Go NZ: New Zealand’s most family friendly holiday destinations

At this time of the year many New Zealand families would be jetting off on their much-anticipated holiday to Hawaii, Fiji, the Gold Coast, Bali or California for some sun and overseas adventure. Obviously, our arch-enemy Covid-19 has put paid to many of those plans, but it’s also done something magical, by turning our attention to what’s right on our doorstep. Sometimes we’re so dazzled by the promises of foreign shores we don’t think about exploring what’s here, just under our noses.

If your family is making 2020 the year they get to know New Zealand, here are some great suggestions – only a fraction of the fun our country has to offer. Please make sure you check websites and social media before planning any of these trips as regulations and conditions are changing weekly in these unusual times.


The City of Sails has plenty to occupy families. On a sunny day, explore the Viaduct Harbour and North Wharf (the playground will keep them occupied for ages and you can all refuel at the Auckland Fish Markets afterwards, where you’ll find a wide range of international cuisine and a great outdoor bar). Auckland Zoo, the Sky Tower, Snowplanet and Rainbow’s End are always popular with families, as are the black sands of the wild West coast beaches (Bethells, Piha, Muriwai); make sure you stop at Hallertau for a craft brew or any of the West Auckland wineries – where there’s always plenty of space for kids to be kids – on the way home. If the weather isn’t playing ball, the Auckland Museum provides hours of fun and the Auckland Art Gallery often has something kids will enjoy – it’s a great space. If your family loves icecream, experience it like never before at Giapo – an Auckland institution – and if you want to get on to that gorgeous sparkling harbour, Waiheke Island is the perfect day trip. Those beaches are pretty hard to beat.

Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake)

Just 15 minutes from the centre of Rotorua, this is the perfect place for families to base themselves to explore this region. There’s a Top 10 Holiday Park right on the lake and you can rent their kayaks for a gentle paddle off these beautiful shores. Toddle round the lake for some exercise, and take a dip if the weather permits (it’s like bathwater in summer). From here, it’s easy to access all Rotorua’s superb family fun, such as the Redwoods Treewalk on platforms through the trees (even better at night!); the kayak trip across Lake Rotoiti to the spectacular Manupirua Springs Hot Pools; recently opened Secret Spot Hot Tubs; Canopy Tours zipline experience; Jetboating to fascinating Mokoia Island; taking an Ogo ride (large inflatable ball) downhill – plus of course all the geothermal attractions that make this part of the country so popular. If you’re there on a Thursday night, don’t miss the night markets and definitely check out Scope Cafe for the best home-baking in town. The Blind Finch do excellent burgers (and great gins) and although it’s not flash, or revolutionary, stopping for icecream at Lady Jane’s has been an essential part of any holiday to the area for more years than we’d care to remember.

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