Auckland is New Zealand’s biggest city, but like the rest of the country, it still has a suburban, family-focused vibe.
Locals place a high value on getting children outside to enjoy nature, and with so much of it close to the city it’s easy to have a great, active day out without much effort or expense. Here’s how to visit with kids.
Is Auckland good for kids?
Most children love to play where there are other kids around, so joining the locals at Auckland’s green spaces, beaches and pools will ensure your family vacation is fun and relaxing. Auckland Regional Council has a giant directory of parks and reserves to visit.
Lots of Kiwi kids use scooters, so kid-friendly cycleways and scooter parks abound. Consider packing a lightweight kids’ scooter or picking up a cheap one once you arrive.
New Zealand is a long way from the rest of the world, so give yourself and the kids plenty of time to get over jetlag after you land. When you’re ready to head out, check out Auckland For Kids or GrabOne for deals on food and activities. Most tour operators and attractions also offer family passes, although “kids” pricing can vary wildly.
Families with kids can generally be found in all restaurants except the very poshest – however many businesses persist in putting a changing table in the women’s bathroom only. Highchairs are common, and some cafes and restaurants will help keep kids occupied by offering coloring activities. Kids menus are common too, with many places making an effort to move away from the usual chicken nuggets and hot dogs to something more adventurous and well-rounded.
You’ll be able to use your stroller in most of the city and on buses and trains, but be aware Auckland is hilly and some areas may leave you breathless.
Where in Auckland is best for kids?
When it comes to energy-burning play, there are plenty of options. Parks, pools, beaches, skateparks, basketball courts and cycleways are everywhere in Auckland. Museums, art galleries and events also cater well to kids in family-friendly Auckland.
Rainbow’s End theme park and the interactive aquarium SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton’s are classic family attractions. Both are charming but may seem a bit small to worldly kids who’ve experienced the international equivalents.
One of the city’s drawbacks is its traffic, which can make family travel frustrating and slow. Public transport may not be as frequent or widespread as you’re used to at home and battling traffic can quickly shorten tempers.
Many Auckland parents often find it less stressful to choose one “big” activity for one half of the day and a quieter, walkable, near-home one for the second half. For travelers, this might include exploring a park close to your accommodation or making a library visit to avoid restless and hangry car-trapped kids (and adults).
The best things to do in Auckland with babies and toddlers
Auckland has a wide range of indoor and outdoor swimming pools with toddler areas – always a hit. Some have splash pads for water play that will have toddlers to teens screaming in delight. For a splash pad in a park setting, try Potters Park in Balmoral, which also has grassy areas with trees and great Asian food on nearby Dominion Rd, such as New Flavour and Barilla Dumplings.
The countryside outside Auckland offers petting zoos such as Kiwi Valley Farm Park in Henderson, where kids can cuddle baby animals, ride a pony, and feed ducks, goats and chickens.
When everyone’s tired, find a library close to where you are staying and check out what free baby and toddler-friendly activities they have scheduled via Auckland Council’s website. Storytime and music and movement sessions such as Rhymetime and Wriggle and Rhyme are popular, and you don’t need to be a library member to attend. Your older kids can sit in beanbags with their headphones and a fresh batch of YA novels.
The best things to do in Auckland with kids
Auckland is known as the ‘City of Sails’ for its close connection with the sea and its beaches are a big reason people live there. Mission Bay is close to the city, popular and scenic with lots of food options, family vibes and playgrounds.
Across the Harbour Bridge on the North Shore, Browns Bay has calm, lapping water, scenic views, a colorful playground, barbecues and a grassy area. Kelvin Strand in Te Atatu is an unassuming suburban beachside park that’s good for kids with its grass, big tidal range, walkway, playground and striking views of the city.
Auckland Zoo is a calm and diverting green oasis in the middle of the city and a chance for parents to drop their guard. Yes, there are giraffes, tigers, elephants, rhinos, and a noisy flock of flamingos, but there are also wide, stroller-friendly paths so kids can run around in green space safely. The meerkat area is famous for its kid tunnels and pop-up pods. Check ahead for feeding and animal experience times.
Next door to the zoo, the large Western Springs Lakeside Park is perfect for active play or shady green rest. Also close by is MOTAT, Auckland’s transport and technology museum that will have your little train-obsessives hooked. It frequently has kid-friendly activities and exhibitions on offer, and so does the excellent, beautiful Auckland War Memorial Museum, which is set amongst wonderfully expansive grounds.
Best things to do in Auckland with teenagers and tweenagers
Auckland is a great place to get active, keeping teens and tweens happy. If you’ve packed your teen’s skateboard or other beloved wheels like a foldable scooter, see if they’d like to visit one of the many skateparks.
Buying a basketball from somewhere like The Warehouse and heading to a local outdoor court to blow off steam, then out for burgers or pizza is a simple, cheap, fun family activity all around Auckland. Indoor ski field Snowplanet will be a hit for teens wanting to test their snow skills, and for the astronomically inclined, Stardome will be, too.
Teens love zooming about on e-scooters and bikes, and there are a number available for rental, parked all around the city. Zip along one of the hundreds of cycleways and bike rides, or visit the recently redeveloped waterfront, Wynyard Quarter and Silo Park, near downtown. This is everyone’s front lawn: a big car-free area full of repurposed shipping containers, basketball courts, docked superyachts to gawp at, outdoor movies, kids’ workshops, street food, art installations – generally just a lot of interesting things to walk around and look at.
Make the most of all of that blue, accessible water. Head across the harbor to Devonport to have lunch and swim at the big beaches, all the while marveling at this beautiful spot. (Strangely, it’s also the address that Kiwi singer Lorde wasn’t proud of in her hit song Royals.) Don’t miss the former North Head gun tunnels in Devonport – a self-guided spooky exploration popular with all kids.
For a wilder experience, visit Auckland’s dramatic western beaches such as Piha – one of the country’s most famous surf beaches – for a moody walk or play in the water (beware of strong currents). You can impress (or embarrass) your kids by arriving at Bethell’s Beach and re-enacting Taylor Swift in her Out of the Woods music video, filmed here.
Finally, encourage your teen's sense of exploration by taking a ferry – which will soon be replaced by the biggest fully electric ferries in the southern hemisphere – to spend a day exploring nearby islands. Visit beautiful, upmarket Waiheke, the volcanic Rangitoto, or the bird sanctuary Tiritiri Matangi. The ferry is a great chance for caregivers to relax for a bit, too. You’ve done so much driving, paying and bribing – sit back and watch this beautiful oceanside city unveiling itself from the sea.