Known for its beautiful scenery and adventure activities, New Zealand is on many a bucket list. It's also great for family travel.

Child-friendly experiences are offered nationwide, so parents will have no trouble keeping their entire family entertained. From the tip of Te Waipounamu (the South Island) to the top of Te Ika-a-Māui (the North Island), many major tourist attractions are also outdoor activities.

So whether children are interested in volcanoes and waterfalls, or museums and glow worms, New Zealand has loads to do – plenty of which parents will love too.

A child sits on the shoulders of his father whilst looking out to the sea and mountains of New Zealand
New Zealand with kids: the opportunities are endless © Jason Hosking /Getty Images

Is New Zealand good for kids?

New Zealand is generally a safe country with a relaxed vibe. Playgrounds are very common and those traveling with young children will find baby-changing facilities fairly easily. Many cafes and restaurants provide toys and high chairs, and the many national parks even have stroller-accessible walks.

Most major tourist attractions offer family passes and discounts for students and seniors, while entry for babies and toddlers is usually free. Be sure to ask at the entrance for the best rates.

Where is best in New Zealand for kids?

Safe, friendly, and with ample space to roam, you'd be hard-pressed to find a spot in New Zealand that kids won't love. On the North Island, Taupō is a favorite with Kiwi families thanks to its holiday parks, some with waterslides and heated pools with swim-up bars. The town excels at outdoor adventures, including fishing and sailing, too. Then for rainy days, it has the Landing, an indoor complex with a bowling alley, ninja skills course, bounce park, and mini golf.

International visitors should head to Rotorua, north of Taupō, for its Māori cultural attractions and geothermal features such as massive geysers and the world's largest hot springs. Known as the 'Disneyland of New Zealand', you'll find everything here from the National Kiwi Hatchery (where the country's most iconic residents emerge from their eggs) to zorbing, mountain biking, luging, and ziplining. The Bay of Plenty, Queenstown, and Nelson are also great spots for families.

Young girl walks on a tightrope in a playground, New Zealand
New Zealand has plenty of great playgrounds for all ages © Donald Iain Smith / Getty Images

Best things to do with kids in New Zealand

Best things to do in New Zealand with babies and toddlers

Enjoy a playground with a view
Let’s face it: a trip to the playground isn’t always the most exciting for caregivers. But what if it came with a stunning view? That’s often the case in New Zealand. Standouts include Queenstown Gardens with its views of Lake Wakatipu, Lake Tekapo’s shoreline playground, and Auckland’s play structure at Takapuna Beach. Some larger playgrounds even have water parks.

However, even the playgrounds without a view are just as epic. Christchurch’s Margaret Mahy playground is one of the country’s largest, with a 10m-high (33ft) tower, in-ground trampolines, giant swings, and a scooter park. Oamaru’s steampunk playground at Friendly Bay feels truly futuristic with its giant penny farthings and slides, while Whanganui’s Kowhai Park is a blast from the past with its nursery rhyme-themed play equipment, including Humpty Dumpty on his wall. Set beside the beach with a stegosaurus slide, Dunedin’s Marlow Park (aka “Dinosaur Park”) is bound to appeal to your budding paleontologist.

Visit a farm
New Zealand has a multitude of working farms that welcome families. For the youngest travelers, there’s nothing quite like the wide-eyed wonder of meeting the animals up close and seeing the country’s incredible farm dogs at work.

In Queenstown, take the TSS Earnslaw steamboat across the lake to Walter Peak High Country Farm. Or make the one-hour drive to Wānaka Lavender Farm, home to Kunekune pigs (a breed native to NZ), llamas, and goats. Likewise, in kid-friendly Rotorua, you’ll find the Agrodome, an institution known for its farm shows.

Greeny-blue, luminous glowworms hang from the dark roofs of caves lighting up the Waitomo Glowworm Caves in Waikato, New Zealand
The glowworms of Waitomo Caves are a hit with kids and adults alike ©Shaun Jeffers/Shutterstock

Best things to do in New Zealand with kids

Wonder at glow worms
New Zealand’s glow worms, arachnocampa luminosa, can only be found here and in Australia. While they live outdoors throughout the country, the most popular place to see them is in the Waitomo Caves. Situated an hour south of Auckland, the caves are just as famous for their impressive stalactites, stalagmites, and underground streams. 

If you’re visiting Milford Sound/Piopiotahi you can do a glow worm tour of the caves in nearby Te Anau. You can also see glow worms for free at Waipu Caves (best for older kids), Everett Park Scenic Reserve in Taranaki, the Main Garden in Wellington Botanical Gardens, and the Glow Worm Dell in Hokitika.

Take a cruise along the mighty Milford Sound/Piopiotahi
Fiordland National Park is a bucket list destination 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/Piopiotahi, where you can see Hector’s dolphins, fur seals, and Fiordland crested penguins. The thundering waterfalls will wow the kids.

