The Family Guide to Whangarei
Head north and discover the sunny city of Whangarei and its surrounding coastal attractions. Just over two hours’ drive from Auckland, Whangarei provides an easy escape for families looking for the right balance of adventure, relaxation, education and affordability.
Stay in one of the city’s spacious motels or holiday parks and enjoy proximity to the stunning coast of Whangarei Heads and majestic waterfalls along with your usual city conveniences. Just off the shores are the Poor Knights Islands, a diving and snorkelling mecca, while inland you have kiwi houses, hire-wire obstacle courses, gardens and much more. Discover more about what it’s like to visit Whangarei with the tribe in this guide to Whangarei for families.
Things to Do in Whangarei with Kids
- Cruise and snorkel at the Poor Knights Islands
- Get some family beach time in at Ruakaka Beach
- See kiwi birds at Kiwi North, Museum & Heritage Park
- Zipline through the trees at Adventure Forest
- Admire the amazing Whangarei Falls
- Let the kids loose at the Whangarei Quarry Gardens
- Enjoy a scenic horse trek on the beach
- See giant kauri trees at the AH Reed Kauri Park
- Ride on “Monster Scooters” at Heads Up
- Play glow-in-the-dark mini golf
For more information on each activity, see the 10 Things to Do in Whangarei with Kids.
Family Adventure Activities
For families looking for active adventures to experience together, there are plenty of options in Whangarei. One of the highlights of the region is the Poor Knights Islands, a collection of 11 million-year-old islands harbouring an array of wildlife above and below the water’s surface. A boat cruise with one of the dive operators in Tutukaka, approximately 28km (17 miles) from Whangarei, is a spectacular way to enjoy cruising through the islands’ arches and giant sea caves. Scuba diving, of course, is an option for the adults, but with snorkelling gear, kayaks and/or SUP boards also included in the trips, the whole family can enjoy these islands. Yukon Dive and Dive! Tutukaka both offer family-friendly trips, while group tours are also available from Auckland with Cheeky Kiwi Travel, which you can learn more about on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Adventure can also be found on dry land, especially at Adventure Forest. The hire-wire obstacle course will have you and your family ziplining from tree to tree, traversing, balancing on tightropes, swinging into nets and all sorts. Note that there is a lower weight limit for the course is 40kg (88lbs) and that they have reduced hours in the winter. Adventure Forest is approximately 10km (6 miles) north of Whangarei.
Finally, take in the amazing coastal scenery and rolling farmlands of Whangarei Heads with one of the local horse trekking tours. There are several operators offering short trips for first-time riders, such as Tuidale Stables, Sandy Bay Horse Trekking and Coastal Riding Whangarei Heads. The activity is best suited to ages eight and up.
For more adventure activities for families, head over to the 10 Things to Do in Whangarei with Kids.
Family Indoor Activities
Any road trip around New Zealand calls for some more relaxing days, which is why Whangarei’s indoor attractions are so ideal. And, let’s be honest, the rain is never too far behind in New Zealand, so these activities make for an excellent backup.
Kids who love animals will adore Kiwi North, Museum & Heritage Park. Watch the kiwi birds in a special nocturnal kiwi house, see the “living dinosaur” the tuatara, and watch the geckos creeping up on unsuspecting insects. The complex also has a small indoor museum, as well as an outdoor heritage park.
Something quirky in the town centre awaits at Claphams Clocks, the largest and most obscure clock collection in the Southern Hemisphere! Located on the Quayside in the city centre, Claphams Clocks features an array of creative clocks, from water clocks to sundials to antique pieces. Plus, at admission under NZ$5 for children, it’s too affordable to not take a look.
Free Family Activities
Extra time can be spent in Whangarei checking out all of its fun and free attractions.
Whangarei Falls is always a hit with kids and adults alike, a 26m (85ft) waterfall just 5km (3 miles) from the city centre. Admire the waterfall from the top, side and the base of its plunge pool on a short walk or extend the walk further along a flat riverside trail that’s suitable for strollers. See 12 Whangarei Walks You Can’t Miss for more details.
For some free quality outdoor time, check out the Whangarei Quarry Gardens, an old quarry turned sub-tropical oasis with a wealth of tropical plantlife, many of which seen nowhere else in New Zealand. There are short walks to enjoy around the gardens, suitable for strollers, and a trip is not complete without a coffee at the cafe and a browse in the art gallery. Find the gardens just off State Highway One, approximately 4km (2 miles) from the city centre.
Finally, what family doesn’t love some beach time? Whangarei has some fantastic beaches in all directions, especially at the Whangarei Heads. Venture south on State Highway One, however, and you’ll find the stunning Ruakaka Beach. There’s plenty of space for everyone on this 13km (8-mile) span of sand and shells with amazing views of the Whangarei Heads in the distance. Surfguards patrol the beaches in summer for safer swimming. Check out more beaches in the 10 Best Beaches in Whangarei.
For more free activities, take a look at the 18 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Whangarei.