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Whether you’re a beach holiday family, a whanau of mountain trampers, or tribe of action adventure skiers and snowboarders, New Zealand has a wealth of incredible options. Here it's simple to rent a car, pack it up, and hit the road in search of many memorable spots (but before you do make sure you have car insurance!).
Nelson and Abel Tasman Park
With the most sunshine hours in NZ, Nelson is a great place for a holiday that involves sun. With beautiful idyllic beaches, native birds flying around (or in the case of the weka and kiwi, stalking around), and the Abel Tasman National Park on its doorstep, there is plenty for the family to do in Nelson. If you have a love of adrenalin, take your mountain bike along with you and experience the local trails for hours of fun. If tramping is more your pace, then the Abel Tasman Coast Track is one of NZ’s Great Walks, and not to be missed.
The quieter cousin of world-famous Queenstown, Wanaka offers a lot, without some of the crowds. You have nearby Mt. Iron walk, which is a gentle stroll compared to Roy’s Peak on the other side of the town. You have snow skiing in winter and water skiing in summer. There are oodles of opportunities for the kids to go out on their bikes, whether it’s along the waterfront in town or further afield.
There are several camping grounds, and all are family-friendly. Glendhu Bay offers stunning views, a great boat launch area, good facilities, and a park and ice-cream/ hot chip shop. If you want to stay in town, there are a myriad of hotels and motels to suit every budget.
How amazing is the singular aroma of Rotorua! Take your kids to Rotorua and let them learn about the geothermal activity by smelling the sulphur, watching the boiling hot pools of mud, and gushing geysers. The area had (and to and extent still has) a large Maori population and so makes an excellent place to learn about traditional heritage and culture, and how New Zealand was before European settlers arrived.
There’s so much to see and do in Christchurch, your kids will have the time of their lives. There’s Orana Park, Arion Farm Park and Willowbank for the animal-loving kids. There’s the Antarctic Centre and the Canterbury Museum with the Discovery Centre, which will keep kids and adults alike entertained. The botanic gardens and the Margaret Mahy Park are free, and will keep the kids busy so mum and dad can enjoy a well-earned cup of coffee.
Then, there’s the Port Hills with its Adventure Park, with amazing mountain bike tracks, and numerous short walks. There’s Banks Peninsula just over the hill, and Castle Hill just a few hours away (amazing if you love rock climbing) and Cave Stream for the more adventurous. Christchurch truly has it all.
The Winterless North is not just a place of beaches, but a place of great natural beauty, amazing history, and adventure. From 90 Mile Beach, head inland and discover ancient Kauri forests. At 1,500 to 2,000 years old, these giants of the forest are sure to impress. At the very top of NZ, you can see the Cape Reinga lighthouse and the meeting of two mighty oceans. This is where Maori mythology believes the spirits of the dead travel on their journey to the next life, leaping off the headland and descending to the underworld.
To wear out the kids, use a boogie board to ‘surf’ down the sand dunes at North Head, and take a long walk along the beach keeping an eagle eye out for local wildlife.
More than just a big lake (with excellent fishing), Taupo is a great holiday destination when you have the kids in tow. AC Baths and DeBretts Hot Springs offer relaxation for the parents while the kids burn off energy on the hydro slides. If you like prawns, a visit to Huka Prawn Park lets you fish for prawns, learn about their lifecycle and environment and play on the water features and adventure playground. Take a day trip to Mine Bay and see the incredible Maori rock carvings from the late 1970’s by master carver Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell. You can only access these from the water, but at ten metres high, they are worth the trip.