Summer School Holidays: South Island, NZ

Looking for somewhere a little different to take the family in New Zealand this summer? From dramatic mountain peaks to golden, sandy beaches, check out these magical South Island holiday spots. There are also accommodation deals where kids under 12 stay can stay for free.


Solo Woman adventurer Walking the famous Abel Tasman Coast Track in New Zealand South Island
Head to the Tasman Coast Track for some awesome hiking. Image from Onfokus.

At the top of New Zealand’s South Island, Nelson is renowned for its natural beauty with three spectacular national parks to explore within a 90-minute radius of the city. Discover glacial lakes and alpine forests in the majestic Nelson Lakes National Park or enjoy sea-kayaking in the sheltered coves of the Abel Tasman National Park. The vast Kahurangi National Park in the west offers a superb wilderness of subtropical rainforest, high country, river valley and coast.

Take a leafy stroll the 8-km pathway alongside the beautiful Maitai River or spend a peaceful day at the secluded Brook Waimārama Sanctuary, home to endangered native plants and animals. Another popular attraction is the Founders Heritage Park, a time capsule village set within gorgeous gardens that showcases the city’s European heritage.

Need somewhere to stay?

Enjoy charming, country-style accommodation at the olde world hotel, The Honest Lawyer with picturesque views of the Waimea Estuary, Tasman Bay and distant mountains.


Christchurch Harbor at night with a deep blue sky.
Christchurch at night. Image from Walter Bibikow.

The largest city on the South Island, Christchurch is the gateway to the beautiful Canterbury region. Discover a wild coastline dotted with spectacular surf breaks and a laidback city packed with rich Māori culture.

Explore the volcanic landscape of the Banks Peninsula, including the Rhino Walk at Children’s Bay Akaroa, and visit the penguin colony at Pohatu, the largest Australasian little penguin colony on mainland New Zealand. There are also plenty of beaches to relax on, from the popular Sumner Beach and Scarborough Beach to Corsair Bay and Tumbledown Bay. 

The action-packed Christchurch Adventure Park in nearby Port Hills serves up the ultimate in outdoor adventure. Enjoy scenic walks and epic mountain biking trails as well as New Zealand’s longest and highest zipline. Christchurch Botanic Gardens is a great spot for kids with a playground and paddling pool set in spacious gardens.

Need somewhere to stay?

Check out these places to stay in Christchurch, from award-winning hotels offering self-contained accommodation to modern and stylish hotels set in manicured rose gardens.


New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Timaru, Timaru Lighthouse at dawn
Timaru Lighthouse. Image from Walter Bibikow.

A pretty coastal town on the South Island east coast, Timaru hugs peaceful Caroline Bay midway between Christchurch and Dunedin. With a sheltered swimming beach, lush botanic gardens and scenic walks, you’ll find plenty to do with the kids this summer.

Centennial Park is a sprawling parkland in the heart of Timaru with a BMX track, playground and walking and biking trails to explore. You’ll find more trails winding through ancient native forest in the Peel Forest Park. Discover the original art galleries of the Aotearoa on a guided tour of iconic Māori rock art painted on limestone caves in the region.

Caroline Bay also has a resident colony of little penguins, which nest in the rocks between October to March. The best time to see them is after sunset on Marine Parade as they come ashore. The kids will enjoy meeting the friendly farm animals at Famlan Farm Park and handfeeding alpacas, sheep and goats.

Need somewhere to stay?

The Comfort Hotel Benvenue is located a short stroll from Caroline Bay and the town centre, with modern suites and apartment-style accommodation.

Travelling with kids under 12?

Join Choice Privileges today for the Lowest Price Guaranteed when you book direct with Choice Hotels, as well as 4c/Litre off petrol at United Petroleum.*

Plus, Kids Under 12 Stay Free at family friendly Choice Hotels when you Book Direct.* (**T&Cs apply).

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