in Nelson on a Rainy Day.
Free Family Activities
Remember, we’ve already mentioned a free activity, which is the tour at Pic’s Peanut Butter World! But if you want more things to do in Nelson while sticking to your budget, you can also spend an afternoon at Tahunanui Beach. Do your usual beach traditions, whether it’s building sandcastles or paddling in the sea, while behind the beach you’ll find an ice cream truck, as well as Fun Park. The park features go-karts, trampolines, roller skating, mini golf, a mini train ride and more. Note that Fun Park has fees for its activities.
Another way to enjoy Nelson for free is by spending time in its picturesque gardens. The Queen’s Gardens is a popular option with walkways, bridges, sculptures and water fountains. Additionally, check out Miyazu Garden, a Japanese garden with reflective ponds, bonsai trees, stepping stones, bridges and much more.
For more affordable activities, head to the 14 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Nelson.