New Zealand is arguably the most beautiful country in the world. It is an amazing place to go on a family adventure, exploring mountains, lakes, meadows, towns and cities. We know it can be daunting to plan a holiday itinerary that pleases both parents and kids, so we’ve put together a selection of ideas for young and old. Activities in New Zealand with kids range from hiking and beach time to skiing, horse-riding and more. No need to hunt for playgrounds when the entire country is a family playground!


Let’s face it, New Zealand is pretty big! To make things a bit easier, we split this article into North Island activities and South Island activities.

North Island

Dolphin spotting at Bay of Islands
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Exploring Bay of Islands

Bay of Islands is located in the far north of New Zealand. With its turquoise waters, white powdery beaches, and green hills, you’ll pause and wonder if you’re in some sort of paradise. Bay of Islands is home to 144 islands between Cape Brett and the Purerua Peninsula.

Spot wildlife on the island, a mix of dolphins, penguins and whales. You can go sailing, camping, scuba diving, kayaking or even swimming with dolphins. Kids’ and parents’ dreams are made of this — you’ll never want to leave! Add on waterfalls, museums to learn about the Maori culture, and outdoor sports — we say yay!

New Zealand with kids -Mangawhai Heads
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Surfing and Beach Time

You may not think of New Zealand when dreaming about beaches and a refreshing swim in the sea but actually, you should! Stunning beaches with crystal clear water and world-class surfing waves are all you’ll see when you drive along the northlands. Take the kids down to the beach for some sand-and-water fun or have them take a surfing lesson or two.

Ninety Mile Beach features spectacular sunsets and is one of the best surfing spots in the world. The beach is 88 km long so there is no need to worry about lack of space. Or relax at Hot Water Beach in Hahei. Dig a hole in the sand and you’ve got yourself an outdoor hot tub — the water comes from underground natural hot springs! Then there’s Mangawhai Heads (above), a beach area north of Auckland, featuring golden sands and azure blue waters, green hills and mesmerising sunsets.

(See also: 11 Beautiful Islands near Singapore That Won’t Require You to Take a Plane)

Floating through Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Something you really don’t want to miss out on is the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Hop on a boat and you’ll be rowed into ancient caves illuminated by a glow worm species that is found exclusively in New Zealand. It’s really something when the cave comes alive with light! Our city kids will be absolutely fascinated.

New Zealand with kids -Rotorua
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Discovering Beautiful Rotorua

Learn and appreciate the uniqueness and beauty of Maori culture, get lost in Californian Redwoods and spot wildlife — you can do it all in Rotorua. There are beautiful lakes and the famous redwoods to explore if you love the outdoors.

Stop by Tamaki Maori Village for a kid-friendly cultural experience and visit Rainbow Springs Nature Park for wildlife. The entire family will also love going up into the mountains on a gondola, only to luge back down again. That’s after taking in the spectacular lake views and enjoying some food and drinks at the restaurant, of course!

New Zealand with kids -Hobbiton
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Entering Fantastic Hobbiton

We’ve all seen the epic trilogy The Lord of the Rings or perhaps even read the books. If you’re a fan, Hobbiton is a must! You’ll get to tour the set where little hobbit houses and the lush green hills of the ‘Shire’ were filmed, and still stand today. See where Frodo and his uncle Bilbo walked and where Gandalf came to visit before the whole adventure began. Hobbiton makes for a lovely day out and plenty of photo ops with the kids.

Visiting Exciting Auckland

Auckland is a world-class city not to be missed. Shops, restaurants, the Auckland Skytower… you’ll always find something to do. Be sure to check out Silo park for special locally organised events. Auckland is great when you want to explore a bit of city life in New Zealand with kids. If you ever need a break from nature, that is!

(See also: Exotic Family Travel Destinations for That Once-in-a-Lifetime Vacation)

South Island

New Zealand with kids -Mount Cook
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Hiking Mount Cook

Mount Cook, known locally as “Aoraki”, is the highest mountain in all of New Zealand. Located in a national park, it’s a beautiful and easy walk your whole family can enjoy. The scenery is like something out of a dream, rugged landscape dotted with lush greens and majestic snow-capped mountains that seem to go on forever.

