With the December school holidays finally here, now’s the time to start thinking about taking a break and exploring some of the incredible family friendly attractions and activities the North Island has to offer. From climbing dormant volcanoes in Auckland to exploring art deco buildings in Napier, here’s our guide to the best family friendly things to do on the North Island.
Auckland is one of New Zealand’s most family friendly holiday destinations, with a huge range of activities throughout the city and surrounds that the entire family will enjoy. As New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland boasts a variety of places to stay, eat and explore, and with a great public transport system it’s also really easy to get around.
Auckland sits on the remnants of 48 dormant and extinct volcanoes – And, incredibly, many of these are accessible via a walk, bike ride, jog or drive. Some of the most epic viewpoints are from Mount Eden, Auckland Domain, One Tree Hill, Mount Victoria in Devonport and Rangitoto Island, but you can be sure to experience a mind blowing view over the city from any of the regions volcanic viewpoints.
For families wanting to spend time in New Zealand’s crystal clear waters, the Goat Island Marine Reserve is the perfect place to spend a day or two. Snorkel with fish, glide over sea life in a clear kayak, scuba dive, or explore the Goat Island walk way – The opportunities are endless and there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Spend a day exploring some of Auckland’s famed treasures. The Auckland Museum houses an awe-inspiring collection of local and natural history. Tāmaki Herenga Waka Stories steps you through Auckland’s origins and the Maori heritage, while the Imaginarium displays some fascinating curiosities, including the jawbone of Rehua – an enormous whale that washed ashore in the north.
For the family’s resident Lord of the Rings fan – and other movie-buffs – a visit to Auckland’s Wētā Workshop Unleashed is a must-do. Step into the imagination of the Academy Award-winning company behind a wealth of iconic movie magic and come face-to-face with original set pieces and monsters. You’ll also learn about Wētā’s cinematic wizadry.
Toi o Tāmaki Auckland Art Gallery is also home to over 17,000 historic and contemporary artworks. Operating since 1888, the Gallery displays a comprehensive history of New Zealand, with artwork that details contact between Māori and European explorers as far back as the 1600s. It’s also home to a sandstone figure from an Indian temple, dated from the 10th century.
For history and culture aficionados, the Auckland Museum is a must visit destination for an unparalleled insight into New Zealand. The museum boasts one of the worlds most impressive collections of Māori and Pacific Island artefacts, including the last great Māori war canoe which was carved from a giant Totara tree.
For adrenaline seekers, Auckland offers bungy jumps off the iconic Sky Tower and Auckland Bridge.
No Auckland adventure would be complete without meeting some of its marine residents. Only 30kms from central Auckland, the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park is packed with unforgettable experiences including a dolphin and whale watching tour. Jump aboard for a four-and-a-half-hour cruise to meet these majestic creatures – you’ll enjoy views of famous Auckland landmarks such as the volcanic Rangitoto Island while you’re at it.
Where to stay in Auckland
Located a leisurely 20 minute drive from downtown Auckland, Quality Hotel Lincoln Green offers family friendly accommodation with luxurious bedding, ample free parking, and modern and spacious guest rooms for families of all sizes.
Taupo is an ideal destination for those travelling with family, as there is something on offer for all ages. Enjoy summer days swimming, boating and fishing on the lakes, or exploring some of Taupo’s incredible national parks on family hikes and bike rides. There’s also mini golf, horse treks, the famous Huka Prawn Park, ample family friendly restaurants, boat cruises, farm parks, playgrounds and natural wonders – a practically endless list of things to do to keep everyone entertained.
Where to stay in Taupo
Quality Suites Huka Falls is situated in an area of spectacular natural beauty. Set amongst grapevines with an old historic church in the stunning landscaped grounds, Quality Suites Huka Falls offers self-contained accommodation with the option of studio, one, two and three bedroom villas, making it ideal for solo travellers, couples, families and larger groups.
Napier is well known as the Art Deco capital of the Southern Hemisphere. Filled with beautifully restored period architecture, the pretty coastal town of Napier is the perfect holiday destination for families looking for a sea change with immersive and unique architecture. Napier also boasts an array of activities for families to enjoy, like the National Aquarium of New Zealand, which is home to a wide range of saltwater, freshwater and land animal exhibits from New Zealand and around the world.
Where to stay in Napier
The family friendly Quality Inn Napier is located in the heart of the Art Deco city, a short walk to major attractions, local cafes and restaurants.
Palmerston North offers the sophistication and diversity of a major city, surrounded by the kind of awe inspiring nature that would be an outdoor enthusiasts dream. A year-round calendar of events keeps the city alive, from motorsports to festivals.
The New Zealand Rugby Museum is a must visit for Rugby fans. The museum is the world’s first museum dedicated to the oval ball! Visitors can also test out their rugby skills – kicking tackling, sprinting, pushing in the “Have a Go area”.
During the summer months, head to the Lido Aquatic Centre which features outdoor pools, a dedicated AquaPlay area for kids with 51 water features, and the North Islands biggest SuperBowl slide with speeds of up to 60kmh – A must do while in Palmy!
Palmerston North Esplanade Scenic Rail is a fantastic scenic railway experience in Manawatu, and a must do activity that is suitable for all ages.
Where to stay in Palmerston North
Conveniently located in the city centre, Quality Suites Central Square is a short walk from popular highlights including the New Zealand Rugby Museum.