Our honeymoon was supposed to be in New Zealand… Unfortunately it got cancelled at the last minute. So when my son was 3 years old and my daughter 1 year old I asked my husband: “shall we plan a trip now?”. And that is how our idea was born of visiting New Zealand with little kids.
So our first long distance trip will be New Zealand. If you’re doing it, you may as well do it right, right?
New Zealand is the land of many nature reserves next to each other. So no endless drives but a new, beautiful view at every turn!
New Zealand with little kids: camper or car?
My best tip for visiting New Zealand with little kids: do not go by camper! Yes, New Zealand may seem like the perfect camper country, but campers are prohibited in a lot of places. The best hiking spots lay in areas with dirt roads where campers are a no go. Aside from that, camper spots are rather expensive.
Our trip to New Zealand with little kids
We book our trip through TravelEssence, an organisation who’s owner is a New Zealander. They have the most beautiful houses for travelling through New Zealand with little kids. One on top of a mountain, the other in a bungalow in a village and two on a farm even. You can discuss your choices with the organisation.
At the time of our trip to New Zealand our son is almost 5 years old and my daughter is 2,5. We have a 14-hour stopover in Hong Kong with a hotel room at the Regal Airport Hotel. After a great breakfast we can sleep a little before taking a refreshing dip in the pool. We still have enough time left and decide to go into Hong Kong. If you take the train from the airport you’re in the center of the city within 20 minutes. Despite the jet-lag its rather impressive. I’ve never even been outside of Europe before!
I would advise everyone to take a long stopover and visiting Hong Kong. After Hong Kong it’s time for the final part of our way-in trip: we arrive in Auckland after a short stopover in Queenstown and we stay in a lovely hotel for our first night.
10x do not miss this in New Zealand with kids
Our trip through New Zealand is so impressive! And it turns out New Zealand is really child friendly too! If you ever venture into New Zealand with kids be sure to add these things to your list of things you must do:
1# Spotting blue penguins and sea lions at Broad Bay, Dunedin
We thought it would be amazing to see sea lions in the wild! And only at 10 minutes from our house! We go there straight away and what do we see? Young sea lion cubs with their moms, absolutely incredible! The kids are really impressed too. Even though we are able to witness these beautiful animals from the car we decide to get out to get a little closer. Don’t come too close because the mothers can be rather protective of their young.
After that we drive to the penguins. Dusk is already setting in as we arrive at the penguins and a cold wind is blowing but that’s not spoiling any of our fun. The kids love the penguins too.
2# "Relax & Walk tour" in the Abel Tasman National Park
We get into a taxi when we arrive at Kaiteriteri and after 20 minutes we arrive at the bay. It’s a fun ride as we see lots of sea lions on the way there and we also pass the well known Split Apple Rock. When we arrive, we go for a beautiful short walk at the bay, after which the kids play in the sand. Hubby still has energy left so when the kids are done playing he takes them for another walk. If you’d like to stay longer at this place there are ways of spending the night.
If you visit New Zealand with little kids you can not miss out on the playgrounds of course. Well I can tell you, they have tons of them! And all are equally great. Nice, tidy, no splinters or broken parts and very well kept. One playground even has a dinosaur slide, on top of a mountain, with a beautiful view! Just relax while the kids enjoy themselves. At every playground you can find a BBQ too. How nice is it to have yourself a little BBQ while the kids are enjoying themselves in the playground?
4# Puzzling World
A fun small museum in Wanaka. The kids will be highly entertained: a cafe where you can try out all kinds of games that lay on the table, that has areas that trick your mind (where kids can be as tall as their parents) and lots more. This is definitely worth doing when visiting New Zealand with little kids. You will also find the worlds first 3-D labyrinth, which is a lot of fun to do. But keep an eye on them because its rather tricky!
5# Doubtful Sound
Milford sound is very well-known in New Zealand and Doubtful Sound is its lesser known little sister. It’s a rather diverse trip so it stays interesting for kids. 8 Hours on a boat can be rather a challenge with little kids for instance but this trip takes you on a boat first, then on a bus through the rain forest and then on another boat through Doubtful Sound.
6# Rob Roy glacier track at Wanaka
This is a less-known glacier, near Wanaka. The road there is an experience on its own: a dirt road full of fords (holes in the road full of water), and this makes it less suitable for campers. My husband only just dared going here by car. The road takes you through meadows full of sheep and cows and is breathtaking. We go for a walk through a meadow with enormous cows and a wobbling, narrow bridge. Not very nice with a fear of heights but I’d do it again any day.
7# Visiting Maori in Rotorua
The Maori are New Zealand’s native inhabitants and they are really impressive, friendly people. We visit “te puia”, a beautiful park with a great show. My kids are normally not the best still-sitters but they sit and watch motionless for 55 minutes. So impressive! In the nature reserve behind the show is a volcanic area with a geyser that lets out spectacular gusts of steam from the ground.
8# Kerosene Creek Waiotapu
This is a beautiful place in the middle of nature. A warm water source comes together with a river in this creek. Because of this the water is always a comfortable 30 degrees warm.
9# Farm stay (Peet's farm stay) near Christchurch
A very fun abode with a friendly couple. Aside from a B&B, you will also find 2 tidy mobile homes. When we arrive we get a tour on the farm. For the kids they have a marvelous playground, including a trampoline. Our kids do not want to leave this place!
10# Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch
A zoo is always good fun of course, but this one is really special. The animals are extremely tame and come close to everyone. I usually don’t really like this but if its a kangaroo or a chicken I don’t mind. And the kids? Loving this of course.
Budget tips for visiting New Zealand with little kids
Traveling through New Zealand with little kids is incredibly fun, but not very cheap. For this reason I’ve made a list of budget tips for you, because all the small things help!
1. Kids aged up until 5 do not pay any entrance fees!! (you only pay for 4 years old in the zoo in Auckland but with a large discount).
2. “Pak ‘n Save” is the largest and best priced supermarket chain. You won’t find these everywhere so if you do run into one, be sure to stack up!
3. You can find discount cards for tourist at the other supermarkets. They won’t usually tell you but they are definitely there! Be on the lookout for gas station tickets too. Be sure to hang on to these, they last weeks!
4. You will pay the highest fees at the tourist attractions but there often are alternatives nearby that don’t cost anything. Like glaciers that are less known, glowworm caves that you can just wander into etc.
5. The warehouse is a place where they have everything you need: clothing, toys, electronics, crafts, diapers etc. And everything at a good price. I would advise you to pack light and visit the warehouse.
6. They have USB entries in nearly every electrical socket so you don’t need to bring all kinds of converters. If you do need any just buy one at the warehouse for example.
7. Buy a local sim card for your phone. They have these at all the phone stores and don’t cost a lot, even for 4G. This is a lot cheaper than using your Dutch phone the whole time.
In conclusion, New Zealand is a fantastic country and very child friendly. This makes it perfect for travelling with little kids! Are you looking for more travel inspiration? Check out this two week New Zealand South Island travel itinerary.
This article is written by Ilse: “I’m Ilse, 33 years old and mother to Thijs and Fenna. I love travelling through nature. The mountains are my favorites.”
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