If you’ve ever done it, you know that travelling with kids is different than any other kind of vacation. It can be hard to find that balance between educational and engaging or between challenging and just plain unsafe. New Zealand is a great choice for taking kids on their first international vacation. To most Western travellers, New Zealand is both new and familiar. You can have as challenging or comfortable a trip as you like, and there are definitely plenty of things to do.
Depending on your child’s interests, you may be looking for different things out of you trip. No matter what though, New Zealand has something to offer to any kid (or adult).
For animal lovers
Even the most animal-loving kid might be surprised at how many New Zealand animals he’s never even heard of. Like the kakapo: a flightless, green, mountain parrot that lives mostly on the West Coast of the South Island. Or the tuatara: a lizard that has more in common with a dinosaur thana gecko and can live to be over 100 years old.
Many of New Zealand’s animals, including the famous kiwi bird, are endangered, with just a few population pockets around the country. Teach your child about species conservation at a wildlife reserve, where the Department of Conservation supports endangered species breeding and education.
Where to go: You’ve got plenty of options for animal encounters in New Zealand. Just be sure to show your kids at least one kiwi! Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch and Rainbow Springs in Rotorua are both great places to learn more about the iconic birds and about the people who are trying to save them.
An extra tip: Willowbank is located near the airport, making it the perfect way to spend the last few hours before you need to drop off your car rental at Christchurch airport.
New Zealand is a great place for sports-obsessed kids. It’s a sports-obsessed country!
You can’t talk about sports in New Zealand without talking about the beloved All Blacks rugby team. Other popular sports in New Zealand include netball and field hockey for girls and cricket for boys. Soccer is beginning to grow in popularity, too.
If you come from a country that doesn’t play rugby, this is a great opportunity to show your child new rules and for them to have a chance to play the game. A love of sports is also a fun way for your kid to meet young New Zealanders. If you’re staying for a while you might be able to find out if any area sports clubs would be willing to let your little athlete join in for a practise or a scrimmage.
Where to go: When you’re in New Zealand, be sure to catch a rugby game. There are rugby stadiums in most large and medium-sized cities… Find out if any games are on while you’re visiting!
For some grassroots sports, try the local parks. Saturday and Sunday mornings will be packed with school kids playing rugby, netball and cricket. Your kids can watch New Zealanders their own age play the national game.
For adventure lovers
What kid doesn’t want to be Indiana Jones? It’s all well and good to fantasise about epic adventures from the sofa, but in New Zealand you can make even the wildest adventures into a (safe) reality.
Hike across ancient glaciers, spend a few days camping, discover natural hot pools, hike past steaming craters or kayak in the striking Marlborough Sounds. New Zealand has a multitude of terrains that can be enjoyed, some of which may seem more like movie sets than reality.
What to do: Near Taupo, on the North Island, is the ‘Craters of the Moon’ walk. It’s a 20 minute loop past bubbling hot pools and other-worldly craters. Part alien and part Jurassic-era, the landscape will definitely captivate any kid’s imagination. And If you really go all out, nothing is more memorable than taking a helicopter ride to the middle of Franz Josef of Fox glaciers and then hiking around the pristine, blue ice. Formed in the last ice age, your son or daughter will.
How to get around
No matter what itinerary you decide on, you’ll need to get around New Zealand somehow. By far the most popular way to travel in New Zealand is by car. Pick up a rental when you arrive at the airport and hit the road. There are a number of Auckland airport car hire agents to choose from, research rates on the internet and book ahead of time. Just be sure to choose a rental car with enough room to comfortably fit your family and all of your luggage (with a little extra space for souvenirs!).