You’ll see as many as 19 peaks and if you’re up to it, there are several different hikes you could go on. Try the Glacier Explorer trip — something the kids will definitely love! Or have a leisurely picnic by the lake, take the kids fishing or go horse riding. It’s easy to spend days or even weeks here without getting bored.

Puzzling World in Wanaka, New Zealand
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Conquering Queenstown

Also known as the adventure capital of New Zealand, Queenstown is full of family fun all year round. During winter, pop by the Patagonia Chocolate shop for a steaming mug of hot cocoa. In the summer, take a dip in the lake, go cycling, bungee jumping, horse riding, and white water rafting. The choices are endless, really. No matter the season, Queenstown is a destination worth the visit.

Make sure to stop by the neighbouring town of Wanaka too. Be charmed by the small town vibes — you’ll find perfect family-friendly villas here too. It’s an option to have Wanaka as your base to explore Queenstown and the surrounding areas. Kids won’t want to miss the thrilling mazes in Puzzling World (above).

New Zealand with kids -Milford Sound
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Experiencing Milford Sound

Pure wilderness — arguably the best of New Zealand — is found in Fiordland National Park, starting at famous Milford Sound (above). What is this place? A stunning glacier-carved fiord also known as ‘the most beautiful place on earth’. Imagine powerful waterfalls gushing down from a height of up to 155 metres.

To see this stunning phenomenon from above, take the kids on a helicopter ride from Queenstown or Wanaka. You can also go there directly overland. From there, adventures range from hiking and kayaking to hopping on a scenic cruise.

Horse-riding at Abel Tasman
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Horse-riding at Abel Tasman

Abel Tasman is New Zealand’s smallest national park, which is just perfect for families. Nothing is too far or takes too much effort. Go horse-riding (recommended!), sailing on a catamaran, sea kayaking, swimming, skydiving and more. A great destination for all kinds of family fun.

(See also: 17 Family-Friendly Staycations to Suit Every Taste)

Whale-watching in Kaikoura

This charming town makes a great pit-stop in between your travels from Christchurch to Marlborough. Locked between the mountains and the sea, Kaikoura is an amazing wildlife destination. One of the most popular things to do around here is whale-watching. Fly or cruise over the ocean and try to spot the giants of the sea. You can also swim with dolphins in the sea. Pretty amazing, no? The kids will be talking about it for years!

Forrest Wines in Marlborough
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Winery-hopping in Marlborough

Marlborough is known for producing delicious wine and is one of the most famous wine regions in New Zealand. You’re probably thinking that doesn’t sound very suitable for kids. But guess what, we found a few child-friendly wineries, complete with yards, picnic tables and duck ponds.

Check out the famous Cloudy Bay, Wairau River and Forrest Wines (above) for the best winery-with-kids experience. That aside, spot more wildlife, including endangered birds and lizards around Marlborough. Or take a cruise on the Marlborough Sounds — you might spot dolphins here too!

(See also: The Best Kids Clubs in Southeast Asia Resorts)

When to Visit New Zealand with Kids

New Zealand is gorgeous all year round and the locals are lovely and welcoming. When to go really depends on what kind of holiday you are after. Do you want to go skiing or snowboarding off mountain peaks or do you prefer to swim in the lake, cycling and horse riding? Is it going to be summer fun or winter wonderland? For snow, head over between June and September. Prefer sunshine and sandals? November to March is good.

New Zealand with kids at Aqua Cove via villa-finder
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Where to Stay in New Zealand with Kids

When travelling with the family, it’s always a good idea to go for a villa. You may think it sounds far too expensive, but you’ll be surprised. Villas come in all price categories, just like hotels and resorts. You will get a New Zealand holiday home with plenty of space and privacy for the family. The kids will love having their own private garden or even better, a garden with a private pool!

Book the trip, use a private villa as your travel base and second home, and make memories to cherish for a lifetime. New Zealand’s natural beauty will shock (in a good way!) and delight you. With the moderate climate, family-friendly accommodation, and plenty of activities to thrill parents and kids, you can’t go wrong with a Kiwi family holiday!

(See also: 10 Best Family-friendly Airlines Flying in and out of Singapore Changi Airport)

This article was contributed by Khanh Tran from Villa-Finder.com, the leading villa reservation platform in Asia. Click here for more information.

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