If you’re looking to get out into the great outdoors and give your kids a holiday that’s unlike anything they’ll experience in the big city, New Zealand is the place to go. There is a huge range of activities spread over its two islands that are suitable for both older and younger kids, with plenty of golf and good wine to keep parents happy!
While vineyards and children may seem like an odd match, the vineyard cycling tours around Hawke’s Bay are a fantastic way to keep kids active, and are suitable for all ages. Tour companies provide children’s bikes for those able to ride by themselves, and the littler ones have the choice of a baby seat or can be pulled behind parent’s bikes in fun little “tow along” buggies. At each stop, parents can indulge in the finest New Zealand wines (only tastes of course!) while children have free reign to run around – a novelty for us city folk!
Stay: The Farm at Cape Kidnappers
With 22 lovely cottages, spectacular views and one of the best golf courses in the world, The Farm at Cape Kidnappers is our top choice. There are tons of walking and biking trails, fishing, and wide open spaces for kids to just get out and play. Head out to the gannet colony and the kiwi walk for an introduction to New Zealand’s native species.
A destination in itself, Wharekauhau is a luxury lodge located in the countryside outside Wellington and is an actual working sheep station. There are activities to keep you busy for days including horse trekking, archery, mountain biking, and clay pigeon shooting, which older teenagers are sure to love. Parents can make the most of the spa facilities and enjoy the superb wines, which are exceptionally good as the lodge owner is involved in the wine trade. The 17 suites are well suited to families as they are set in blocks of three, all of which can interconnect meaning a family of six or even multi-generational families can take over the block very comfortably. An added fun fact is that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Will and Kate, stayed here on their New Zealand tour in 2014. We like to think if it’s good enough for young Prince George, it’s good enough for us!
The Waitomo caves are the most famous in the country. They are an extensive system of caves lined with shimmering blue and green glowworms whose bioluminescent larvae resemble fairy lights in the darkness. Younger kids can do a leisurely cruise in a boat with parents, whereas older kids can go black water tubing. They will love jumping in the water with a miner’s helmet and wetsuit, floating along and scrambling up the rocks at will as they observe the worms in their very natural habitat.
One of the most well-known spots in New Zealand, Queenstown is an activity mecca. A “must do” while there is a cruise aboard the historic TSS Earnslaw as it sails across the stunning Lake Wakapitu. Younger kids will love walking up to Walter’s Peak High Country Farm where they can interact with the friendly farm animals. Lord of the Rings fans can head out from Queenstown, either by horse, bicycle or 4-wheel drive and visit sites made famous by the films. Other activities include:
* Funyak safaris that begin with a jet boat ride down river where parents and kids work together to direct and paddle an inflatable funyak downstream.
*Hunting for gold nuggets in Arrowtown’s Arrow River, a European settlement during the New Zealand Gold Rush in the 1800s.
*Taking the Skyline Gondola up to the top of Bob’s Peak where views of The Remarkables, Coronet Peak, Lake Wakatipu, and Walter Peak are spectacular.
* Quad biking through the stunning New Zealand countryside. The guides are passionate, the equipment safe and well maintained, and kids will love blazing through the country’s best off-road trails.
Stay: Matakauri Lodge
A convenient 10-minute drive from Queenstown, Matakauri Lodge has a range of facilities including a beautiful spa, fresh and seasonal dining, and an infinity pool overlooking stunning scenery. There are plenty of trails and outdoor spaces for the kids, and we love horse riding through the nearby rivers and streams. The lodge’s children’s menu is superb with fresh-baked cookies, brownies and fruit! Babysitting services, toys, games, and kid’s amenities are also available. Cribs or beds can be added to rooms and connecting suites are available for teens looking for a little more independence.
Located on the northeast tip of the South Island, Kaikoura is the place to be for whale watching. Wildlife-loving families will love the diverse range of activities on offer here including swimming with dolphins and seals, kayaking to see sea birds, horseback riding along the scenic trails that line the coast, or of course, whale watching. The majestic creatures can be seen from land along the coastal trails, from the sea aboard special whale watching vessels, or from the air on board helicopters. Kaikoura is also a haven for fishing enthusiasts, and a great place for kids to learn this fun and relaxing sport.
Stay: Hapuku Lodge
Perched 10 meters above the ground, the family treehouses at Hapuku Lodge have windows facing almost every direction and are set amongst a lush Manuka grove. Kids will love the Swiss Family Robinson feel, and Hapuku is the perfect base camp from which to undertake a marine safari. In our opinion, the best time to go is in August when you can visit seal pups at the Ohau Stream seal pup nursery, a short 10-minute drive from the lodge. At this time each year, the pups travel up to the fresh water stream where they stay for several days while their mothers go out to sea foraging for food. Watching them play, pick up sticks and develop social habits of their own while waiting for their mothers is a truly exceptional experience for the whole family.