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Top 9 Things to Do in New Zealand with Kids

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Hobbit house on the Hobbiton movie set in New Zealand

Hobbiton™ Movie Set in New Zealand

Gorgeous landscapes and timeless adventure can give you endless opportunities, but the top 9 things to do in New Zealand with kids offer options to discover and enjoy nature and culture at your family’s pace.

From glow worms hidden in a deep cave to exploring the mountain slopes by bike, basking in the twinkling starlight at a Dark Sky Reserve, or witnessing the power of an erupting geyser, New Zealand blends a relaxed ambiance with a spirit of adventure that’s perfect for families with kids of any age.

The right mixture of active exploration during your New Zealand tour with kids can make all the difference, even becoming your favorite memories.

1. Venture into the Depths of Weta Cave | Wellington

The Weta Cave can inspire and delight children of all ages as it immerses your family in the creations of the famous Weta Workshop. Instead of actual caves, you will venture deep into the imagination of media artists as you learn the basics of how movie props are created, as well as how to craft digital effects as you are guided through the famous Lord of the Rings films. The magic is not just in the movie-making, but the remnants of the films brought to life through physical and digital details for one of the most unique family-friendly tours you can find.

2. Discover Natural Wonder on a Tongariro Alpine Crossing | Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park,New Zealand

Tongariro National Park,New Zealand

A steaming active volcano, unforgettable panoramic views, and fun-filled drama with the family embody the spirit of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The ever-changing landscape brings enough technical difficulty to keep families with older children and teens engaged on a full-day hike across the old lava fields and giant calderas. Embrace the puffing fumaroles as you feel immersed in the world of Middle Earth, with the landscape featured as Mt Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Here fantastical scenery will meet your family’s expectations of adventure.

3. Embrace the Thrills of Mountain Biking | Taupo

Aerial view of the shores of Lake Taupo, New Zealand

Aerial view of the shores of Lake Taupo, New Zealand

Mountain trails lace the surrounding beauty of Taupo to create an epic exploration through the forests and along the foothills that surround the glistening lake waters. Your family can enjoy the thrills of steep gradients, hairpin turns, and exceptional views as you traverse Redwood forests or the river routes by choosing one or several of the more than 136 miles of singletrack riding in the area. No matter what kind of travelers you and your kids are, you can find the right mountain biking trail for you.

4. Explore a Geothermal Wonderland | Rotorua

Rotorua Hot Springs, New Zealand

Rotorua Hot Springs, New Zealand

The drama of nature springs to life in Rotorua as your family explores the geothermal activity that bubbles up in the mud and creates rainbow-colored lakes. Whether seen through the rising steam or beneath the soaring water of erupting geysers, Rotorua moves with endless excitement. Whether finding the world’s largest hot spring, uncovering the intense colors of a valley, or learning how Maori have used the boiling waters to cook their food for more than a millennium, the geothermal activity in Rotorua is sure to captivate the entire family.

5. A Hobbit Fantasy | Matamata

Hobbiton,Matamata,New Zealand

Hobbiton,Matamata,New Zealand

New Zealand’s natural beauty is often compared to the world of fantasy and the dream of different realms is brought to life on the Hobbiton movie set, once used as “The Shire” in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy. Tiny hobbit houses hide beneath the rolling hills and the aromas of fresh pasties drift out of the Green Dragon Inn. Whether fans of the folklore or simply interested in a unique perspective of the countryside, Hobbiton can easily bring out the inner child in any visitor thirsty for adventure.

6. Witness a Light in the Dark at Waitomo Caves | Hamilton

Waitomo Cave, New Zealand

Waitomo Cave, New Zealand

The pitch-black cavern may look like the night sky as you wind through the waters of the Waitomo Caves in search of the famous glowworms. Impressive stalactites will dangle from the ceiling as stalagmites create obstacles around which the water travels for a fascinating family adventure that captivates children and adults alike. Whether on a slow-moving boat or speeding through the black water on a raft for a more exciting journey, the glow worms will bring light to the darkness for a compelling way to experience New Zealand’s natural splendor.

7. Search for Wildlife on the Water | Kaikoura

Dolphins in the water, Kaikoura, New Zealand

Dolphins in the water, Kaikoura, New Zealand

New Zealand is famous for whale-watching possibilities, but Kaikoura on the South Island is often the most popular point at which to venture out into the open waters to find whales, dolphins, and seals. A range of birdlife brings a distinctive soundtrack to the water as you search for sperm whales diving in the distance, dolphins playing in the boat’s wake, or seals barking on the shore. No matter the time of year, you can find the natural marine life around Kaikoura fascinating, with possibilities of viewing killer whales, humpback whales, blue whales and Hector’s dolphins, demonstrating the diversity of the local ocean ecosystem.

8. Enjoy the Night Sky | Mount Cook

View of Mount Cook, Hooker Valley, New Zealand.

View of Mount Cook, Hooker Valley, New Zealand.

While many travelers look down when visiting New Zealand to find the panoramas, one of the most exciting views in the country is when looking up and stargazing in Mount Cook’s Dark Sky Reserve. As a designated protected area, your family can experience the depth of the galaxy just outside Wellington or, if visiting in winter, search for the Aurora Australis, the electrical phenomenon also known as the Southern Lights. Whether interested in a face-pace excursion or the comforts of the alpine scenery, New Zealand is a remarkable destination for your family to embrace the wonders of the night sky.

9. Follow the Tracks of the TranzAlpine Train | Christchurch

View from the windows of a Transalpine Railroad train on the Waimakariri River Gorge, New Zealand

View from the windows of a Transalpine Railroad train on the Waimakariri River Gorge, New Zealand

The TranzAlpine Train is one of the world’s greatest train journeys and can take your family through the mountainous spine of the South Island to connect Christchurch on the east coast with Greymouth on the west coast. The exceptional scenic route demonstrates the natural and cultural history of the country as you find mining towns and dramatic passes, reflective lakes and access to renowned glaciers. With expansive plains, epic mountain views, and meandering riverbeds, your family can revel in the wonderful landscape while in the comforts of the train.

Ready to Plan Your New Zealand Family Adventure?

Father and children walk along Waikawa Beach, New Zealand

Waikawa Beach, New Zealand

New Zealand is a land of open space and welcoming culture, where your family can enjoy an unparalleled adventure or bask in nature’s beauty. Travel at your family’s preferred pace to balance cultural connection and active discovery that can take you cruising along the fiords of the South Island or sandboarding on the dunes of the North Island. Our New Zealand Family Itineraries have plenty of sample trips to inspire you. Ready to plan? You can speak with a New Zealand travel specialist for free by filling out a Trip Request or by calling our team at 1-888-265-9707.

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