The Guide to Whangarei for Families© Sarah Orne - Northland Inc
The Guide to Whangarei for Families

The Family Guide to Whangarei

© Sarah Orne – Northland Inc

How to Plan a Family Trip 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, quirky museums, gorgeous gardens and much more. Discover more about what it’s like to visit Whangarei with the tribe in this travel guide to Whangarei for families.

10 Family Activities in Whangarei

What does a family trip to Whangarei look like? Check out these family activities to get an idea:

  1. Cruise and snorkel at the Poor Knights Islands
  2. Get some family beach time in at Ruakaka Beach
  3. See kiwi birds at Kiwi North, Museum & Heritage Park
  4. Admire the amazing Whangarei Falls
  5. Let the kids loose at the Whangarei Quarry Gardens
  6. Enjoy a scenic horse trek on the beach
  7. See giant kauri trees at the AH Reed Kauri Park
  8. Ride on “Monster Scooters” at Heads Up
  9. Check out the Claphams National Clock Museum
  10. Play glow-in-the-dark mini-golf.

For more information on each activity, see the 15 Best Things to Do in Whangarei with Kids. Otherwise, simply keep on reading…

The Travel Guide to Whangarei for Families©

Family-Friendly Adventure Activities

For families looking for active adventures to experience together, there are plenty of options in Whangarei.

Poor Knights Islands

One of the highlights in the Whangarei area is the Poor Knights Islands. This collection of 11 million-year-old islands harbours an array of wildlife both above and below the water’s surface. Join one of the dive operators in Tutukaka for a family-friendly cruise through the islands’ arches and giant sea caves formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago. 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 and their vibrant marine life. Dive! Tutukaka, Fish Tutukaka and Perfect Day offer trips for families.

Heads Up Adventures

More outdoor adventures await at this unique attraction along the Whangarei Heads Road. Heads Up Adventures is a mountain bike and monster scooter trail park with fun tracks to navigate the native bush with mountainous scenery. While older kids can enjoy the trails by bike, younger kids – even toddlers – will have a blast on the motorised “Monster Scooters”. For more adventures along the Whangarei Heads Road, check out the 15 Best Things to Do at Whangarei Heads.

Horse Riding

Finally, take in the amazing coastal scenery and rolling farmlands of Whangarei Heads with one of the local horse trekking tours. Tours such as Tuidale Stables (Waipu), Sandy Bay Glamping & Horse Tours (Sandy Bay) and Coastal Riding Whangarei Heads (Taiharuru) offer short trips for first-time riders. These trips are best suited to children ages eight and over. See how these tours compare to the 10 Best Horse Riding Tours in New Zealand.

For more adventure activities for families, head over to the 15 Best Things to Do in Whangarei with Kids.

The Travel Guide to Whangarei for Families©

Family-Friendly All-Weather 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.

Kiwi North, Museum & Heritage Park

Kids who love animals will adore Kiwi North, Museum & Heritage Park (SH14, Maunu). Watch the kiwi birds in a special nocturnal kiwi house, see the “living dinosaur” the tuatara, and witness the geckos creeping up on unsuspecting insects. The complex also has a small indoor museum, as well as an outdoor heritage park.

Claphams National Clock Museum

Something quirky in the town centre awaits at Claphams National Clock Museum (95 Dent Street), the largest and most obscure clock collection in the Southern Hemisphere! Located in the Town Basin, 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 not to take a look!

Extreme Mini Golf

A rainy day saviour or just a fun way to unwind at the end of the day, Extreme Mini Golf (2 Reuburn Street) is a popular choice for families. The 16-hole glow-in-the-dark mini-golf course has you swinging in glowworm caves, ancient ruins and many more surprises.

Again, more like this can be found in the 15 Things to Do in Whangarei with Kids.

The Travel Guide to Whangarei for Families© Sarah Orne -Northland Inc

Free Family Activities

Extra time can be spent in Whangarei checking out all of its fun and free attractions.

Whangarei Falls

Waterfalls are always a hit with kids and adults alike, and the 26 m (85 ft) Whangarei Falls is arguably one of the most memorable waterfalls on the North Island. Just 5 km (3 mi) from the city centre, the Whangarei Falls Walk has viewpoints from the top, side and the base of its plunge pool. You can extend your walk further along a flat forested riverside trail that’s suitable for strollers. Check out the 10 Best Walks in Whangarei for more information.

Whangarei Quarry Gardens

For some free quality outdoor time, check out the Whangarei Quarry Gardens (37A Russell Road, Kensington), an old quarry turned sub-tropical oasis with a wealth of tropical plantlife, many of which are 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 1, approximately 4 km (2 mi) from the city centre.

Ruakaka Beach

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 1, however, and you’ll find the stunning Ruakaka Beach. There’s plenty of space for everyone on this 13 km (8 mi) 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 20 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Whangarei.

The Travel Guide to Whangarei for Families© David Kirkland - Northland Inc

Family-Friendly Dining in Whangarei

Keep little and big tummies well-fed with these family-friendly restaurants in Whangarei!

With a waterfront setting and something for everyone, including extensive kids’ menus, as well as for vegans and gluten-free, The QUAY Kitchen (31 Quayside) boasts creative menus for brunch, lunch and dinner.

We also like the stone grill experience of Jimmy Jack’s Rib Shack and Craft Bar (117 Bank Street) along with its American-meets-Kiwi menu with something to please even the fussiest eaters.

For breakfast or lunch, head to the Serenity Cafe (45 Quayside) on the riverside for delicious Kiwi savoury pies and hot breakfasts. Alternatively, get your breakfast or lunch fix from Biggie Bagels (7 Bank Street) boasting mouthwatering sourdough bagels with a unique hip-hop theme.

More recommendations await in The Food Guide to Whangarei: Places to Eat & Food Tours.

More About Whangarei

That’s it from the travel guide to Whangarei for families. For more about planning the ultimate family trip, take a look at the following:

Finally, discover even more family trip tips in The Travel Guide to New Zealand for Families.


Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in New Zealand over 10 years ago and with a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to travel New Zealand. She knows Aotearoa inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience New Zealand’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides and is the co-host of NZ Pocket Guide’s live New Zealand travel Q&As on YouTube.

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