However, instead of making a day trip from Queenstown – which can take upwards of 12 hours for a round-trip – stay overnight in nearby Te Anau.

Visit Auckland’s SkyCity complex
The Sky Tower is one of the tallest buildings in the southern hemisphere and a must on any Auckland itinerary. The top boasts sweeping views of the city and the Hauraki Gulf islands. There are also glass panels on the floor, which many kids love to jump on.

The SkyCity complex is also where you’ll find Wētā Workshop Unleashed – where the creative studio behind Lord of the Rings offers immersive tours of fantasy film sets – and the All Blacks Experience. Even if they’re not rugby fans, sports-crazed kids will love coming face-to-face with the team doing the haka and testing their skills on an interactive sports field.

Dig your own hot water pool
As a geothermal country, there are a few spots in New Zealand where thermal water flows just below the surface, mingling with the cooler waters of an ocean or lake, and visitors can make their own hot tubs by digging a hole in the sand.

Hot Water Beach in the Coromandel is a favorite, although it can get crowded. Lesser-visited hot water beaches can be found in Kawhia in the Waikato and on Moutohorā Island outside Whakatāne.

See bubbling mud around Rotorua
Rotorua is the best place to see geothermal action in New Zealand. Families can visit Kuirau Park in the town center to see bubbling mud and steaming ponds for free. For a more immersive (and impressive) experience, head to Waimangu Volcanic Valley for steamy bush walks, where you’ll see the world’s largest hot springs and geysers.

Visitors outside the entrance to Te Papa Tongarewa (or the Museum of New Zealand).
Te Papa Tongarewa (the Museum of New Zealand) is a great introduction to the nation ©georgeclerk/Getty Images

Learn about NZ history and Māori culture at Te Papa
Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand in Wellington, is renowned for its interactive and fun displays, which include an earthquake simulator. Best of all, entry is free (with a fee for some exhibitions).

In addition to the regular exhibits, there are two exploratory play-based Discovery Centres for kids under 12, focused on Māori and Pasifika cultures. Pre-schoolers can spend their time at StoryPlace, which offers three storytelling and play sessions a day for just NZ$3.

Discover Māori culture on the water
Get out on the water, get some exercise, and learn about Māori culture on a traditional waka (canoe) tour. Children can paddle with the grown-ups and hear enthralling tales of ancient Polynesian navigators and the indispensable role of the waka in Māori history and culture.

You can do waka tours in several places, including with Waka Abel Tasman in the Nelson/Tasman region.

Meet the local wildlife
Many visitors to New Zealand would love to see a kiwi up close, but catching sight of one in the wild can be difficult. (They are endangered, after all.) To improve your chances, try visiting a hatchery or predator-free wildlife sanctuary. The National Kiwi Hatchery in Rotorua or an overnight stay on Kapiti Island are both good options.

For marine animals, head to Kaikourā, where you can see sperm whales, Hector’s dolphins, and fur seals. For little blue penguins, head further south to the Banks Peninsula or Oamaru’s Blue Penguin Colony.

A female hiker walks on a track through rainforest at Chasm Fall, in the Fiordland National Park
For teens, adventure and the great outdoors beckons in New Zealand ©Puripat Lertpunyaroj/Alamy Stock Photo

Best things to do in New Zealand with tweenagers and teenagers

Go behind the scenes with Wētā Workshop
If your family loves film, art, or augmented reality, take a look into the heart of New Zealand’s film industry. Visit Wellington's Wētā Workshop for a glimpse into the creation of iconic film props and effects.

Or, for a more tangible experience, visit the Hobbiton film set in Matamata and immerse yourself in the enchanting world of the Shire, exploring hobbit holes and visiting the Green Dragon Inn.

Try an adventure sport
Known as an adventurer’s paradise, New Zealand caters to thrill-seekers of all ages. Popular and accessible adventure activities include luge rides, ziplining over forests, jet-boating through canyons, or zorbing in Rotorua. There are even whitewater rafting trips geared towards multi-generational families, like those offered by Queenstown-based tour operator Family Adventures.

Mountain biking is also a great option for older children and teenagers, with bike rentals and tours readily available in most tourist centers. Try Rotorua's Whakarewarewa Forest and Queenstown's 7 Mile Bike Park.

Planning tips

  • Public transport can be challenging, so hiring a car (and car seats if necessary) is the best way to get around.
  • The sun can be intense in New Zealand, so apply sunscreen regularly. Children should wear rash shirts (long-sleeved swimming shirts) at the beach.
  • Top 10 Holiday Parks offer relatively affordable accommodation and on-site activities for children including impressive playgrounds. You don’t have to stay in a tent or a motorhome, as most offer motel rooms or cabins in addition to campsites.

This article was first published May 2021 and updated October 2023

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