When it comes to travel, every family has their very own “travel style”. Our family loves adventure travel. We plan our trips around which mountains to hike, rocks to climb, trails to bike and waves to surf. Family adventure travel is great way to get outside and see the world with your kids. Camping is adventure travel and so is jet-setting across the globe to Thailand to explore jungles and sandy beaches. If family adventure travel is your thing or something that intrigues you, read on to discover one of our most recent adventure travel destination: New Zealand!
New Zealand is a small country located in the south west of the Pacific Ocean. It is made up of two mainland islands: North Island and South Island, and hundreds of smaller islands. Our family recently spent one month exploring New Zealand and we can wait to return! In this post I’ve shared some tips for choosing a home base in New Zealand as well as some family adventure must-dos in New Zealand.
Your New Zealand Family Adventure Holiday
Choosing a Home Base
New Zealand has so much to see and explore, it can seem overwhelming at first. It helps to plan your family adventure holiday around several home bases. Pick a home location based on the activities your family is interested in (surfing, hiking, biking). For our one month trip to New Zealand we had four home bases: Stillwater (north of Auckland), Christchurch, Wanaka and Lake Taupo. We spent about five to seven days in each home base. This felt long enough to get settled in and explore the area with kids.
I’ll be honest, it was very difficult to pick our home bases. We picked our places primary base on hikes we wanted to do, areas we wanted to explore and rocks we wanted to climb. Next time (yes, we plan on going back!) We’d love to have a home base in Nelson too.
Here’s one helpful tip for choosing your home base with kids: plan to explore areas within one hour’s drive of your home base. With kids (and parents) there’s no sense driving for several hours to see that “one thing”, especially if you just had a long-haul flight to New Zealand. I really wanted to see the Mermaid Pools but my husband gave me that “are you crazy?” look when I declared it was only 2.5 hours away. Instead we explored the beautiful Fairy Falls in Waitakere Ranges Regional Park.
Settling into your Home Base
Getting food, napping and adjusting to the new time zone. These are probably the first things you’ll want to do when you reach home base for the first time. The next step is talking to the locals. New Zealanders, also known as Kiwis, are very friendly people. Ask them about their favourite places to explore and they’ll share their favourite spots along with several other tips like the importance of wearing sunscreen and where to find fresh produce – yum!
Family Adventures in New Zealand
New Zealand is such a great country for families that enjoy adventure travel. There so much to do and explore and the country is easy and safe to navigate… as long as driving on the opposite side of the road doesn’t phase you too much.
Below I’ve highlighted a some of awesome family adventures you can enjoy in New Zealand.
Surfing and Snorkeling
We had planned to go snorkeling around Goat Island, a marine reserve, with Salt Water Eco, but the wind and waves had other plans. We went surfing instead! Surfing with the whole family was awesome. Salt Water Eco was great at accommodating everyone in our family (our kids were 10, 7 and 5 at the time).
New Zealand is well known for it’s amazing walking and hiking tracks. People travel to New Zealand for this reason alone. Regardless of where you stay you can find beautiful trails to explore. If your family enjoys hiking, plan to hike New Zealand’s most popular day hike: the Tongoriro Alpine Crossing.
Hiking the Tongoriro Alpine Crossing with Kids
The Tongoriro Alpine Crossing is a 19.4 km track that takes you over amazing natural features which includes Mount Ngauruhoe, also known as Mount Doom for you Lord of the Rings fans. You might be wondering if this hiking is family friendly, the answer: it depends. We completed the hike with our 10 year old son, leaving our two younger children (5 and 7 years old) behind with grandparents. Our son did awesome and I believe our 7 year old would have fine. It would have been a long haul for our youngest (5) in tow.
- Keep a close eye on the weather. This is a alpine hiking track and the weather can change quickly.
- Be prepared! This is a long hike, with no access to potable water. Pack wisely and wear good hiking gear.
- There are toilets along the trail.
- Park your vehicle at Ketetahi carpark and get a pre-booked shuttle to the Mangatepopo carpark. This will allow your family to hike at your own pace.
- Start as early as possible, so that you can get a parking spot at the Ketetahi carpark (it fills up fast).
Fun Rock Climbing
Rock climbing with kids is something we love to do. There are some really neat places to rock climb in New Zealand but information on family-friendly crags is practically non-existent. If your family enjoys climbing bring your gear along and check out these areas:
Castle Hill is a boulderfield located 99 km North-West of Christchurch, South Island. This field of sculpted limestone boulders is huge and makes for fun place to go bouldering with the family. There are hundreds of routes and all grades. Be prepared for a lot of rounded top outs, friction moves and some neat cracks and pockets.
- Rent boulder mats from Bivouac in Christchurch.
- Don’t buy the guidebook for this area, just go and find places to climb.
There’s some really neat places to bring the kids climbing around Wanaka, South Island. Check out the Tombstone in the Hospital Flat Conservation Area and Diamond Slab near Diamond Lake.
- Purchase the Wanaka Rock: Comprehensive Guide to Wanaka Rock Climbing book from a local outdoor store.
- If you’re ensure about an area being kids friendly, it’s a good idea to have an adult scope it out first.
Lake Taupo Crags
Lake Taupo has some places to climb too. One fairly easily accessible area is K2 at Kinloch.
More Fun Adventures
- Exploring the Redwoods in Rotorua.
- Visiting a geothermal park around Lake Taupo and Rotorua. Our favourite was Orakei Korako.
- Soaking in the free natural geothermal pool at Spa Park Hot Pools near Lake Taupo.
- Sailing on Lake Taupo in a Pirate Ship.
- Playing in the ocean!
- Visiting the Christchurch Botanic Gardens.
Things We LOVED About New Zealand
- Kids walk around barefoot in grocery stores, in play parks and even in restaurants!
- Playgrounds in New Zealand put North American playgrounds to shame. Kiwi play spaces have all sort of risky play elements and my kids loved them!
- Parks and protected areas have no garbage (rubbish) bins. Any trash you pack in you have to pack out. As strange as it sounds, we really loved this because people don’t leave their trash laying around.
- Lots of beautiful nature everywhere. Kiwis take pride in their parks, trails and green space.
- Local Kiwis are so friendly!