With its beautiful scenery, world-class cities and adventure activities, New Zealand is on many people’s bucket lists. And, with so many outdoor activities, it also makes a great place to travel with children.

With child-friendly activities on offer throughout the country, parents will have no trouble keeping their children entertained from Auckland to the South Island. Whether children are interested in volcanoes and waterfalls or museums and glow worms, there’s a huge amount to do in New Zealand – and, of course, parents will love the trip too.

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Is New Zealand good for kids?

New Zealand is a safe country with a relaxed vibe. Many of the major tourist attractions are also outdoor activities, making this a great destination for family travel. Playgrounds are very accessible, and those traveling with young children will be able to find baby-changing facilities fairly easily. Many cafes and restaurants are family-friendly, providing toys and high chairs, and there are stroller-accessible walks in many of the national parks and attractions.

Just keep in mind that New Zealand can be an expensive destination and, while kids under five can participate in many of the activities for free, you’ll have to pay for older children. Public transport can also be a challenge so hiring a car (and car seats if necessary) is the best way to get around. The sun can also be quite harsh in New Zealand, so be sure to wear sunscreen, and children should wear rash shirts while swimming.

Peer through glass panels at Auckland's Sky Tower

The Sky Tower is the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere, and going to the top is a must on any Auckland itinerary – and something kids will love. At the top, visitors see a sweeping view of the city and the Hauraki Gulf, with nearby islands visible in the distance. There are also glass panels on the floor, offering a view of the street far below, which many kids love to jump on. During school holidays, there are often child-orientated activities at the Sky Tower too.

Visitors making small hot water pools in Hot Water beach.it one of the most popular geothermal attractions in New Zealand, about 700,000 people visit the beach annually.
Don't forget to bring a shovel when you visit Hot Water Beach © ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock

Make your own hot water pool on the Coromandel Peninsula

Hot Water Beach in the Coromandel is a family favorite. Visitors can make their own hot pools by digging a hole in the sand. The holes quickly fill with hot water from the thermal springs. The next step is to add cold water from the sea until the hot pool reaches the perfect temperature. It’s great fun for the whole family and makes a trip to the beach possible in cooler weather.

A small hobbit house is built into a green hill in Hobbiton in Matamata, New Zealand
Hobbiton is a popular destination for Lord of the Ring and Hobbit fans © Jeffrey Liao / 500px

Play among the film sets at Hobbiton

Visiting the set of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films is a must for any fans of the films and books, and children will be delighted by the doors in the hillside and the houses inside them. Families will enjoy exploring the set and having a drink in the famous pub. Regular tours depart from the nearby town of Matamata.

People walk into and out of the entrance to Te Papa Museum of New Zealand
Te Papa is one of the best museums in the world © George Clerk / Getty Images

Learn about earthquakes and NZ history at Te Papa Museum

Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand in Wellington, is renowned for its interactive, fun displays. Entry is free (with a fee for some exhibitions) and there is a huge amount for children to see and do here. Two Discovery Centres have exploratory, play-based exhibitions for kids under 12, while Story Place offers three storytelling and play sessions a day (cost is $2). Both children and parents will also be fascinated by the regular exhibits, which are easy to navigate and are often interactive.

Spy glow worms in Waitomo Caves

Famous for their beautiful glow worms, impressive stalactite and stalagmites and underground river, the Waitomo Caves are a fascinating place for a family adventure. The caves are stunning and children can feel like they’re exploring another world as they walk through them. One cave is accessible for strollers, and there’s also a boat ride through the caves along the underground river.

Family having an outdoor picnic at the Redwoods forest in Rotorua.
Rotorua offers ample spaces to enjoy the outdoors © ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock

See boiling mud and colorful lakes around Rotorua

Rotorua is the best place to see volcanoes in action in New Zealand (safely, of course). Families can visit Kuirau Park, a free park in the town center, and see bubbling mud, colorful lakes, and lots of steam. For a longer experience or for those with a particular interest in volcanoes, head to Waimangu Volcanic Valley to experience steamy bush walks, geothermal springs and geysers.

Get to know the dolphins and whales in Kaikoura

There are several places in New Zealand where you can see whales and dolphins, and Kaikoura is a definite favorite. Off the rugged coast of the South Island, it’s possible to see sperm whales diving, playful dolphins and seals, as well as a range of birdlife, although the water can get a bit choppy.

Families with younger children or those who prefer a calmer boat ride can try whale-watching in the Bay of Islands instead. There's a range of whale species visible all year round, and the surroundings are beautiful, especially in summer.

Milford Sound - kids
Enjoy the views on a boat trip through Milford Sound © Matthew Micah Wright / Getty Images

Be awed by mighty Milford Sound

Visiting Milford Sound is a bucket list trip for many visitors to New Zealand – and it’s a great place to go with children. Animal-loving families should try the wildlife cruise along Milford Sound, where you can see dolphins, seals and penguins.

The thundering waterfall will wow the kids and the views through the immense cliffs are awe-inspiring. Self-driving to Milford Sound and staying there overnight is the best option for families, as bus tours can take a long time. 

Enjoy outdoor adventures in Queenstown

A trip to New Zealand wouldn’t be complete without visiting spectacular Queenstown, and the Southern Alps are a great place for little ones to learn to snowboard. Coronet Peak is just out of town and has a range of family-friendly slopes and activities, including sledding for the younger ones and night skiing for families with older children. There are also advanced runs for those that want more of a challenge and a kids club on site if parents want to do some serious skiing by themselves.

Introducing New Zealand

This article was first published May 2021 and updated June 2022

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