Kid-Friendly New Zealand: 6 Things to See and Do

By: Lindsay MacNevin

New Zealand isn’t the first place you think of when you think about vacationing with the kids. It’s more often than not a really long flight, as well many families just can’t see themselves trekking up active craters and through fjords with babies in tow. Luckily New Zealand doesn’t have to be all outdoor extreme adventures and there is in fact plenty of things to see and do that will cater to all types of families. Here are our picks for the six best things to do with kids in NZ, both indoors and out.


6. Hit the Beach

It may seem obvious but that doesn’t mean we should exclude it from this list as hitting the beach is one of the best family friendly activities in New Zealand. It doesn’t matter what season you visit; the beaches here are always beautiful. If you happen to be visiting in the summer head to the golden east coast beaches near Auckland or the Coromandel Peninsula where families can swim, paddle, camp and play. If you are here in the wintertime the best places are on the west coast where volcanic black sand and driftwood awaits you. Sun, sand, waves, a picnic lunch and a couple bathing suits are all you need to enjoy this awesome activity.

Coromandel Peninsula New Zealand

5. Visit the Aquarium

Head to Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium located in Auckland for a fun-filled day of underwater discovery. This aquarium showcases over 30 live animal exhibits in habitat displays including the worlds largest Antarctic penguin colony exhibit. Kids will love the underwater viewing areas where they can come face to face with exciting creatures such as mammoth sharks. One of the most popular activities here is the shark cage snorkel experience where visitors can enter a cage that is submerged into the predator shark tank, filled with a variety of sharks. Through the cage’s Plexiglas floor, you can marvel at the sharks, stingrays and other fish that are just mere inches away. With plenty of interactive zones, an awesome new kids play zone and an abundance of sea life to discover, it is easy to spend the whole day here.

Photo by: Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life Aquarium
Photo by: Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium

4. Attend the Chocolate Carnival

Yes, there is such thing as a Chocolate Carnival and it is hosted by none other than Cadbury, one of the most well-known chocolate brands around the world. This annual event is held every summer and for one week this carnival delights chocolate lovers of all ages with its tours, chocolate decorations, painting and the ultimate Cadbury Crunchie Train. The carnival is also host to the famous Cadbury Jaffa Race, where balls of orange sugar-coated chocolate are rolled down the world’s steepest street, in one weird race. There are ice skating events, chocolate demonstrations, guided kids activities and more. The Crunchie Train ride alone is enough to entice visitors though, where visitors hop on board to discover the fantastic scenery between Dunedin and Hindon on the Taieri Gorge Railway, where suspicious characters are on board looking to steal the loot and where children’s stories are read aloud by staff.

Photo by: Event Carnival
Photo by: Event Carnival

3. Experience Lord of the Rings

It would be a shame to visit New Zealand and not experience the sites where the famous Lord of the Rings Trilogy was filmed, especially when you have the kids in tow. There are over 150 locations used in the films and much of the film was shot near major landmarks and tourist centers, so visiting them is quite easy. The biggest decision you have is deciding whether to take a self-guided tour or joining a tour group. Many of the tour groups offer the chance to visit both the Waitomo Glowworm Caves and the Hobbiton Movie Set in one day. The caves will enchant visitors with the thousands of twinkling lights in the glowworm grotto while the movie set lets you pose for pictures in front of the hobbit holes, the pond and the Green Dragon Inn. Whether it is the dramatic scenery you are after, or the movie sets, there is a tour for you here.

Hobbiton New Zealand


2. Swim with the Dolphins

New Zealand is one of the best places in the world to swim with dolphins, for a few good reasons. First off these waters are home to the common dolphin, bottle-nosed dolphin, dusky dolphin and the smallest and rarest of all dolphins- the Hector dolphin- found only in these waters. Another reason this is a great place to swim with the dolphins is that the tour operators take extraordinary care to ensure the dolphins are not harmed and in many operations part of the tour price goes toward dolphin conversation. Akaroa Harbour is the only place on the entire planet where you can swim with the playful Hector dolphins and children as young as eight are invited to be a part of the experience, provided they can swim and are in good shape. Spend two hours on and in the water getting to know these playful creatures.

Akaroa dolphin tours new zealand

1. See the Kiwi Bird

There are a total of five species of Kiwi and all are endangered with only about 70,000 left in New Zealand. The chance to come up close and personal with them is something to experience here, especially considering they are a significant national icon, cherished by all cultures in New Zealand. One of the best places to see them is the Otorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Park. This bird barn has a nocturnal enclosure where you can see active kiwi energetically digging with their long beaks, searching for food. It is the only place in NZ where you can see a great spotted kiwi, the biggest of the species. Feeding times are at 10 am, 1:30 pm and 3:30 pm for the kiwi, although there is more to see than just this elusive species such as native parrots, parakeets, long fish eels and blue ducks. Keeper talks happen throughout the day, the largest dome aviary is here in all of NZ and they are open daily throughout the year.

kiwi bird