Family friendly things to do on the South Island of NZ

New Zealand’s South Island is famous for its natural landscapes, from glacial valleys and star filled skies to tranquil tropical reserves, offering plenty of outdoor activities for the whole family to enjoy.

Here’s our guide to family friendly things to do on the South Island in Christchurch, Nelson and Invercargill.


Christchurch is one of the most popular destinations on the South Island. Known as the Garden City of New Zealand thanks to its beautiful landscapes, parks and open spaces, Christchurch has plenty of attractions and activities for families to enjoy.

The International Antarctic Centre is a great family attraction and tickets are reasonably priced. Explore Antarctica through the Hagglund Field trip, Husky Zone, Storm Dome, Penguin Rescue, HD Theatre & 4D Theatre.

Take a punt on the Avon river (see what we did there?), an iconic Christchurch activity which is not to be missed. Admire the beautiful Christchurch Botanic Gardens or the changing face of the city centre as you are guided gently along the Avon River. An ideal group or family activity, punting on Avon is an ecofriendly way to relax and enjoy Christchurch from a different perspective.

Get yet another different perspective on Christchurch via the Gondola, which offers stunning unique views of the city, Lyttelton Harbour and Port Hills. It’s a  great family friend spot for locals and visitors alike, and a visit to the Gondola’s is sure to make for a really special memory.

Where to stay in Christchurch

Located a short 4.5kms from the heart of the Christchurch CBD, Quality Hotel Elms is a fantastic choice for leisure guests, set in a peaceful location with a picturesque rose garden and range of rooms including standard and executive suites, as well as a luxury apartment.

Quality Suites Amore is centrally located in picturesque Riccarton, and is situated near the famous Riccarton Bush Farmers Market and Hagley Park.

A short 10 minute drive from the CBD, the Econo Lodge Canterbury Court offers a range of comfortable and inviting rooms ideal for individual and family holidays.


Nelson and the nearby Abel Tasman National Park are renowned for their stunning natural landscapes, with diverse geography capturing everything from long golden beaches to untouched forest and rugged mountains. Nelson boasts some amazing walking treks which can be enjoyed by everyone. There are also plenty of fun water activities such as kayaking, sailing adventures and cruise options.

Wilsons Abel Tasman offers an array of activities and tour options and is a one stop shop for many travellers.

Cable Bay Adventure Park boasts some cool adrenaline activities to help burn off some of that school holiday energy! Discover The Skywire Experience, Quad Bike Tours and range of e-bikes to rent and hit the trails at Cable Bay adventure Park.

Where to stay in Nelson

For unique, boutique accommodation in Nelson, The Honest Lawyer, Ascend Hotel Collection offers charming English country style rooms with picture perfect views of the Waimea Estuary, Tasman Bay, and mountains.


Stewart Island, near Invercargill
Stewart Island, near Invercargill

Known as the “City of Water and Light” referring to long summer daylight hours and frequent appearances of the Aurora Australis, Invercargill has plenty of character and has a friendly laid-back feel. If you’ve got some rev-heads in your family, you can’t miss Bill Richardson’s Transport World, with literally hundreds of motor vehicles and petrol pumps on display.

Just minutes from the city centre visitors can explore the long coastal highway of Oreti Beach, one of the only beaches in New Zealand vehicles are allowed to drive on. The beach is a wonderland for families, surfers and everybody in-between. Further recreational activities are offered at the Sandy Point Domain, where trails for walking and running, mountain biking, horse riding, motorcross, and dog sledding wind through bush and across beaches. For those less outdoor activity inclined, the boardwalk around the estuary and heritage wharfs provides an experience rich in ecology and local history.

Only  30 mins away from Bluff, the gateway to Stewart Island, Invercargill is also the perfect stop to break your Stewart Island exploration.

Where to stay in Invercargill

After a day of fun filled activities, Comfort Inn Tayesta is the perfect place to relax and unwind with the family.

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