Looking to treat your little ones to a fun-filled school holiday this year? Whether you stick to the North Island or embark on an exploration of the country’s spectacular south, there’s no shortage of family-friendly destinations to discover in New Zealand.
From Rotorua’s geothermal plains to Kaikoura’s aquatic playground, keep the whole family happy with our guide to Aotearoa’s best school holiday destinations.
Take a trip through history in Auckland, where some of the country’s best interactive museums reside. Start at The Auckland Museum, which houses the world’s most extensive collection of Maori and Pacific Island artefacts, before branching out to the nearby Howick Historical Village – a seven-acre living museum that offers a snapshot of 19th century New Zealand, complete with colonial architecture, Victorian gardens and an old-style café to boot.
Known as the epicentre of geothermal activity in the North Island, Rotorua has no shortage of natural wonders to amaze and inspire children of all ages. Take a trip to Te Rata Bay, otherwise known as Hot Water Beach, where you can dig out your own private hot spring near the lake’s edge. After an afternoon in one of the soothing pools, set up camp for a family getaway filled with swimming, fishing, hiking and more.
Home to ‘Hobbiton’, the famous on-set village where the Lord of the Rings Trilogy was filmed, Matamata is a haven for bookworms and movie lovers alike. Only an hour’s drive north of Rotorua, families can make their way through Middle-Earth one Hobbit Hole at a time before grabbing a selection of movie-themed souvenirs at The Shire Store. Not into Tolkien? Skip the two-hour guided tour and grab a seat at The Shires Rest Café, where a wide selection of Kiwi cuisine is sure to keep kids – and parents – happy.
Famous first and foremost for its vibrant arts and culture scene, this cool little capital has just as much going for it when it comes to nature-based adventures. Fuel your day at one of Wellington’s world class cafés before heading to Zealandia – an eco-friendly sanctuary that New Zealand’s rarest critters call home. Alternatively, pick up a Wellington car rental and immerse yourself in the local flora and fauna of Kapiti Island – a bird-filled oasis just 50 kilometres north of the city.
Home to an endless array of adventures designed to suit all ages and activity levels, Christchurch is a can’t-miss destination for families who like to get their hearts pumping. Embark on a jet boat ride down the Waimakariri River, scale the Port Hills on the Christchurch Gondola or take to the treetops at the Adrenalin Forest, where zip lines and flying foxes create an aerial obstacle course far above the forest floor.
Undoubtedly one of the best places in New Zealand to see the country’s native sea creatures in their natural habitat, Kaikoura is an ideal destination to catch a glimpse of life below sea level. Take in coastal views on the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway before following the track to the resident fur seal colony or simply enjoy one of the local whale watching tours, which operate all year round.
Happen to have a train-loving toddler on your hands? Take the family aboard the Taieri Gorge Railway. An exciting way to see some of the South Island’s most beautiful landscapes, this half-day journey offers plenty of opportunities for magical family photos along the way. Back in the city, see another side of the area’s wilderness in the Dunedin Botanic Garden, where family picnics find the perfect setting in a stunning, 75-acre surround.
While it may be best known as New Zealand’s preeminent skiing destination, Queenstown has something to offer families at all times of the year. Make the 280-kilometre trek to the area’s west coast where you’ll find the world-famous Milford Sound, or explore Lake Te Anau’s subterranean system of caves, where glow worms paint the walls in a spectrum of fluorescent blues and greens.
Want to treat the whole family to a school holiday they’ll never forget? Organise a car rental at one of our nationwide locations and start planning your tour of New Zealand’s North and South Islands today.